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RoadofAgony
by
Joel Savage
The contents of this work including, but not limited to, the accuracy
of events, people, and places depicted; opinions exp...
Thanks to Dr. Frankie Asare-Donkoh, former
columnist of Daily Graphic, Accra-Ghana, for his
help on this book.
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Road of agony pdf

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it started in Africa, the place often referred to as the Dark Continent, in terms of colour. But there is something more associated to the term dark, which might be spiritual or might be the simple chapters of the normal growing life of the African. However, such an experience of the normal growing life is too tough to handle.

Babatunde is a young man, whose harsh experience after his father's untimely death still haunts him. Exposed to the world at a very tender age, he meets unpleasant situations, untold hardships, physical and mental suffering, coupled with frustration, which could have led him to his grave, but he survives every ordeal.

"Road of Agony" is a marvel of the humane, sorrowful, and lucid account, in a sharper, clearer image and understanding, of how corruption is within the police, border control officers, and the army in Africa. The writer has given the truest account of what happened to him, written in a startling manner as an African writer.

it started in Africa, the place often referred to as the Dark Continent, in terms of colour. But there is something more associated to the term dark, which might be spiritual or might be the simple chapters of the normal growing life of the African. However, such an experience of the normal growing life is too tough to handle.

Babatunde is a young man, whose harsh experience after his father's untimely death still haunts him. Exposed to the world at a very tender age, he meets unpleasant situations, untold hardships, physical and mental suffering, coupled with frustration, which could have led him to his grave, but he survives every ordeal.

"Road of Agony" is a marvel of the humane, sorrowful, and lucid account, in a sharper, clearer image and understanding, of how corruption is within the police, border control officers, and the army in Africa. The writer has given the truest account of what happened to him, written in a startling manner as an African writer.

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Road of agony pdf

  1. 1. RoadofAgony by Joel Savage
  2. 2. The contents of this work including, but not limited to, the accuracy of events, people, and places depicted; opinions expressed; permission to use previously published materials included; and any advice given or actions advocated are solely the responsibility of the author, who assumes all liability for said work and indemnifies the publisher against any claims stemming from publication of the work. This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. “Road of Agony,” by Joel Savage. ISBN 978-1-62137-074-1 Published 2012 by Virtualbookworm.com Publishing Inc., P.O. Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842, US. 2012, Joel Savage. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Joel Savage. Manufactured in the United States of America.
  3. 3. Thanks to Dr. Frankie Asare-Donkoh, former columnist of Daily Graphic, Accra-Ghana, for his help on this book.
  4. 4. Preface In the last week of January 1976, my father died mysteriously, leaving behind his wife and eight children. I was just nineteen but matured enough to realise that I had a big responsibility lying on my shoulders, as the eldest son of my parents. Shortly after completing my secondary school, the desire to continue my education wasn’t there any longer. Instead, I chose to travel and work, hoping that could help the welfare of my family. I travelled extensively, experiencing bullies, corruption, beatings, and lockup. In West Africa, I covered Republic of Togo, Republic of Benin, Nigeria, Republic of Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone. Some of these countries I visited had its own story and experience. My story is just not a story about me, but also about the bad attitude, vicious character, mercilessness, and wickedness of other people I encountered on the road of agony. I count myself to be one of the luckiest person living in this world today, fortunate enough to unfold this true story.
  5. 5. To my mother Nancy Elizabeth Hudson (Savage)
  6. 6. Contents Journey to Abidjan ......................................................................... 1 Journey to Nigeria .......................................................................... 5 The Cruel Part of Life.................................................................. 17 Soldiers on the Rampage............................................................. 20 Death of a Former Boss.............................................................. 24 Behind Bars................................................................................... 30 The Separation.............................................................................. 38 Behind the Steering Wheel Again............................................... 43 Living in the Slum Neighbourhood........................................... 48 Freetown, Sierra Leone................................................................ 52 The Road to Gambia.................................................................... 66 Nigeria Closes Its Borders........................................................... 74 The Kidnapped Scene.................................................................. 80 Preparations to Spain................................................................... 84 Meeting an Old Friend................................................................. 93 Babatunde Sees Obanko............................................................ 102 Living at Centelles ...................................................................... 111 The Arrest of Monk................................................................... 115 To England.................................................................................. 117
  7. 7. 1 Journey to Abidjan Babatunde boarded the Accra-Abidjan-bound bus, ready for Ivory Coast, to see his friend, Tandu, an artist by profession. He migrated to Dabou, a small village in Abidjan, a couple of years ago, to look for greener pastures. Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of 322,462 sq. km. (124,503 sq. ml.). In the north, the country shares borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, Ghana, by the east and in the south, the Gulf of Guinea, by the Atlantic. Ivory Coast has more than sixty ethnic groups, usually classified into five principal divisions. The Baoules, in the Akan division, comprises the single largest group of the population. As a former colony of France, Ivory Coast’s national language is French. The country attained its independence on August 7, 1960. The late Felix Houphouet-Boigny was the first president of the country. The Ivorian economy heavily depends on the agricultural sector. Principal exports are petroleum, cocoa, coffee, pineapple, and tropical woods. Abidjan is the former capital city of Ivory Coast. The current is Yamoussoukro, yet Abidjan holds its position as the most important commercial and banking centre in the country. The city is extremely beautiful. The journey to Ivory Coast wasn’t a pleasant one. Too much check points on the road and the frequent demand of
  8. 8. Road of Agony 2 bribe from the travellers by the corrupt French-Speaking immigration officers rendered him penniless by the time he arrived in Abidjan, the capital. It was an ordeal every passenger went through. Travellers were subjected to a series of suffering and harassment at the hands of the immigration officers. Those with the requisite travelling documents seemed to suffer the most. The reason is that those with the right documents only created a bureaucracy and wasted the immigration officers’ time, while those without documents paid as demanded and moved on. In effect, travellers with documents like passports and travel certificate don’t bring income to those officers; hence, the officers intentionally put them through rigorous procedures. To avoid losing money from those with valid documents, the officers had made it compulsory that anyone crossing the border would have to pay the bribe. What they hated most was when one tried to avoid payment or bargained to pay less than what they demand. The more you beg them for consideration, the more these immigration officers treat you badly. They were merciless and inhuman. When a passenger was unfortunate to meet one of the more determined officers, the passenger could be detained overnight, thereby missing their bus, as a punishment for being non-cooperative. These officers had nothing called sympathy in them. Effect of colonialism had left them nothing but a legacy of inhuman activities to follow. When Babatunde reached Abidjan, he couldn’t continue his journey to Dabou. The continuous paying of bribe had rendered him penniless. From the time he arrived, he kept seeking for help from strangers, hoping one could assist him financially to pay his fare from Abidjan to Dabou, but all his efforts were in vain. Nobody listened to him and nobody cared about him. For the past three days, he was begging for money. He used a food seller’s table as his sleeping place. There was no other place. On the second day of his arrival, even though the bus he came to Abidjan with was still at the station, waiting to convey passengers back to its country of origin, its windows and doors were securely locked. This was to prevent stranded passengers
