He was glad that Mercy elected not to mention what happened the night before as he prepared to leave that morning back to his base in Lagos. The sex couldn’t be ranked closer to any of the memorable ones he’d had, and he felt she might have been a bit disappointed in him for coming up short initially, but the way she snuggled up to him all night pointed to the fact that she needed the release their subsequent erotic activity availed them, and he reciprocated by offering himself to her as fortress for the night.
He was in no hurry to leave since his journey to Lagos from Abuja would be later in the evening, and Mercy didn’t also need to be at the school where she teaches that early because of the preparations been made for Nigeria’s DEMOCRACY DAY celebrations the next day, the highlight of which will be the swearing-in of new political leaders at both federal and state levels, which played a major role in his decision to be out of the North before Friday, the 29th of May. So they simply laid back in bed whispering sweet nothings to each other, after they were well spent.
By midmorning, he was all dressed up for his impending long journey back to Lagos. Mercy saw him off to the main road in Lafia, though he asked for and got her number, she didn’t ask for his, leaving him with the prerogative to call if he wanted, but foreclosing the possibility that she will be the first to call. He boarded a cab that will take him to the vicinity of Nasarawa State Polytechnic, in the outskirt of town from where he would board another cab to Abuja (Nigeria’s capital city) without having to do the long wait at the motor park, as they wait for passengers to fill the buses and cabs on queue. The driver of the cab was mouthing a Hindi song on his car stereo, which he was familiar with, having spent a large part of his childhood seeing lots of Indian movies (before it became Bollywood). He doesn’t really like what Bollywood churns out today, which is about the stars feeling like they are stars, even when they act as poverty-stricken people in movies. He missed the days of the younger Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Poonam Dhillon, Shammi Khapoor and a host of others whose names he couldn’t easily recall now. Even the music for which he loved Indian films as a kid has been replaced with senseless sounds and dance steps from the recent flicks from Bollywood that would make the pioneers cower in shame, besides entertaining a feeling of disgust.
When they approached the junction close to the polytechnic, the driver asked him if he would like to alight, to which he replied, “Nehi” thinking that a driver that’s been playing nothing but music from an old Indian movie, would understand his Hindi, but was let down when the driver feigned ignorance of his French. He alighted a few meters away from the polytechnic and within minutes boarded another cab for Abuja. He had been forewarned about the Mararaba Traffic which starts building up from about two o’clock in the afternoon and could even start up early as travelers troop into Abuja in their droves to be part of the inauguration of the president the next day.
Even in Nasarawa State neighbouring Abuja, the feeling was already in the air, with posters of the incoming President, Muhammadu Buhari and the reelected Governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura dotting the landscape all the way from Lafia, to Akwanga, to Keffi even unto Abuja. The journey was largely uneventful, and they stopped only once at a military checkpoint in Akwanga where he bought roast corn from hawkers, who had taken advantage of the snail speed traffic to sell their wares, mainly edibles by the roadside. He washed down his roast corn, his first for the year, with a bottle of La Casera soft drink, while serenading himself with the nasal-sounding (as with auto tune) female crooner singing Buhari’s praise in the Hausa song that the driver was playing, one of the many such tracks he played for the three hours it took for the car to travel from Lafia to Mararaba in Abuja.
By the time they got to Mararaba inward Abuja from Keffi, the traffic had begun to build up, even though it was just barely a few minutes past one o’clock, but he understood that it must be related to the event of the next day and the signs were just all over the place for anyone who bothered to look to see. The same Abuja he had passed through the Tuesday before, was wearing an entirely different look by Thursday. All the poles and pillars on the road had miniature Nigerian flags on them, and motor bike riders were displaying their daredevil skills to the delight of onlookers by the roadside and inside vehicles.
Once he alighted and got wind of the fact that some roads were being placed on lockdown for security reasons, he jettisoned his intention to meet up with friends in Abuja, or to commute to the luxury bus park in Utako from Mararaba using the less expensive intracity buses that will make several stops to drop and pick passengers, using official routes (which will be affected by the ongoing lockdown), by taking a cab to Utako at more than what it cost him to come to Abuja from Lafia.
Truly, as he made for Utako in the exorbitantly priced cab, he noticed an unusually large number of military personnel and members of other security agencies on the road, diverting traffic away from the center of the city of Abuja, with traffic building up on the outward Abuja lane, as many who work within the city but live outside of it, made to go home after work hours, or running out of town in anticipation of the big day. There were lots of people inside the hall of the luxury bus company, mainly of people intending to leave Abuja. He was impressed at the counter when his details popped up once he gave his name at the ticketing section, unfortunately he couldn’t secure for himself any seat by the window. How the interstate transport sector has grown from the disorder of the past to todays’ order, because of embrace of technology, came as a positive shock to him. The Igbo who control the business of long distance traveling have in this way shown flexibility that should be emulated by the other arms of their businesses he thought.
Because the departure time for the bus from Abuja, North-Central Nigeria to Lagos in the Southwest was for five o’clock in the evening, he set about other things outside the waiting hall as he had more than two hours to burn. Nobody comes from, or passes through Abuja to Lagos without getting harassed for not buying that snack made from cattle, sheep or goats, known as KILISHI. It won’t even be out of place to see insular Lagosians who think that it kinda grows on trees in Abuja. Kilishi is thinly sliced totally deboned beef, that is soaked in a mixture of ground pepper and peanuts (amongst other condiments) and spread out under the hot sun over long periods to cake, before it is set over the grill for a short period of time, and made ready for consumption.
