Nulue swore he never saw such bestial show of silliness in his 23 years of living. If for one thing, he wished the big hole on the floor of the white Mazda would expand so that he could crawl back to Enugu. At least, he won’t have to witness another rage scene, the third this week alone. The first was three months after he got his call-up letter to serve in Lagos, ‘Lagos of all place.’ chorused Chimdika, the most vocal of his clique. If they weren’t childhood friends, he and the rest could have believed the cheap lies making round among their course mates that he worked it to Lagos.
It was just God or maybe fate! Whichever it was, coming to Lagos was a big mistake. It was better to live with the wild than put up with this madness.
Everyone always in endless rush, what was after them, he couldn’t understand and what they were after still evaded his mind. He often wondered if the city ever slept. At the bus-stop before his street, at Ada-Nnewi Bush bar, rich men with their girlfriends trooped in like water, their wives left at home to get drowned in Telemundo and Zee World dramas.
Those wives that have decided to mind their business while Oga did all the sodoming. They learned to stoop to conquer even if it meant giving their backs to be stepped over by Oga, they didn’t bulge and whenever they met other women in prayer houses, after thanksgiving in church, during a friend’s wedding, you will hear them front ‘my husband this, my husband that’ shooing off the unmarried ones with their fake chatters.
Husbands that choose side chicks, lavishing hard currency on girls whose only work was to wear crop tops with tight trousers that gave away their vezz. Girls that spent their mornings choosing the next nail polish and happening clubs in town.
The place disgusted him today as he watched the crowd unleash horror before the driver who had hit a bike rider. His fellow bikers flanked in from God-knows-where like an ancestral spirit had summoned them. Some of the crowd cheer, others joined to beat the man until some Lastma officials strolled into the scene. Nulue was agitated, he was lost to the scene – were the officials mediating or fueling the brutality waiting for one blind person to light its inferno.
Before he could blink, the crowd started to fizzle clearing up the traffic. That was another stupidity he could never grapple with about this city – traffic without cause. ‘Are these people with senses at all?’ Ikenna had asked when he narrated his daily ordeal shuttling between Ikeja and Lekki. Ikenna was posted to Kano but now served at Akwa-Ibom after he opted for redeployment. ‘Make nwa nke madu no go die because of aturu ndi awusa,’ he told them when they made jest of him.
Prior to the senseless killings in the North, Ikenna always boasted that he would serve in Benue so that he would have farmlands and marry a beautiful submissive Hausa girl.
Now, his only thought was safety, he told them he will base in Enugu after service year which was a fertile place for cashew and other nuts. He will farm cashews, build a juice factor, marry a graduate from Imo and use her as a decoration after paying heavy bride price on her. They laughed during the conference call, Mazi Ude’s voice kept ringing in Nulue’s ears even after he hung up. He was the eldest of the group, a custodian of their tradition, a fine writer and was serving in Rivers.
Nulue looked forward to sharing breezy evening with the crew as they prided themselves sharing rounds of whitish pammy, only Kezie didn’t drink Palm-wine. He was going to be a ‘reverend fada’ and the Bible forbade those who are consecrated to taste strong drink. His knack was wine without alcohol in the confines of his room – he shared this part of his living with no one and they respected him. Kezie was honest too, almost to his own hurt.
Nulue’s face brightened whenever his thoughts wandered to them.
His thought was drawn back to the present when one woman yelped, her ‘yeh’ in Yoruba startling the other passengers. Nulue belated himself for not taking the more comfortable BRT to Ojota before finding an alternative to Ogba. The danfo was ovenlated, the engine roared each time the driver aroused it after a round of traffic lock.
Questions flew from the other passengers, some spooning out what he could gather as ‘what is it’ in Yoruba. The rest spoke abridged English as Mazi Ude would call it and pidgin.
The woman was pointing to somewhere ahead while showing them the images on her Nokia smartphone, their bus descending stadium Bridge. She kept mentioning fire and motor. Curiously, he brought out his own phone, it was quicker knowing what happened these days through Google than it was possible getting timely response from humans.
The videos came up first, he weighed his options trying to reserve the remaining mb for his night readings or watch the video. The mobile networks were another set of draconic elements marauding the subscribers with their fake data bundles that never lasted more than a sigh. Mtchew, he decided to risk it.
In the video, fire rose like tomato mingled with tatashe pepper, the type he had seen his landlord’s wife prepare filled the air, but instead these were red hot, blazing harmattan fire. Cars were raised down, multiple million shops burnt to ashes and dried bodies that he made out to be humans who few moments ago, few hours ago, some days before had beautiful plans on how they would spend their Christmas – with their husbands, wives, in-laws, children, grandchildren, mothers, fathers, friends.
These were bodies which once were clad in beautiful ankara, girls in maxi gowns, pepper sellers returning from mile 12 market, traders trying to make last Christmas sales, Umu Afo hoping to send some money home after the days sales, okada riders with hungry mouths to feed. His eyes gathered what looked like tears but instead of letting it drop, he swallowed hard and switched off his data. With hands gripped on the phone, Nulue swore Lagos was for those ready to be mad. In his life, he was not going to be a sacrifice for this senselessness.
He would fast everyday till February came and he would collect his certificate and take the next available bus to Benin. This was going to be his first and last red Christmas. Lagos can have all the opportunities, he, Nulue won’t be a part of the number that makes for the casualties of this deadly city.