  9. 9. Joel Savage 3 from sleeping in it. Thus, when mosquitoes began to harvest, there was no way one could have refused. Miraculously, on the fourth day he met a teacher who knew Tandu, the artist he was going to, who paid for his fare to Dabou. At Dabou, Babatunde was accommodated by Tandu, and soon became Tandu’s apprentice. At weekends, Babatunde went to Abidjan to sell some of his master’s painted artworks to the numerous tourists at Adjame, a beautiful city in the heart of the capital. Not long, Tandu faced problems in the art business. Sales were not going fast. Babatunde went to the city with about ten paintings and came home in the evening with only one picture sold. When the paintings were displayed along the pavements, they were so beautiful that they would draw hundreds of tourist around. But surprisingly, not more than one was sold per day. Such an experience made him feel very sad and stupid. Though Tandu never complained about the low sales, Babatunde got so much worried over the situation. He thought Tandu might feel he went to sleep somewhere without making any effort to sell them. But only God knows the distance he covered trying desperately to sell those artworks. Babatunde was in Dabou for nine months before he returned to his family in Accra. On his return to Accra, things went on very well for him in the first few months; but suddenly, things changed. He wasn’t working, so he had no income, thus making him face acute financial problems. It was within this depressing period he fell in love with a Muslim girl, called Aminata. She was a very beautiful girl who also likes Babatunde very much, despite the religious difference. The two young lovers began visiting each other. But Massa, Babatunde’s mother, didn’t like the affair between her son and the girl. Her reason had got nothing to do with her son being a Christian and the girl a Muslim. But she thought Babatunde was too young to enter into such a relationship. Secondly, he was not living independently, since his mother was still caring for his welfare. The persuasion by his mother to refrain from the relationship caused a big row between mother and son. In the heat of exchange of words between mother and son, she tried to give him a slap, and Babatunde prevented it by
  10. 10. Road of Agony 4 blocking her arm. She tried the other arm but that also wasn’t successful. Massa then held her son’s shirt by the collar. In a scuffle to free himself, Babatunde accidentally pushed his mother and she fell. He watched his mother on the ground, yelling and screaming at him. His mother didn’t take things for granted. Massa went for a glass of water and cursed her son with words of anger, as she poured down the water from the glass. After this incident, Babatunde didn’t stop visiting Aminata. However, things changed later on. The family of Aminata started giving him cold reception any time he visited her. He felt he hadn’t done anything wrong to his girlfriend, yet she wouldn’t talk to him. It seemed to him that she had lost interest and confidence in him. This went on for a long time. Babatunde began to feel he had had enough humiliation on each visit to Aminata. “Enough is enough,” he told himself, and decided to cease going to her house. That was the end of the love affair.
  11. 11. 5 Journey to Nigeria Early February 1980, Babatunde left Accra, Ghana, for Lagos, the populated city in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was then an era when every young man wanted to go to this oil- rich country. It was like the Exodus, the mass departure of the Israelites from Egypt to the promise land. The oil boom had improved the economy, giving rise to employment in every field. It is one of the biggest countries in the world, located in West Africa. It has a total area of 923,768 sq. km. (356,669 sq. ml.). Nigeria is a federal constitutional republic, comprising of thirty-six states. The country attained its independence from Britain on October 1, 1960. The country has many ethnic groups but the largest and influencial ethnic groups are Hausa, Igbos, and Yoruba. Its former capital was Lagos. The current capital is Abuja. Nigeria shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroun in the east, and Niger in the north. Its coast lies on the Gulf of Guinea. At one time, Nigeria is the largest exporter of groundnuts, cocoa, and palm oil. Petroleum plays a large role in Nigeria’s economy. It is the twelfth largest producer of petroleum in the world, accounting for 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product and 80 percent of government earnings.
  12. 12. Road of Agony 6 Babatunde found himself a place to stay at Surulere, a suburb of Lagos, through the help of a relative living in Nigeria over four decades. Lagos is one of the most populated cities in the world. Looking for accommodation was just as hard and tedious as excavating ground for gold. The city was very beautiful despite its filth. Lagos Island is surrounded by vast body of water. It has the largest seaport, especially the Tin- Can port, then also Apapa. The numerous overhead bridges connecting the whole city exposed the beauty of the country. For example, the Third Mainland Bridge right from Ebute-Metta to Obalende, both suburbs of Lagos, was a well done job by the German firm, Julius Berger. In the city, wriggling through the crowded afternoon shoppers was what the pickpockets liked most. The city was very beautiful at night; unfortunately, poor drainage system made life unbearable for its inhabitants when it rained. It was very common to see a single room occupied by seven or more people. Babatunde shared a room with four other men who had been in the country for a very long time. The four were working at the same place, the Apapa port. Nigeria was a country with regard to foreigners, each one for himself and God for everyone. Don’t expect to be fed when luckily you have got someone to accommodate you, so most of the time Babatunde used to go out with them when they were not working. Thus, within a short period of his arrival, he had already become familiar with the neighbouring suburbs, such as Yaba, Orile, Ebute Metta, Eko, Ikeja, Edu-Motta, Palm Grove, and a host of other places. Exactly three weeks after his arrival in Lagos, Babatunde was walking through the city when he saw an advertising studio. On its sign board was “Champion Advertising and Publicity Company” boldly written. He stopped for a while, gazing constantly at the office. Something was pushing him to enter the place and request for a job. He had a strong feeling that he might be employed if he talked to the manager. Being an apprentice to an artist for nine months, he knew something about art, which had something to do with advertising and publicity.
  13. 13. Joel Savage 7 He entered the office to try his luck. He met three neatly dressed gentlemen; he later got to know them as the managing director, the art director, and the studio director. He greeted them with enthusiasm, while prostrating and touching the floor with his right hand. This culture of the indigenous native Yoruba is highly respected by its people. Greeting the elder is always accompanied by prostration. Elders, whether at home or meeting on the street, could prostrate to each other, while asking of the health of both families. Sometimes, it takes a long time, before they rise up to their feet. There is a joke that two elderly women met on the railway line and prostration took place, accompanied by questions, “How are you? How are the children? And so and so forth.” While exchanging and answering each other, they forgot themselves and a train ran over them. “Yes, what can I do for you?” asked the manager. “Please, I’m looking for a job,” said Babatunde. “What is your name and where do you come from?” he asked “My name is Babatunde. I am a Ghanaian, please, and I live with my grandmother, who is a Nigerian,” Babatunde replied. “A Ghanaian called Babatunde; you must be a Nigerian. What is the name of your grandmother?” asked the manager. “Mama Ibukun, she lives at 19 Oladeinde Close, Surulere,” said Babatunde. “I know that beautiful Mama, with fair complexion very well,” said the manager. “I will employ you, but how much do you want to be paid?” he asked. The shocking question, which Babatunde wasn’t expecting, totally got him into confusion that he fumbled orally. Instead of saying 100 Naira, since that was the government approved salary for ordinary civil workers, he said 50 Naira. “Start work on Monday at 8:00 A.M.,” said the manager. Babatunde left with happiness and mixed feelings. At home that evening, Babatunde disclosed the good news to his friends when they came from work. They asked him of his agreed salary per month, and he said 50 Naira.