It is a variant of the more meaty SUYA (Kebab) and can be stored for months with the taste remaining largely unchanged, if not better. Although it is available all over Nigeria (mostly ferried from Abuja in most cases), the Abuja variety (where it is indigenous) tastes second to none done elsewhere. He’d always thought that there must be something with the way the sun rises and sets in Abuja to properly cake the Kilishi in the way it does, thereby greatly enhancing its taste there, than how the sun does same in other parts of Nigeria with lesser enhancement to taste.
He had the vendor wrap the portion that’s for his Lagos people, whom he supposed will skin him alive if he showed up without the Kilishi, while the smaller portion he went back with into the expansive hall/waiting area of the transport company to dig into while watching the TV and waiting for loading and departure time.
On TV, AIT (a TV station in Nigeria with national spread) was covering the visit of the incoming President Muhammadu Buhari to Aso Rock, the seat of power in Nigeria, and was being shown around the complex (which to him looked the most pedestrian he’d seen of a presidential residence, even by African standards) by the then incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. In his mind he thought about power and how transient it is, wondering what was going on in the minds of both dramatis personae as inauguration drew nearer by the hour. He thought the Roman Emperor under whose reign the words “MEMENTO MORI” came into use must’ve been a very thoughtful Emperor, though it is doubtful that any of the emperors into whose ears the words were muttered by their “Aide de Camp” as they held Triumphal Marches, ever gave much thoughts to it in the actions they took while they held sway.
Again he was impressed by the fact that at five o’clock a voice over the loudspeakers strategically placed within the hall, called on passengers intending to travel to Lagos and other parts of Nigeria to proceed to their various buses. Gone were the days really, when five o’clock meant, seven or eight or even ten o’clock at night. He promised himself to try other transport companies the next time he travels interstate to see if same treatment are obtainable there too.
He had never been interested in the food they served as that part is one part they still need to do lots of work on, so he simply picked the fried meat atop the “fried rice” that was on offer, left the disposable paper plate still filled with rice, and made for the bus that was meant for Lagos.
Though he didn’t get a seat by the window, like he did on his way to Abuja, he got a lady seat mate unlike during his coming. He didn’t wait for any special moment to strike a conversation but went directly to introduce himself, asking her to be comfortable with him seeing that they would be there together for the duration of the about ten hour journey to Lagos. She reciprocated in kind, and even overdid it such that by the end of the time the spent together, and as far as the journey lasted, he got to know everything about her, while she knew nothing else about him besides his name, when he initially introduced himself (that is even if she could remember it having yapped away all the time). She looked more like the type that will be talking off her head even at the height of erotic bliss, possibly of issues unrelated to the matter at hand, like nothing extraordinary was going on in the first place (a perfect alibi in situations where one was weary of eavesdropping neighbours lurking somewhere near ones’ windows, in anticipation of “action” as was rife in his days as a bachelor whenever he brought a chic home for “exploration”, by nosey female neighbours) and that quickly killed whatever interest he had in her, such that when she alighted at the first stop in Lagos at Berger Junction early the next morning, he simply waved her off, wished her well but didn’t bother to get her number.
But she was quite an interesting fellow, she worked as a firewoman with the Nigerian fire service in Abuja, and she went to great detail to explain what the work of a fire person entailed, away from the image he had of the fire service where pot bellied men sat under the tree at the Fire service department in Hadejia, on your way to Malam-Madori in Jigawa State drinking Fura (raw milk from cows) from a calabash, or the ones at the University of Lagos Fire Service playing LUDO at their spare time. According to her, many staffers at the fire service work at other things such as accounting, administration amongst other things while always at the ready when duty calls, though she admitted that in huge fires where stronger and bigger arms are needed, the females take the back seat while the men do the battle.
She also has a shop where she sells provisions, which for the moment while she travelled was manned by her younger sister (currently observing her National Youth Service Corp, NYSC Program) who kept on interrupting her with calls asking to know the prices of the goods in her shop. She was going to go and surprise her mother in Lagos who is Yoruba married to an Igbo man, from where she acquired mastery of both languages, but was hoping her mother will be so glad to see her that she will forget to query her about a fiancé or when she intended to get married, though she feared she may not escape it this time, as she also wanted to seize the opportunity to attend a friend’s wedding during the weekend.
He was very happy, when she started yawning and eventually fell asleep. He appeared to have gotten more than he bargained for. He looked around him, and saw that everybody else was in different stages and positions of somnolence on their seats as comfortable as their space could afford them. The bus made a stop at Lokoja and he got down, took a leak and bought the only thing that agrees with him when he travels – Suya, but had to buy two wraps when he looked behind him and saw her. Back inside the bus, once she had downed her Suya with an Energy drink, she went back to sleep, and once again he was free to let his mind roam.
His journey to Abuja, Keffi and Lafia had been successful as it had been eye opening. Indications are that he will have to be back there soon to put a lid on some official and unofficial unfinished businesses, or further water the seed he had sown. He didn’t bother to force himself to sleep, he always knows when a night is going to be long and this was one such night, and the only thing on his mind was Lagos, to his wife, family, friends, acquaintances, business and life, to await what CHANGES will follow General Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration as Nigeria’s next President and Commander-in-Chief.