A day I brought out my inner agbèrò
But there are a number of scenarios and situations where I can be quite the opposite. In ascending order of brutalness they are when my work requires me not to be gentle, I'm extremely hungry, I've held back for too long, I'm fighting for something/someone I care about and when the streets of Lagos test me.
Living and commuting in Lagos is a daily test of wits and if you're not careful, things can easily go from gentle to savage at the speed of thought. That very rarely happens to me but one unfortunate day in 2017, I was forced to bring out my inner agbèrò.
The date was July 4, 2017. The weeks leading up to that day were some of the weirdest for me. My old car had gotten hit twice in the space of 2 months, the latter incident causing the most damage.
|May 2017 (my second accident). Left; a man hit me from behind, thrusting me into the truck in front. Right; a view of the result|
I was living in Ogba at the time and my office was in Adekunle, Yaba so my usual route was Oyingbo via Ojota. That particular morning, danfos were quite scarce. After 30 minutes of frustration, desperation was brewing. So it felt like a relief when one 'conductor' walked up to me.
"Where you dey go?", he asked
I told him Oyinbo. He asked me to follow him to his bus which was oddly at least 50 metres away from the bus-stop. I asked if he was sure he was going to Oyinbo because I wouldn't allow him to drop me halfway. His excuse was that he was avoiding LASTMA so I shrugged it off.
I and one other guy followed. There was a 2-seater space in front with just one occupant; a neatly dressed man who came down so I could go in. That didn't seem unusual. Given how tightly packed they are, danfos can be quite uncomfortable. So it's common for commuters to prefer sitting closer to the exit, especially if their stop is close.
There were like 5 other people on the bus, including a lady. They all looked normal to me. We moved onto the express. I asked the conductor "Oyinbo how much?" He said ₦200. I thought that was odd – Oyinbo from Ojota cost at least ₦250 – but I shrugged it off. Second red flag I didn't pay attention to.
Not up to 2 minutes after we set off, the conductor passed a phone from behind.
"Abeg help me plug am for front," he pleaded. I thought that was odd too but I was feeling nice that day. I think I had a sumptuous breakfast. Na so me and driver come dey find car charger to no avail. The charger was nowhere to be found. I lost my patience pretty quickly (okay maybe I didn't have breakfast).
"Oga abeg take your phone", I returned it. "Why would I be helping him do such anyway", I thought to myself.
Just as we approached New Garage, the first stop after Ojota, the bus decelerated and the conductor shoved my ₦1000 (or was it ₦500?) back into my face saying, "Take your money. I no get change, I no dey go Oyinbo again; I dey go Oshodi".
I wasn't having any of that. Why tell me he was going to Oyinbo earlier? I and the other guy that boarded at Ojota were raking. Eventually, the other guy alighted. I don't know if it was because of him, or the person at the bus stop who assured me another bus would come, but I too joined.
Everything I'm about to explain in the next few paragraphs happened within the space of 30 seconds to 45 seconds tops.
The very split second my foot touched the road, I felt my pockets for my phones (my standard practice when I take public transport). Lo and behold, both my phones were missing! So that was what the failed phone charging attempt was all about!
The bus was already accelerating. Without even a second to think about it, omo I chased those bastards, with my laptop bag still on my back.
I caught up, grabbed the door (I even cut my hand), slid it aside and jumped in, agbèrò style (the bus was still on the move and already on the express).
Turning to the guy in front, I yelled something along the lines of "Una dey mad? Wey my phone?" The silly guy did not waste time to hand me my phones.
"Sorry, it fell down from your pocket", he said.
I grabbed my phones, rained down some insults (super uncharacteristic of me) and jumped down. Of course, I did not forget to apply the agbèrò's innate understanding of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. When they jump down from a moving bus and keep running a bit, gradually slowing to a stop, you know they're not doing it for fun, right?
Still fuming, I and other guy (apparently the only actual passengers) took the 7 to 10-minute walk back to Ojota to get another bus which, thankfully this time, was legit. Till this day, I'm uncertain if the other guy was in on the scam. But I don't think he would go all the way to Oyingbo with me, and even alight before me, to prove a point. If he was attempting a follow up, he certainly wasn't successful.
Anytime I recall that day, I appreciate how lucky I was. Some people say I was too compulsive, that I didn't need to put myself in so much danger for just a phone. They say those guys were probably novices because hardened criminals would probably have pushed me down from the bus onto the express, and there's no telling what could have happened.
They're probably right. But for me, it wasn't about the phones. It was about the sheer ridiculousness of the situation and everything that happened in the weeks leading up to that day.
In hindsight, I thought it was silly that anyone would go through that much trouble just to steal a phone. I also had pent up frustration from having my car being hit twice in two months and the expenses I had incurred, regardless of the insurance buffer (which was quite helpful).
Barely a week after that incident, my car was back on the road and it got hit again. I dumped the car that year.
|Early July 2017 (my third accident in two months). The woman who hit me, her brakes failed so she rammed into me. This happened after I had claimed insurance for the previous accident and completed repairs|
The streets of Lagos are bad luck enough. I'm hardly superstitious but I didn't want to compound that with an unlucky car.
Have you ever had an agbèrò moment? I'd love to read your story. Oh, and did you notice my headline says "a" day?