Aisha and I have a swell time entering Keke Maruwas every day to the court. I’m kidding. ‘Swell time’ is a misrepresentation. It’s more like an ‘interesting time’. We’ve been transported by some Maruwa riders, who were so peculiar, I’d hope to meet them again.
Thankfully, today my dreams came true as Isiaka carried us for the second time. You’ll wonder why I know his name. I know his name because I asked him for it. Fin.
I like Isiaka’s Maruwa rides because he makes it his duty to enlighten us on some realities that are not readily available to us. I have ridden with him two times, and both times when I descend from his tricycle, I think of what way I can be a solution to the problems around me; problems to which I had pre-Isiaka, not fully appreciated.
The first time he carried us, we were sitting quietly behind him, watching him as wove the fragile vehicle in between lanes of muscle jeeps and sleek cars. I was sitting there thinking that maybe these people who live on the Island don’t get mad when someone puts a dent in their vehicles. They probably just say, ‘Oh, it’s fine, I’ll gift it to my dog and pick up another one at the Porche dealership.’
Then suddenly, Isiaka turned around, probably dying from the silence, and says (in Yoruba), ‘Do you know how I got these scars on my arms?’
I pull out the earplugs from my ears and snicker before I can stop myself. I am fully surprised and I’m thinking, ‘How could I possibly know?’ Isiaka is smiling now, takes his right hand off the handle and gestures at the fresh scars on his left arm. Obviously, we don’t know how he acquired the scars so he continues (in Yoruba), ‘I was macheted.’
0-100 for Aisha and I as we both gasp as though we had rehearsed it. Isiaka is obviously happy now; he has secured our rapt attention. So, he goes on to say, ‘I work two jobs. I’m a Maruwa rider in the day, and a security guard at night, at Ajegunle’
The reality of that kind of life is slowly sinking into my head as he continues, ‘…yesterday, thieves came to the premises where I guard and as I tried to fight them off, they took their cutlass and began hitting at my arms. (I saw the scar lines). I fought them off too; fought them very well. I called my superiors in the area and they were ready to kill the thieves, but then, I begged them not to kill them. If not for me, we would have killed them’
We mutter some words of sympathy, but the reality of that kind of life was still sinking into my head. He continues, ‘I can’t kill a person, but I can maim them o! I mean, if someone brings out a cutlass at me, does he not want to kill me? Am I not supposed to kill him? But I can’t kill a human being, I can only make them physically disabled.’
A thinking ‘hmm’ escapes from my thoughts through my throat and out of my lips. He continues, ‘Nobody can kill me though. I do juju and protect myself from people like that. I still have plans on getting married and giving my wife the best life. I can’t allow someone to kill me’
I sit in the back of Isiaka’s Maruwa, not minding whether his tales are true or not, but realizing that out there, tons of Isiaka-like people are struggling; struggling needlessly.
Today, Isiaka carried us again. We stop somewhere after The Galleria to drop the only other passenger in the Keke Maruwa. Isiaka gets down and buys a bottle of water, quickly guzzles it down and points at a lady passing by the Maruwa. Our eyes follow the pregnant lady, as he says, ‘This girl was impregnated by one of these Hausa Maruwa riders’
Aisha and I make sounds that meant to communicate oh wow + ah! + na wa + Eeyah
He rides us closer to the girl and slows down. We turn and look at her: heavily pregnant, and definitely not over 15 years old.
He says he feels so bad because the girl and her mother sleep on the road every night; that they have no roof over their heads; that no, the girl was not raped, she just did not know any better; that the girl’s mother would not accept offers of help from a rich couple who had offered to take the girl in and have her work as the help so she can deliver her baby safely; that he doesn’t blame the mother because most rich people just want to steal away the baby, they don’t really care for the girl; that if the rich people are not able to achieve this ulterior motive through polite means, they’ll probably just kidnap the girl one day and slice out the baby from her stomach; that no, it is not a strange thing or rare occurrence – these things happen.
I sit in the back of Isiaka’s Maruwa, not minding whether his gossip is true or not, but realizing that there is at least someone (a real life person) out here on the streets of Lagos, with that exact story; realizing that no matter how comfortable my life gets, no matter how knowledgeable I become, no matter how much privilege I earn, it would never change the fact that the society is ill and sickly, and people are in need of love and help and deliverance.
I say a little prayer in my heart for the pregnant child and her unborn child; something about safe delivery. But as I type this I think of a Bible scripture. It’s one of those scriptures I am inspired to view differently from how most people do.
Job 22:29 (it is popularly quoted as ‘when men say there is a casting down, you shall say there is a lifting up.’ And many people use it to pray that they’ll have wealth when others don’t)
But NIV says, ‘When people are brought low, and you say, ‘Lift them up!’, then He will save the downcast’
The Message Translation says ‘To those who feel low, you’ll say ‘Chin up! Be brave!’ and God will save them’
What a mandate! What a responsibility! What a calling! What an authority!
It’s pretty amazing to know that I can do something about bad vibes. Pretty amazing.