By Marymartin Okoabu:
Dauda wiped the perspiration from his face with his white handkerchief and looking at it, he noticed it was gradually turning brown. He angrily threw it away and began the long trek towards the airport. He checked his Rolex wrist-watch strapped to his left wrist and doubled his steps. Not that he believed it would take him to the airport, but a least he was a eating a good distance with his long strides while he watched for a taxi.
But where was a taxi when you needed one? He had his boss to blame for all this. He had given him tangible reasons why he shouldn’t work on 24th- his family were in Lagos, if he closed by 4:00pm, finding a taxi to the airport would be very difficult, but his boss had remained unmovable like the mountain of Kilimanjaro. Dauda sighed and checked the time again, he was gradually loosing time. He trippled his steps, almost running, maybe he would get to the airport on his feet, but the question was; would he be on time?
A taxi passed by then and he shouted, surprised he had almost missed it.
“International airport!” He saw the driver shook his head and he cursed inwardly. And mehn, he need to keep his mind as coordinated as his feet. He saw another taxi with the corner of his eyes and quickly flagged it down. He opened the taxi and got inside when the driver slowed to a halt in front of him, only then did he say his destination.
“International airport,” this taxi must take him, he was not coming down.
“One thousand naira”
“Make we dey go, make we dey go”
They arrived the airport and Dauda paid the man with a little extra ontop before running towards the entrance with his briefcase, and shirt flying out of his pants. He stopped when he noticed two security men coming towards him. Oh no! He must look like a thief. He brought out his ID and showed them.
“I’m in a hurry, my flight leaves in…”
One of them glanced at the ID and waved him off. He grabbed it immediately and remembered to tell his legs to walk briskly instead of running.
He had finished his boarding pass and was waiting patiently for his flight to be announced. His facial muscles were more relaxed and his shirt back where it was supposed to be. The next voice that came on the microphone spoilt everything.
“Please we are sorry to announce that the flight from kano to Lagos has been cancelled due to technical reasons. Passengers are to converge tomorrow as by then it would be resolved.
Dauda felt his heart did a backflip before beginning to beat erratically. His thoughts went to his family, how could he miss Christmas with them again after all the promises he had made? His wife would never forgive him again and his daughter, oh his Kadiyat will cry all through. He slowly made his way up amidst the curses roaming the air. This country was really fucked. Oh may Allah forgive him. Now a taxi again to a hotel. He passed a woman dragging her box angrily and speaking loudly to her phone.
“Night bus? You know how much I hate travelling with…”
Dauda didn’t wait to hear more and hurried his steps. Yes, he hated travelling with bus but this was no option. His family was worth the sacrifice.
It was 8:00pm and Dauda was on his way to Lagos. He was sitting behind, with his legs caged by the loads around. He tried to move his legs but he was really trapped. This is serious. It seems this was part of the sacrifice he had to make.
Dauda might have fallen asleep because the next thing he felt was the vehicle suddenly coming to a halt, jerking him awake.
“What is it?” He whispered to the air.
The driver came and checked under the bus. Was a human trapped there? Dauda thought. The driver shook his head resignedly and Dauda knew this would not end well. The driver tried to start the vehicle but it only coughed out smoke and went off immediately.
Oh Ya Allah!! Dauda rubbed his face. What is really happening? Is this a bad omen or something?
The driver tried every trick he had up his sleeves to get the vehicle moving, the passengers prayed, Dauda praying the hardest for Allah to drive the bus himself. But the bus remained in the same spot and Allah did not come down, maybe he was too busy.
Finally the driver and passenger came to an agreement- they were not going anywhere that night, so it was best they came down and find a solution for the night. The driver convinced two men to help push the bus to a safer place while Dauda watched from a distance, clutching his box very hard, his fingers biting into his palm. It was almost midnight in the middle of nowhere, what was he supposed to do? Getting hold of himself, he checked his location and noticed they were in Tudun wada, Zaria, Kaduna state. He checked his Google map for directions to the nearest hotel. He walked with some group of men and women and headed for the motel.
Forty minutes later, he was lying on his bed and speaking with his wife. She was not so happy but understood. “Okay we will see you tomorrow whenever you come but make sure you are here tomorrow. Please stay safe,” she said and ended the call. So he had to make sure he was with his family tomorrow, that means going back to kano for his flight.
The next morning, Dauda was on the road as early as five. But getting to town where he would take a bus to kano, he met with a life changing experience. Where the villagers called town was no different from a ghetto. The whole place reeked badly of refuse, urine and excrements. Dauda covered his nose and tried to manoeuvre his way through the many gutters and pot holes that led to the bus park. The bike man who had carried him from the motel could not pass through the road and had given him directions. He had his eyes in search for the bus terminal when a hand clutched weakly to his trouser. He looked down to a small child looking up at him with hope in her eyes. She stretched out her hand and spoke a strange language.
“don Allah a ba nu kudi,”
Dauda was confused a bit, but raising his head in the direction she came, he got the picture clearly. They were baggars begging on Christmas day. This made his heart very heavy, as if a load was dropped heavily from heaven, and it transferred its weight to his feet making it difficult to take more steps forward. He turned fully to their direction and surprisingly his feet worked like magic and carried him to where they were.
“He opened his mouth and spoke clear English to the women sitting on the ground, some with babies in their arms, but the look on their faces told him he was speaking in strange tongue to them. He looked around and saw a young boy making his way towards them. The boy spoke in their language to them and turned to him and spoke English.
“I can interpret for you.”
“Okay that’s good,” Dauda smiled in a long time and continued, “where can we get a woman that can cook good food so we celebrate Christmas together?” Where had that decision come from, he did not know, but he knew he was in the right direction. The boy happily translated and Dauda saw the people faces beam up in happiness, showing their yellow coated teeth. Dauda raised the cuffs of his sleeves and made to sit on the ground beside a woman, but was taken aback when she offered him her wrapper. The shock stilled his hand from moving and she went ahead and spread it on the ground, and they all beckoned on him to sit. His buttocks obeyed and he sat. He felt his body shook with the torrents of emotions swirling through him, but controlled himself. The young boy came back immediately with a smiling woman. Her face were coated in thick pimples and Dauda could make out a dimple amidst the bumps on her face. Her headscarf was almost falling off her head, and she wore a different pair of slippers on her feet. It was obvious she had dressed in a hurry to meet him. He thanked the woman and explained what he wanted again. The boy translated the woman’s reply, telling him she would cook for free, she only needed the money for foodstuffs. This touched a soft part in his heart again. He brought enough money and gave the woman, who happily ran to the market and got to preparing.
And that was how Dauda celebrated his Christmas, with the beggars of Tudun wada community, and their smiles were enough to satisfy him. He made it part of his family to celebrate with the poor, not just on Christmas day, but every other days he could.