Lagos has a way of reminding you that its streets are unsafe, just in case you’re getting comfortable with your waka-waka.
This morning was an example.
I was out and about for an early morning appointment, the 6.30am kind of early, which means I had my alarm set for 4am and was out of the house by 5. By the time I commuted to Onipanu, it was already 6. And it was right there at the Onipanu bus stop that it happened.
The bus I was in was idling at the bus stop while the conductor hollered for more passengers. The bus stop was busy, even under the marginal cover of darkness, and ahead of us, a gaggle of pedestrians were waiting for the BRT bus. Among them was a woman chatting with a man; the woman was holding her handbag loosely by her side.
Just then, with a speed that defies physics, a wiry man darted past the woman, snatching her bag in one quick move. The woman shrieked, and both she and her male companion started after the thief. But there was a bike waiting for the thief; he clambered onto the bike behind the bike man, and they were off. The woman began screaming “Ole! Ole!” while her male companion gave hot pursuit. And he was a real Usain Bolt too. He got very close, really close, his desperately outstretched hands almost making purchase with the back of the thief’s shirt.
But man na man and motor na motor. The bike man shifted gears and the bike vroomed speedily forward, forever out of the pursuer’s reach.
As this action film was going on, those of us in the bus I was in were front-row witnesses because our bus had started moving. The passengers in the bus were exclaiming ad clapping their hands in varying degrees of surprise and outrage. Behind us, the woman was still screaming “Ole! Ole!” and a Good Samaritan, who’d obviously witnessed the snatch, leapt to the rescue. This person was the driver of a white Honda, and quickly overtook us in our bus in pursuit of the bike.
And that was when a brief, live-action Hollywood film broke out. The Honda quickly gained on the bike and the driver swerved rightward, clearly intending to knock the bike down. But the bike man was quick on the uptake and swerved further right, narrowly escaping contact with the side of the car and steering into a filling station. The Honda chased after it into the filling station, and there ensued a lot of screeching and swerving as the Honda persisted in knocking the bike down, and the bike kept trying to evade it.
But motor na motor and okada na okada. Before long, the bike broke out of the filling station and zipped into the highway, toward freedom, leaving the frustrated car driver unable to pursue any further because of a traffic log.
The entire incident didn’t take up to ten minutes, but it was all everyone in the bus could talk about till I dropped at my bus stop. Bearing what had happened in mind, and very aware that I too had a bag on me, I crossed the expressway to the other side, fully alert. I walked to the nearest junction where I stood to wait for a bike to convey me to my final destination.
A bike did come along, but I was still so highly strung that as the bike man turned toward my side, I instinctively moved my backpack from my side where it was slung to my front, clasping my hands protectively over it. The bike man noticed what I’d done, the subtle accusation of it, and gave me an ugly look, before spitting out, “Them tell you say I wan tiff your bag?”
I gave a short, sardonic laugh and retorted, “Shey because them dey write tiff for face, abi?”
Those were my first words of the day.
Good morning, Nigerians. It’s another beautiful day to be alive.
I am @Walter_Ude on twitter