Travelogue ~ When Ibadan Madness jammed Zaria Madness ~ Hajara Wodu

Leaving home for school, and the other way round, was always dreadful when it meant having to sit for hours on end in ridiculously tiny Hiace buses that mostly plied the saddening South-West federal roads that connected the lip-sealing deadly ones up North.

If you were travelling from Lagos to Zaria, you had to spend an entire day on those roads, sandwiched between other passengers, most times, the space meant for the movement of your feet, compromised by loads, so that your knees were practically up in the air, as though they were yearning for a catch-up with your chest.

If you didn't control them- because buses like that never had enough space between a row of seats and another- the passenger in the seat in front of you had a bone to pick with you, half as much as you had one to pick with the one behind you.

It was always a long-ass journey with a heavy dose of non-stop grumbling and fight for comfort. No one ever won, we only got "gifts", like the killing headache I carried around for years, which hasn't completely freed me. I had to do a head X-ray thrice as an undergraduate.

If you recall the national scandal that the now-fantastic, effortlessly sexy (Yes, the about 40km length of it) Jebba-Mokwa federal highway alone was, seventeen years ago, you will, too, that the unfortunate situation of a bus entering into a ditch- not pothole please- and bouncing out of it, came with a fatality, and it had to be borne by the passengers. Many times I hit my head against the roof of the distressing buses. Yes, head X-ray, three different times. Blinding, rendering-useless one, that kind of headache.
It was hell. And if, like me, you were studying a course that required that you cram, it moved from being hell to a notch higher. A roasting goat stood no chance at survival, because it was there to die anyway, but you, well, they said it was tough, but you had to go the extra, to keep it together.


Once during fuel scarcity, after an entire session in school, I was headed for Ilorin from Zaria seven in the morning. "Ilorin! Ilorin!", they yelled for passengers. I boarded and settled in, swallowing hard as I dreaded the inevitable waste I was going to turn to before we got halfway.

My darling, 9:00am, the bus was yet to get filled up. I became uneasy. An hour following, another bus that wasn't half-filled, moved its passengers at once, into ours, and we got on course. Thirty-Five minutes gone, exactly at Jaji Military Cantonment area, the bus started to behave like an Abiku, taking measured breaths, undecided whether to die a death, or stay a-dying. It finally screeched slowly to a halt by the side of the road. We were not even in Kaduna properly-so-called yet, and this? Ha!!! The driver, a huge Yoruba man with lead- a local version of Kajal- laced around his eyes, hit something around the engine and before long we were up and running again...

...until we were out of Kaduna town, into Birnin-Gwari, first of the couple of Birnis there, including Kudu, before Tegina and others, then the very large Mokwa that spanned nothing less than four hours, then Jebba.

At only Birnin-Gwari so far, "we" broke down again. Took the man three straight hours to get the bus back up. The journey had not even begun yet. Everyone was angry. Driver was an arrogant fucktard who was not ready to admit his bus was unfit in the first place. He kept threatening people who talked, to look at his eyes before they misbehaved. I wondered if it was the stupid lead. Red-shot eyes were normal with drivers, what with Burukutu and all that they down. I was too tired to address him.

There would follow, more break-downs, fear of the night, of robbers, and of travelling on, so that the day closed in and ended on us, and by 12:30am, we were just getting to Jebba.

Ten minutes to 1:00, we got to Shao Junction, right opposite where the journey to KWASU now begins, all along Ilorin-Ogbomoso-Lagos Federal Highway, the man stopped the bus and yelled in heavily-accented Ibadan Yoruba, "Iya t'in lo'lorin, ibi l'a ja o si o, 'tor'eko l'awa nlo!!" - The woman going to Ilorin, we're dropping you here o, because we're going to Lagos!

The nerves on my forehead contracted in a rush, and it felt like I had hit my head against the roof of the bus yet again. Wait, what!?? I looked around me. Half the passengers were just waking from sleep - ones with whom I thought I was travelling to Ilorin. True to his words, this man stopped the bus, and was going to open his boot, asking which luggage was mine, so he could drop me on the highway, at 1:00am! I could die while trying to find my way to the Ilorin of another thirty minutes from that spot, for all he cared, because I was the only one. The rest were Ibadan and Lagos bound.

I was too tired to revolt, or fight, so I accepted what he had said. Sometimes, just accept fate and move on, especially when it's in the dead of night and you're helpless, I told myself, even looked it.
I went down while he was opening the boot and waiting for me. Because I had sat on one of the seats on the last row of the bus, almost everyone on the row before mine had to go down as well, more so that I got creative and told them I had to pick my box which was kept under their seat.

I made sure they had all gone down to stretch their Lagos-going legs, then I climbed into the bus again, removed the bus key from the ignition, then laid straight on the empty row of seats right behind the driver's seat, feigning a lousy snore.

The concurrent "Ah ah!!", "Kilode!!", "Wahala wa o!!" expressions by the passengers made the man come around to my snoring side of the bus. Then he started again with threats of looking at his eyes before misbehaving. I chuckled and told him "Baba enter the bus, let's go to Lagos, it's getting late. Your eyes will not take us there". I refused to move an inch. He was taken off guard. The nerve to damn his lead-ed eyes!

It was his time to accept fate that his Tiro- the lead- was not going to do shit for him, so he said "Okay I will give you money to take a cab that will take you to town", and I laughed so evil-y he got doubly pissed. Dude thought it was about money.

Everyone else began to complain about how dangerous it was for all of us to be at that spot at that time, and that he should make up his mind as to what to do. They didn't get it either. There was no mind making up to do. All there was to be done, was to follow to the latter, his obligations to me.
Drivers observe some kind of solidarity that goes without saying, with one another, especially when there's info on on-going robbery or fear of same, roads to be avoided, when their colleagues get into trouble, their cars break down, or are seen parked by the road, they would typically stop or slow down to ask "Hope all is well?"

When the first two buses slowed down and asked him "Se o si?"- Hope all is well, he threw his arms in the air and started shouting "Were l'eleyi o. Egbami o"- This one is mad o, come and help me o.

They stopped their vehicles, and made to come see the Were their colleague was rambling about. When he was done telling them I had snatched his bus keys, they came to talk to me but I was too busy snoring. Of course the other passengers, impatient as they were, knew better than saying a word to me. Rather, they called them aside and filled in the dots he left blank, in the story.

One of them, after being told what really went down, then asked him:
"Were ibo l'anti yi gan na?"- Which location is her madness from?
"Were Saria ni"- Zaria madness
"Oho....Were Ibadan gbe Were Saria nu..-  Okay.....Ibadan madness carried Zaria madness then.
"Soo fe s'eribuu ni!?"- Are you trying to be unfortunate?

And the fight became theirs that hour- one to finish.