It was a rainy evening and the traffic jam was beginning to ease up. The back of the bus was so stuffy and the windows were tightly shut. A fetid odour coming from a man wearing a black shirt assailed my nose. His body was touching mine and I moved to avoid any contact while holding my breath but it was impossible because five people were crammed in the back of this yellow commercial bus. I successfully hung the folded newspaper I was holding to prevent his body from touching mine but my satisfaction was yanked off abruptly when the bus ran into a pot hole and the newspaper fell down. His stench had pervaded the air in the back of the bus and the odour never failed to harass my nose anytime I gave in to my air hunger. Amidst the discomfort, joy still lingered in my heart because I had just successfully landed a new client who paid one million naira into my bank account.
You would think that I will buy myself a car and stop taking these terrible buses now that I can afford one but the truth is my girlfriend has been badgering me for what she calls her “assurance” so I decided to buy her a car first while I still endure commuting in these terrible buses. My friends think I am spending too much on my girlfriend but I hold the opposite as my opinion. I always reply them on a lighter note saying, “If I don’t lavish her with gifts, who will?” To my knowledge she has been faithful since we started dating two years ago.
“Conductor, you never give me my change” I protested loudly, switching to what I call my “danfo persona”. It is needed to make sure that these bus conductors don’t cheat you. Just yesterday, my girlfriend forgot to collect her change from the conductor, there is no way I’m letting that happen to me. For someone who has just spent a month in this city, I think I am a pretty fast learner.
“Oga wait I never get change!”
“I go soon reach my bus stop,” I interrupted.
“You no hear when I talk say make you enter with your change, I no send you o,” he said rudely while straightening the money he squeezed in his hands.
“You no tell me anything o, no follow me talk rubbish,” it is hard to be level-headed and dignified when it is time to collect your change from these crazy conductors.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to descend so low to engage in a scuffle with the conductor to get my change. I alighted from the bus, crossed to the other side of the road using an overhead bridge. I took the last bus to the junction of my house, longing for the comfort of my bed as I sat in the bus.
No sooner had I boarded the bus than I was struck very hard on my scapula with a gun. I clasped my shoulder instinctively and let out a loud groan of pain. I was slapped by a burly man in ankara sitting next to me. I don enter one chance
I don’t know why but my mind drifted to last week when my mum came to visit me from Abeokuta in Ogun state.
“Fela be careful in this city and always commit your day to God’s hand before you go out. So gbo?”
I can’t remember when last I prayed before I left the house. I haven’t even attended a church service since I arrived this city. Now will God hear my prayer and save me from these hoodlums? I dont want to die, not now!
“How much you get for hand?”
“I no get anything, na only…” I emptied my pocket clumsily and gave them what was left on me – one thousand and two hundred naira.
“Bring your atm card!” I handed it over to him without any reluctance. My mission was to keep myself alive, hoping my cooperation will secure my freedom, provided this was just a robbery and nothing more. Another slap landed on my left cheek after I handed the one thousand and two hundred naira in my pocket.
Dumbfounded, I placed my palm on my cheeks trying to salve the pain from the slap.
“We be like beggars for your eyes?” he bellowed.
To my utter amazement, one of them pulled out a point of sale terminal from a black bag.
“What is your pin?”
“1985,” I replied in a trembling voice.
I gawked at the man as he punched in the pin. Fortune smiled on me, the network was very bad. No successful transaction was made.
The bus parked at the nearest ATM and I watched as one of the hoodlums got off the bus to withdraw the money. Every time my phone vibrated in my pocket was like a stab in my heart — a reminder that my hard earned money was slowly leaking out of my bank account. What hurt more than losing my money was that I was helpless in the moment.
What a sweet bitter day, the initial exhilaration I felt when I got the money had given way to a feeling of misery. It reminded me of the bitter after taste you get when you drink water immediately after eating walnut. I found solace in the fact that they couldn’t withdraw more than one hundred thousand naira a day.
Will they be satisfied with just a hundred thousand naira? Will they let me go? Will they kidnap me or even kill me?
Different bleak thoughts skittered through my mind, I just wanted to get off the bus in one piece. I had no other wish. I just wanted to be home in the company of loved ones. The guy who went to withdraw the money just got back into the bus as I watched him confer with the remaining five guys, they talked inaudibly for about a minute. I was scared, engulfed in the uncertainty of what was going on. The guy in Ankara told me to bring out my phone and do a mobile transfer of the remaining money. He punched me repeatedly on my jaw as he made the request. The thought of lying that I wasn’t registered for mobile transfer vanished before I could even consider it.
After a brutal pummeling I was pushed out of the bus with just my blood stained singlet on my back and my boxer short. I struggled to steady myself and coiled on the floor in excruciating pain retching and gasping while holding my stomach firmly. I was totally oblivious to the different curious stares passers-by shot me with one final thought on my mind — Is this how a man goes from having seven figures in his bank account to having insufficient fund too low to load a hundred naira recharge card?
I passed out. Chai! Eko for show.!