A romantic short story on a love affair between a Nigerian bus
stop tout and an Arab street girl beggar in the city of Lagos
seven years ago. The events in this story happened in 1998, in
the city of Lagos in Nigeria.
The sun is going westward. The climate is calm.
Peripatetic Hadiyat is with her family in the midst of the other
families of itinerant Arab street beggars under the flyover in
front of the National Stadium in Lagos. There are several yellow
minibuses and some motorbikes used for public transportation
at the bus stop with the drivers, conductors and the menacing
touts disliked by everybody, except themselves and their
employers. And they are there, because of the numerous
commuters that cannot avoid coming to the bus stop, because it
is a central place for public transport. There are so many
commuters thronging the bus stop by the main gate of the
stadium. Some of the commuters are sports enthusiasts who
come to practice their respective sports at the stadium, white
collar and blue-collar workers and traders. Many of the petty
traders have found enough space under the flyover to sell their
goods. These commuters are the targets of these Arab beggars
and looking at their cheerful faces, they seem to be happy with
the commuters who have been kind and generous to them. As
one can see the beggars accosting the commuters at the bus
stop, those inside the buses and those outside the buses and
also going to accost the people in cars and other vehicles on the
road as they slow down on getting to the bus stop or as the
traffic wardens stop them at the junction of the stadium. They
all make a colourful scene.
Hadiyat is the most attractive of all the young teenage Arab
daughters of the beggars and there are only few of them. And
she is the oldest at 15 with the physical features of a nubile
maiden. The touts are often teasing, taunting and harassing
these attractive Arab girl-beggars and have become a public
nuisance and menace to their parents and others. Their parents
have always reported them to the local authorities. But, the
touts have been threatening to expel the Arab beggars from the
bus stop, because they are illegal immigrants who should have
been deported long ago. This fact has made the Arab beggars to
curry the favours of the touts and local authorities until they will
leave for their own countries. Most of them are from the
republics of Chad and Niger.
Sule is one of the leaders of the gangs of touts at the bus stop
and motor park under the flyover and he lusts after Hadiyat. He
is always teasing and taunting her to tickle her fancy and her
parents frown at his overtures toward their beloved daughter
and they always scold her to beware of him and to avoid him
like a plague. But, she has a natural affection for Sule, because
he is such a funny gangling young man who seems fearless as
she sees him cursing, swearing and threatening the bus drivers
and conductors. And he is always giving her money everyday.
He even tells her to save the money and he really tickles her
Sule is smoking a cigarette and teasing Hadiyat in his mother
tongue, the Yoruba language spoken by the Yorubas and
millions of those in Lagos and the rest of the localities of
Western Nigeria. Hadiyat giggles as she goes to accost some
cars slowing down at the bus stop and Sule goes to confront the
drivers and conductors of the buses stopping at the bus stop to
extort illegal fees and levies from them. He is a public menace
and nuisance tolerated by all the bus drivers and conductors for
his rough and tough character. He is threatening an elderly bus
driver he calls Baba Mushin.
“Baba Mushin, where is your money? Wazo! Oya, answer me!
Give me the money!” Sule barks at him in the Yoruba language.
“I will give you when I come back. We have just got the bus
released from the police station,” Baba Mushin says plaintively.
“That’s a big lie! Give me the money or you will not carry any
passenger here today. Wazo. Oya! Quick! Don’t waste my time,”
Sule yells, contorting his face to frighten the elderly man who
could be as old as his father.
“Sule, please. I say I will pay the fee when I return from Mushin.
I promise,” he pleads.
“That’s rubbish!” Sule shouts curtly.
Sule goes to stand in front of Baba Mushin’s bus and blocks his
way with threats of dealing with him. Then, he tries to damage
the wiper. Baba Mushin yells at him. The other fellow touts
come to rally round Sule and on seeing the ruthless dispositions
of Sule and his gang, Baba Mushin tells his bus conductor to
give Sule the money. The sum of 50 Naira popularly called
“Wazo” by the touts, “danfo” drivers and conductors in Lagos.
“God has saved you today! If you did not pay, I would have
destroyed your wiper and there is nothing you will do. Try any
rubbish and we will report you to Chairman and that is the end
for you in Surulere,” Sule says and snarls.
Baba Mushin curses and hisses.
“C’mon! Get out of the way and let me go! Vagabonds!”
Sule and his gang gave way and the elderly looking driver drives
away. The other gangs of touts are busy harassing the other bus
drivers and conductors stopping at the bus stop. Once they
collect the illegal fees or levies, they let the buses go and return
to their corners at the bus stop or under the flyover. They spend
some of their earnings on their addictions such as taking hard
drugs, smoking cigarette or hemp, drinking alcoholic drinks and
other beverages, patronizing the street girl-child prostitutes and
other lusts of the flesh. Sule gives some of his earnings to
Hadiyat and her family, jokingly telling them that he is paying
the bride price of Hadiyat. Her parents will smile and pretend to
appreciate his generosity, but they will sneer and curse him as
he turns his attention away from them. “The infidel. Bastard!”
Hadiyat’s father always curses him and the other Arab beggars
also despise the touts, except their bosses who profess the
same faith of Islam with them.
Hadiyat comes to accost the buses dropping and picking up
passengers at the bus stop and Sule sees the opportunity to
display his gallantry to impress his fellow touts and others
around. He goes to her and calls her “My beautiful white wife.”
His buddies hail him. Others jeer and wave his claim off in
dismissal, saying that the Arabs don’t give their beautiful
daughters away to strangers and non-Arabs. Because, they’re
racist in inclination and their Islamic religion forbids them to
intermarry with “infidels”. But, Sule’s buddies say that Sule has
no other intentions, except to sleep with Hadiyat for the thrill of
it and boast about it. And they are sure that he will sooner or
later do so. And those who agreed cross their fingers with those
who disagreed in a bet. Sule says that he has not been giving
her money for nothing. That he will reap wherever he sows. And
at this point he playfully pats Hadiyat’s bottom. She frowns and
slaps his offensive hand off. And she warns him not to do so
again. But he laughs at her warning and begins to dance like a
clown as he goes on with his work shamelessly. His buddies
join him in the comical dance and mimic their favourite native
Yoruba songs. Many onlookers find them amusing, but others
sneer at them calling them names such as “No future ambition,
Later in the night, the bus stop is becoming calm, as the number
of commuters has reduced with the bus drivers and conductors
all leaving for their respective homes or elsewhere at the close
of work. The traders are also packing up their goods and the
beggars are retreating to their sleeping places nearby under the
flyover or somewhere else they have chosen to pass the night.
Hadiyat and her family live in a makeshift shack under the
flyover. Sule often passes the night in any of the minibuses
parked under the flyover left in his care by the owners or
caretakers. Inside these buses, touts often sleep with their
girlfriends or girl-child prostitutes and Sule has been planning to
sleep with Hadiyat inside one of them anytime the opportunity
comes his way. He has been inviting her, but she has not
succumbed to his advances.