January 16, 2013 was a Wednesday and that evening, I had just finished watching a movie at Genesis Cinema, Port Harcourt (PH). This was my 3rd time at the movies for the week and I decided that I had to save some money, so I was NOT going to use an ajebo cab but rather a pakorized taxceee . The target? Rather than shell out
N1500 back to my PH digs I was going to low-ball it and go for N700.
Unsurprisingly, as soon as I started descending the steps out of the cinema, the cabbies started swarming around me like bees to a honeypot. I was unmoved as I softly but firmly told them where I was going and my budget. Almost immediately, the sea of cabbies parted and I was left to walk pass with my “bad market”. I shrugged at their loss 😛 as I walked further down the street where I was sure to find a not so befitting taxceee that would embrace my budget. I didn’t hear him the first time when he called out but surely did when he called out again, “Sista, I will carry you, no wahala”. “Huh!” O_o, I replied untrustingly, “My budget is N700 O!”. “No wahala, madam, make we go” he answered. Yippee! I thought to myself, target achieved. As I followed him to his vehicle, I was quite surprised to see him unlocking a car I categorized as a “cab” and certainly not a taxcee. I stressed my price again, and he nodded in the affirmative.
As we started our journey, it crossed my mind that just maybe, this cabbie was a kidnapper who was ready to take my immediate low price for a future high ransom 😮 . However, I had done my necessary checks and thus shoved the thought out of my head as I tried to relax. Still, I decided to send the cab’s license plate number to my sister just in case ;). While doing so, my cabbie turned to me and said the words that every chic dreads to hear, “You look familiar”.
“No, no, NO!” screamed my inner babe. Still concentrating very much on my phone, I murmured a non-committal, “Okay” in response. Not in the least bit discouraged, he went on to ask, “Didn’t you go to FUTO?” My left eyebrow jerked up questioningly. “Project Management, right?” he further asked. By this time, he had my full attention…. scrunching up his face in deep thought, “I think, if I remember correctly, your name is..Oge..no, no…Ugochi!” . With this pronouncement, my jaw drops and I am like “WHO ARE YOU?” He chuckles and tells me his story.
He tells me his name and how he was in Fed. Uni. Tech. Owerri (FUTO) the same time I was. He was supposed to graduate with my set but unfortunately he had an extra year and graduated a year later in 2005 with a second class lower (2.2) in Transport Management Technology (B.Tech). Okay, that explains how he knew my name, I thought to myself, but how come he’s a Cabbie? So, I inquired, “After school, what happened?”
A momentarily pause, as he made a sharp left turn in the road. He went on to explain how after leaving school, he went for NYSC and then tried very hard to get employment with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and some other transport related establishments in Nigeria to no avail. After 3 or so years of consistent rejections, he decided to try his luck abroad in Dubai. Regrettably, his luck was not much better in the UAE, albeit he managed to salvage a living by being a cab driver in the city of Dubai. By 2012, he had saved enough money to buy a car which he brought back to Nigeria and started his one-man cab business in Port-Harcourt. While listening to his story and others he told of fellow FUTO-ites with 1st classes, 2.1s and 2.2s who were still unemployed, my countenance ran a wide spectrum as series of thoughts ran through my head: happiness, shock, disbelief, pity, anger, shame, humility and finally, a deep sadness 😦 . Observing my demanour, he tried to change the topic by asking, what I did and what brought me to the Garden City. I lied by omission (God, please forgive me!) and told him the lesser of two evils, how I was into buying and selling and that I had come to see my girlfriend who just had a baby. He was kind as he called me a good friend. My answer was a shrug as the sadness refused to be lifted.
By this time, we had reached my gate, I gave him a N1,000 note and thanked him for the ride as I alighted from his cab. He reached for his wallet to I assume find me change but I told him not to bother, he tried to insist but I refused. He smiled his thanks and waved farewell as he pulled away from the gate. As I gingerly walked into my friend, Bi’s house I searched for her with tears in my eyes. I found her in her bedroom and fell on her bed crying softly:'( . I told her the story and she knowing me, diagnosed that I was super-depressed and too much of an ajae-butter for this country.
Trying to rationalize my “super-depression”, I went down memory lane and it occurred to me that this was the 3rd time this kind of incident has occurred in my life that I could recall. The first, was when I was just a 200 level student on holidays in Festac Town, Lagos.
During my visit, I happened to enter a bus in which the bus conductor was someone I had attended JAMB lesson with. As I engaged him in conversation (without any awkwardness) during the ride, he told me he was still trying to get his JAMB. I sincerely wished him all the best.
The second time was when I had started my first post-NYSC job with First Bank. Having worked all day at the cashier’s till, I was bone tired and grumpy 😡 as I caught my 6th bus of the day for my last leg of my journey. The conductor was being silly and had refused to give me my change after two reminders probably hoping that I would forget it with him. My next step was to take up the matter with the danfo bus driver, as I voiced my complaint to the driver, he turned to look at me and behold the danfo driver was a young man I had done a holiday job with at a business centre during one of my long vacations while in secondary school. I was in so much shock that I eventually left my change with the silly conductor 😦 .
As I thought through all three incidences later on that night in Bi’s guest room, it occurred to me that I was indeed extremely lucky to be where I was in life. It could have been me as the bus conductor, bus driver or even the cabbie. Going down on my knees, I repented of my lack of contentment and ingratitude, having asked God to help all His children and I thanked God for placing me where I am today.
Your comments as usual are welcome.
* Images are not mine.