Make it Bun Dem

At the BRT park in Ajah, there was a short queue of about ten people. It was early morning and it had rained earlier. There was no bus yet so the people there were waiting in faith.
There is a critical queue length (CQL) which is the minimum number of people who have to be on a line for that line to appear legitimate. Once the queue has accumulated that number of people, it generates enough conviction to passers-by that those waiting are certain that a bus is coming. And like that, the line attracts even more people.
But if you asked anyone gathered there if they knew if a bus was coming, they would stare at you blankly and say something like, “Can’t you see the line?”

About five people from the start of the queue was a woman carrying a backpack.
The man behind her was playing with his hands. He shuffled to her left, he shuffled back behind her. He kept turning and looking around like he was expecting the bus to sneak up on him. Someone standing around them shouted. “Chai! Madam be careful, this boy is trying to steal your phone.” The woman swung the bag to her front and saw that the bag was unzipped. The fidgety man behind her opened his eyes wide, pointed to himself, Who me?
The person who had alerted the woman said, “It’s true! I saw you.”
More of the people on the queue got involved. “Picky pocket. That’s how they do, they will be standing on line waiting. Then they will disappear, your purse will be gone, your phone too, you won’t ever see them entering the bus.” “It happened to me like that one time.”
The woman zipped her bag up and hugged it tight in front of her. A few minutes later, the accusations died down.

Now the alleged thief, to prove that he wasn’t stealing, was stuck on the queue. He was waiting with everyone else, acting impatient. When the BRT official walked by, he joined the other passengers in complaining, When is the bus coming? We have been waiting for over thirty minutes.
But even when he was united with them, the people would not stop talking about his stealing past. “Look at him pretending like he has somewhere to go.” “I know, just watch and see.”
Someone said, “That’s how they always do here. And they are never just one. Once you catch them, another one will come and be supporting him.”
The group evaluated each queue member searching for who was most likely to be his accomplice. A new man joined the queue. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt with a tie. He was carrying a file folder and the belt holding up his trousers was looped around his entire body twice.
He overheard part of the conversation and asked what happened. He listened, nodding at all the speakers and looked the thief over.
“Why you no slap am?”
“No o, you no dey beat thief, they just come back dey tiff again. You must kill them.”
The alleged thief was cleaning his fingernails, being interested in the dirt he found there.

The BRT bus pulled up and the bus assistant came down the front steps. She asked the first person for their destination and held her hand out for the passenger’s ticket.
She took the ticket and tore the stub off the end for herself. She ripped the remaining part of the ticket in half and returned it to the passenger. She did that for the next three people. The woman with the bag stepped forward, submitted her ticket and got into the bus. Then the alleged thief was at the head of the queue.
A brief look of confusion crossed his face as he stood at the entrance of the bus. He did not have a ticket in his hand. Instead, he tapped his chest three times and turned into smoke.

Someone from the back said, “See? I told you.”
The ticket collector waved her hand back and forth to dispel the mist and called up the next passenger. The passenger stepped forward, she took their ticket, and tore the stub off for herself and ripped their ticket in half and returned it to them. Then she did the same thing for the person after that, and for the person after that too because she had a long line to get through.

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Amazing Race Lagos

Tune in this Thursday for a NEW and EXCITING episode.

Two, that’s TWO, contestants are given a danfo bus and a torchlight phone–complete with rubber band holding it together.
The contestants must make it from the Seme border on one end of Lagos ALL the way ACROSS the state to the Olu’s palace in Epe.
The bus has no fuel.
The phone has no credit.
Contestants are given no money and are not allowed to contact previous associates. They have one month to get to the finish line or until such fate as would befall them as to make it impossible to continue.

