“It is praise worthy to be brave. But sometimes, it is better to be a coward. For we often stand in the compound of a coward, to point at the ruins of where a brave man used to live. ”
That was Chief priest Ezeulu, speaking to his son- Obika, in the popular Achebe’s Arrow of God. My Daddy’s best novel.
I will never forget that day. I was in year 2. I had travelled to spend the weekend with my parents, and was returning back to school from Asaba.
I got to Koka junction, and I entered a vehicle loading to Onitsha. I sat very close to the window. Directly at the back of the driver.
Since the vehicle wasn’t full, I came down to scout for where I could purchase airtime. I needed to subscribe. I had quiz the following day. English 281. Modern comedy. Plenty books to read. No time to read them. The only way out was to read up spark notes online. As fast as possible.
When I returned to the vehicle, one uncle had already taken my position. He shifted my bag from that side of the vehicle’s engine, and arranged his bottle of Lacasera, gala, plantain chips and pure water.
Immediately he sighted me, he gave me this ‘ I am ready for anything look’. “Erm excuse me, I was actually sitting there. I just stepped out a bit to get recharge card.” I told him.
“I see you for here? If you dey sit here before, how e take concern me? I see you here? Abeg I no want wahala this afternoon o. All this small small gehs sef. Once them don get small pimple for chest, them go begin dey challenge everybody. Nonsense!” With that, he opened his Lacasera and started gulping.
I was furious. The passengers flared up! One huge lady took up the case;” Oga no be you shift her bag? You come still dey put am bad mouth sef. See as you dey treat person pikin wey take permission to go buy card. You no get conscience. Na hell fire straight you dey enter. Useless human beans!”
The uncle faced the woman; “Ashewooo wetin concern you? Why she no stay inside bus? Why she dey find recharge card? Who she wan call? Small pikin laidis? She don dey call man. No wonder you dey support am. Na the same work una two dey do. See as she fat. Asheewo!”
I kept quiet and walked up to the driver to complain. Driver came to the scene. He demanded to know what was happening. Immediately, Uncle became calm and even changed tone sef. He was like;
“Chairman excuse me. You’re a man like me. Sooo ikwesiri ghota ife m n’ekwu now! I’m a man. E no go too make sense if I sidan for woman middle. I suppose dey this window seat. I be man. Ighota ifem n’ekwu now!”
The aunty fired back; ” So if them call man you too go follow standup? Man dey talk anyhow? Impotent cripple like you! You dey drag chair inside public bus with small pikin, when your mates dey drive their own car. because you be man. God go Epp me punish that your mouth wey you carry chop that gala just now.”
The driver ordered everybody to keep quiet. He begged me to manage another seat. According to him, it was for my own good. He explained that Uncle was a man, and such positions are meant for men.
“Even sef na you dey enjoy. Him dey protect you. Cold no go even catch you too mush.” He added. With the way he smiled, I knew he actually thought he made sense.
“No gree. No gree! If you wan come down we go follow you come down! Partial driver!” The passengers shouted.
“I looked around. The vehicle was almost full. I had a choice to either forfeit my position, sit somewhere else, or get off the damn bus, after giving that man a piece of my mind.
The passengers too, were ready to abandon the vehicle for my sake. With that,I could make the driver unhappy too. So unhappy that he would chase down the man from his bus, by himself. But somehow I didn’t.
Though pissed,I kept quiet, accepted my fate, and changed my sitting position. The driver kept thanking me on the way. He called me an original African woman. Women who love peace and respect men, because they realize that men are their covering. Their protection. Their glory. Their everything.
On a normal day, I would either be on my choice seat or not on the bus. But this wasn’t a normal day. Somehow, I didn’t want to push it. Even though I felt the urge. I no even retaliate when the Uncle sef dey run mouth. A whole me? Something was wrong somewhere. I demand a DNA test.
As we got on the bridge, something crazy happened. A vehicle hit another vehicle. And while the other vehicle was struggling for control and balance, it spiraled off to the other lane and hit the driver flank of our bus. The window glass of where I was struggling to seat broke and scattered on Uncle’s body. His legs were affected too. So many cuts. Although they looked minor on the outside. The driver’s door too was affected. He would be needing a very good body work on his vehicle soon.
The driver was furious. He came down to shout. Some passengers came down too. Uncle was busy riding his body off glass, nursing his cuts, and shouting at the driver to take him to a clinic. Driver was also busy shouting at the other driver.
I overheard the huge aunty laughing at him like an old sorcerer.”Protector of the universe! Igweeeee!” She hailed him, before she got off the vehicle. She then called out to me, held me and took me to the pedestrian side of the bridge. We walked for a while, before we succeeded in getting another vehicle.
When I was alighting, she paid my fare and whispered; “Thank God say you no do gra gra o. Because as all of us be wan follow you come down, driver for pursue that man commot, and na you for dey cry now. This your oyibo skin for don turn red. Thank God o. E good as you leave am for the seat. Make him chop the seat”
There are times you have to just pull off your agbada of self control and teach people a lesson. Yes! But there are also times you have to sheath your sword, draw back and observe. Most times, those who hurt us, eventually end up screwing themselves; and if we are lucky, the universe would let us watch….
Written by Penocrat Ayomide Kindness