An Abuja Cab Ride
The sun was out in full force. If you know what that’s like in FCT, then you can imagine I wasn’t in the best of moods. All I wanted was to be curled under a blanket in my air conditioned room. But here I was under the scorching afternoon sky waiting for a goddamned taxi. My mom had just interrupted my day at work with one phone call to send me on an errand to the bank. I hated it, but I knew better than to turn down certain requests from my mother.
A cab stopped and I mindlessly hopped into the back seat without a glance at the driver – first mistake. I’ve learnt that you can almost always tell who your cab driver is just by taking a good look. This one was short and plump, with an out of place mustache, and a face that seemed eager to start a pointless conversation. It looked as if words were hanging at the very tip of his mouth, trying to force their way out. I contemplated stepping out while we hadn’t yet moved, and waiting for the next taxi. But the way this sun was set up?
“Wuse 2” I said, relaxing into the seat with the hideous faux-fur covers and rummaging through my bag for headphones which seemed to have now vanished. “The UBA Bank after Mr. Biggs”
The driver nodded and started the journey. For a while, he didn’t speak. Besides the sound of the rickety car engine and Brekete family show playing on the radio, it was a fairly quiet ride and I thought I had been wrong after all. Hm, maybe you really shouldn’t judge a book by–
“These PDP people no dey serious gan. After dem don spoil Nigeria finish. They no wan make Buhari rule in peace. Abeg jo, make we hear word. Their time don pass be say e don pass”
I looked up for a moment from the article I was reading on my phone, straight at the driver and then back again at my screen. Maybe he wasn’t talking to me. If I just stayed silent maybe he would stop talking.
“Toh. Okay. Dey say Buhari no dey try. Dem self, during their time wetin dem don achieve? Only to loot this country finish na im dey know. Make dem leave Baba alone jare. Them no get conscience. God punish them. Wicked Igbo people.”
Against my better judgement, I blurted “ Wetin Igbo people do you? They tiff your wife?” Somehow, I was hoping he wouldn’t notice I was Igbo. With the way he had just spoken, I feared he might even throw me out of his cab if he knew.
“Ah, Aunty you no know?Igbo man too like money na. Dem fit even sell their own mama for money like this. I dey tell you..very wicked people. Especially Mbise man wey their eye don tear finish. Na why Jonathan & his people don finish this country. Thank God say we don see am. Igbo man no go ever rule this country again. We no go allow am”
I should have known; he was vomiting the same old popular stereotypes, word for word. He had nothing personal to support his bias. I was now regretting getting into this conversation in the first place, but it was too late to stop there.
“But Jonathan wasn’t even Igbo” I pointed out
He looked at me like I was missing the point. “All na the same na. South south, South east. Wetin be my consine? No be Biafra dem be? Na so PDP don loot the country finish come give Buhari. Now dem dey talk say he no dey try. Ha”
“So you feel say Buhari dey try??”
It was silent for a minute in the cab and I considered whether he hadn’t heard me, or perhaps he had decided — like I was already thinking — that the conversation was going nowhere.
“No be magic him go do na.” He suddenly responded. “You think say Buhari go do magic? E go take time oh before person go fit fix all those things when them don spoil for this country”
I could feel myself getting worked up. “Time?” I asked “Time? 2017 don almost finish. Since 2015. Name one good move Buhari has made. Very soon now, 2018 na reelection we go dey hear. 2019 don reach already o. Which time you want make we give Buhari? The time wey he get wetin he don use am do?”
I didn’t know how it had happened, but that was possibly the longest sentence I had ever made in pidgin. I found myself conscious that the cab driver would think my pidgin was shaky or sounded too ajebo.
He didn’t seem to care.
“Okay, so wetin dem PDP want make we do? No be God put Buhari there? Na God dey select leaders and God get Him own plan for everything. So we, as citizens make we just pray dey look. Nobody knows tomorrow, Come 2019 then we go see wetin go happen”
No, no, no, no, no. I wanted to tell him that it wasn’t God, but people that selected leaders, through a process called voting. I wanted to tell him that we did know what would happen in 2019 — the same thing that had always happened if we didn’t start now to prepare and ask ourselves the important questions. Suddenly, I wanted to say so much to this man but as I opened my mouth I noticed that we had stopped moving. We were parked in front of my destination.
The cab driver turned up the volume of the radio as I pulled out a N500 note from my purse.
“How much?” I asked
I handed him the note, watching him struggle in his glove compartment, crowded with rumpled Naira notes.
“You get N100?”
I shook my head and he handed me back a squeezed N200 note.
“Oya no problem. Thank you” he smiled a genuine, friendly smile.
“Thank you” I replied, getting out of the taxi, still thinking about the conversation we had just had, and how much it had opened my eyes. This man had no clue what he was talking about, but he believed it with all his heart.
I was used to having discussions with friends and colleagues. Even when we disagreed, I could almost always see where the other person was coming from — there was some sort of logic to it. I had come to think that majority of people in the country were educated or at least knowledgeable enough to make informed opinions. This conversation had just burst my bubble.
We often limit our interactions to people who are like ourselves; educated, privileged, knowledgeable people. It now dawned on me that an alarming number out of 180 million Nigerians were just like this taxi driver.
I was happy I had engaged in conversation with this man, but as I stepped into the bank that afternoon, my heart was heavy with despair.