The driver no longer seemed interested in the conversation with the first seat passenger. They had earlier been engaged in a robust discussion about greedy Nigerian politicians but from his countenance, he didn’t find the new dimension the discussion was taking interesting. The part where the passenger boasted about how well he knew one stingy Nigerian politician and how generous he has been to the relatives of this same stingy Nigerian politician who lives in Abuja, didn’t sound melodious to the driver so for the first time he wheeled the car with both hands on the steering without indulging.
As you may have rightly guessed, the talker didn’t shut up and without being asked, stated that he wouldn’t tell us the name of this Nigerian politician “for the walls have ears”. I didn’t know what walls he was referring to because we were in transit and not in a room with wheels but it wasn’t my cup of tea and nobody else’s.
In less than a second, the driver volumed up the noisy Wazobia fm and the news caster began reading the headlines. She spoke in pidgin English as it was their tradition:
“Train don kill 52 cows today”
“Fire explosion wey happen for Lafia, inside Nasarawa State done kill and injure plenty plenty casualties”
She said something something about politics, flood and sports that I didn’t hear clearly until she mentioned President Buhari and nomination form in one sentence.
Sandwiched at one corner in the taxi, I tried calculating how soon I’d get home while taking careful note of the landmarks and signs I used to measure the distance. By my measurements, we were still years away from our destination so it meant a longer time to endure opinionated Nigerians talk about the pressing issues of the country amongst which was the fact that Buhari was re-contesting as President of the country. Disgusted by this report, the man beside me hissed and rubbed his hand on his bald head as if to say without a voice, “we are finished”.
The other man well suited held firmly on to the other side of the door with one hand to gain balance since all of us were arranged like sardines in a can. He was more exasperated by the 52 dead cows news. “Instead of you to make the cows pass straight” he said while demonstrating with the other hand, “you will allow them walk on the rail, how will they not all die”, then he hissed. His eyes were fixed on the passenger in front so it was easy for one to conclude that the passenger was the herdsman but how could he be when there was a cattle man making a rendition of lamentation on radio? I suppose he got even angrier when he saw human beings neglect the pedestrian bridges just to fly over to the other side of the road. He hissed and shook his head in obvious disappointment.
“What exactly was the 19 year old boy doing by this time in prison few years back?” I asked myself. Was he seated by the window in a crammed corner like I now was, watching time crawl by, calculating the distance to freedom while inhaling the same air he exhaled or was he lying with his eyes closed awaiting the breaking of a new day that would be no different from the rest? The charge sheet records he was 19 when it all happened but remained behind bars for 842 days before meeting the Judge who held the power to decide the fate of miscreants or unlucky fellows like himself, on his tongue. He was already 21 by the time I punched the data into the computer earlier today. I noticed his jail term was lengthy perhaps because he pleaded not guilty to the offense he had been accused of. All those who pleaded guilty enjoyed between 6 to 18 months incarceration so I asked myself again, couldn’t he have done same if it proved beneficial? Why did he waste the time of the court? Didn’t the term “honorable court” mean anything more to him than just a repeated phrase chorused during his trial?
Maybe his lawyer couldn’t adduce sufficient evidence to prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubts; he was allegedly in possession of four different substances. Or could it be that the Judge still believed children are the leaders of tomorrow so the five years sentence was an act of benevolence?
Apprehended at the main market, his mother probably didn’t even know of his whereabouts until months later. Did she cry when his sentence was passed in the courtroom or was he a recidivist so no reaction was more befitting than a deep long sigh and a rhythmic hiss?
What if his father had bothered to know exactly where he returned from all those early mornings he was home before the cock cleared its throat or woke to crow, would he have known better how to deter him from such misbehavior?
Interrupting my train of thoughts, the driver announced “Car wash” and I responded “car wash”. I paid my fare and alighted from the car, stepping into darkness with lights shining only from the burning candles of the Mallams and Madams who sold items at the junction. It was too late and I had lost my bargaining power an hour ago but 150 Naira was too outrageous a price to pay from here to there. I was being robbed of 50 Naira by a bike man at this time of the night but only those who hold guns and carry knives in their pockets are robbers. This is unjust! I cried to myself but too tired to be an activist, I hopped on the bike with more pressing things to think about-how best to enjoy 8 hours of sleep before 5:30am, eat breakfast and still arrive at the office a little earlier than 8:00am and before my boss.
Just to justify this tiredness, I do more than just sit behind the computer daily. I answer all the questions my Economist Intern-Colleague asks me – questions like “What is Allocutus again?” that are asked after “Why is there only one Judge doing all the cases?” or “where can I find the judgment now in this case?”. I drink coffee, write jargon, plan my future using boxes, circles and sometimes pipelines; check my long to-do list, yawn at intervals, listen to music, stop all these and then marvel at the alarming rate at which drugs have been and are being consistently consumed by young Nigerians – Cocaine, Marijuana, Indian Hemp, Diazepam, Tramadol/Tramol, Exol 5 and the likes.
Times are hard! Times are hard! It is not only the government that is killing us in this country. 😴😴😴