Sometimes I can’t believe some Nigerians.
Especially the ones in uniform.
I cannot believe the audacity, the privilege these Nigerians exert over other people’s hustle.
So, minutes ago, I was at Oshodi waiting for the bus that would go my way. A few metres away from me was this woman selling water; her features were weather-beaten upon a head that stood sturdily under the weight of the basin filled with pure water and bottled water. The film of condensation over the sachets and bottles promised a chilly drink that simply tantalized in the hot afternoon.
Pedestrians milled around her, picking out sachets of pure water from the basin and handing her naira notes. Of course no one was going for the bottles, because, well, with the recession, the bottled water is fast turning into the rich man’s drinking water.
Then a man clad in a MOPOL uniform sauntered over to the woman, cut through the customers surrounding her and lifted a bottle of water from the basin. He turned the top of the bottle, tilted the bottle over his mouth with his head thrown back, and began to gulp thirstily, while walking away.
Walking away from the water-seller! Without any word to her! Or payment made!
He simply took from her market and began to walk away.
You could see from the way the woman and the pedestrians and the roadside agberos that surrounded her had frozen, from the expressions on their faces, that they’d been rendered immobile not out of fear for the uniformed man, but out of incredulity at his actions. There was this collective WTF expression on their faces as they watched him gradually walk away, not a care in the world.
Then one of the agberos, a dark-skinned man whose face and demeanor were hewn by the life of a Lagosian who knows no luxuries, barked at the policeman, “Oga! Oga, you never pay o!”
The policeman’s steps faltered a beat, evidence that he’d heard the confrontation, then he continued walking on, as though hoping his lack of acknowledgment would make the problem go away.
It didn’t. This time, the woman, emboldened by the agbero’s intrusion, screeched, “Oga! You never pay me my money!”
The policeman stopped and turned, wearing an expression that couldn’t believe he was being accosted. Like seriously, did these commoners not know he was a policeman and should get away with anything he pleased?
The agberos and the woman began to converge on him, just in case he was thinking of walking away again, and so he didn’t.
He began to walk back to them, and said with some irritation, “Madam, how much be your money sef?”
“Seventy naira,” the woman replied promptly.
He grimaced and stared from the bottle to the woman, accusatorily, like he couldn’t believe she hadn’t put the price tag on the bottle so he’d have the common sense to pick up pure water from her basin instead.
“Since when bottled water turn to seventy naira?” he snapped.
“Since Buhari cause am,” the woman retorted. “Oga, abeg, just give me my money.”
The man shrugged. “I no get money o.”
The small crowd reared back with disbelief. In a voice rich with outrage, the woman shrieked, “Na who go come pay for your water na? Why you come take my water if you no get money? Who wan come pay for the water?”
And the policeman uttered, with utmost nonchalance, words I could not believe one Nigerian would be this insensitive to say to another. He said with a vague gesture in the air, “Somebody go pay.”
“Who?” The woman looked around as though watching for the benefactor who’d be footing the policeman’s bill. When she saw no such person, she turned back on the policeman. “Na who go pay?”
The policeman’s features had turned gnarly with annoyance as he snapped, “Abeg no worry me, you this woman. I don tell you say I no get money. Somebody go pay.”
And with that, with not even the faintest consideration shown for this woman’s hustle, with such corrupt audacity worn over him like a toga, he walked away, leaving the small crowd looking after him with a mixture of rage and helplessness.
I am @Walter_Ude on twitter
Photo credit: @ola_lagos on instagram