"Ebin pa ara ilu....... Won ko n se ofin, won de n gbadun ni ti won"
The traffic on the road leading to Bodija market is building up. I am beginning to get really hungry. I can actually hear my stomach rumble. But for this traffic, I should be home in the next 5 to 7 minutes. We move steadily past Methodist Grammar School, towards Oju-Irin and I turn to the billboard for the umpteenth time. It always disgusts me when I see it. I don't know why. In it is this politician clad in a white jalamia and skull cap.
I remember the first time I noticed the political advert. I was driving home with my boss and he pointed it out, commenting on the politician's felicitating with Muslims on the Eid-el-Kabir celebration. He pointed out that the jalamia and skull cap were a political gimmick just to appeal to the good side of the celebrating Muslims all with the aim of garnering their votes in the upcoming elections. I remember him saying he was so sure the man is not actually a Muslim and is most likely a christian. As soon as he said that, I looked closely at the picture and spotted the RCCG wrist band on the politician's wrist, beside his wristwatch. We laughed at this.
The wrist band is so conspicuously positioned and the politician has his hand resting on his jaw to make it more obvious. It screams ' I am a Christian that loves Muslims. Don't bother about what I plan to do. Just Vote for me, not the others".
I twist my mouth and turn away from the billboard. We are still caught in traffic at Oju-Irin. My stomach is crying for food. I am tempted to buy a bottle of Pepsi from one of the street hawkers but hold back the urge. I am on a one-week fast from carbonated drinks. I hope I can keep it up. My ribs ache. Having to share a front passenger seat with another person in this small car is tiring. It's annoying, especially as the man I'm sharing the seat with is big boned and seems to be resting all of his weight on me.
A convoy of vans is worming its way through traffic steadily and the man sitting beside me starts to shake his head. From the vans some people are waving hands vigorously, others are waving brooms. They are all singing and shouting. "E dibo fun APC oh", "PDP o le wole" Some are playfully chatting with other motorists and gesticulating, while others are handing out flyers.
The man beside me is still shaking his head and then he turns to the driver
"Where did they see these people?" he starts in Yoruba.
It is the driver's turn to shake his head and he turns his head to the window, observing the spectacle, just as we start to ease out of traffic slowly and approach the filling station. He looks ahead at the convoy of vans when we stop, as if in intent observation of an odd phenomenon. He sighs and turns to face the man I'm sharing my seat with.
"Where did they see this people?" the man asks again. This time sounding like he is really expecting an answer from the driver.
"Ah!" the driver starts "Ah..." His lips downturned, he shakes his head and then sighs.
"Sir, Ebin ma n pa ara ilu." He drags the words and gesticulates with his hands placed idly on the steering wheel. "People are hungry." he continues. "You cannot blame them"
The man is listening intently now, while I fidget, hoping to get a little bit of space to rest my hurting right buttock.
"You see me now, I will drive all day, from Bodija to Beere. I will have to deal with police, deal with area boys. Patapata I will finish everyday and carry just N400 home. Tell me what I will do with N400. Ee san owo ile. E o ra nnkan f'omo"
"Hmmm " the man beside me responds. "Ooto le so. You are very right"
"See, Oga. These politicians just make laws, but they are not bothered about how it affects us. They are the ones enjoying, we are the ones suffering everything. Ko easy"
We have gone past the filling station and now are moving steadily along Bodija market. I hold my breath as we drive past the waste dump just close to the vegetable sellers. I wonder how they can sit in that smell, and talk, smile and eat. I want to puke. I cringe at the thought of buying vegetables sold close to a dump and having diarrhoea for days.The convoy is moving in a jagged manner ahead of us, brooms still in the air, mouths still singing praises, as if they are doubly sure about their future. As if they are really sure of what it even means to vote and vote for the right person. I wonder how much they have been paid; N1000, N1500, or a small bag of rice?
Soon the convoy is out of sight.The man beside me and one of the three passengers at the back seat alight at Transwonderland when we are now finally out of all that Bodija market traffic. I smile, happy that I get to enjoy the front seat by myself. We have not gone too far, before two people hail down the cab.
I am still happy at my new found comfort when I realize I will have to shift for one of our new passengers. I mutter under my breath as the second lady forces open the door while I shift towards the gear box.
I can feel the driver's eyes on me as he starts to drive.
"E ma binu" he says, as we move on towards UI.
My throat hurts. I gulp and mutter thanks.
I'm too hungry to say more than that.
*based loosely on real events, but essentially fiction.