Excerpt from Road One

Grab your copy of Road One here.

By the time the minibus arrived at Ojuelegba bus stop, it was pitch dark. Due to the severe humidity, Banji was sweating profusely. Even though he was still a fair distance from Apapa, he heaved a huge sigh of relief. As he disembarked from the minibus, the familiar rowdiness and chaos that typified the Ojuelegba Road junction was most comforting. Even though the smoky fumes emanating from the exhaust pipes of older cars and trucks driving past was beginning to sting his eyes, he felt relieved. He was back in familiar territory.

As a small smile began to break, he cheerfully remembered the Fela Kuti song, “Confusion”, which summarised the contradictory allure of the notorious Ojuelegba junction. In the song, Fela fondly referred to Ojuelegba as ogogoro centre, due to the large number of eateries and road-side restaurants where people congregated to enjoy a drink of ogogoro, the traditional alcoholic spirit distilled from fermented Raffia palm juice. Fela continued by singing about the occasions when there were no policemen directing traffic at the centre of Ojuelegba junction, and cars were approaching the intersection from four directions: south, north, east and west. It could only be described as confusion.

The last stop to hell, Banji recalled, was how someone had referred to the junction, in a damning, yet venerated, twist of emotions. It was common to see a suspected petty thief sprinting away from an advancing lynch mob of citizens brandishing sticks, clubs and used car tires, looking to impose their brand of instant justice on the accused person. The mob, chanting “Ole, ole!” (“Thief, thief!” in Yoruba), would give chase, without so much as a cursory look to see if any police or law enforcement officers were in the area to arrest the suspect. The paradox with Ojuelegba was that some things which made one dislike it also, somehow, managed to make one love it. The chaos was frustrating and overwhelming. However, during all the confusion, one would often witness the most heart-warming situation, like a bus conductor cracking an unrelated joke shortly after the bus driver narrowly missed knocking over a pedestrian, or the sight of a baby taking its first steps, carefully being watched by proud parents a short distance away.

Banji’s mind drifted as he remembered watching Bola and his band playing “Confusion” at the rotunda Amphitheatre at their university. An avid bass player, Bola did a good job reproducing the song’s melodious thumping bassline.

From where Banji stood at Ojuelegba, he was a 15-minute walk from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, where some of his cousins lived. Normally, he would have dropped in to say hello. He could guarantee that his aunty would quickly whip up a delicious meal for him. However, given that the time was approaching 8 pm, he redirected his attention towards finding a bus headed to Apapa. As he was down to the last 50 kobo in his wallet, he could not afford to catch a taxi. Finding a bus to Apapa was his one and only choice. The majority of the buses that arrived were either filled or not headed to Apapa.