Meet our first contestants, Olalekan and his son, Segun. They sell the phone (hellooo… brought to you by Airtel) to get enough petrol to start the bus. Olalekan and Segun form a driver and conductor team and are quickly on their way, picking up passengers and using the fares collected to pay for more fuel. But at Oshodi they are stopped by touts. The agberos harangue Olalekan. “Where is your sticker? Owo loading da? Owo security and parking?” Segun steps in with an explanation.
Segun gets stabbed.
Let’s catch up with them next week as Olalekan waits for his son to get stitches.

Next up, Ifeanyi and Ada. He says she’s his girlfriend, she says it’s fiancee, we say that is a matter for another show. They decide to sell the danfo for parts and use the money to pay for a taxi. Right at the border, they sell the side mirrors, they sell the windows. Ifeanyi is on the phone (hellooo… brought to you by Airtel) talking to someone who is willing to buy the frame of the bus.
But uh-oh, don’t look now. The Alaba International boys have gotten wind of unsanctioned trade activity in the region, and are moving in on them.

Meanwhile, Taiwo and Kehinde, twin returnees from Houston, have abandoned the bus and are attempting to hitch a ride. They stand on the side of the Badagry expressway with their thumbs out. Cars zip by, one slows down to yell, “Ashewo!” but who will stop for them?
Two girls!
One chance!!
Zero possibility of winning.

Finally, the mother-daughter team of Isabella and Mama Isabella. After buying fuel at a petrol station, their bus refuses to start. The pressure of the race is getting to them.
Isabella pushes the bus with help from two of the fuel attendants while her mother controls from the driver’s seat. The danfo rolls, gathers momentum, Isabella shouts, “Mummy, Now!” Her mother jumpstarts the bus. It jerks, it sputters to a stop. They push again. The engine catches this time, then it coughs and dies.
Isabella wails. “Are you sure you’re doing the right thing? Are you releasing the clutch? Are you pressing the accelerator or the brake?”
Her mother sticks her head out of the window. “You this girl, your mouth is too sharp. Everything, you must comment. That is how you drove Paul away.”
*gasp*

Drama! Adventure!! All on Amazing Race Lay-Gos!!!

COMING SOON!
From the makers of Monopoly Nigerian Edition ™
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Married at First Sight of Their Bank Accounts
Contestants must choose who to marry simply by looking at each other’s bank statements.
“Nne, what do you mean you operate a cash only business?”

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Terms and conditions apply.

Start with ABCs

On the bus this morning, a man came in pushing two little boys ahead of him. He ferried them into the back row sitting them next to him. The man was wearing a light blue dress shirt with a tie. The shirt was too big for him. It was loose around his arms tapering into his buttoned wrists. The boys were in matching school uniforms and one of them was clutching a sheaf of papers stapled together.

At the top of the page, the heading said: Spelling Bee Sample Words. And below that, in tables, words were listed alphabetically alongside their origins (Latin, Greek, etc.) and the definition of the word.

The bus took a long time to fill up. The man got antsy. He kept looking at his watch then outside at passing cars. When the bus started to move, the boys huddled together to study the pages.

The man paid the bus conductor and turned to the boys. He snatched the paper out of their hands. He ran his finger down the page and said to one of the boys, “Abysmal.”

The boy mouthed the word a few times before spelling it boldly, A-B-E-S-I-M-A-L. The man stared at him for a long time, saying nothing. The boy did not make eye contact. The man sighed. He looked at the list and picked out another word for the boy.

“How about Bedlam?”

Before the boy could reply, the man’s phone rang. The man wrested the phone out of his pocket. He shielded it to read the screen and put it to his ear.

“Good morning, Ma.” he said.

He listened for a while.

“Mummy, these students really disappointed me. I was waiting until eight.”

He listened some more.

“Blessing never showed. I am here with Akande and …”

He put the phone to his shoulder and poked the abysmal speller.

“What is your name?”

“Oladele,” the boy replied.

The man returned to the phone. “I am here with Akande and Oladele.”

He looked from one boy to the other.

“I don’t know, Ma,” he said, “I really don’t see how we will manage without Blessing.”

He shook his head slowly, said goodbye, and hung up.

