Something interesting happened on my way to Oshodi this morning. At the park this rough mean-looking conductor also known as “agbero” in Yoruba was screaming for passengers, his vernacular oscillating between Yoruba and pidgin English.
“Oshod! Oshod!” He shouted angrily as I along with some other passengers scuttled for seats. There was this beautiful young lady who couldn’t throw caution and decorum to the wind but waited patiently until the bus was almost filled. Then she pleaded to sit by the agbero until somebody came down then she would pay for a proper seat.
The agbero didn’t even look at her pretty face, he hissed and shouted to the driver to move that why didn’t she rush when others were rushing. The girl started pleading in Yoruba and clean ‘oyinbo’ english; “please, ejó, help me out sir, I know you are a good man, never mind all this shout you have been shouting (people burst into laughter). Let me sit by your side please”.
Finally with much squeezing of face the agbero relented and she sat beside him. It was a tight squeeze but she didn’t complain but rather started praising the agbero. He in turn started teasing her, speaking (and sometimes spitting by mistake) into her face but the girl never looked away, she never let the smile leave her face. He asked her where she worked and she replied that she was a student in the University of Lagos (UNILAG) studying accounting. He teased her in Yoruba about her boyfriend and car (maybe asking why her boyfriend didn’t drop her at her destination…she laughed it off and continued to gist with the guy in Yoruba.
When she reached her junction the agbero alighted the bus for her to come down. She did and paid her transport fare, then the agbero told her to give him a peck on the cheek for being so ‘gentlemanly’. At this point some of us became indignant, haba! He had been teasing her since, he should let her go. Another argument almost ensued between the agbero and the passengers although it was not as if the agbero was really serious, he told her to go. Then it happened! She jumped forward and gave him a peck on the cheek! We all shouted, the agbero was quiet out of surprise. She then waved bye and ran down to her street.
The driver and other people started to hail the agbero, see hailing! The guy was just forming boss, saying he knew he was irresistible etc and others were yabbing (taunting) him, some were yabbing the girl and we moved on and suddenly the bus was quiet, show over. Then the agbero put his head down and became uncharacteristically quiet. The driver soon asked the guy why he wasn’t calling out bus-stop abi the girl don do am jazz (cast a spell on him). The agbero said something in Yoruba I didn’t get and then his voice became emotional and believe it or not HE STARTED CRYING. Others were now consoling him in Yoruba. When I asked what the problem was, the lady beside me explained that the agbero said he just realised he would never be able to get a girl like that in his life because he’s an uneducated bus conductor and she was going to be a graduate. He was weeping because he knew no girl of her class might ever do to him what that girl just did, to touch a dirty person like himself; that the girl is nice and well brought-up and if he had money he would have chased after her. So the passengers were consoling him in Yoruba that he would go higher in life and be able to marry a girl like that. He should not cry because itwas not the end of the road for him.
That really touched me.
For a moment in that agbero’s life, his facade of a street thug fell away and he was a vulnerable emotional aspiring young man, just like everybody else.