The time was 06:42 am and Ali was at the bus park already. A dark-skinned, slender young man stood in the distance screaming his lungs out ”Abuja, KayDee, Kano muje! Ba lokoci ba shege!”
After maneuvering through the crowd, Ali located where he can buy his ticket and stood in the queue. Few minutes later, it was his turn to purchase his bus ticket, ”nawa’n kudin’ Mota?” he asked politely.
”7620 Kano, 6520 Kaduna, 5520 Abuja. Where you deh go?” The ticketer responded,
”Ya ya mutumina? 6520!! Mai ya’ faru?” Ali asked, expecting no reply.
Why am I not from Abuja, Ali murmured to himself, 7620??? Grudgingly he counted his banknotes and paid. The ticketer read out his details as he was writing the manifest ”Bada Ali, Kaduna ko?” Ali nodded in agreement, although he was more interested in getting his balance.
The ticketer can write whatever he wants for all he cares as long as he gets on the bus he is good.
”Mallam, kao change mana… so nawa zan tam beka?” Ali asked.
The ticketer let out a shy smile, brandishing his brownish, long gone white dentition. He slowly took out two polymer notes from his wads of cash 50naira, 20naira then he let out a ”babu 10 naira Oogarh Ali, Kari ya ne, kani ma chanji mana”.
”Haba Oogarh, barin ya bari shago na, hinje nima chanji. Toh ba komi” Ali responded almost immediately.
Ali suggested he would rather wait or use the change to buy sachet water, after all he is hungry. Filling his stomach with water will make do for a while. He didn’t have anything to eat or drink before leaving his friend’s place that morning.
Ali had woken up earlier than usual, he was up before 4:30am, had his morning prayers by 5 am and left the face me I face you quarters by 5:26 am. On other days, he would still be sleeping at this hour. He doesn’t leave his bed till 6am, local man decided to wake up early and pray this morning because of his journey.
Sited at the far end of the bus, Ali spotted a food seller arranging her wares by the corner of the entrance of the park. He left his bag on the chair to signify that the seat has been taken. He is not losing this window-side seat to anybody this morning.
”Salam Wailekum Hajia” Ali greeted,
”Waleikum Salam Mallam” she responded.
”Akwai Tuwo Masara kwa?” he asked, looking into her tray and salivating on his thoughts of breakfast.
”Yakare Mallam, ama akwai Tuwo shinkafa de Tuwo acha” the food seller replied.
”toh kao tuwo shinkafa guda biyu” Ali ordered and watched as she served him a dish.
It was his favorite local delicacy. Tuwo shinkafa with draw soup, as she served him his bowl of breakfast. Ali could not help but see similarities in the way she held the spoon, the way she stirs the soup… He remembered his mother; she was the best cook there is. Every morning he will wake up to the sweet-smelling scent of draw soup from her mud kitchen, filling his nostrils, slowly making its way down to his stomach. Oh sweet mother, hadjia hauwa, it has been 3 long years since he saw his mother, felt the warmth of her embrace, enjoyed the sumptuous taste of her food. They don’t do food in this Lagos the way she does it. He realized how much he has missed his family in that instant.
”Mallam, gashi abinchin ka…… Mallam”, the food seller yelled out jerking Ali back to reality.
Ali collected his food, paid and walked towards the bus.
As he approached the bus, he went back to his thoughts, 3 years ago he made the brave decision to move to Lagos. Lagos is the land of honey, it’s where the government has chosen to develop and invest in and as a citizen, he is going to get his share. His sisters didn’t want him to go, he was the only son of his mother, yet the third of his father. He has always been the intelligent one, he was going to make the best use of his intelligence in Lagos.
Nuru his next-door neighbor and childhood friend was never as bright as he was and yet he is making a lot of money in Lagos. He is always sending money home to his mother and he must man up, this is his time.
Ali was done eating before he noticed something was missing.
”I left my bag here, Did anybody see my bag? Waya dauke mu jeka ?” Ali shouted, asking no one in particular.
Facing his seatmate he asked the since quiet hijab-wearing lady beside him,
”Alhaja dan Allah, please did you see my bag? I left my bag here, on this seat you must have seen it when you came in.”
”I’m sorry sir, I didn’t notice any bag here”. she responded calmly while nodding her head sideways.
He looked around, came down from the car, almost causing a scene. ”Where is my bag?”