The man looked out of the window. The road was clear going in the opposite direction. He returned the phone to his pocket and picked up the sheets of paper.

The man turned a couple of pages and said, “Akande, Catastrophe.”

The boy said, “C–A–T–“. He trailed off.

After a long pause, Akande continued.

“C–A–”

“No!” The man snapped, “How many times have I told you. Don’t double the letters.”

Oladele snickered. The man swatted him with a backhand. “Stop laughing and support your friend. Don’t you remember how Blessing used to do it?”

The man flipped two more pages. He addressed Oladele. “You, Disaster.”

The boy opened his mouth wide and gave the teacher a blank look.

Rate me well

So, Mo picks me up from work on a mall run. We are five minutes away from The Palms when we get stuck in traffic. A blind man and his companion step off the sidewalk onto the road. They make their way down the line of cars. At each window, the female companion stops. The blind man leans into the window with his palms open and runs through his list of prayers and blessings.

With a signal that is imperceptible to the rest of us, the blind man lets the girl know when it is time to move on to the next car. Or maybe the girl decides herself. She stares into the distance as he speaks and when she gets tired of listening to him, she walks to the next car dragging him along.

I see them do this a few times ahead of us watching their interaction, then I turn to Mo and tell her something that happened the previous day.

I am in the same area in Victoria Island. Two blind men pass each other on the street. The girls leading them are friends so they stop to talk. The first blind man keeps his hand on his girl’s shoulder and waits as she chats with her friend. The second man does not wait. After an initial pause, he sighs and walks off leaving his guide behind. He strides away confidently, not feeling his way slowly tapping his cane every step. He is just an ordinary man in Lagos wearing a kaftan with dusty feet who happens to be holding a cane.

He walks right into the intersection. A motorbike swerves to avoid hitting him. A keke sideswipes him and pulls up in front. Cars pile up behind it. Everyone is honking. What is this blind man doing, they are saying, where is his PA. The keke driver sticks his head out and yells at him. The blind man has made it halfway across the road. Maybe he knows the place. Maybe he thinks it sounds like Adeola Odeku and he can smell the pizza dough wafting over from Domino’s. The road is divided by a raised barrier about one foot high. The blind man has to step over it or find the gap to walk through. The man is feeling the stick along the highway barrier looking for an opening. He is stuck. 

His helper finally hears the commotion, she darts into the road and takes his hand, leads him away from all the people calling her stupid girl. The entire time I don’t see them speak. I am saying this to Mo now. I am telling her, I don’t think they talk much. I say, The girl was very chatty with her friend and when the blind men are together at the foot of the bridge, they stand with their hands stretched out and talk to each other. But the men don’t talk to the girls. I say, How about that? 

Mo is thinking about it. She’s also struggling with it, thinking to herself, this is a weird conversation to be having. 

Mo says, Maybe they don’t talk because they don’t know each other.

I say, How can they not know each other, they walk together every day.

Mo says, That doesn’t mean anything, maybe they are assigned to each other. 

I scoff at her, Assigned how, like a temp agency? Are you serious?

Mo is bites her lower lip, she nods, Yes, I’m sure they have something like that.

I say, So you think the blind man wakes up in the morning, dresses, and goes to some office. There they check the database, because obviously, all these helper children would have registered earlier. The office has a man wearing glasses and a short sleeved suit behind a wooden desk with a rusty standing fan in the corner. The man pulls out today’s availability report from a file, runs his finger down the page humming to himself, Hmmm….. Aisha is free today. And then she gets assigned to him?

Mo fixes me with a frozen stare.

I say, This is what you believe, right? That there’s a whole infrastructure around it. Something where at the end of the day, the blind man can bring out his braille phone, give her one star and leave a comment: “Aisha talked throughout the day. She made me walk into traffic, I’m lucky to be alive. I will not ride with her again.”

Mo blinks. She says, You know sometimes you take these things too far.