  14. 14. Road of Agony 8 “We are very happy that you’ve found yourself something to do, but the proposed monthly salary is very poor,” said Bami. “I wasn’t expecting the boss to ask me this question, when suddenly he did. I was afraid in case I said something higher he might not employ me. Then absent-mindedly I said that amount,” said Babatunde. “Never mind. I hope he would increase it in the near future,” said Bami. The evening air was oppressively hot from the afternoon’s heat. Babatunde and his friends, sweating profusely after meal, took off their shirts, to prevent body rash. He couldn’t do anything without thinking of the job he was to start soon. He had insomnia, which made him weak the next day. On Monday morning, Babatunde went to the office thirty minutes earlier before 8:00 A.M. He was standing by the office when one of the workers came to open the door. He introduced himself to the man. “Yes, I know you will be coming,” the man said. Babatunde went for a broom and swept the whole office. He cleaned the three directors’ offices gently, as he nearly broke a flower pot due to nervousness as a first day worker. The three bosses came in within the hours of nine and saw Babatunde watching the workers printing on t-shirts. Even though he was just a cleaner from the initial stages, Babatunde took interest in the studio work. At the office for two months, he wasn’t aware that the managing director was gradually gaining interest in him as a hard worker he could depend on. It came as a shock to him when one day his boss called him to his office and asked him if he would like to live with him and his family in their three- bedroom apartment. Babatunde obliged and within a short period, he left his friends to live with his boss. Mr. Yomi Olatunji, the managing director of the company, was a married man with three children. The wife, fondly called by everyone as Mama Taye, is a secretary to a newspaper publishing company’s general director. Mr Olatunji, who hailed from Akure in Ondo State, also lived with his cousin. He was called Shola. Babatunde was told to share a room with him, so they became two in the room, with only a single bed. But since the
  15. 15. Joel Savage 9 bed belongs to Shola, Babatunde laid his mat on the floor to sleep on at night. Living with his boss gave him much comfort than when he was living with his friends. But he had a lot to do in the flat every day, besides the office work. Chores like general cleaning, washing of used clothes and cleaning plates after dinner became his responsibility. He wasn’t happy about that; he would like to talk to his boss over pay increment. He was scared to sit down with his boss to discuss such an issue, so he didn’t do it. Instead, he wrote a short letter about his opinion, and posted it through the mails to his boss. He wasn’t sure if the letter might let him lose his job, but he was optimistic that since his boss really liked him, there must be a good outcome of his letter. Exactly a week after writing the letter, he was called by his boss to his office. His heart was beating like an athlete who had just finished a hundred-meter race. He breathed in deeply and out softly to adjust his heart beat. At Mr. Olatunji’s office, were the other two directors who had already taken their seats. “We have received your letter. Thank you for writing to us. As the head of this office, I like your letter, but there is a comment in it of which I’m not pleased about. You don’t have to say that you need to be paid the sum of 100 Naira per month, since that is the approved salary by the government to ordinary civil workers. This is my company. It is not for the government. If I fail to pay you that amount, no police could arrest me for that. I hope you understand me? However, I will discuss the issue with my two partners.” said Mr. Olatunji. The discussion lasted for about ten minutes. When it was over, Babatunde apologised to his boss. To give him every respect as his boss, after the apology, he prostrated to him and went back to his job. The four young colleagues of Babatunde were all Yoruba. Yoruba was one of the largest tribes of Nigeria, covering the areas of Ogun State, Oyo State, Ondo State, and others in the South of the country. They hardly spoke to Babatunde, unless they wanted him to do something for them. One of them, called Layo, was the only one who had made it a habit of playing dirty jokes with him and also showing him no respect.
  16. 16. Road of Agony 10 He used to tell him every time, “Omo Ghana, you no dey go back to your country?” meaning, “Son of a Ghanaian, are you not going back to your country?” From the initial stages, when he started those silly jokes, Babatunde took it as fun and was always quiet. But soon, he realised that the situation was getting out of hand. Layo asked him one day, “Where did you get your name from? All Ghanaians are called Kofi. How could a Ghanaian bear the name Babatunde? May be you stole it.” The whole studio was thrown into laughter, for his Yoruba companions liked it when he was acting like a comedian. The fact of the Savage Family Descendants Tree’s history is that Babatunde’s family originated from Fura-Bay, in the Republic of Sierra Leone. In the early 1930’s, before the country attained its independence in 1967, part of the family migrated from Freetown to settle in Nigeria, Ghana, and the Gambia. The percentage of those who settled in Nigeria was greater than the other countries. Babatunde visited one of them at Ebutte-Metta who had compiled copy of the Savage Family Descendants Tree, on which he saw his grandfather’s name. Another part of the story was about a white doctor called Gabriel Hugh Savage, who came to live in Africa. He married an African woman and had many children. This story might be partially genuine as there are a lot of fair- complexioned, like halfcastes, in the Savage family. Babatunde’s father therefore gave three of his children Nigerian names. Apart from Babatunde, there are also Modukpe and Adjani in the family. It is therefore not strange to see streets by name, Savage Street, in both Freetown, Sierra Leone, and in Lagos, Nigeria (Which in this book the name Juskosave is being used to represent Savage.). Layo refused to call Babatunde by his name. Instead, he chose a name for him. He called him “Ogufe,” which is always accompanied by laughter from his colleagues. The amusing character of the workers was getting on his nerves. He thought Layo was calling him something funny. At home after work, he asked Mama Taye the meaning of the word “Ogufe.” “Why? Where did you hear that?” asked Mama Taye. “On my way to the house from work yesterday, I heard someone mentioned that,” Babatunde lied to Mama Taye.
