A few days ago, I rode in a Taxify, not an Uber.
The car stank of burnt incense. The driver, a severe-looking man, did not respond to my greeting. Instead, in a clipped tone, he said, “Can I start the ride?”
He lurched forward.
Then as though he remembered that driving fast kills, he slowed down.
He started playing a CD. It was loud gospel music. The singer was not particularly good but her conviction and vigor could not be denied. She marshaled the Igbo songs with aggressive gusto.
Aside from the blaring music, we drove without word, with the driver occasionally singing along with the lady until we were brought to a crawl by the thick traffic on Osborne Road. It was dark already but there were several hawkers snaking through the pile-up.
I was starved, having been in the studio for most of the day. So I beckoned to a hawker of coconut chips and another of bottled water. They ran into a convergence at the window of the car.
I bought some and turned to the driver. “Do you want some?”
“No, I am doing three days dry fast.”
I turned back, paid the hawkers and they melted away into the dimly lit darkness.
The traffic crawled.
And I began to make small talk.
“Do you also drive Uber?”
“God forbid!” he spat, circling his head with his hand.
“The bastards think we are slaves. Imagine they reduce their fares by 40% but insist on keeping their share at 25%.”
“So the drivers are the one losing out?”
“Yes. And the owners of the cars do not want to hear excuses. Contract is contract. You must deliver 50 thousand a week. How can you pay that from driving Uber? So we have abandoned them, let them chop their app. But it is the government I blame. How can they let these oyibo people come and treat us like this?”
“I was waiting for an Uber ride for over 40 minutes. That’s why I used Taxify.”
“It is not only you. Everyone is porting. Taxify that used to be for only poor people is now the one that is reigning. In fact, this country is too tough. No one can do Yanga again. It is your pocket that talks.”
“I tell you. We are suffering in this country. This is my third fasting this year and I know God will answer me and give me my own car to use for this Taxify business.”
We fell silent. A woman and a young girl came to the window and began to beg in Hausa.
The driver turned to them. “Gerraway you! If I catch you eh… Clear out!”
His voice was hostile and achieved its effect. They scurried away towards the car behind us. He turned back to his driving. The silence descended even as the screeching woman kept singing her gospel music.
He kissed his teeth loudly and then spoke with restrained anger, “I hate all this Hausa people. See them, like flies. They will steal all our money and the little they leave for us, they will still send their beggars to come and collect it from us.”
The singing woman raised her voice higher and I winced.
The driver continued. “What God can just do for me now is for me to just wake up tomorrow and hear that that lying devil they call Buhari is dead.”
He kissed his teeth loudly again.
I was silent and troubled.
We drove on.
The gospel singer continued praising and the driver joined in joyfully.
And all I could feel was his hate.
Written by Jude Idada