Forums Stories (drama) The Emancipation Of Jonbu

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    Atop his head, crown to his oblong
    face, resides half of an Afro. The other
    half is a shiny bald spot which
    gleamed in the faint light of a sun that
    had only just begun to rouse itself
    from its slumber. The line of
    demarcation between the fertile and
    the desert spot on his head was quite
    unstable, like the lines of lightning that
    gave illumination to the sky on a dark
    cloudy day. He must have been
    gunning for a neatly carved zigzag
    demarcation, something fancy,
    something his pals would view with
    admiration and wondrous fascination.
    The Harvey Specter of his clan would
    he be.
    “Apapa, Apapa……Tincan Island.”
    “Two more chance.”
    These phrases, regardless of whatever
    part of the city they were being belted
    out had become symphonies to the
    ears of the caller and the listener alike
    – that crude yet melodious and
    unforgettable rhythm. Poetic lines
    birthed into existence decades ago
    when the private-owned public transit
    system was introduced to the
    There was a burnt patch of skin just
    beneath the upward curve of his lower
    lip. A conspicuous emblem of some
    torturous event that had befallen him,
    possibly during one of the numerous
    altercations one would expect a person
    with his occupation would be prone to.
    Had the other party held a lighter to
    his mouth? Held him in a vice-like grip
    and pushed his face towards the
    embers of a burning flame? Or a less
    sensational incident like a spurt of hot
    oil freeing itself from its infuriatingly
    bubbly siblings in their charcoal-
    baked stainless steel home, seeking to
    evaporate into thin air, but somehow
    landing on flesh instead?
    His voice carried well at least forty
    feet away from wherever he stood.
    This made him the favourite of all the
    “Johnny Just Come” drivers who had
    only recently started picking up
    passengers at Biribiri Park. Oddly, the
    older drivers, older by virtue of the
    fact that they had become regulars at
    the park abhorred him with ferocious
    intensity. The side-talks and
    accompanying side-glances like darts
    towards an uncaring target were
    pretty obvious even to passengers like
    me who only wanted to get out of the
    park and on the road as quickly as
    Apparently, whatever camaraderie he
    shared with Biribiri Park’s “usual
    suspects” did not extend to his fees. He
    did his job well, called in the
    passengers as agreed and expected the
    drivers to do same by paying him his
    going rate without much ado. Failure
    to do this and the wrath of Jonbu
    would be incurred. That was what his
    colleagues called him. I could not
    decipher if that was his real name or a
    nickname. And like I had once told a
    friend I often bumped into at the park,
    I could bet my last penny that Jonbu’s
    name was actually “Johnbull” and as
    sung in the popular nursery rhyme,
    this Jonbu may coincidentally not
    know how to spell his name.
    Commuters at Biribiri Park however
    preferred to call him agbero – a word
    mostly used in the Western part of
    Nigeria to describe a tout majorly
    resident at busy motor parks.
    Regardless of the number of times
    some visited that park, the agbero
    name tag seemed to stick as a better fit
    for Jonbu and his colleagues. I guess it
    was a subconscious manner of
    distancing themselves from the
    personality of the agbero and thereby
    dehumanizing same.
    Under the fading dusk-tinted skies,
    one could still make out the scar
    streaks that lined his forearms, neck
    and parts of his face. His self-chosen,
    daily-worn and highly favoured
    uniform: a faded green-colored
    Danshiki with “BRF, he’s our man ooo”
    printed all over it – a souvenir from
    the 2007 elections did little to hide
    these fragments of mutilation. I could
    testify to how a few of the scars had
    gotten there. Jonbu never shied away
    from muscle tossing exercises.
    One of the drivers that frequented my
    destination had been a harbinger of
    one of these scars. Billy, a name I’d
    penned this particular one was quite
    the uppity one who thought himself
    better than everyone that passed
    through Biribiri Park – Commuter or
    otherwise. He never failed to inform
    anyone who cared to listen that he was
    a graduate of Political Science from
    Obafemi Awolowo University who was
    only doing this job because he
    possessed a passion for driving. As
    educated as he claimed he was, he had
    made a costly mistake of thinking he
    could outsmart unschooled Jonbu by
    paying him half of his fees after the
    latter had cried, called and beckoned
    commuters to board the former’s bus
    for over forty minutes.
