“But nothing do am nah.”
Those words and the flippant way they were said made me see red.
When I drove out from the house around 3:30pm that day, I was in high spirits. I was going to pick up my girlfriend from work. The last time I saw her was when I dropped her off that morning and I was excited at the prospect of seeing her again.
I sent her a message as I pulled out of the compound, “on my way,” and I turned up the volume as Tiwa Savage’s Eminado flooded the car.
Traffic was surprisingly light for a Friday and I made good time. I was soon on the Ijora bridge.
“I’m in your hood,” I messaged her again so she could round up her business and not keep me waiting long.
On the bridge there was a long trailer in front of me and it was crawling. Uncomfortable driving behind it, and in a hurry to get to her, I pulled out from behind the trailer. As I made to overtake the trailer, a car cut across to the lane right in front of the trailer, forcing me onto the third lane. I cursed the driver in my mind for his reckless driving, then I looked up and saw the line of cars to my left and I cursed again.
“Bloody Apapa traffic,” and I checked the dashboard for the time.
Angled on the fringes – the lane I was on veered off right, away from where I was going – I waited for the cars to start moving so I could get back in line, but for fifteen minutes, none budged.
That was where I was when I noticed three men in mufti walking towards the car in front of me. One of them leaned in through the open window of that car and I checked that my car doors were locked; I had heard stories of staged robberies in traffic.
The third man walked up to me and rapped his knuckles against the passenger window. With a cranking motion of his hand, he signalled that I should wind down the window.
“Good afternoon sir,” I said after cracking the window open a few inches.”
“Good afternoon. They told us that you people are causing obstruction on this bridge, so our commandant sent us to come and check it out. Open the door.” The man said. I did so and he got in.
“Oya drive. Follow that car in front of you.” He instructed, pointing to the car which had already driven off.
“Officer please, I am not familiar with this area otherwise I would not have been on that lane.” I offered by way of explanation, I was ready to shed tears if necessary.
“So you are a first offender? No problem, just drive.”
Reassured by his calm manner, I drove until we arrived at a primary school. I saw four other cars parked there. The driver of the car I had followed was standing in a corner talking with one of the plainclothes men. He was making expansive gestures and acting important. The man he was talking to looked bored.
I was asked for the car key and, in exchange, I was given a ticket for twenty-five thousand naira.
After two hours of pleading and offering them the five thousand naira with me, the ticket was torn up and another one for twelve thousand naira was written. I made several frantic calls to my girlfriend to help me raise the balance; being a Friday, I had to clear the car that day otherwise it would be towed to the main impound lot at Ikeja where I would then have to pay for the tow, the full twenty-five thousand naira and demurrage – since it would be Monday before I could do anything about the car.
I eventually paid and was let go; the other man was told to call anybody he wanted, and that even if he paid the full twenty-five thousand naira, he would not be allowed to take his car till Monday. His humility was swift.
Not familiar with the area, and being careful not to break any more traffic rules, I drove at a sedate speed towards Apapa. At a Zebra crossing I stopped to allow a man cross the road and a uniformed official walked up to me. I thought my head was going to explode.
“I no come arrest you oga,” he said at the look on my face. “Anything for the weekend?”
I reached in the glove compartment and pulled out a sheet of paper which I shoved in his smiling face.
“Officer, I’m just coming from your brothers.”
It took him a moment to focus on the receipt I was holding. He stepped back from the car and waved me on.
I drove for a few yards when I realised I had missed my turning.
I called my girlfriend to explain that I would be a little longer in coming to get her. The exasperation in her voice made me sad.
“Don’t worry, just go home. I will make my way.” She told me.
“Give me ten minutes, I think I can fix this,” I replied; I could see a U-turn ahead.
Four hours after I set out from my house, I finally picked her up and the rest of the drive was uneventful.
On Oba Akran I wanted to use the ATM so I drove into the GTbank there.
I was pulling into an empty slot when I felt the jarring, and then heard the screech of plastic on metal.
A bus marked MISSIONARY which was in the slot next to me chose that moment to pull out.
“Dear God no,” I moaned.
I stepped out to look at the damage. There were white streaks where the paintwork was scratched, and an almost unnoticeable dent.
“Chief, see what you’ve done.” I told the driver who had come out of his bus too.
“But nothing do am nah.” He said with a slight frown on his face.
I am not a violent person, and I hate confrontation, but standing there with blood pounding in my ears and rage holding my heart in a tight grip, I killed the man in fifteen different ways, each one more brutal than the preceding one.
“Please, don’t tell me ‘nothing do am’.” Talking was too much effort. My chest burned and my throat was dry. I could not even focus my eyes. I took two shuddering breaths before continuing. “See this scratch here?” I pointed with a shaking finger, “it wasn’t there before you reversed into me.”
“Oya sorry.” He said.
By this time my girlfriend had come to stand beside me. She took my arm in both of hers and shook her head slightly at me.
“Just walk away babes,” she said.
I looked at him long and hard, and he died a few more deaths in my mind, and then I allowed myself to be led away by her.