  17. 17. Joel Savage 11 “Oh, I see! That is how the Yoruba call a goat,” Mama Taye said. The next day when work resumed, he didn’t say a word to Layo, even though the anger in him over that name was tearing him apart. Almost at the point of boiling water, he still tried to control his anger, as he didn’t want to do anything bad to hurt his boss or to discredit his name. But Babatunde failed. When the printing of t-shirts started and Layo was in need of ink, he called, “Ogufe, give me that ink on the table.” Suddenly, like a wounded lion attacking a wolf, Babatunde rained blows over Layo. He fought back, giving Babatunde a terrible blow to the chin. But he couldn’t stand the strength of Babatunde. He gave Layo a terrible punch to the mouth to silence him once and for all. He fell on the floor with bleeding mouth. At that point, Babatunde left him alone. As soon as the three directors came to work, one of the employees reported the matter to them. He didn’t even report the case when two of them came. He waited till the arrival of the three. Babatunde was called to the office with Layo. After listening to both sides of the story, Mr Olatunji passed his verdict. Babatunde was found guilty. He should have reported the case to his boss, and not to take the law into his own hands. He was strictly warned not to repeat that again and that any similar case would lead to his dismissal. He was asked to leave the office. Babatunde left very downhearted after prostrating to his boss. From that day the incidence took place, Layo ceased to call him “Ogufe.” It wasn’t long after demanding for a pay increase, the directors raised his salary to the sum of 100 Naira, as he demanded. He was so pleased he quickly wrote a letter of thanks to his directors. At the office, he was a happy man, but at home, there was trouble brewing. Shola didn’t want to share his room with him. One day, Shola arrived from town and saw him fast asleep on his bed. Impolitely, he shook and woke him up from his bed saying he wanted to sleep. Babatunde then laid his mat on the floor to sleep. But instead of Shola using his bed, as he said, he did something contrary. He removed all the bed sheets and the pillow case to soak them in a washing basin. This attitude of Shola went on and on any time he found him asleep on his bed. Therefore,
  18. 18. Road of Agony 12 Babatunde quickly got the message that Shola didn’t want him to use his bed so he stopped using it. But that wasn’t the end of it. Shola tried his possible best to eject him from his room. He wanted him to use the corridor, used by the tenants of the storey building, as his sleeping place. The idea behind this ill- treatment to Babatunde was only mere jealousy Shola couldn’t stand to see his uncle giving such love and care to a foreigner. Mr. Olatunji took good care of Babatunde to the extent that after he got himself a driving licence, he was allowed to drive the cars of all the three directors. Shola, on the other hand, couldn’t drive. Many times, Babatunde drove his boss to his home town at Akure in Ondo State. The trust his boss had for him was causing hatred for him. The continuous harassment and pressure from Shola to eject him from the room made him to lose his temper. Babatunde confronted him face to face, warning him to desist from the way he was behaving. Here was a man who stands six feet two inches over Babatunde, who just five feet eleven inches tall. Within some few minutes, there was a fierce fighting going on in the house. Shola held his neck and gave him a very hard blow to the head. He, however, managed to free himself from his grip and gave him a kick that sent him sprawling onto the floor. He sprang up unto his feet and held Babatunde once again by the neck trying this time to head-butt him. But he missed all his targets. All the women in the house escaped and screamed for help. The men in the house at that moment tried to stop the fight, but none of them was able to drift the two strong men apart. Outsiders who heard the wailing and calling of women rushed into the house to stop the fight finally. Babatunde never thought he could face that monster making life a hell to him. From that time, there was no more fight, but Shola continued making life miserable for him as long as he was living in the house. Babatunde made several reports to his boss over this bad treatment to him, but there was no positive change. He complained to the other two directors, hoping things would be better but the situation remained the same. Nothing at all on earth could change this bad attitude of Shola.
  19. 19. Joel Savage 13 Lack of peace affected him psychologically and when he couldn’t handle the situation any longer, he planned to run away from his boss house to live again with his friends. But he changed his mind because he thought that might let him lose his job. He stayed, hoping things would be better one day. But things never improved. His countenance, both at work and at home, showed that he is a worried man. In a deep worry and confusion, he forgot himself and did a stupid thing that almost ruined the relationship between his boss and him. One weekend, a key got missing in Mama Taye’s bedroom. After she had searched for hours without any success, her husband asked Babatunde to continue the search. After two hours of unsuccessful bid to trace the missing key, he felt tired. He sat at the edge of the bed, laid on his back with both feet resting on the floor. Within a short period, Babatunde had fallen asleep. While deep asleep, something unusual happened: He saw a scene he found hard to explain. Like fallen in a trance, or having a dream, he saw his boss and his wife standing in the room and his boss pointing at him to his wife. He woke up immediately in shock, to find out that it wasn’t a trance or a dream, but a reality. There stood Mr Olatunji and his wife. His hand was still in the air, pointing at him when he woke up. Still amazed and recovering from shock, he couldn’t say anything to them. His boss also didn’t say anything. He knew exactly what was in the mind of his boss. The fact that he saw him on his wife’s bed meant something different. Who knew if he was having a secret love affair with his wife? His boss’s mind was full of thoughts. However, Babatunde knew it was just a careless mistake. He explained the whole situation and how it happened to his boss. After his explanation, his boss left the room, leaving his wife behind. Mama Taye felt somehow stupid and perplexed. She watched Babatunde for a while and also left her room. She was a confident trusted woman. But at that very moment, she didn’t know the mind of her husband. As a matter of fact, she didn’t take the matter seriously like her husband. Babatunde knew that he has done an unpardonable mistake, the biggest mistake that could ruin a marriage and tear the two apart. It was also a scene that could lead to his death, assuming Mr. Olatunji grabbed a pistol or whatever to kill him.