    I vividly recall Jonbu latching his arm
    tightly around the steering wheel of
    the 14-seater grade D tokunbo van as it
    moved out of the park. Billy threw the
    first punch. Unflinching, Jonbu
    removed his dashiki which I was prone
    to believe he had at least four of, since
    that was the only outfit I’d ever seen
    on him. He dragged the driver
    completely out of the bus and
    proceeded to pummel him. Billy,
    fearing for his life, laid his sweaty,
    dusty hands on a dirt worn pipe object
    and dealt Jonbu a blow across the
    cheeks with it. At this point, some of
    the male passengers were already out
    of the bus, holding Jonbu back to
    prevent a deadly retaliation. All he
    could do as six arms held him stiff was
    to let out various blood-curdling
    expletives while Billy, face swollen, got
    into the bus and hurriedly drove out of
    the park, thoughtlessly leaving behind
    the three men who had saved him
    from being maimed.
    The next morning however, same old
    Jonbu was back at his work station
    already hired by another driver of a
    bus headed in my direction as well.
    Still taken aback by the incident from
    the day before, I decided to take a bike
    down to the next park which was just
    a ten minute ride from Biribiri.
    That was only one of the not so few
    clashes I’d seen Jonbu get involved in.
    He was ever conspicuous to the many
    individuals that trooped in and out of
    the motor park; his extra loud baritone
    voice setting him apart from the other
    agberos . Ironically, I’d caught him
    engaged in jovial conversation with a
    colleague and a soprano voice-type
    had been evident. I’d wondered if his
    get-up and vile demeanor was to make
    up for his lack of an “ agbero -tone”,
    which was crucial in this particular
    line of business. He was pretty good
    with the mimicry too.
    One could perceive the fascination
    with which Jonbu eyed the young men
    with their stiff starched shirts, well-
    tailored suits and pencil ties. They
    trooped into the park to catch a means
    of transportation every morning. Did
    he at solitary moments, imagine for
    himself a life free from altercations,
    from despondency, from stagnancy,
    from wages that always ended up in
    the pockets of alcohol panderers and
    cheap local courtesans. With the help
    of the government or philanthropists
    who were happy investing in the
    rehabilitation of young people like
    Jonbu, he could still be saved. He could
    turn out to be a decent young man
    with dreams of great successes burning
    up the soles on his feet, pushing to
    forge ahead against all odds.
    The salvation of Jonbu would be more
    difficult than I imagined as I was to
    find out one fateful morning he
    decided to act as a conductor for one
    of the buses I was journeying in. The
    bus wasn’t swiftly filled as expected, so
    the driver offered Jonbu some extra
    cash to ride with him while calling on
    passengers along the way. Jonbu came
    along and performed his duty
    accordingly. Some few minutes into
    the journey, the vehicle was packed
    full with Jonbu hanging his frame on
    the edge of the door way. Whenever
    the driver noticed a troop of law
    enforcement officers some metres
    away, he would alert Jonbu who in
    turn would squeeze his cologne-
    deficient and unwashed frame into the
    bus – head above the inhabitants
    seated on the first row, hands
    unsteadily hanging on to the backrest
    of the third row, chest and stomach
    serving as a canopy over the heads of
    the commuters on the second row, feet
    struggling for habitat within a space
    only large enough to accommodate the
    feet of the first occupant on the fourth
    “Please don’t step on me oooo.”
    “You are aware you could have
    reserved a seat for yourself.”
    “Stop leaning on me please.”
    These and more were the complaints
    and warnings let out by disgruntled
    “Abeg I no well ooo. Make nobody try
    me today.” Jonbu cussed back in fluent
    pidgin without missing a beat.
    “Na who una dey para for sef?”
    And then it was time to collect the
    fares. He started from the passenger’s
    seat beside the driver, shouting that he
    lacked smaller denominations to give
    back as change. Thus, everyone was
    expected to “give themselves brain”
    just as he had earlier warned. Affected
    passengers searched around for other
    passengers with smaller
    denominations, so they could get some
    or all of their change before handing
    over the larger denomination to Jonbu.
    A man on the third row handed Jonbu
    a N1,000 note and in irritation, he
    threw the money back at the
    passenger. He completed the collection
    of the other passengers’ fares before
    turning to the man. The N1,000 note
    was tendered again. This led to a
    further rant from Jonbu about how
    mentally challenged he was and how
    he would not shy away from an
    opportunity to exemplify his mental
    state to anyone who dared cross him.
    “If you are the true son of your father,
    throw that money at me again”. The
    man responds quietly, staring
    pointedly at Jonbu.
    “If you lack change to give me, then
    allow me come down.”
    Jonbu screams at the driver to stop the
    bus immediately all the while fuming
    and shouting. Spittle was beginning to
    form at the corners of his mouth. The
    bus stopped as was commanded, its
    occupants already having a foreboding
    of what was to happen. The man
    quietly made his way out of his seat
    and stepped out of the vehicle
    stretching his hand toward Jonbu for
    his N1,000 bill. Jonbu positioned
    himself formidably in front of the man
    and requested payment for the
    distance between the park and the
    present stop or he would be unable to
    return the money. He goes further to
    accuse the man of trying to gain one
    on him.
