Pangolo Junction
Life, arguments, and kunu... with Max, Nat and Zack

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Do or Die

(Max and Zack are once again deeply engrossed in a game of oware. Nat is nowhere in sight.)

Max (grinning): I'm sure you're going to play at some point in time. You can frown until the wrinkles on your forehead become permanent - but I can't see any way out for you this time!

Zack (irritably): Why must you always
chatter like a monkey when you think you are in a position of advantage in this game? Always yapi-yapi-yapi-yapi-yapi-yap! I don't blame you... it's not often you find yourself in this situation.

Max (grinning even wider): Do I detect the sound of bitterness and frustration? Eh? OK, I agree - I am a baboon! I am even an orang-utang if you like! Just plaaaaaay, my friend!

(Just then, Nat stumbles into the Junction with his clothes torn and a cut in his forehead. Max and Zack turn to face him in shock.)

Max: Holy Kokorioko! Nat, what happened?

Zack: Come and sit down - are you all right? You look terrible!

(Nat settles down in a chair, gesturing for a drink of water. Max gets a drink, which he gulps down with impressive alacrity.)

Nat: Ah! That's better. My friends, sometimes I really despair over the behaviour of some Nigerians.

Max: Don't we all, Brother Nathaniel?

Zack (impatiently): So what happened?

Nat: Well, I left work about an hour ago to get to the Junction this evening to meet you guys. I boarded a bus coming this way as I usually do, and everything was OK until we got to one police checkpoint where the policemen motioned the driver to pull over.

Max: So far, so usual.

Nat: That's right. Except that in a change to the script, the bus driver declared that he had already paid enough to these thieves today - and there was no way he was going to pay yet another fifty naira. So instead of pulling over, he went into 'actor' mode - he hit the accelerator pedal and drove through the checkpoint, scattered the pole and drums the policemen used to set up the barrier and sent them scurrying for their lives!

Zack (laughing): Excellent! I would have loved to be there to see their panic.

Nat: Except it wasn't a laughing matter for those of us in the bus - we were panicking even more than the policemen. Attempting to run over a policeman - that is tantamount to signing your own death warrant. What if the policemen started chasing us and one of us got hit with an 'accidental discharge' from a gun?

So all the passengers began to plead with the driver to let them get off before the policemen commandeered a vehicle and caught up with them. Unfortunately, I think the driver had realised the enormity of his action and decided that it was best for him to make his escape by driving as madly and furiously as he could. And I tell you, I have never experienced such driving in my life, nor do I ever want to experience it again. Bumps o - potholes o - narrow gaps o - he treated all of them like they didn't exist. And we poor passengers were shaken around like stones in a rattle - thrown against every hard surface and sharp point in the bus!

Max: So that's how you got your clothes ripped.

Nat: No-o - let me finish! Anyway, it seems the driver was right to flee - after a while, we began to hear the sounds of shots being fired. One of the passengers looked out of the window and saw a bus some distance back filled with mobile policemen - some even hanging out of the bus - and some were firing their guns into the air, while others were beating a path to our bus through the traffic by using whips to clear the way. Man, I was so terrified I almost did my business there and then!

Max: That would have been too bad, especially because I know for a fact they don't have mobile
shalangas in buses.

(Zack glares fiercely at Max.) You think this is a joking matter?

Max (contritely): OK, I'm sorry. Please continue.

Nat: As you can imagine, the other passengers were also terrified - they didn't know whether to choose between stopping and meeting the devil of the policemen, or carrying on with the driver and meeting the deep blue sea of a possible accident. But I wasn't ready to leave my fate to chance. I was sitting near the door, so when I noticed the bus was slowing down to negotiate a particularly sharp corner, I flung myself out of the bus.

Zack: What? Were you mad? Did you want to kill yourself?? What if a car had been coming in your path?

Nat: Well, fortunately for me, the bus was close to the edge of the road, so I landed in a bush, but unfortunately for me it was a very thorny bush (smiles wryly).

Max: Well thank goodness that you escaped relatively unhurt! What happened to the driver?

Zack (rounding on Max): Are you mad? How do you expect him to be worrying about the policemen and driver when he has just managed to escape with his life intact?

Max (defensively): OK, OK... I don't know what your problem is. I just wanted to know how the 'tori' finished, that's all.

Nat: Actually, I don't know what happened to them, and quite frankly I hope I never see either of them ever again. I was too concerned about hiding in the bush so that the policemen didn't pick me up and vent their anger on me.

Max: Actually, that was a wise move. Man, that was some scary adventure - I'm even surprised you still made it into the Junction. If it were me, I would have just gone home to recover!

Nat: No, it wasn't that bad. And besides, the point I jumped out at was nearer the Junction than my flat. But the whole episode really does depress me in other ways.

Zack: How?

Nat: Well, look at it. All this happened just because a bus driver decided that it wasn't worth it stopping for policemen and paying a trifling amount of money. Imagine the lives that could have been lost just because of fifty naira!