  20. 20. Road of Agony 14 Despite how sorry he was, he remained calm because of his clear conscience. A day after the incident, he greeted his boss in the morning when he was ready to go to the office to open the doors, but his boss didn’t respond. He knew that Mr. Olatunji was still upset over the incident, so he left him alone and went to the office. As usual, he tidied up the whole office. When his boss arrived at the office, the whole day he refused to talk to him, till the end of the day. The next day, he repeated the same thing. Babatunde became upset and thought the best thing to do was to keep himself away from his boss for a while. He stopped greeting his boss, when they met both at the office and at home. This went on for sometime and Mr. Olatunji noticed it. He called Babatunde to his office. “What kind of rudeness do you want to show to me?” He asked. “I have watched you closely these days, without any greetings. Does this show any respect?” he questioned him again. “Sir, I must apologise. I am very sorry of what happened a couple of days ago. I know it is my fault, but it wasn’t something I deliberately did to hurt you. It was just a careless thing I did. Since this case happened, I’ve seen the anger burning in you. Couple of times I greeted but you gave me no response. That is the reason I stopped greeting you. I stopped not as disrespect to you, but only to leave you alone for sometime.” After his explanation, his boss took the incident as a mistake and accepted his apology. Mr. Olatunji was a very nice man who cared much about Babatunde, but wouldn’t like to see him meddling with his family in regard to love affair. For example, there was a time he discovered that his niece, Bola, a naturally beautiful girl of twenty-one who was on holidays in Lagos had deeply developed interest in Babatunde. This was when he found Babatunde’s photograph in her hand bag. Without hesitation, he quickly sent his niece back to his hometown, where the girl also hailed from. No one could tell what a man is looking for in a lady’s hand bag. All of a sudden, Babatunde discovered that Bola had disappeared from his boss’s house. Mama Taye revealed everything to him and narrated how Bola, in tears, knelt down in front of her uncle begging for forgiveness. “Begging for
  21. 21. Joel Savage 15 forgiveness for just the interest in someone. I don’t understand this,” said Babatunde. However, Babatunde knew that it was Mama Taye herself who informed the husband about it. Because Bola has much confidence in her. Having told Mama Taye everything, she thought she could keep her secrets. Mr. Olatunji didn’t ask Babatunde anything about the photograph he saw and the reason he sent Bola away If not for his wife, he wouldn’t have known what had happened. Meanwhile, the relationship between Shola and him had gone from bad to worse. This gave him much worries and nervous breakdown. The pride, jealousy, and foolish attitude of Shola also emanated from his uncle’s wealth. As a business man who was financially independent, he had been to Europe a couple of times. He gave Shola anything he asked for, including money and once promised him a ticket to London. The promised ticket hadn’t been handed over to him yet, but he had already started bragging that he would be leaving to London soon. Weeks, months, and a year passed, the same story of travelling to Britain was still on his lips. He was nothing than a swollen headed boastful and wishful thinker. Shola didn’t like to bathe. He took his bath about three times a week, with ordinary water—without soap or sponge. Therefore, his hairy armpit stunk like hell. Usually, when his boss was to travel to his home town, he had to drive him. But one weekend, Mr. Olatunji travelled out of Lagos with the company driver. Babatunde thought he had had enough and now it’s time for him to abandon his boss’s house. He sat down for a while to think about this issue. He finally made his decision. Before he left, he wrote this sad letter to his boss. “Dear Sir, I’m very sad to announce my resignation from the company, as well as leaving your house today. For over a year now, I know what I’ve been through at the hands of your cousin. I’ve reported him to you several times, but the situation remains the same. How long must I be in silence of misery? I’m very proud to say that you have done very well for me during my stay with you. I give you the greatest thanks you deserve from me, through Christ, who strengthens us. May the
  22. 22. Road of Agony 16 Lord be with you and your family. But for Shola, who has been talking about London all the time, he would hear and talk about the land of Canaan everyday, but his feet would never step there.” Babatunde left his boss’s house with sorrow. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going, including his friends. When his boss arrived from his hometown, he found his letter and read it. He sent someone immediately to Mama Ibukun’s house to see if he was there. But the old grandma told the messenger that she hadn’t seen him and she even didn’t know that he was no longer living with his boss. In fact, she was even amazed to hear that Babatunde had disappeared from his boss’s house. When the messenger returned with negative result about the whereabouts of Babatunde, his boss shook his head in disbelief and went into his room. He asked the wife if there was another fight when he was away, and his wife said no. “Then how could Babatunde do that to me?” asked Mr. Olatunji; without knowing what to do, he gave up his search for Babatunde.
  23. 23. 17 The Cruel Part of Life When Babatunde left his boss’s house, it was as if a curse had been pronounced on him; he wasn’t successful in anything he tried to do. Finding a job became impossible and life became extremely difficult for him. Within a short period, the handsome good-looking young man had emaciated into a frame of skeleton. He couldn’t ask for help from his friends because he knows how the living condition in Lagos was. Nobody would do it. Even though commodities and food were generally cheap, due to hard living, brothers and sisters do become enemies sometimes when it comes to food. He soon met a friend who accommodated him for a while. Koku who was then working as a security man in a certain company, when he used to smuggle him into his cabin provided by his employers. But that didn’t last long, since he was scared of losing his job when seen. The world couldn’t hold Babatunde any longer. His living conditions became dread as he fought for survival. He was living like a gypsy, without any permanent place to lay his head. At one time, he was selling pre-recorded music cassettes on the market as a hawker, when suddenly, he met the studio director, Mr. Olufemi, face to face. He was moved to tears to see Babatunde’s condition.
  24. 24. Road of Agony 18 “Oh, Babatunde! Look at your present position now! How much are you going to get from the sales of these cassettes? Mr. Olatunji was totally disappointed when he arrived from his home town to know of your disappearance from his house. Come back; don’t worry, he will forgive you,” he concluded. Babatunde told him that he would return, but he never did. Who is stupid to jump from riches to poverty and put himself into such a horrible situation, he asked himself. He wanted peace but now it had cost him. Soon, he realised that cassette trading was not giving him adequate financial help, so he stopped the sales. He quickly joined someone as a partner in meat distribution. The meat was distributed by van to housewives and those living far from the market. But the business collapsed just two months after being employed. The customers were complaining that the meat wasn’t fresh. As if they made a meeting against the sales of the meat, nothing was sold any time the van comes. Each day, large quantity of meat got wasted and thrown away because his partner was facing storage problems due to frequent lights off at the area he lived. Despite how rich Nigeria was, electricity facilities in Lagos was very poor. There could be light off for almost a week. When the light suddenly comes, it could be brighter than the sun, damaging most electrical gadgets at people’s homes. Or the light comes very low like a touchlight with a weak battery. Sometimes a break- down vehicle carrying human waste could be abandoned in the middle of the city, with bad odour hanging in the atmosphere for days or weeks. At long last, he left the job without any savings. Babatunde found a new factory that needed a couple of workers, and he went to the place as soon as possible. The nature of the job was to put labels on the bottles of a new product. He did that for a period of six weeks without any payment. The employer said the factory was facing financial problems. Babatunde quit the job the very day his employer gave him that explanation. He knew getting his money would be a problem. Many foreigners have been victims to such exploitation from bad Lagosians. They know that most of the foreigners living in Lagos were illegal immigrants who were so scared to report them to the police.
  25. 25. Joel Savage 19 Babatunde suffered both physically and psychologically for almost four months without any permanent job. He saw a billboard by the road side reading “Building contractor looking for site workers.” He followed the address to the site. He confessed that the job was one of the most difficult jobs he had ever done in his life. At the site, all the work was done by manpower with no machines involved. Among other six workers, they divided themselves into three groups. One group moulded the bricks, another mixed the sand and cement with water, while the third group supplied water from a nearby stream. Since there were no hand gloves provided for the job, one could feel the tediousness of the job. Babatunde chose to supply water. The third day when he went down the stream for the water after filling the heavy head-pan, he was moved with sorrow and his eyes were filled with tears. Babatunde wept bitterly. He felt life had been too cruel for him as a young man since the death of his father. He washed his face to wipe off the mark of the tears and went along with the water. After working for nine days, he decided to go back to Ghana. Thinking of going back home was a sort of happiness in his heart. With the little money he made during the hard working days at the construction site, he bought himself some few things, including a portable television set, a stereo player, table fan, pressing iron, and he left for Accra, Ghana. He looked skinny and gaunt but he knew there was no place like home. He soon forgot his entire ordeal.
