Another close encounter of the worst kind – as usual, on the bus from Offa; I’m beginning to suspect that this stretch of road has been cursed – it has certainly not seen any maintenance on it, probably in living memory.
I was the last person to board the bus so we would soon be on our way – or so I thought. Silly me, I should have known. I might have been passenger number 15 to board a fifteen seater vehicle, but I had underestimated the determination of the driver to shoehorn another nine people in . I was so tightly wedged into the back seat with another five people , I couldn’t get the bus fare out of my pocket – couldn’t even work out where my pocket was. I was sure my water bottle was about to burst and soak my netbook. I hadn’t actually noticed the absence of a passenger door until the driver thoughtfully lifted one into place, hit it to ensure a close fit and our safety thereby, and removing the rock that was preventing us from rolling backwards, twisted the wires to fire the engine. Off we went, windows rattling and exhaust spluttering like an old man with a coughing fit. A toddler in the row in front gazed at me with huge eyes and a cute smile until she decided I was to strange after all and started to shriek. Mum promptly whipped out a breast which shut her up for a while till she fell asleep in mid-gulp and missed the rest of the afternoon entertainment.
Half way back to Ilorin and the bus started to stray across to the opposite side of the road – not unusual I can hear you say, given the frequent need to avoid huge craters and occasional burnt out or broken down vehicles in the road. It soon became apparent to all on board, except the sleeping toddler, that the driver was falling asleep. The guy next to him simultaneously yelled in his ear and gave him a sharp dig in the ribs (who said guys can't do two things at the same time - depends on the degree of urgency, that's all!),which had the desired effect of waking the driver, but sent us into ‘Oh my God, we’re going to hit something’ mode. He regained control of the vehicle and his senses just in time to take evasive action as a police convoy can screaming out of the dust, sirens blaring, from the opposite direction heading for Offa. ‘What’s the rush,’ I thought. ‘Is there something about Offa that I have missed – or is somebody offering free snacks for ‘the boys’?’ Okadas, taxis, private cars and busses alike are clearly expected to scatter - which we did – like a fright of lizards, onto the hard shoulder. Our bus tilted alarmingly as we careered off the road and bounced along through the undergrowth that sloped away from the road and then equally alarmingly back onto the road again when the convoy had passed.
Police convoys do this – I have witnessed it before – giving no time for other road users to take sensible action and putting many lives including pedestrians, at risk. Nigerian police went down in my estimated by yet another notch!
I then noticed a rather acrid and nauseating smell coming from one of my co-passengers. The chap next to me had been looking decidedly ‘peaky’ and now had vomit on his shirt front. My stomach started to churn but I knew I would be OK as I had not eaten or drank for ten hours.
Nearing our destination, our driver decided not to let us get out at our usual terminus, but, at the request of a friend on board, carried on for another half mile to drop her at a more convenient location – while the rest of us had to walk back. I did so hurriedly as my fellow sufferers were just about ready to lynch this guy.
By the time I got back to the Esspin office for a cold blast of air-con, I felt like a chewed rag, a mangled vest , a sumo wrestlers jock strap -all three in fact ( I must admit I have not had a lot of experience with sumo wrestlers jock straps, but I can imagine!).