Mimi Mwiya: A Lagos To Abuja Road-trip According to a Namibian
I’m on a bus from Lagos to Abuja, I do not have any spare money to spend, all the money I have on me has been planned for to the last kobo. And I know I will be needing even more money because no matter how meticulously you plan, you can’t account for everything. I do not have any money to spend on ‘padkos’, knowing this, I have apples with me. Four. I eat the first one almost as soon as I reach the God Is Good Motors centre in Jibowu.
Even though I do not have any spare money to spend, I’m craving chocolate and so on our first stop, I walk into a shop, telling myself I will spend only 500 naira of the money I do not have to spend, and even then, only if I find a Twix bar. There are no Twix bars or anything close, I take it as a sign, a reminder I cannot afford to spend the 500 naira. I console myself by eating the second one of my apples. We stop again in Lokoja, suya and kilishi aromas are wafting all around me and I cannot resist walking over to the guy selling kilishi. I tell myself I was willing to spend 500 naira on chocolate anyway, what difference does it make if I lose it to chocolate or kilishi? It doesn’t take much to talk myself into it.
The kilishi is nothing exceptional, I’ve had better and I’m so proud of myself that I can now discern between bad and good kilishi. It joins the two apples in forming my meals of the day. I am on my second piece when a beggar comes along, he holds out a ‘To whom it may concern’ letter. He does not speak; cannot.
I must now take you back to a day when a friend and I were taking a walk down the Yaba LCDA, he saw a woman begging with a baby on her back, something compelled him to give her some money. We walked a little further and saw the woman hand over the baby to another beggar. It was possible the baby was neither woman’s. My friend then told me it actually wasn’t uncommon for women to hire out their children for begging so they get a cut.
Because of that incident and the fact that I’m not always able to help everyone, I’ve been trying to adopt a ‘wetin concern me’ attitude, it’s with this attitude that the beggar in Lokoja meets me. I’ve been telling myself I can’t listen to every sob story, and that I can’t tell the genuine people from the not so genuine ones, so it’s just easier to ignore all of them, except there’s nothing easy about it.
So the mute beggar comes along with his letter and I look away. Not to a different direction, no, in the same direction he is, just kind of past him. I’m looking into nothingness, hoping there’s a cold look in my eyes that will make him go away. He doesn’t go away. Even with my looking into nothingness, I notice him point to my kilishi, and then to his mouth. At this, I finally turn my back to him. He gives me about a minute before he follows my movement so I’m facing him again. He has no way of knowing I’m at internal conflict with myself, or maybe he does know. I’m telling myself he’s not asking for money, he just wants something to eat. What do I lose by sharing my kilishi?
But also again, why should I share my kilishi? I’m hungry too. I’m counting pennies. Should I really be feeling bad? There’s a lesson in there about the idea that we can only give/share when we have more than we need, but that’s a story for another day. As I’m having this battle of wills with myself, trying really hard to keep ignoring mute guy, a guy selling jewelry behind me calls out, “Ada, coman buy wristwatch na, I wan go home, rain don beat me.”
I want to tell him my name is not Ada, I want to ask him wetin concern me with his going home, but I also tell myself he’s probably promised himself just one more sell then he’ll escape the rain and go home and I want to tell him if I could afford to, I would totally help him make the sell, instead, I just block both him and my inner voice out.
Mute guy has finally gone away, a piece of my kilishi falls to the ground, I’m tempted to pick it up,if only to show I’m as unwilling to share with the ground as I was with mute guy. The other passengers are arriving and I ‘m glad to no longer be the only one by the bus. One of the women from the bus buys something from loud guy, and I’m happy for his sale.
Featured Image: Fine Art America