The driver struggled to get hold of the steering as he swayed in and out of the road. Clement who was now awake clung to Bala’s shirt yelling,
Clement: “So, this how we are going to die. Oh! Oh, my God!! Mary and Joseph!!”
They hit heads against each other as the bus swayed. Bala was scared but he wasn’t shouting like the rest of the passengers. After like ten minutes, the bus came to a halt off the road. The hill of sand prevented them from colliding with a very big tree that was behind the hill of sand. Everyone caught their breaths. Some had fainted out of shock. The driver’s hands were shivering. No one could say a word to the other. Only the brave ones Like Bala tried reviving those that passed out. Clement sat with his hands held in between his thighs. Tears gathered in his eyes. Fear had ripped him apart. Most of the passengers dropped down. Some ran into the bushes to let go of the angst triggered droppings. A few remained in the car and others stood outside chattering.
The driver with his bushy moustache held out a stick of cigarette with his mouth as he clicked on the rusty lighter with the right thumb, wisps of fire jerked out of the rusty thing but didn’t last a second; the breeze produced by the whistling of the trees murdered the wisps of fire. Clement watched him as he showed his frustration,
Driver: “What’s wrong with your sick thing!” he said In Hausa looking at the lighter, “Someone can’t live and enjoy one’s life right? Miserable thing,” he clicked on it, the wisps of fire came out, staggered and died off, “Urghhh! Can’t I have my smoke in peace?” He said in an aggressive croaky voice, “I’m going to stroke you for the last time you don’t light I throw you away!” the fire became stable and like a shot he lighted his cigarette. Like a naughty child, he smiled as he drew the smoke in and puffed it out of his mouth stylishly, “at least I’ll enjoy my life before dying!” he smirked.
Bala who had gone for a pee returned to his seat as he sat Clement said to him,
Clement: “See this driver! He might end up setting himself ablaze,” Bala looked towards the smoking driver but couldn’t understand what the mischievous Clement was hitting at,
Bala: “What do you mean? The guy is just smoking.”
Clement gaped at him,
Clement: “Look at him again now!”
Bala threw his gaze at the driver; he still couldn’t get the gist,
Bala: “I don’t get it. The man is busying enjoying himself!”
Clement: “Look at his moustache!”
Bala getting Clement’s message had a very good laugh,
Bala :”You are sick,man!” still laughing.
Clement: “It’s true now. See his moustache now! He isn’t scared that the cigarette might burn it?”
They both were laughing. The driver threw away the small part of the remaining cigarette,grunted and yelled,
Driver: “We should all get going!” he said in Hausa.
He twitched the keys of the bus and it jerked. He did for three times before the bus responded and they were on their way again. Clement was on with his chattering,
Clement: “Bally, I can’t wait to get to my village oo!”
Bala who was tired and sleepy,shrugged,
Bala: “I want to sleep a little,please!”
Clement ignored his plea and continued blabbing, “When I get to the village. I’ll make my presence felt. And you know I don’t need to shout about it as news travels very fast in that small village. That my bald headed village head might die of jealousy. I’ll show him and that his stupid son that impregnated the love of my life!”
Bala: “Don’t go and get yourself into trouble oo!”
Clement: “Is it easy to be the first teacher graduate in that small village and even villages around can’t boast of any. I have brought pride to Knayigbnana. I might even decide to become the village head and nobody would be against me taking over from that bald illiterate! You know, there’s this girl Imight end up marrying before I left the village she was small but it’s been ages now she should be a grown girl now. She is the cousin of Patience, Adayilo, is her name. Tall, dark with very handful breast. She is beautiful, man!” Bala was already snoring, Clement hissed and leaned on his chair in no time he had gone into a deep sleep too.
The journey was from Borno to Diko in Niger state was for a day. As the pair were asleep, those awake were busy chatting, cries of babies were heard also. Close to Jos, an alarming sound was heard. It was like a gunshot. Noises were heard from the bus as it came to a halt,
Driver: “Tire she burst!” he said in broken English.
The announcement evoked hisses. Clement and Bala who had just woken up, turned to each other grumbling,
Clement: “What’s the problem of this bus now?”
Bala: “The driver is too reckless!”
Clement wiped his face with the back of his hand and jumped down with the rest. The women were asked to remain in the bus while the men went about looking for solutions. Bala was at the fore front, he brought one of the stones the used to wedge the car, he and the driver unbuttoned as they got to work,
Driver to Bala,
Driver: “Help me with the Jack please, “he told him in Hausa.
Clement leaned on the car and engaged the rest in a conversation,
Clement: “I think it’s unlawful for the military to be ruling. It isn’t theirs to rule but to safe guard or protects the nation!”
A man robust added, “That’s very true. I concur with what you are saying!”
The rest stood with hands folded shaking their head for at the time the military government in the country killed without remorse. There was nothing like freedom of speech.
Clement: “We now live in fear in our country. If we complain of the harsh treatment melted on us. We would be executed like rams for Sallah!”
They laughed; one of the men asked, “What do you think the solution should be!”
Bala was engrossed in work unconsciously cried out,
Clement: “Democracy. Democracy is key! A system that gives us the opportunity to decide who we want to rule us,” the people nodded, “this dictatorship we are under is as dangerous as colonialism. The difference is that we are been ruled by ours but in a more ruthless way. I smirked at the head of state the other day when he was condemning Apartheid in South Africa!”
The robust man chipped in, “It’s a case of pot calling Kettle black or…!”
Clement: “… trying to remove a speck from someone’s eyes when you have a log in yours!”
Driver dusted his hands on the already stained trousers as he stood up,
Driver: “Na go we dey!”
They had fixed the tire. As they got into the bus, Clement didn’t stop his chattering he continued as the other men, who were on their seats listened, giggled and shook their heads in agreement. Bala was too tired to join in the conversation. It was dark already. After driving for thirty minutes as they got to a bushy and lonely path, torch lights flooded on them as four hefty men approached them with guns. The bus became as quiet as a mortuary as all the passengers had their hearts in their mouths,
Clement: “Wai! They are robbers. We are dead, “ he whispered.
One of them approached the driver as others pointed their guns at them, fingering their triggers as if they were waiting for the last order.
What was their fate? Were they going to be robbed?