Early that morning, I had woken up so early so as not to miss the first bus. I hurriedly left my uncle’s house in Abuja that chilled morning without having breakfast. It had rained the previous night and the weather was so unfriendly and unkind to me. When I got to the junction, it didn’t take long before I found a bus that would take me to the park. It was a huge relief. I said so because, under normal circumstances, getting a bus at the junction would have been a struggle for a trophy. I wasn’t ready for any of those, and God was on my side that morning.
I got to Chisco Park quite early, but not early enough to meet the free breakfast of packaged jellof rice, which they always shared to early passengers. If I say, I wasn’t unhappy, I would be lying. My face was polished with a full bucket paint of disappointment, I wished it was all a joke. But sadly it wasn’t. I had hoped on getting my own free breakfast, guess that was why I left the house without visiting the kitchen nor played with the cutleries.
We took off around 9:00 am which was rather too late for a first bus. A disappointment wasn’t reluctant to make present on the faces of all the passengers. Some mumbled while others yelled at the driver and at the conductor. I kept mute like someone whose lips have been sealed with glue. Honestly, I had no strength for a fight that morning, at least not after what happened. I couldn’t see myself shouting like other passengers who were lucky to feast on their gracious grains. Surely, the adage that says “a hungry man is an angry man” wasn’t for me. Indeed! I was humbled by my empty stomach, that I lost my voice and temperament.
We were between the boundaries of Abuja and Kogi, when the dark clouds began to gather. I never saw it coming. Where I sat on the bus close to the window, I began to sweat profusely. Initially, I thought the bus wasn’t ventilated enough, so I opened all the windows close to me. Rather than a relieve, I got a reversed action. My shirt was so drenched with sweat that I would pass for someone who just had fun in the swimming pool. Not too long, my stomach began to ache, producing funny noise. I thought I would fart instantly as I struggled to twist my tummy. My uneasiness attracted the attention of my seatmate who had sojourned into the land of dreams.
Nne what is wrong with you? Are you okay? She asked. Still squeezing my stomach more tightly this time, I hurriedly replied “Am not okay oooo ma! I don’t know what is happening to me. My stomach hurts. Please tell the driver to stop. I want to use the bush “I forcibly grabbed my bag from where I had placed it on the cabin, I tried reaching out for tissue, but couldn’t find it. Maybe I forgot to put it back into my bag after rearranging my clothes. Luckily, a kind passenger offered me a bunch of the one she had. Like Usain Bolt, I lashed into the bush in a flash.
On getting to the park at Lokoja, where our bus had a brief stopover for refreshments. I had some medications from a nearby pharmaceutical shop at the park. I thought for a moment that my worries had come to an end, little did I know what happened was a mere introduction. The third re-occurrence of the sickness got me worried. I have never been scared in my entire life like I was sitting in that bus. I thought I had food poison. Am sure by now, you must be asking yourself, what is horrifying in all these? Wait for it as I narrate how the life of a little boy was brutally and shortly taken away from him. Yes! That was my first time of beholding such a horrible sight.
The traffic from Agbo, Delta State down to Onitsha head Bridge was one I couldn’t describe. We were grounded for fours hours at a spot before the driver managed to stir the vehicle few Distances from where we were. My seatmate pleaded I allow her to sit by the window side, I obliged and never hesitated to give up my seat. I mean, she has been kind, supportive and helpful throughout my ordeals. Few minutes of sitting by the window side, she began screaming like one who had an acid attack
Stop! Stop! Jesus! She continued screaming, and her voice reaching to high heavens. Everywhere was thrown into pandemonium. People began running helter-skelter. I could hear the mob hitting at the trailer before us. Screaming at the top of their voices, urging the driver to stop. Oh my God! Stop him, before he crushes the little boy under his tyres! By-standers and other passengers continued yelling. It was a black day for me and indeed for other eyewitnesses.
My whole body was engulfed by sudden energy and the garment of sickness was torn into shreds. The story of Lazarus was made manifest in my life that very moment. I couldn’t bear sticking my ass on that seat at the mention of a little boy under a moving tyre. I looked through the window, and what my eyes saw was tearing. How could you see someone so hale and hearty minutes ago, only to find him lying lifeless, squeezed like an orange without juice minutes after? I became so cold, a shiver ran through my veins, I stood there bewildered with my mouth agape.
The little boy was a funny hawker we bought some oranges from moments ago. I got to know from my neighbour that he got trapped by something attached to the trailer when he was trying to use the little space between our vehicle and the trailer when the trailer suddenly moved a bit backward and something that looked like an iron scope grabbed the little boy’s T-shirt. He was still struggling to free himself when the trailer moved forward, that the little boy missed his steps and found himself under the tyres. That was when people began shouting at the obstinate driver to stop. Sadly we lost him. His head was crushed into pieces and his stomach blew opened, splashing blood all over the ground. I wept to see such a horrible and painful death.
As the notorious and reckless aboki driver was pulled over by the angry mob, and the attention of the police drawn to the scene, I began reminiscing. Is this how cruel life can be? Here I was thinking am in the worst situation, unknown to me that a sudden, tragic, horrible and painful death awaits another. Who is to be blamed in all these? The driver? The little boy? His parent or guardian? The traffic? Poverty? Or the government?
Without further queries, I blamed the government for the untimely death of many Nigerian travellers (especially the road users). I blame them for turning Nigeria and her citizens into objects constructively created and uniquely made for political mumbo-jumbo. I blame them for accepting and recognizing the existence of her citizen only during the period of their quest to mount the seat of power. For making a sensitive project such as second Onitsha Head Bridge as a political campaign project fit for party manifesto and vote enticements.
I blamed the parent or the guardian for risking the life of such a smart child on the altar of financial gains. It is risk enough to send children to hawk on the street, not to talk of the high ways. If your children must hawk to help the family’s financial status, it is imperative you set out the boundaries which they should not go beyond.
Finally, I blamed the driver for being reckless. Despite being in such traffic, he was still reckless and too deaf to hear the loud screaming and yelling of people that would have cured a man, deaf from birth. Till today, I still ask myself what could have made him so deaf as not to hear the loud voices of people.
Written by: Amaka Obi