  26. 26. 20 Soldiers on the Rampage There was a trader who lived near the Juskosave family. The woman had gone to the market, leaving her shop for her twelve-year old daughter. The intelligent little girl knew the price of all the commodities in her mother’s shop to the extent that her mother was always confident and felt secure any time she left her daughter to manage the shop. An armed soldier came to the shop for a stick of cigarette. He wasn’t happy with the price the girl sold to him. He argued with her over the price and asked for reduction. The girl refused his demand. He lost his temper and gave the girl a dirty slap. Close by was a retired army officer who witnessed what was going on. He confronted the armed soldier and told him that he was wrong to lay his hand on the girl. He explained to the armed soldier that if anything at all he should have waited for the mother of the child, but shouldn’t put the law into his own hands. Such a simple explanation provoked the armed soldier to the extent that he hit the retired army officer’s head with the butt of his riffle. The badly hurt retired army officer, in frenzy, ran into his kitchen, brought out a pounding pestle and hit the armed soldier. In the ensuing fight, the armed soldier, who sustained some injuries, madly walked away. Unknown to the retired army officer, his opponent had gone to call a dozen of
  27. 27. Joel Savage 21 unranked soldiers for a deadly intention. They went on rampage, destroying anything that came their way. The retired army officer escaped immediately to avoid beaten to death. The soldiers broke down his door and destroyed all his properties in the room. After the destruction of his belongings, the soldiers weren’t satisfied yet with what they had done so far. They went from room to room of other tenants, destroying their belongings and stealing petty items such as wrist watches and jewels. Babatunde was at the beach relaxing when his sister, Modukpe, came running to tell him what has happened. She could hardly breathe. According to her, the soldiers want to attack her, too, so she fled. Babatunde left his sister, running home like a possessed man. When he arrived home, the soldiers had completed their destruction mission and gone. That day, Babatunde lost everything he had struggled and worked for in Nigeria. The television set was smashed into pieces. The family’s stable fan wasn’t spared. The fridge was turned upside down and badly dented with the butt of their rifles. Finally, before leaving, there was a drum full of water, which they pushed down, flooding the rooms. In another development, the escaped retired army officer, as quick as possible, had gone to the military camp to report the incidence. A jeep full of soldiers was despatched to the scene to control the situation. On the way after the rampage, the wayward soldiers saw the jeep of soldiers coming towards them. They took to their heels in different directions. To avoid any of them escaping, warning shots were fired. The tough ones refused to stop but the coward ones stopped. Three were arrested and arraigned before the military tribunal in Accra. The case lasted four weeks and the soldiers who were found guilty of harassment and destruction were jailed. The Juskosave family received a letter to come for a cheque as compensation, but what a funny compensation? The money is insufficient to cover even the price of the pressing iron, which was also smashed against the wall. The family didn’t bother to go for the cheque when they were asked to do so. That was a very bad experience to Babatunde. He lay in bed with eyes full of tears. There was never a day he wouldn’t think of the disaster. To avoid any frustration,
  28. 28. Road of Agony 22 he said bye to his family and traveled back to Nigeria, when that country’s economy was gradually declining. Corruption and expensive projects had affected the country. No more ten kobo bread. A plate of rice, which used to sell at twenty kobo, was selling at fifty kobo. This time, in his second trip to Nigeria, he couldn’t find a job easily. He made efforts to find a driving job, but things didn’t work out because the few foreigners have disappeared with the vehicles they were driving. Thus, if one was not recommended by a Nigerian, there was no possibility of getting a job. When a recommended foreigner disappeared with a vehicle, the one who recommended him for the job would be held responsible. Two reasons accounted for the disappearance of vehicles. It could be that the foreigner deliberately went away with the vehicle to sell it, or he might have been be killed by armed robbers and the vehicle snatched away. Walking around daily without any experience, he got a job in a roofing company as a roof technician. The nature of the job was to mend leaking roofs. Among other workers, he climbed tall buildings. At times, it’s very frightening and dangerous. Materials used for the work, such as prime felt, and a gas cylinder were transported unto the roof top by means of rope pulled up by six or eight men. The burned primed felt was used to patch up the leaking part of the roofs. It was the most uncomfortable job to do when the sun was at its peak. Under the scorching sun, accompanied by heat from the gas burner, one could feel like leaving the job the same day. Every day the workers grouped at the work premises to be driven to the sites where they were to work. One morning, Babatunde, among his co-workers, sat in the company’s bus waiting to be conveyed to work. All the workers knew that the driver was a man who didn’t know what punctuality was. He was always late to work. But that very day, he didn’t come to work. Mr. Adebayo, the transport manager in charge of all the buses in the company, as well as a driver to the managing director, went to report to the boss the problem they have had that morning. Probably, the boss told him to find someone who could drive among the workers, for as soon as he came down from his office, he asked the workers in the bus who could drive. Babatunde quickly responded. He politely asked
  29. 29. Joel Savage 23 everyone in the bus to descend. Babatunde was to be tested. He sat behind the steering wheel while Mr Adebayo sat next to him. He then took off. Few yards from the premises, as he drove along, he noticed a number of faults on the vehicle, which he didn’t know whether the transport manager was even aware of. When Babatunde told him of the faults on the vehicle, the manager quickly had the impression that he was an experienced driver. He asked Babatunde not to go further but to return to the premises. From that glorious day, Babatunde ceased to be a roof mender, and was employed as a driver. He couldn’t believe his ears when he heard the transport manager, a typical Yoruba man, speaking Fanti, one of the local languages of Ghana, to a worker about how good he could drive. According to him, in the early sixties, when Ghana was on the map of Africa as a very great nation, he was there with his family. He returned to Nigeria when the ‘Aliens Compliance Order” requesting every foreigner to leave Ghana affected him. Almost about two decades after this expulsion incident, Nigeria took a sweet revenge by expelling all Ghanaians from their country. The number of Ghanaians who died in that repatriation order was too huge. Two ships were sent on Nigeria waters to evacuate the stranded Ghanaians. The ships were so full that some people were hazardously hanging on places not meant for passengers. Many people lost all their belongings to thieves and criminals before they even had the chance to go on board the ship. When the ships finally brought them on the shores of Ghana, they came to meet a season of famine. It was an experience many Ghanaians who survived the situation would never forget. People were eating all kinds of food that previously they wouldn’t like to eat. Homes that kenkey (local food made from corn) are prepared were stormed and the half-cooked food was paid for in advance and taken away immediately before someone bought everything. Cheap bags of rice suddenly flooded on the market from nowhere. This in some way helped the situation a little for almost a year or two until things gradually became normal.
