By Emmanuel Audu
The journey itself was mostly uneventful. Apart from the bad state of the road from Oturpko, the only other hitch we encountered was the ever present, policemen who were scattered along the route to Lagos. Of course our driver was ready for them. Whenever we reach their roadblock, he would playfully stretch out his hand and the exchange would be made. Sometimes however, he just drops the money on the floor for them to pick up. But this is only after he had made absolutely sure no one was watching. For those of us who were schooled in the ways of the men in black, we were never fooled.
The trip from Benue to Lagos is one that never ends if you are a first timer. You begin to appreciate the size of Nigeria when you travel its lengths and breath. Our, driver a Lionel Messi by driving standards, ate up miles and miles of road space, yet Lagos was nowhere in sight. After hours of sitting and changing sitting positions to ease the strain on our buttocks, we eventually arrived at a boisterous looking town for a brief rest before continuing on our journey. From the amount of buses parked it was obvious other travelers like us were doing the same thing to stretch their aching legs and ease their heavy bladders.
The garage itself was an oversized fuel station filled with sales girls, boys and women selling all sorts of local delicacies, from freshly roasted corn with pear and coconut to fried yam and akara and all types of bread to go with it. There were even those selling cooked food in shops and kiosks. Others had both raw and roasted bush meat for sale making the whole atmosphere more of a carnival than a motor park.
The fanfare around the park came to its zenith with the music blast from hawkers selling CD’s with their loudspeaker blaring the latest Nigeria hits. The moment we alighted from the bus, our driver disappeared for the duration of our rest only to appear about five minutes to when we were about to leave. Rumour has it that drivers of commercial buses in the park do not usually pay for their meals but instead they get served whatever they desire for bringing customers to the various food sellers. We even heard that drivers take advantage of the short rest to have a quickie with their concubines along the Benue-Lagos route. But whether this is true or not, we could not confirm before we continued our journey.
We got to Lagos very late. Bergar, the first town and bus-top where most vehicles entering Lagos must stop was as busy as ever and the popular sign “DIS NA LAGOS” stared us in the face. This sign is unique in many respects. First, the usual sign you see on entering any city in Nigeria is usually one of welcome. But for Lagos city, the sign simply tells you ‘this is Lagos’ and there is no apology for it.
If you are new to the town, the signs strikes fear into your heart and you might not understand the meaning but after sometime the meaning begins to creep in on you. After staying for a year or two, the knowledge that you have arrived at a no man’s land hits you like a blow below the solar plexus. Nobody need tell you that here you have to roll up your sleeves whether you are male or female and fight for your life.
Secondly, the moment you alight from the bus if you are using one, you notice the hurried manner of moving and talking of everyone around you. Here, there is no slacking and before your very eyes the young boys with wheel barrows in the park would have already picked up your bag in an attempt to outdo any competition from the other boys and start asking you, Oga, madam na where you dey go?
Quickly, without waiting to be told, I directed the boy with my luggage to the wild looking bus conductor yelling’ “Oshodi O wa O”, “Oshodi One Yansh”. I hopped into the bus only to remember too late that I have forgotten to collect the phone numbers of the friends I made on the way to Lagos.
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