He boarded and panic set in.
We picked him up at Okene, just after the long and bumpy Lokoja road. Some of the passengers hissed others sighed.
The lady in front of me said,
“Driver, make una check im bag oh”
I was somewhat bemused. I have never heard of suicide bomber picking their targets from vehicles stopping to pick stray passengers on the highway to fill the seats for a long-haul trip. But these are strange times.
This man had the signature long neck and shiny curly black hair. And he carried a rumpled looking “baco bag”. I wouldn’t say he was handsome as he had an ugly set of teeth.
There was palpable panic as he approached the bus. As I analysed him with my judgemental eyes, hoping he wouldn’t seat next to me, I instinctively put my handbag on the empty seat by my side to “protect” the space around me.
He haggled with the driver for a short while, and after they agreed on a fare, the driver directed him to seat in front.
Well, I thought that was a good idea. It would be easy to shove him out in case things were about to get ugly. But it may be the driver asked him to seat there because he would get down somewhere in Edo state before our final destination in Delta.
For a short while, the bus was saturated with his strong body scent and the driver cranked up the AC in the hope that it would diminish the strength of the smell.
Not long after we all forgot about the suspicious “northern” passenger in the front seat. Thankfully, the discussion on how wicked “those people are” didn’t come up. That was rare as my fellow travellers had already tore apart the ruling government, discussed the upcoming elections and proffered perfect solutions that will fix the country in just 2hrs.
And all ended well.
When we got to Benin, the driver stopped and the “northern” man got down. He smiled so generously I thought he would rip apart his narrow face. He waved and thanked everyone, or at least, I thought he did. My ears were filled with the sound of music from my earphones that I couldn’t make out clearly what he actually said.
Hysteria or simple caution?
I wondered why he thanked everyone. Maybe he was thanking the driver for a smooth ride. Or he was just happy to get off a very unreceptive and politically tensed bus.
No one bothered to return his smile or goodbye wave. The passenger by the door almost closed the door on his hand in a hurry to get him out of the way.
A thought to chew.
The poor chap may just be as much of a victim of the current reality of the land as all of us in that bus. Could it be that we have all lost all sense of humanity and are only floating shadows pretending to be humans with heartbeats?
A travelogue By Tobare Adjekuko.