Jude Idada Narrates His Tearful Experience With LASTMA (Very Inspiring)
I beg you to read this piece till the end. You will laugh. You will learn. You will feel sorry…
His vivacious spirit oozed out from the phone call.
“Good morning sir, this is your Taxify driver, …….. I got a request from you and I am here, ready to serve.”
I smiled as I listened to him.
A couple of minutes later, I was in his car heading to Marina.
It was a ride filled with laughter.
And interesting stories.
He told me of his journey from his secondary school in his village in the East to University in the North and then National Youth Service in the west before working in the South South before losing employment and having to return back to Lagos to hustle through Taxify.
His spoken English didn’t have any trace of any Nigerian tribal accent but instead had a pronounced British accent.
When I asked him how come he had achieved that.
He laughed and then said.
“When i was small, in the village, My father who was an English teacher had an igbo accent which was so strong, and comical, even we who in the village all had thick accents laughed at him. So, I swore, that I would never be like him. So I would always listen to BBC service on the radio and mimic the accents I heard. So now when I go back to the village for Christmas everybody calls me ‘Whiteman’. And if you add that to the fact that I am fair in colour, you can imagine how the name fits. Even my parents now call me that too. But I am fully Nigerian in my thoughts. That is why i made sure that I lived some of my life in the North, West, East and South South. In fact I speak 9 different languages, Igbo of course, Hausa, Fulfude, Yoruba, Edo, Urhobo, Ijaw, Efik and Ibibio. It is a duty I take seriously. Where I live, people I live with, I keep my ears open and listen, then I beg them not to speak to me in Pidgin or English, but only their language. In a months I am able to hold full conversations with them in their own language. So you see, I am a Nigerian White Man who speaks 9 tribal languages in addition to fluent Waffi, Baffi and Las Gidi Pidgin.”
He told me how patriotic he was.
And how much he believed in project Nigeria.
He told me of a conference he wanted to attend in the United States and was refused a visa.
So he said to the interviewer.
“If you say we are the ones going to your country to stay and make money that is why you do not want to grant us visas. Why don’t you lead by example. Return the visa fees of the Nigerians you refuse visas. Show us that making money is not the sole intention of this visa scheme you guys are pulling here. You all know Nigerians come here en masse, and you will refuse over 90% of the applications. Show us that you are better than us. Give us back our money. So we know that you are good people, and when we go to your country finally we will be good too. We will abide by your laws and return back when we are supposed to return. But if you show us that it is all about sense right from here in your Embassy, then we have no choice but show you that it is about sense when we get to your country. But for your knowledge, I am proudly Nigerian and I would always return back to this country. So just know that you have refused the visa of one Nigerian who was sure to come back and that you have convinced me through your action that the government of the United States is a 419 government who in the name of visa fees are stealing millions of dollars from poor countries all over the world.”
He said the visa officer just looked at him without speaking and when he was then simply said.
“Please when your circumstances change and you have another reason to visit the United States, please apply again.”
To which he responded.
And to which the visa officer responded with a cheerful smile.
He said his accent must have made his insult come across as a compliment as Pidgin English spoken with a British accent sounds like different things to different people.
When we got to Marina.
He parked a short distance from the NPA building.
As I was supposed to pick up something from my sister-in-law who was making her way down.
We weren’t there for a minute when a LASTMA vehicle pulled alongside the car and the officials jumped out.
They were all shouting.
“Wrong parking you no see the no parking sign here?”
He was petrified for a moment and confused.
“Come out of your car!”
They had put a metal rod behind the front tire.
He began to speak.
In his British accent.
One of the LASTMA officials.
The female laughed before she said.
“Oyinbo repete, abeg mister man, please come out of your car before we mess you up.”
I told the driver to step out as the other LASTMA official had begun to practically drag him out of the now open door.
I also stepped out myself and walked over to the female officer.
“Madam, I am so sorry, he just stopped here barely a minute ago in order for me to pick up a package from my brother’s wife.”
“Oga, you are not the one we are arresting. It is him. He is a driver. He should know the rules. The parking is clear. No parking or you pay fine of N50,000.”
I looked over at the sign that was hidden behind an NURTW shack beside which were other parked painted taxis.
I turned back to her.
“But Madam, this sign is hidden. We didn’t see it. And see all these taxis that are already parked here. We thought that since they were parked here, then it wasn’t an offence to park here.”
