The okada man revels in his popularity with the people on the road as he rides past them at moderate speed. He calls out to those caught in their daily activities so they don’t miss him, their responses fill him with joy as they affirm he is still relevant in some circles. He touches his worn helmet and grins, the absence of his left lower canine conspicuous against his other brown teeth, the wrinkled scar at the right angle of his mouth straightens out as he closes his mouth and ruminates on the route to his passenger’s destination. Born into a world of constant struggles to make ends meet and a country that exists to suffocate folks and bend backs, those seconds of acknowledgement are some of the few things that give him joy, almost rivaling the little ego boost granted by his ability to provide for his family.
He hates poverty and the struggles that come with it, he hates needing money so much. When he was a child, money meant little compared to honour, integrity and prestige. His grandparents were not rich but they had a good name and enough to feed the multitudes they identified as family. The country has now become so bad that everything requires money and a rich name to facilitate procedures requiring input from the government, even grants for his small farm business. Approaching his mid-forties, his constant ambition as he conveys students on his motorcycle around the university and its environs is to survive in spite of difficulties and give his children the best education he can afford, an education he can’t deny is nowhere near average.
In a few years, Gods willing, his children will be able to afford the luxury of working for short hours and earning big money like those bankers as opposed to his 6-10-each-day working schedule. As strenuous as his job can be physically and mentally, the escape it serves makes him embrace it every day. Even a day in a week off the road and the farm means staying home with the nagging wife and young children who seem to cry all the time from hunger or sores. He can’t wait for them to grow up and stop consuming so much, he has enough worries with the oldest two rounding up secondary school education in a few months. If his life was better, they would be able to stay in hostels like those right outside the university gates.
The luxurious ones filled with girls who are spoilt and have never known want in their short years. He bet their fathers are politicians, the cankerworms who ruin his country and the little chances his kind have for a better life. They will however have his prayers, support and home training to teach them to discern between good and evil. He will not stop telling Joke and her sisters about his unmarried customer who has a baby no man will claim while still in school. He wonders what girls are turning into, it never fails to amaze him how they never shy from displaying their immoral ways and flaunting their disrespect for adults. He even heard one say the other day that she is never going to marry, he is still shocked but it is nothing near that demonic girl-on-girl sexual associations he hears is spreading on campus. What woman doesn’t want to wear the glory of being chosen by a man? What woman doesn’t live to be a wife and mother young, healthy lads to carry her husband’s name?
Maybe, he shouldn’t even let Joke go to university in order to avoid this nonsense modernization. He however wants educated children who will buy him that big house and new car, the type his aged landlord’s son bought him, children he can visit in Lagos when they have their own families. It isn’t like the boys are much better. Just yesterday, another male student was almost lynched for stealing from his friends. Some insult him after haggling over prices that can’t even pay for half a bottle of his favourite beer. It is needless to even talk about those useless yahoo boys who like to cause a nuisance with their cars, boys who have strayed away from their parents’ voices.
His children will be different, they will be useful. His thoughts are interrupted as he parks the bike at his passenger’s destination. She is a favourite of his, one of those kids who never bargains prices. She asks why he isn’t chatty as usual, he smiles and mutters some remarks, giving her change to her before throttling away. He looks up as he retraces his path, the skies are cloudy and dark; he increases his speed but that doesn’t stop the initial drops of rain from drumming on his helmet. He decides not to stop till he gets to the shade at the gates, the rain has nothing on how much life has dealt him. It is only 6pm, he still has a long day to go.