Run, Run, Run

If the bus conductor with a golden tooth tells you the fare to Ijebu-ode is one thousand five hundred Naira, don’t protest. Just crawl into the bus, fold into the window seat, and watch life unfold slowly on the wet streets of Oshodi.

If, after thirty minutes in the car, someone passing asks the conductor for the price, hears it, and wants to turn away, tell the driver you do not mind if he takes a lesser fare from him. You are already late for the wedding. If the man still refuses to listen to the pleas and heads for another part of the park, shake your head and pity him because he will stroll through the park and return to the spot where your car is, only to find that you’ve moved. If a lady with a shiny head of shuku takes the last seat, be thankful as you head to the expressway and hope the traffic won’t be heavy.

If the expressway ends up being free, and your car makes it to Ijebu-ode quickly, think about the impact of the fuel crisis on transportation. Think about how something so bad can still hold some good. Think about how selfish this thought is and shrug it off.

If your driver sees a crowd running towards him, traders locking their stalls in haste, and vehicles reversing with arms stuck out of their windows waving frantically, tell him to reverse too. If the charcoal-skinned boy on an okada kissing the bumper of the car remains still, slack jawed, and scratches the knitted head-warmer on his head, scream at him. Wonder if he doesn’t recognise chaos and does not know the only valid reaction in moments like this is to run. If later, as you record these events in your journal, you remember Asa’s Fire on the Mountain, think about its poignancy and how fitting it is to the events that plague your country.

If your driver, after taking the overhead bridge, drops you just a few metres from the epicentre of the chaos, ask him what the matter is. If he tells you it is possibly boys from the barrack wielding the machetes as a response to the killing of one of them, feel a mild terror as you scramble out of his car. If you flag down okadas but they do not respond and suddenly there are people running towards you, join them. Run. Head into one of the dusty alleys that branch out of the road and stand in front of a bakery, eyes on the road, legs at the ready.

If dark clouds suddenly start to swirl above and rain begins to pellet your skin, run out of the alley and attempt to flag down another okada. If the okadaman says he’s not going to Imowo, your destination, and the rain becomes heavier, look for a shade to protect you from getting wet.

If another okadaman joins you under the shade with his bike, ask him if he will be willing to take you to Imowo after the rain abates, and what his price would be. Do not bargain if he says two hundred Naira. This is simple demand and supply at work.

If a tricyclist hops out of his Keke Marwa, swings towards you on crutches with mismatched legs, and shows you his bloodied arm, say eeyah. If he tells you he got the injuries while trying to pick the frame of his side mirror broken by the rampaging, murderous boys with machetes, resist the urge to tell him: you should have forgotten the frame; you should have run. Remember, even running can be a privilege; some people cannot, or do not know how to run.

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