By the flickering of the needle red lights and the half circle paths they travelled I could make out the silhouettes of three guys. The red lights indicated three smoking hands. Being a ‘greenhorn’ in Lagos I had been inundated with stories of agberos and omo itas. I had been given quick scattered tutorials on how they operated – where to avoid,how to walk with bravado so I wouldn’t be passed off as a Johnny-Just-Come and even how to ‘shine my eye’ just in case. But now walking along the Oshodi bridge at 10PM or so having been dropped off by a bus I had boarded from Obalende, this was the real deal.
You know the experience when you are in a new environment and you are constantly informed on how to board a bus to your destinations. God forbid a road is blocked and the bus takes a detour. You land in God-knows-where because you’re afraid to ask questions inside the bus having been schooled that you may land in the hands of bad folks. “In Lagos they can steal your manhood,” you’re told, “so beware of who you ask questions.” You’re told to ask mainly policemen. They’re more trustworthy. Or so we think.
That day the bus didn’t take a detour. I had been invited to VGC by my cousin so we could go over details of my impending interview at the consulting firm where she worked. She was a partner and a piece of her years of experience was something she could lend me as regards answering interview questions. I boarded a bus from Ajao Estate where I was hanging out with another cousin of mine so I could meet her up after work hours. Our exercise spanned two hours and that was how I found myself on Oshodi bridge at that ‘ungodly’ hour.
Heart panting, I braced for the challenge, bouyed by the fact that there were some other folks walking around too. I made a quick sign of the cross and as I passed by the car on whose bonnet they were sitting discussing rather noisily, it seemed they didn’t notice me. I increased my pace, made another quick sign of the cross and continued.
“Arey, duro nibeyen,” (meaning “Hey,stop there”) I heard a croaky voice shout behind me. It was guttural coming from a throat that had witnessed years of smoke. I did a quick half turn to see a lanky lad who was walking a bit briskly behind me. I reckoned it was one of the boys I had passed who were smoking. I didn’t bother to understand what he was saying. I did a mental calculation of the valuables I had on me – my Nokia torch phone, my wallet with a few wads of naira notes, my corper’s identity card and a few business cards. I figured they were not much even if they were taken. I broke into a run. By my reckoning, it would take me less than a minute to reach the bus stop where I’d board the final bus to my cousin’s house.
I guess he wasn’t athletic because his strides were languid. Almost at that point, a bus rolled by. “Airpooorrrt rooooaaaddd,” shouted the conductor hanging by the door of the rickety yellow bus, his left leg dangling in the air. I waved my hands frantically and before the bus could screech to a halt, I dived in. I looked back and my assailant had slowly halted his pursuit. I wished there were lights for me to see the expression on his face on realising his “obtain” project had evaporated. I did another quick sign of the cross, my breaths coming in quick gasps as I settled into the torn cushions of the bus seats.
True to type, the interviewers posed the same questions as we had practiced. For a week I sat before five different interviewers for a period of fifteen to twenty minutes. They asked the same questions. It was a carefully orchestrated script just like my aged university professors who had used lecture notes of the good ‘ole days of the 1980s to teach us in the 2000s. Why there was no departure from the script, I couldn’t tell.
To be continued next week….