“Isn’t your car Uber or Taxify?”
“It is Taxify.”
“Okay. All these taxis are painted taxis. They pay taxes to the state government. They are legitimate. They are our people. Taxify knows the rule my brother, leave the driver let him answer his name, you can go and do your business. It is him that have chopped gbese not you.”
One of the LASTMA officials got behind the wheel of the Taxify and revved the engine, about to zoom off.
The Taxify driver looked over at me.
He was petrified.
The woman shouted at him.
“Mister Oyinbo Repete, enter your vehicle and follow us to our office. You must pay the N50,000 and we will let your car go.”
“Please madam, I beg you in the name of the Most High Benevolent God. I was parked here barely a minute…”
“I am not understanding your Engris, enter your moto.”
She said it laughing and the others laughed alongside her.
“This is my first trip for the day, I virtually have seven hundred naira with me, this car is not mine. I am on a weekly lease and I have to pay N35,000 a week to the owner.”
“The Lagos State Govinment is now the owner of your vehicle Mister Oyinbo Repete, you are gonna be payin him N50,000 before he is giving you back your vehicle. Is it not how you do in London when they catch your vehicle there?”
“I do not live in London, Ma.”
“But you are speaking Oyinbo like a london living, but Lagos hustling.”
She was mimicking an American accent instead of a British accent.
They others laughed louder as she turned to them and said in Yoruba.
“Njẹ Emi ko sọrọ Gẹẹsi bi ẹnikan ti n gbe ni London?”
They responded laughing loudly.
“Mister Oyinbo Repete, enter your moto and follow him to our office, or he will be driving there alone and you will be climbing okada to go find the money to come and bail out your moto. If I am you, I will be enter my moto and discuss with the driver maybe he will change his mind.”
I heard it clearly.
The sign that the matter could be resolved.
The Taxify driver heard it too.
He looked over at me.
His face masked in misery.
Just then my brother’s wife called me on the phone, I picked up the call and she asked where I was as she had come down from the building and was looking around for me.
I looked up and saw her a short distance away.
I waved at her.
She waved back and walked down towards us.
I cut the call and looked over at the Taxify just as it was speeding away with the LASTMA official and the driver inside.
The female LASTMA official looked over at me and said.
“Go and do your business, sir. The matter will be settled in our office.”
“Please madam, give me a minute let me pick my package, I will be back.”
“Back for what, Sir.”
“Just a minute.”
I ran across the road, gave my sister-in-law a hug, collected the package, told her I will call her later and explain as she bombarded me with questions of concern, then I ran back across the road to the LASTMA officials that were now standing around the pick up truck.
“Madam, please can you take me to your office?”
“I need to go help the driver.”
“He is a Taxify driver. He is not your driver. He knows how these things are done. When we catch you, you drop your rider and you follow us and pay your gbese. Please leave him alone.”
It was interesting how she could speak good English and switch to speaking like a half educated lady in a heartbeat.
“I truly can’t. I need to help him.”
“How do you want to help him, tell me and I can call my officer in his car and tell him to stop because once he enters our office, it is finished. He must pay the N50,000.”
“And before he enters?”
“That one it is you that will tell us how much of that money you can pay.”
“I can’t pay any of it. I just want to see if I can explain to your superior and see if he will change his mind.”
“LASTMA does not change her mind o. It is only money that LASTMA understands. Don’t waste your time. If that vehicle enters our office, it is only N50,000 and N1,000 for gate that will bring it out.”
“I understand, but I will try. Please take me there.”
“Ah you London living too? This one that your hair is like Rasta so.”
“No. I am Lagos living.”
“Then do like a Lagos living then, leave the man, Taxify driver will find the money.”
“Okay let me pay you to take me there?”
“How much do you charge?”
“If you seat behind our vehicle it is N500, back seat N1000, front seat beside me N1500.”
“My legs are long, I will seat on the front seat beside you.”
“Okay, lets go.”
She turned to the other officials and said to them in Yoruba.
“Awọn oniṣẹ ẹṣẹ ti jẹ ki a lọ”
I held in my laughter as the meaning sank in, because what she had said was – Workers of iniquities, let us be going.
The irony of it all.
I got in beside her and they drove away, with my brother’s sister staring at us from the other side of the road in concern.
In the car the lady said to me.
“Why do you want to help the driver?”
