The Journey (Phase One)

Kevin Madu
 


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I slept in snatches that night. I always do whenever I have a big day ahead of me. I swung my feet off the bed and onto the carpeted floor. Two quick strides took me to the switch on the wall, I snapped it on and the electric bulb overhead came alight. I stared at the wall clock for a couple of seconds; it was 5 minutes to 5am.

The previous day had been hectic. I had been as busy as a bee, trying to conclude last minute preparation for the journey ahead. I had slept late – albeit I was very beat – though I succeeded in finalizing my preparation.

I went into the outer room and called out to my older brother. He woke up with a start and told me he would be out in 5 minutes time. It was not until 5:40am, that we finished putting things in order and were heading for the motor park. Our neighbours had already said their “good byes”.

My brother and I took a bike popularly known as “okada” since we could not catch a bus. Chilly cold engulfed our bodies as we hunched our backs trying to wade off the cold. Before we got to the motor park we were both shivering.

As we alighted from the “okada”, the long queue of people trying to book tickets was a heartbreaking sight that met our eyes. It was obvious that every one of them was ready to travel, with bags slung over their shoulders.

My brother halted me with a wave of his hand and made his way forward amid the sea of humans. With my bag slung over my right shoulder and shoe laden polythene bag held tightly between my left fingers, I brought up the rear of one of the queues.

Shouts of “Owerri, Otukpo and Enugu” rented the early morning air as the ticket sellers called on the attention of the-would-be travelers.

My brother came back and asked me to follow him. I did and soon we were standing at the foot of a desk with a ticket seller scribbling something in a long book. I paid hurriedly and got my name entered in the book. I moved off and sat on a bench clutching my luggage closely. I had a wad of cash in the bag and I could not risk taking my eyes off it for a split second, for fear of pilferers who may have guised themselves as travelers.

The wait was long and torturing. At about 7:00am, a handful of travelers including myself were ushered to a bus and asked to cluster around the bus, like obedient servants, so we did.

The man with the long register started calling out names according to the preference in his register. It turned out that I was number 16 on a list of 18.

‘This is the bus that will convey you to your destinations the man said laconically and walked off as quickly as he had appeared. I made a face at my brother, as I stood third to the last in the queue just behind a sweet looking girl who seemed happy to have me behind her. Every now and then the rise of her butt would slam against my crouch sending sparks all over my body.

Soon we started entering the bus; the women scrambled for seats of their choice and clung to it as if their lives depended on it. I stood back with a sarcastic smile on my face. I did not see why I should engage myself in such kiddy behaviour.

“Stay back and let them scramble for seats”, my brother told me and I nodded.

A lady seated at the middle row began to quarrel with a guy who had usurped her seat when she had alighted to buy a necklace. The exchange of insult became unbearable and we had to step in and break the fight.

The long wait began to wear us out. We had been seated for close to 30 minutes and yet have not even caught a glimpse of the driver. My brother grew restless and became impatient. He told me he had to hit the road and I nodded in the affirmative, and so he did.

A man with a handful of tracts peered in through the open bus door and introduced himself as an evangelist. He prayed with us and preached for a short while. He told us that the tracts he had were in Igbo and Yoruba languages only, and urged those who could read either of the two languages to collect at least one. I looked on as I could not read fluently any of the two languages, not even the former (Igbo); my language.

Time was flying and impatience was the air that polluted the bus. I stared at my wristwatch; it was few minutes to 8:00am. I had talked to the driver earlier on and he had told me that the bus would not leave unless the other vehicle was set to go. It was their custom that either two or three of the buses owned by the state move in a convoy.

That sounded great, so I had nodded curtly and walked back to the bus.

A couple of minutes to 8:00am, the driver came bounding down from a little tearoom. He yanked the driver’s door open and slid onto the seat. The 18 passengers on board heaved sighs of relief on seeing him.

Without much ado, he put the bus in reverse and headed for the thoroughfare. There were mutters of disappointment as he headed in the opposite direction. We had expected him to take the Abuja route. He led the bus to a filling station and a couple of minutes later hit the road again.

Most of the passengers, except for me and some patient ones asked the driver why we were taking the “old road” as the road was called, which was quite obsolete and forgotten since the “Abuja” road was constructed.

“Heavy traffic congestion”, was the curt reply.

I am a Nigerian and an avid reader who also take great pleasure in putting pen to paper. I believe that with the right expression of words written with my pen people could change for the better and correct or curb some ills eating deep into our system of government or life in general. Poverty and corruption have always being Africa's most dreaded diseases and Nigeria is no exception. I write fiction and non-fiction and also write articles on any subject, especially that concerning the well-being of the poor masses. I wish to be an acclaimed writer and author and a motivational speaker

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