    The man stares at Jonbu pointedly,
    “Give me my money.”
    “Pay me my money, oga.” Jonbu
    There was an ominous silence which
    lasted a few seconds.
    Suddenly, the driver who hadn’t
    intervened in the brawl turned on the
    ignition and Jonbu jumped onto the
    edge of the vehicle’s doorway whilst
    urging the driver to pick up speed. As
    the bus gained momentum, the languid
    looking man shockingly jumped onto
    the edge of the doorway beside Jonbu
    and there ensued a tussle which led to
    the both of them tumbling off the bus
    while it was still in motion.
    There were loud screams and shocked
    gasps from all occupants as the bus
    came to a screeching halt some feet
    ahead of where both individuals had
    fallen. All the passengers except me
    rushed out of the bus immediately.
    There was great pandemonium as
    onlookers trooped to the scene. Jonbu
    and the man tumbled around in the
    dust each holding on tight to the
    other’s shirts. Insults, curses and
    threats were hurled at their long dead
    ancestors and yet unborn generations.
    I looked at my watch and decided at
    that point that I would have to
    sacrifice my N500 (the fare from
    Biribiri to my destination). I got down
    from the deserted bus, tip-toed past
    the scene and walked on down in the
    already scorching early morning sun
    to another bus stop – a ten minute
    walk ahead, leaving the gory scene of
    blood, dust and pretentious,
    unsympathetic onlookers behind. It
    brought back memories of Roman
    gladiator arenas I’d seen on TV.
    The next day, Jonbu could be heard
    crying out to all and sundry to make
    haste in order to clinch the two seats
    left in the bus going to Tincan Island. I
    could not fathom how he was able to
    mix near-death experiences with a
    yearning for daily bread. Biribiri no
    doubt served as an anodyne for Jonbu.
    Many weeks later, I heard him no
    more. It wasn’t a silence I noticed the
    instant it stopped. It must have been a
    month after he disappeared from the
    Park that I observed his absence. I was
    strangely curious about what may
    have happened to him. Had he moved
    on to a new park? Or found a new
    job? Moved out of the environs,
    maybe? After all, this was the same
    Jonbu that had always dared all odds
    to return to that one place he found
    bliss: Biribiri Park.
    That morning, I clinched the seat
    beside the driver of the bus I was
    boarding. It turned out to be Billy,
    renowned for his chatterbox
    He didn’t hide his surprise at the fact
    that I had chosen to sit beside him –
    one of the places in his bus I avoided
    like the plague. Five minutes into our
    journey, I introduced the topic of
    Jonbu which he was quick to latch on
    to like a bee to a honeycomb.
    “Whatever do you think happened to
    that agbero”? I asked, knowingly
    keeping my eyes on the road.
    “Which one?” He asked
    “Some Jonbu guy like that, the guy
    with the……” He didn’t allow me finish
    my sentence.
    “Oh Jonbu!” He responded lasciviously.
    “You didn’t hear?”
    I did not respond knowing fully well
    that he was still going to spill the
    “He mysteriously fell ill about a month
    ago. Rumour has it that he was
    poisoned by one of his wives. They’ve
    transported him to his village for
    “Oh!” I responded. “That’s sad.”
    A passenger in the seat behind us had
    apparently been listening in on our
    “No oooooo!” he jumped in. “That’s
    not what I hear.”
    “He win Canada Visa.” I could detect a
    hint of jealousy.
    “He travel last month.”
    I glanced sideways at Billy. He
    suddenly looked flustered. He
    definitely hadn’t been expecting
    anyone to challenge the tale he wished
    was true.
    “Where did you get your information
    from?”, he retorted rather sharply. “A
    friend of mine in this Park still spoke
    to him this morning”, he added, not
    wanting to come across as spreading
    false rumours.
    “He can’t win visa lottery. It is not
    possible. I even heard that this same
    Canada has banned…”
    The ongoing argument between the
    two men diminished into distant
    voices reaching out from miles afar.
    Biribiri had finally released Jonbu
    from its clasp. He had unintentionally
    added some amusement to my daily
    travels, just like the buses, the drivers,
    the commuters and the park itself.
    Would Biribiri have itself another
    Jonbu soon? I couldn’t tell, but
    regardless of whatever wind of fate
    had blown him out of the park, I
    wished him a bucketful of luck.

    #1291107 Reply
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    funny,i also wish him good luck too

    #1291184 Reply
    • "Posts & Comments"13062
    • ☆☆☆☆☆


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