“Because it is the right thing to do, you cannot abandon people when they get into trouble.”
“But he caused the trouble for himself.”
“I told him to park there.”
“If you tell him to jam a person crossing the road, will he jam the person?”
“Of course not.”
“Then it is his problem. He is the driver. He is the one that should obey the rules of the road. Let him carry the load that his head has caused.”
“It is just not right.”
“Okay, how much of that N50,000 can you pay and I can call my officer right now.”
She showed me her phone.
“I am just taking my chance.”
“Ahhh but we are wasting petrol na.”
“I am paying you N1500 for the seat.”
“But what of the petrol, we charge for that one too.”
“You didn’t say anything about that.”
“I thought we were going to settle how much you will pay to let the driver go that is why, but if you say you are not settling then you have to pay for petrol o.”
“How much is that?”
“Okay just make it N2000 for sitting in front seat and the petrol.”
“Ahh, you are a good man o. You are not even pricing it.”
“Well, as long as the driver is okay, then I am okay.”
“Did he do you Juju?”
“So you can only help someone if they have done you Juju?”
“In Lagos, it is not clear eye for you to be fighting for someone you don’t even know. Someone that you will pay money for driving you. It is not like he was driving you for free.”
“If we are understanding of the plight of each other, don’t you think Lagos will be a great place to live in?”
“Yes, but if we break the law, we must pay the price.”
“I agree, that is why I said I will go to your superior and make a humanitarian and compassionate plea. The law has provisions where a superior officer can use discretionary powers and waive part of or the whole of the penalties stipulated by law.”
She looked at me for a moment.
The other two officers who had been quiet were looking at me too.
The one at the back said in Yoruba.
“O dabi eni pe o jẹ amofin.”
I looked back at him and answered.
“I am not a lawyer.”
The woman glanced at me and said.
“So you understand Yoruba?”
“Just enough to get by.”
“I see. So what work do you do?”
“I am a writer.”
“No, I write novels, films, plays, stuff like that.”
“Ahhh, so that is why you are growing your hair like Wole Soyinka.”
I saw her eyes go to the ring on my finger, then travel back up to me.
“Are you Ogboni?”
“No, it is just a normal ring.”
“That is what Ogboni people say. It is just a normal ring. In this work, we see things. So tell me why do you want to help the driver?”
“I have honestly told you why.”
“You can’t just be helping someone because of nothing. You must be gaining something.”
“I am not gaining anything.”
“If you tell us, we can all gain from it too, or you don’t want to share.”
They didn’t laugh.
Instead they stared at me.
Just then my phone rang. It was my brother. His wife had called him.
I took the call.
He asked his questions.
I promised to call him back as I was still handling issues.
Then I hung up.
The woman spoke.
“Your family is worried about what you are doing?”
“They will be okay.”
“Hmmm. So you are truly doing this because you are a Mister Nice Guy?”
“I am doing it because I am human.”
“And we are animals?”
“I didn’t say so. You are just doing your job that’s all. And I respect that, and I appreciate your service. Without you Lagos will be a nightmare. So thank you very much.”
The one at the back said in Yoruba.
“Eyi jẹ oloselu kan.”
I turned back to him and guessed what he meant from the few words I knew and said.
“I am not a politician.”
She laughed and replied.
“But you are using sweet words to romance us.”
“Yes na. Can’t you see how we are all smiling.”
“But I am saying the truth. You people are doing great work and we all should be very grateful for the sanity you bring to the city.”
“It is nice to hear someone in the public say that to us.”
“A lot of people feel the same way, they just do not get to say as often as they should. But maybe that is why this has happened to us today, so that you can get to hear the appreciation we have for you and the high esteem we hold you all in. Maybe it is an opportunity for everyone of us to look behind the masks we all wear in our course of duties and see that there is a human being capable of normal feelings and rationale thought. And in doing just that, maybe today we have an opportunity to discover each other, understand our individual struggles and somehow find a way to make this city work, while we hold on to our humanity. Lagos is full of people not beasts, and it is through things like this, that we find that out, if we want to. I see you. I see you all. And you are just as human as I am. People just trying to do their job to earn a living. People trying to make living my life a little better, in a system that does not full appreciate or reward them for what they do. Just the same way that the Taxify driver has put himself in trouble because he was trying to accommodate me his client. To make my life a little easier. So I want to help him because I honour and appreciate his service, just the same way as I appreciate it and I honour your service. We are all one in the same big struggle. I will do all I can to help that driver, even if it means paying the N50,000 just the same way as I will do what I can to help all of you because I know that if your take home pay cannot take you home, then in your bid to survive and get home, your true self begins to change and the monster that is inside all of us, begins to rear it’s ugly head. I know this is not the real you, it is just the you, that the hard times have created. But today is an opportunity for me to show you the real me, and you to show me the real you, just like I am showing the Taxify driver the real me, and he will somehow show me the real him.”
