Jollof rice. Hot Jollof rice comes to your mind as you leave the office on Friday afternoon. Jollof rice with plenty of onions. Mom says onions is good for your womb. You always laugh when she says that because you know better. No one gets pregnant from eating too much onions.
You are almost at the junction now. As usual, you give a plastic smile to the one-eyed agbero who is screaming “Ebule, Ebule. One lucky chance.” He gave you fifty naira last week for your fare. It wasn’t because you didn’t have money. You had two crisp five hundred naira notes. It was convenient. You didn’t have change, so you took the money. He clearly wanted to register his interest. Now, he smiles at you and opens the rear door for you to get in.
The taxi is hot and smells of rotten fish. You say a quick prayer of thanks for the blast of fresh air coming from the window. You notice that the window can’t be wound up. It is held in place by a small stick. The heavily pregnant woman next to you hisses for the umpteenth time and continues chewing her gum.
“Oya, wey the draiva na. Make we dey go abeg.’ It’s the old man in front with too much hair on his face. Other passengers express their displeasure. You are quiet, thinking of the Jollof rice again.
“Mek una no vex o. I dey settle agbero o! E wan chop my money,” The taxi driver says as he gets into the car and starts the engine. It splutters to life, and the taxi is on its way.
“I hear they have blocked the express…those Biafra boys. Driver, is it true?” The man at the other extreme is speaking now. You think he sounds educated.
“Oga, na true. Enough is enough. After our boys finish today, there will be nothing like Nigeria. Nonsense!” The driver spits out.
“Na which express be that? Ebule? How we go take pass na?” The pregnant woman says. You can see she is worried. Your heart begins to beat faster.
“Madam, no worry. Dem don call Army people. E be like sey dem dey there sef.” The young man who hasn’t said anything till now says. He is still peering into his Android phone while talking.
“Army? Na wetin be army?” The taxi driver is furious. “Mek dem come na. We go finish dem. In fact, no more Nigeria again. Mek every body go im papa house.”
He is shouting now. “Wetin Nnamdi Kanu do dem wey dem go take arrest am? Yet dem sey we be one Nigeria, Mtcheww!”
“What do you mean? He has been inciting war through his radio station. Is that not enough reason to get him arrested?” The educated man replies the driver. It’s a good thing they are not sitting next to each other. “See, I’m an Ibo man, but I am not in support of this nonsense called Biafra. It is a mirage.”
It occurs to you that the driver doesn’t even know the meaning of “mirage” and “inciting.” But he keeps on talking. “Oga, leave dat tin wey you dey talk. Me, I’m a Biafran, any day, any time. Wetin Nigeria don do for me?”
The taxi is slowing down because of the traffic in front, and you can hear sirens all over. Grim-looking army officers in black polo and khaki trousers are jumping down from trucks. A heavily set man leads them shouting “ahead, ahead.” You are in a confirmed state of panic.
“Driver, abeg how I go take whine this glass,” you ask, feeling beads of sweat trickle down your back.
“Fine girl, you dey fear?” The Android-addict in front turns to you and smiles, revealing a set of stained teeth the color of burnt rice. Burnt Jollof rice. You ignore him.
The protesters are running in all directions, most of them youths carrying branches of leaves. They are bare-chested and red-eyed. Some are carrying the rising sun flags, chanting “Hausa go! Yoruba go! No more Nigeria!”
You look ahead and see tufts of smoke rising ahead of you. You look anxiously at the pregnant woman willing her to say something, anything.
She finally speaks, “Oga driver, help us whine up. E be like sey dem go spray tear gas.”
“That glass don spoil o,” the driver says, glancing around. “Beht mek una no fear. Dem no fit do any thing. Dem no get mind na.”
“Hmmmm. When you see army now, you no go get mouth again,” the pregnant woman says, obviously irritated. She has gotten rid of the chewing gum.
“Madam, wetin you dey talk? If e reach to carry gun, me I go carry o! I don tire. Na dis fifty naira I go take chop? Fuel no dey, man pikin dey suffer.”
“You think war is the answer, right? You don’t have a family. That’s why it is easy for you to say. Didn’t Ojukwu try it and fail? Even this so called Nnamdi Kanu has two passports. British passport! His family lives in UK, and you are here killing yourself over him.” The educated man is shouting at the top of his voice now.
“Ojukwu failed because that fool, Zik refused to support him. This time around it will not be like that. Even if na only one army man I kill.”
You are not listening to them anymore. Mom says that nobody who experienced the war would wish for it to happen again. You duck when you hear the gunshots. Three of them. You remember stories of stray bullets and think of calling your mother. The taxi is quiet all of a sudden. You notice the driver clutching the wheel with shaky hands.
Pedestrians are walking briskly. Their hands above their heads.
Two soldiers pass by the taxi driver’s window.
“Come on, move this scrap from here!” The tallest of them barks at the driver.
“Sure Sa! Your boy is loyal.” The driver’s voice sounds like he swallowed a million frogs.
The first sound you hear is the laughter of the old man with too much hair. Before long, everyone is laughing too and hailing the taxi driver “Biafran Solja!”
As the taxi pulls into Ebule bus stop, you think of Jollof rice again.
Post image by Leena Saarinen via Flickr
About the Author:
Favour Emmanuel is in her final year at the University studying mechanical engineering. When she’s not buried in Thermodynamics, she loves to read fiction…a lot. Fortunately, writing is the only way she can atone for all the books she’s read and will keep reading.