by Nwachukwu Egbunike

Who carry this witch put for my car? I am not driving with this witch in my bus!” So roared the driver of a bus that ply’s the Ibadan – Enugu route. The driver’s exclamation caused an immediate commotion as the passengers scampered out of the vehicle to see the ‘witch’ that had unsettled the driver. While the bold ones made a beeline to the boot, the cautious ran afar from the bus. The ‘witch’ happened to be two cute kittens.

The owner of the kittens, a middle aged, light complexioned lady dressed in business suit, was embarrassed. The driver continued his voracious attack that ‘they’ (meaning his enemies) cannot get him. If she was sent by them, she should go back with the bad news that his meat is tough and cannot be made easily into stew. Amid the confusion, a rain of suggestions poured forth from each passenger. Some sympathised with the driver and ordered the woman to carry her bag of ‘witches’ out of the van or better still find another vehicle. The group, who were in support of the woman, were not so vocal, lest they be branded as members of the witches’ coven. Then another group were quite diplomatic, they advised the lady to wrap up the kittens in a carton, instead of leaving them just tied to one of the seats. The camp that finally won the day stated that the woman can only have her kittens with her as long as a pastor prays for a safe journey. Knowing our people, this won universal acclaim.

Swiftly a pastor who had finished a tour of duty in another vehicle that just left the park was invited. The young man was dapperly dressed in a two-piece suit with black shining shoes to match. He wore an impressive perfume and his diction was superb. Sweating profusely and clutching his bible tightly on his left hand, he swung into action. It was a real fierce battle calling down the heavenly host to protect the travellers. When he had finished he reassured the occupants of their safety and spontaneously a collection was made for him, which he gladly accepted.

Hardly had the pastor alighted, when a well dressed young lady, perhaps in her early thirties appeared and practically foisted a magazine for sale on us. When she realised that her strategy was not working, she changed gear and told us the story of her life. Being a graduate, she has been unemployed and decided to do something creative, the magazine was a product of her intellect. It focussed on Queen Esther and the usual inspirational slipshod. When this did not work, she now went for each individual. One of the passengers, who had his name tag dangling round his neck like a talisman, was the first victim. She cajoled, praised and practically threatened him. Luckily the women among us took pity on her and supported her efforts by buying the magazine for N200.

One of the passengers thought he was smart, he had excess luggage and decided to buy an extra seat. This was rather an invitation for the agberos (i.e., motor park touts) to go for Mr Smarts jugular knowing that he was loaded. Since Mr Smart could not fix his excess load into the extra seat, he moved them to the boat. A tug of words began as the touts haggled with Mr Smart over the fare for the extra luggage. Eventually his luggage was accorded space in the boot, for a fee almost the same as the bus fare.

The fun had just begun. A co-traveller, an ardent member of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), took us through the history of the marginalisation of Ndigbo. He canonised the leader of MASSOB, stating that the state of Biafra will soon be realised. In fact, he boasted – with a fountain erupting from his wide mouth – that the United Nations has already approved the creation of Biafra. Mr MASSOB briefed us that President Yar’Adua will soon be invited to New York to sign the treaty ceding Biafra. He juggled his Biafra babble, in Igbo, with several phone calls about his seized containers at the port. Another passenger briefly interrupted, in English, asking if Mazi MASSOB was aware that his utterances were treasonable. He remained quiet for moment; the change in language had startled him. Mumbling some words in response, he promptly switched back to Igbo.

The police was civil through out the journey; their tribe swelling only within Enugu, Anambra, Delta and some parts of Ondo states. The customary practise: a brisk handshake between the driver and the officer on toll duty was adhered to. However, the driver, foolhardily or due to a break in communication, made an exception to this rule at a checkpoint manned by mobile policemen (Mopol). After twenty minutes of driving, a police jeep swept past us and in Rambo style, halted the vehicle. The Mopol men jumped out and in true sense of commitment to our security, ordered the bus back to the check point. There the driver was given some lessons and afterwards released.

A unanimous declaration by my co-travellers to make the Minister of Transportation (MT), Mrs Daizen Allison-Madueke, Person of the Year ended the journey. Having followed her motherly concern about the Ore portion of the road, having cried publicly for us her suffering children, we had no doubts that Madam MT deserves such a high honour. Her ministry has literally not turned any stone on that axis. By her magnanimity, we were given a rare opportunity to discover Nigeria, by traversing Benin, Akure and Ife. A million thanks to our Person of the Year.

Nigerian Village Square, Thursday November 13, 2008


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