The official at the back seat responded.
“Sir, but still we have to gain something for ourselves from all this thing o. There is a reason God say we should arrest that Taxify driver today. So tell us, why are you trying to help him. Is there something he is doing for you? Let us see if we can help you do it too. This is Lagos. We know more about it than all that Oyinbo he is speaking.”
There was a tinge of disappointment in my voice.
I hid it as I spoke.
“He was just taking me around, first to NPA to pick up something from my brother’s wife, then to the High Court to swear an affidavit so I can get back my old airtel number, then to a studio at Racecourse to check out their facilities before he takes me back home.”
The one driving then said.
“Ahhh, okay, we can take you to High court, we have our man there, N5,000 he will do the affidavit for you. Racecourse is close to the High court we can take you there, you add N2500 and where is it you are living we can take you there too for N5,000 here for anywhere on the island including Ikoyi, N10,000 for Victoria Island and Lekki reach Jakande. Every other place we will negotiate.”
“You will do that?”
“Yes, full service o. Go slow does not use to hold us. We will clear the way. N20,000 for everything and we will carry you for 4hours to anywhere in Lagos, but you will fill our tank.”
“But this is a government vehicle.”
“Yes and it is government work we are doing.”
The lady who had been looking at me as the other one spoke then said.
“He is just joking.”
“I am not joking sir.”
She turned to him and spoke harshly to him in Yoruba.
“Ṣe o fẹ fi wa sinu ipọnju loni? Ṣe o le ri pe ọkunrin yii kii ṣe eniyan ti o ni eniyan?”
I smiled as the words sunk in.
What she had said to him was – You want to put us in trouble today? Can’t you see that this man is not an ordinary man?
Then she turned back to me and said.
“You are a good man. I will call my officer to stop the car and let the Taxify driver go, whatever it is that God touches your heart to give us to buy something to eat and drink, we will say thank you.”
She then started calling.
It didn’t ring.
She looked at me and said.
“His phone is not going. Maybe he switched his phone off. You see I wanted to help just like you want to help him.”
We drove on.
She glanced over at me and saw my crucifix.
“You are a Catholic?”
“I am a moslem.”
“Good to know.”
“But I went to a Christian school. I know a lot about the Bible. I like that Good Samaritan story. That is what you are doing now sebi. Being a good Samaritan.”
“I am just looking out for another person who is in a bad place.”
“Same thing as the Samaritan.”
Then she fell silent.
We finally got their office.
Just then my phone rang again.
It was an unsaved number.
I picked it.
I heard the British accent of the driver.
“Sorry sir, I am at their office and they are insisting I pay the N50,000. I am so sorry. I have been pleading with the driver but he didn’t listen. I should have ended the trip so you can order another one. I don’t even…”
“I am here.”
“Here at the office. I told them to bring me here.”
“Oh my God. They said you had abandoned me to my fate. They said the riders put us in trouble and then leave us to bear the consequences…”
“I will never do that.”
“I wasn’t sure. I didn’t believe him as he said all those things, because I could feel your energy in the car. I wasn’t sure if you would come for me, but I knew you were going to help me somehow. I…”
I walked into the compound with the female LASTMA official and saw him just standing in front of one of the offices.
He turned just at that moment and saw me.
And he ran to me and hugged me.
He kept whispering to me.
Over and over again.
And when he let me go.
There was a small gathering around us.
The female LASTMA official was speaking to another senior officer.
Then she turned to me and said.
“I have spoken to my boss. He said he can go.”
“Without a fine?”
The driver fell to his feet and began to cry.
I bent down and helped him up to his feet as he kept saying as he sobbed.
“There is hope for this country I tell you. There is hope.”
When I looked up at the small crowd of LASTMA officials and Touts.
The female LASTMA official was crying too.
April 9, 2019
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