  30. 30. 24 Death of a Former Boss Babatunde, as a happy man with a new job, decided to visit his friends after leaving them for almost a year. He met them gathered together as they used to do on Sundays in the ghetto. They were enjoying sweet songs of reggae music vibrating out of the stereo’s loud speakers. Kweku asked Babatunde if he had heard what has happened. “How would I know?” Babatunde jokingly said. “Wait a minute,” Kweku said. He went for an old folded newspaper and opened a page for Babatunde to read. Under the photograph of Mr. Olatunji, Babatunde’s former boss, he read, “Chief Oladipo Olatunji, the head of the Olatunji family in Akure Ondo State, regret to announce the death of Mr. Adisa Olatunji, the managing director of Champion Advertising and Publicity Company, whose death took place at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) on....” Babatunde couldn’t continue reading the news. He was trembling like one rescued from a freezing ocean. The newspaper fell from his hands. It was a shock to him. The unexpected news hit him like a blow. At that moment, he regretted leaving the man who employed and provided him shelter when he first arrived in Lagos. He thought of visiting his wife to give her his condolence but he changed his mind,
  31. 31. Joel Savage 25 for the fact that she might not receive him, since he left the house without informing any one. Rumours behind the death of his former boss were too much. Before his death, he had already survived two serious road accidents, one of which nearly crippled him. He died at a tender age of thirty-seven. He left behind a widow and three lovely children. Babatunde went home, provided by his employers, downhearted. The next day, when he resumed work, he wasn’t feeling well. The death of his former boss could hardly escape his mind. The transport manager saw it and asked him if he was sick, that he might have a day off. He insisted that he was all right. He didn’t tell him anything. He drove the workers for just three months, when he was promoted to drive Mr. Ekanem, the managing director, also a politician. The man didn’t have a good education but his money ruled his kingdom. He was a very strange man who loved women too much that he couldn’t control himself. Despite having two wives, his vast interest in women had soiled his reputation. But he didn’t care. He could make love to three or four women a day, in his office or at a hotel. Babatunde, as his driver, witnessed many times that he slept with some of his friends’ wives. As he drove home the women his boss has slept with, the boss would ask him to go for another woman. He exploited Babatunde to the extent that he never had a good rest in all the years he served him. As a politician and a businessman, Mr Ekanem traveled a lot. Before he left Lagos for any of the states, for political or business reasons, Babatunde had to move in advance to the airport to await for his arrival. As soon as he arrived, he rented a hotel, then asked Babatunde to find him a beautiful prostitute to pass the night. This was the most embarrasing request to him, but he had no choice. Babatunde finally arrived with the prostitute with him. Within a short period of driving him, Babatunde became familiar with almost nine states out of the nineteen federal states of Nigeria. However, as time went on, gradually more states were created in Nigeria, due to the large size of the country. It was his state, Cross River State, Calabar, where Babatunde met a beautiful girl as his girl friend. It seemed as if all the time, Adua, the girl friend, was waiting for a man like
  32. 32. Road of Agony 26 him. The two seriously fell in love. It wasn’t long when she conceived and gave Babatunde a handsome baby boy, who was named Ato. Calabar, the capital city of Cross River State, was a small city, without much employment. However, those working are extremely hard workers. They were very neat people. One may wear an old shoe but well polished. Most of them were well educated but a number of them were kept out of school due to financial problems.This had made many of the people moved out to live across Nigeria, with Lagos State having the greatest percentage of the people. A large body of water stretching from Calabar to Oron, a small town in the Akwa Ibom State, had provided fishing livelihood for a group of fishermen and fish mongers. They love fresh fish and sometimes dried ones. Almost all their meals are prepared with special favourite green leaves. Generally, there are socially nice people but the lack of job had transformed a number of its people to be very stingy. Babatunde’s boss, Mr Ekanem, himself was a very difficult person to deal with when it comes to financial matters. Most of the time, when he needed money to fill the tank of his car, it usually turned to an argument and a tough task, especially when he was alone at his office. But the best time to get money from him without any difficulty was when he was with a woman at his office. In this way, Babatunde used the opportunity to get money from him for petrol, when he was with woman. There was one of his luxurious vehicles which have broken down and at the garage for a very long time. Due to the number of cars he had and also the financial cost that he would meet in order to repair the vehicle, he abandoned it. Even though his boss hadn’t sent him, Babatunde secretly went to the garage and gave instructions for the repair of the vehicle, as if the orders came from his boss. For the mechanic to believe him, he quickly paid the estimation cost when he was presented with the bill. Babatunde put the mechanic under pressure to repair the vehicle within nine days. From the garage, he drove the Range Rover jeep to his boss’s compound without his knowledge. When he saw his vehicle, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He
  33. 33. Joel Savage 27 focused his attention on Babatunde, trying to find out what a sort of man he was, a devil or a saint? He was so pleased about the improved condition of his jeep that he refunded Babatunde the money he used for the repairs. Later, he told Babatunde to get prepared to take the vehicle to his office at Lagos. The journey by road from Cross River State to Lagos State or vice versa, was one of the longest journeys Babatunde had made. It went like this: from Cross River State to part of Rivers State, then down to Aba in Imo State. From Imo State to Onitsa in Anambra State, then to Benin City, in Bendel State. From Benin City, one has a long way to drive to part of Ogun State, before finally driving down to Lagos State. Some of the big coaches used sixteen hours, but using a good fast car could take between eleven and twelve hours. He left Cross River State at 4:00 PM. As he was driving, it became darker and darker. Since he preferred night driving to day’s driving, he decided to check his headlights to see if they were in order, when he saw a road side autoelectrician. Surprisingly, the headlights weren’t working. The electrician worked on the lights for about thirty minutes. But when the lights were tested, there was still a problem. The high part of the lights was working but the dim part was not. It was then getting late and as there was no time left for the electrician to continue the work, Babatunde took off through the city with constant high lights. At about six hours drive, he stopped at a restaurant and had his meal. After eating, he didn’t even sit for a minute to rest before he jumped behind the steering wheel and drove off. Within the city, the high light was causing partial blindness to other motorists. They signalled many times for him to lower down his lights, but he didn’t act. At 2:30 A.M., when he arrived in Bendel State, there was no single soul on the street. The place was as quiet as a cemetery and he couldn’t see any moving vehicle. He was extremely tired and wished to rent a room at a hotel to pass the night, but it was impossible since it was very dangerous to walk alone at such an hour in Nigeria. He therefore continued the journey. He wasn’t worried about fuel, since he filled the diesel engine vehicle’s tank full of gasoline prior to leaving Cross
  34. 34. Road of Agony 28 River State. On the Bendel express road from Benin City, Babatunde saw the most horrible sight he had never seen before, which nearly cost him his life. In the middle of the road sat a strange figure, an old man roughly about ninety years or more. One could clearly see his skeletal frame in his tiny emaciated wrinkled skin. He sat like a Buddhist offering prayers in the monastery, with open hands and legs crossed. His long grey beard touched the ground in between his crossed legs and around his loin; he wore a dark coloured cloth. The sight of the horrible creature sent cold waves of fear through the spine of Babatunde behind the steering wheel. To avoid running over the old man, he swerved to the left, then to the right. He straightened the steer forcefully and quickly to avoid hitting the concrete slab in between the roads. After gaining his momentum, he looked back through the driving mirror, but the strange creature had disappeared. The badly shaken Babatunde, who was driving about one hundred and twenty kilometres per hour, couldn’t continue driving any longer. As if paralysed from his waist to his legs, he couldn’t press on the accelerator any longer. The whole place was forested and dark, with noises of night living creatures, so he summoned up courage and drove along slowly, perhaps thirty kilometres per hour. The glass of one of the rear doors of the vehicle had broken and he could hear the noise of the sweeping air through that broken glass. That frightened him most. He was all the time looking into the vehicle if the old man was not in it. Babatunde believed that what he saw wasn’t an ordinary person.He was an evil spirit or one of the blood-thirsty gods who roam on the streets looking for spilled blood. He was not the only driver to encounter such a fearful scene on that road. The Bendel express road, since it was constructed, had claimed hundreds of lives. The blood thirsty evil spirits rove along the road, frightening most drivers to death. The inexperienced frightened ones easily became victims. According to sources, when the road was under construction, some of the trees pulled down were found standing upright the next day. There was a particular tree with blood oozing from its stem when it was cut down. Workers also claimed of constantly hearing the cry of children in the
  35. 35. Joel Savage 29 forest. Babatunde drove about ten kilometres and came to a police check point. He asked the officers on duty if he could pack the vehicle and pass the night near them. They agreed. He was then showed a good place to pack to avoid some one running into his vehicle. In the vehicle, the mysterious figure he met never escaped his mind. He knew that if he had mistakenly run over that dreadful thing, he wouldn’t have died but would escape spiritually. Assuming he was not an experienced driver, he would have lost his life by sacrificing his blood, as it has happened to many drivers and was still going on without an end. He slept uncomfortably till about seven in the morning before he took off towards Lagos. At about 3:00 P.M., he arrived at the premises of his working place. He went for the record book and booked his time of departure and arrival. After he had a meal, he went to take his bath then he went straight to bed.
