A Story Written By Nitefury…
was 87, most federal government roads were still in good shape and coupled with the few number of vehicles available then, the journey was pretty much fast. By mid day, they were at Onitsha. The journey from Calabar to that point had been boring, as there was pretty much nothing of interest on the way. From one eastern village and town to the next.
She sat next to a lady who was traveling with a girl of about 4 years. When the journey began, one of the passengers stood up and began a prayer session, which was then followed by some bible passages and preaching. The man continued preaching for the next hour until they got to Ikot-Ekpene. By then, Ima like most of the passengers were already asleep.
She was lost in thoughts and had paid no attention to whatever it was the preacher man had to say. For the first time since the whole pregnancy issue came up, and realizing that its been a long while since she communicated with Jama, she feared if he had moved on with someone else. Would she be welcomed? What if there’s another lady in the house? The baby! What would she tell him happened to their child? These were the thoughts that kept reoccupying her mind, with her sleeping off severally.
At Onitsha, they stopped to refuel and picked up some Lagos bound passengers because the bus wasn’t full when they had left Calabar. This took only thirty minutes and they were back on the road. This was by far the biggest city she had seen with big houses stretching miles all around the city. The heavy duty trucks, the number of motor cyclists, the noise, the roadside refuse dumps, and the human traffic were way different from her rather developing and serene Calabar.
For Ima, the Itu bridge (linking Cross River and Akwa Ibom) was just about the longest she had ever seen, so by the time she set her eyes on the famous Niger bridge, she marveled at the beauty and length of it. Before now, she hadn’t really spoken to the lady sitting next to her, but she couldn’t help ask the lady “Is this the Niger bridge?” just to be sure.
“Yes it is” the woman replied surprised she had asked her a question after keeping to herself for most part of the journey.
“It’s so long.. The water looks scary” she said beaming with smile as she looked out through the window.
Curiosity had the better part of the lady prompting her to ask “Is this your first time travelling to Lagos?”
“Yes” she replied calmly looking away from the window realizing her excitement at the bridge had betrayed the “I know where I’m going” script she had been acting right from when she entered the bus. Having been told of how rough Lagos was by friends, they had also told her the best way to act was not to show you didn’t know your way around. According to them, people might sell/cheat/rob/molest you with the pretext of trying to help you find your way.
“I see.” The lady said. “So what are you going to do in Lagos and who’s they to welcome you?” she probed further. This was an opportunity for her to engage the pretty young girl whose dressing and comportment had impressed her for most part of the Journey.
She never saw those questions coming and it threw her off guard. She began by stuttering “I.. I.. I’m going to… to, my uncle.. I’m going to my uncle’s place” she ended looking out the window confused whilst hoping the lady would stop questioning her
From her time and experience in Lagos, she had seen many young girls leave home for Lagos without any idea of what Lagos looked like or where they were going to. Most end up as red light girls, contracting and spreading all sort of diseases all in the name of looking for a better life away from home. With the way the girl answered that simple question, coupled with the way she had kept to herself right from the park, she began to suspect this was another girl running away from home. But yet again, she looked so refined and spoke flawless English, making her probe further.
“Your Uncle, where does he stay in Lagos and want does he do for a living?” she wanted to be sure it wasn’t another case of “Traveling to meet her boyfriend” from home doing one menial (or no) job in a slum in Lagos. As a matter of fact, she was returning to Lagos after taking one of such girls back home.
She owned and ran a very popular “Calabar Restaurant” somewhere in Yaba. The girl had found her way to Lagos upon the invite of her boyfriend who left home in search of greener pastures. During the last Christmas celebration, he had gone home and bragged about doing some successful business. Falling for his (cheap) flashy clothes and the way he spent a few bucks, she had fallen for him. In February, two months after he had gone back to Lagos, she realize she had been knocked up by him. Scared of her parents wrath, she packed her things and followed him to Lagos using the address he had given her. As the story went, she met the guy who turned out to be a bus conductor. He could barely afford two decent meals for himself and shared his single room apartment with another hustling boy from Eket.
She did nothing other than cook for the two of them. One day, two months after she arrived, the dude didn’t return home. Two days later they discovered he was discharged by his boss (driver) for shortchanging him. Around Oshodi, he had snatched a trader’s purse and was chased down by an angry mob when the lady raised alarm. Within 10 minutes after he was caught, the frustrated mob had set him ablaze.
The other boy gave her two days to mourn her lover and by the third day, he propositioned her. It was simple, either she started sleeping with him or she moved out. He didn’t care if she was pregnant for some one else. After all, he was the one squatting her late lover. With no option, she let him have his way. A month later, she realized the dude would still kick her out anytime so decided to go out of the house to look for something to support herself. That was when she saw the sign post of her restaurant. She came in greeting her in Efik, after which she had asked if she could work for the her….
Long story short, she took the girl in and was able to establish contact with her parents back home. At the end of the day, it turned out her parents didn’t mind and took her back with open arms. So looking at this girl right here, she was determined not to allow a repeat.
“He’s an army officer. He works with the Nigerian army at Ojo barracks” she replied the lady confidently turning to face her
“Oh.. I see. So what’s your name? Is he coming to wait for you at the bus terminal or you know how to get there?” she asked still not satisfied.
An opportunity to end the questioning finally she thought. “My name is Imabong”. He’ll be waiting for me at the terminal” she lied after telling the lady her name. That mistake would later cost her.
Before the lady could ask another question, the driver of the bus pulled out, off the road into a parking space for cars/buses. They were in Asaba and this was where passengers were to eat before their onward journey…
The journey continued with her chatting the woman up, asking her questions about life generally in Lagos. She did this deliberately so the lady wouldn’t ask her personal questions that might lead to her divulging things she’ll rather not.
By 4 pm, they had left Ore and where headed for Sagamu when the bus broke down halfway between the two towns. Ima couldn’t understand why the passengers were panicky. Though she was pretty much exhausted at the never ending journey, she felt the passengers where over reacting with the way they shouted on the driver. Not until the lady told her the probability of being robbed by daredevil robbers at this spot was far greater than them leaving the place unharmed. Ima began to sweat.
The bus had over heated, with the gasket burnt. This meant they had to stop every now and then to put water in the radiator and manage the bus slowly. The journey became very slow and boring because the passengers kept lamenting and cussing.
When they got to Sagamu, a passenger shouted “Driver no carry us go o, ma Sagam we dey stop o”
As the driver pulled to where he would park for the man and his partner to alight, she asked the lady “Where are we now?”
“This is sagamu. Ogun state” she replied. Don’t worry Lagos is not that far again. If not for the bad bus
“But I thought the man said they were stopping at Shagam or something like that?” she asked curious
“Sagam, Sagamu.. Its still the same place. People feeling lazy just omit the letter “U” calling it Shagam.
She slept off severally and by 10pm, they were at Berger. Waking her up, the lady said she was alighting there because she had something to deliver to her towns woman. She like other passengers stopping there kept cursing and swearing at the driver. She failed to notice the confused look on the girl’s face.
The bus continued its journey into the city. Someone from behind the bus shouted “Driver I dey stop for Anthony o”. Two other people affirmed that was their stop prompting her to shout “Driver I’m stopping at Ojo o”.
“I don hear o” the driver shouted back, he was listening to a popular highlife track “Landlord travel and see”
A few minutes later, they were at Ojota and the driver pulled to a stop shouting “Oya o, Ojota drop o” A lady began to gather her things as she prepared to move out. Confused, she gathered her bag and alighted from the bus thinking just like Sagam and Sagamu was the same place, Ojo was the short form of Ojota.
To Be Continued…