Zack: Well, it was good that the driver was standing up for his principles...

Max: You're talking rubbish! What principles? Didn't you hear Nat say that the guy had already settled various policemen along the way? Principles my left buttock!

Zack: So what are you saying? People should never protest? We should all just roll over and let whoever wants give us a good kicking?

Nat (sighing): I'm not saying that. But look at us - look at the things we protest over. A conductor and a passenger will start with a quarrel over ten naira change and finish with a battle royal in which they beat each other senseless. People from two ethnic groups will start with a quarrel over whose right it is to use a shared facility and finish with all the houses of both ethnic groups in the neighbourhood being burnt down. Why do we bring this senseless attitude of 'do or die' to these petty, petty things?

Max: Abi o! Life is too short!

Nat (still sighing): And it's not just when we're resolving disputes that we adopt his attitude. Look at how people say "I must pass this exam or else I'm finished" or "I must get married before I'm thirty or else I'm done for" or "I must make my first million before I'm forty". Why do we put these unnatural pressures on ourselves? Will the world really end if we don't meet these goals?

Max: Ah - that's different o.

Nat: How?

Max: Well, you need to put some pressure on yourself to achieve these goals, otherwise you'll just let things drift by without doing anything about them.

Nat: There's nothing wrong with setting the goals and trying to achieve them. But surely something is wrong when the person who wants to pass the exam now resorts to cheating? When the person who is looking to get married now settles for the first person who comes along out of desperation? When the person who wants to make a million engages in some fraudulent activity so that he doesn't miss his target and consider himself a failure?

Zack: Now that's the kind of senseless do-or-die-ism that I disapprove of! But you know the really funny thing? When it comes to the big things - the things that really matter - we run and hide under our beds. We are very happy to squabble and stress over relatively minor things like bus fare change or exam results - but when it comes to defending democracy against tyrants, we are nowhere to be found. When it comes to protesting against violations of the rule of law, we pretend like nothing has happened. I tell you, this country has problems!

Max: I think you're being unfair, Zack. You know that people can see the relevance of ten naira much more clearly than they can see the relevance of big words like 'democracy' or 'constitution'. Perhaps what we should do is to personalise democracy in a way that people can relate to it...

Zack: How?

Max: How about we have a voting lottery? Say every time you go to vote, you pay fifty naira. Then at the end of voting, random voters are picked as winners of the lottery and they get half of the sum contributed - that would be about one billion naira. The rest will go to pay for the cost of organising the election. I tell you, not only would you get people participating in every election - even the local ones that people don't care about - you would also find people demonstrating violently if anyone was mad enough to truncate their chance of becoming a multi-millionaire by truncating democracy.

Zack (with contempt): Max, I've always regarded your ideas as ethically suspect, but with this you have sunk to a new low. Treating voting like a lottery! Sacrilege! Abomination! Democracy is supposed to be something you defend because you are passionate about it, not because it will make you rich!

Max: I don't see your problem. We already know that Nigerians are passionate about money, so the best way to make them passionate about democracy is to hook democracy up with money.

Nat (holding his hands up): All right guys, enough already. Let's save the debates for another day. (Sees the oware tray in one corner of the table.) Actually, I wouldn't mind playing a game with one of you guys.

(Max notices only too late as Nat starts rearranging the piles of seeds.)

Oh NO!!! NOOOOO!!!!!

Nat (startled): What?

Max: The game wasn't finished! In fact, I was on the verge of defeating Zack when you came in. (mournfully) Why, Nat? Why do you always have to
disrupt my game when I'm about to win?

Nat (apologetically): Max, I'm really sorry - honestly, I didn't know.

Zack (grinning): Eeeyah! What a pity. Well, don't take it to heart, Max - I'm sure you'll get another opportunity at almost defeating me in the next five years or so. After all, it's not a do-or-die matter...

4 Comments:

  • This was good. I do have three or four vivid police memories and none was good...

    The lottery sounds like fun. Published in The Daily Amebo?

    By Blogger azuka, At March 17, 2007 2:58 pm  

  • lol @ voting lottery....only Max will come up with something like that :-)

    Nice one!

    By Blogger Nilla, At March 18, 2007 12:25 am  

  • Your name was like a magnet pulling me to your blog. I just HAD to check it out. Nice.

    By Blogger Idemili, At April 02, 2007 10:57 am  

  • Azuka,

    The whole word is still awaiting your police story o...



    Nilla,

    Perhaps a reality TV program where all candidates for office have to live inside a house and get voted off one by one might be an even better idea?



    Idemili,

    Thanks for stopping by. I didn't know that my name had that power. I guess all I need to do is to order a run of T-shirts with 'Atala Wala Wala' boldly printed on them, wear them to places frequented by the most desirable women and see what happens... :)

    By Blogger Atala Wala Wala, At April 02, 2007 5:58 pm  

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