  36. 36. 30 Behind Bars Babatunde served the company for two years until he was involved in a serious case that sent him behind bars. His boss, as a politician, took consignment of seven vans for campaign purpose in the then impending elections. A week after taking delivery of the campaign vehicles, one mysteriously got missing from Mr Ekanem’s compound in his home town. The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the small bus without any one noticing when it was driven away still beat the imagination of his boss. As a foreigner, Babatunde was suspected the most. His boss questioned him many times whether he knew anything about the missing vehicle. But Babatunde repeatedly claimed his innocence. His boss, who wasn’t satisfied with his answer, took his own course without Babatunde’s knowledge. He was in the house when a plain-clothed policeman came and arrested him. He was charged for stealing a mini-bus. In handcuffs, Babatunde was taken to the police station and thrown behind bars. With the handcuffs still on his hands, he passed the night in the cells till morning without food. The next day, the same policeman who brought him there came to see him at the cells. At seeing him, he thought he was going to remove the handcuffs off his hands but he rather put
  37. 37. Joel Savage 31 another one on his feet. The feet cuffs hurt him most. After accomplishing his mission, he left him and went away. Babatunde knew perfectly well that his boss has bribed the policeman to ill treat him if that could help the police to get information from him. But nothing at all could break the heart of Babatunde. He remained adamant to his one answer, claiming his innocence. In the cells for three days, the policeman came to him one midnight with his baton to force him to speak the truth. “Tell me the truth, so that you can be released,” said the policeman. “I have no truth to reveal,” said Babatunde. “I’m repeating my question, if you fail to tell me the truth, I will hit you with this stick,” said the policeman. “I said I’m innocent,” said Babatunde. His answer infuriated the policeman. Boiling with anger, he struck Babatunde repeatedly with the baton. After much beating without any positive respond, he left him and promised to come back. That morning, he found out that the beating has produced thick marks all over his body. It was that same morning that they removed the cuffs from both his hands and legs. The large single room serving as a cell at the village’s police station where he was locked up was situated near a vast acre of bushes. Black ants from the bush found their way into the cell to bite him every night. The continuous bite of the ants caused bruises all over his body. Exactly five days in the cells, the chief police officer in charge of the police station gave orders for Babatunde’s case to be transferred to the main police station in the town, because he thought the case needs much attention. At the main police station where he was transferred were three cell rooms. Each room had an iron gate, which was securely locked every day. Inmates only came out of the cells to the common corridor, which has no escape points, to eat whatever was prepared for them. The first day at the cell, Babatunde ate nothing when he was served. He wasn’t on hunger strike but he didn’t like the food. He watched with astonishment as his mates fought over his food. However, on the second day, he was starving so he ate his meal. The people he met at the cells were all friendly.
  38. 38. Road of Agony 32 None of them treated him badly as they used to do to newcomers. Within only two nights at the cells, the inmates, about nine in number, have liked him very much. Every day after eating, when the officer on duty was pushing them into their cells, everyone would want Babatunde to join them in their cell. He joined two men at cell number one at his own will. Later, he found out that his two companions believed in God, as himself. Their faith in the Lord brought them some sort of joy, despite their situation. They prayed in the morning, afternoon, evening and night, before putting their heads on the hard cemented floor to sleep. One of them who cared much about Babatunde, subjected him to a series of questions. “Where do you come from and what brought you here?” he asked Babatunde. “I’m a Ghanaian working for a certain politician. I was brought here because, I’m a suspect to a missing bus,” said Babatunde. “You have no case. You are only a suspect. Assuming you were caught redhanded that might be a different case. Don’t worry, you will be released.” He was quiet for some time and he started again. “Do you have any family in this state?” “No, my family is in Lagos State, but I have a child with a certain girl, whose mother lives in this town,” said Babatunde. “Does she know that you are here?” He asked Babatunde. “Yes, she was here the first day when I sent her a note through one of the policemen, but since then, she hasn’t been here again,” answered Babatunde. “I’m not surprised. I know my people; she will not help you,” said the young man. He was ready to ask Babatunde another question, when he was interrupted by him to know his name. “My name is Emobu. By the way, where is the girl you have the child with?” asked Emobu. “She doesn’t live with her mother. Probably her mother has informed her about it,” said Babatunde. “Do you speak Yoruba? You are supposed to speak the language, at least a little of it, if you live in Lagos State,” said Emobu. “Yes, I do, but not so well,” said Babatunde.
  39. 39. Joel Savage 33 “Now, listen to what I want to tell you carefully. The police boss of this station is a Yoruba man. He comes here every morning to check the list of the number of people in the cells. If you can speak the language with him, I believe he can help you out of this place,” said Emobu. Emobu, the strong built young man in his late twenties, was brought to the cells for beating his wife. He told Babatunde frankly that he did beat his wife. “I hate nonsense. After a hard day’s work as a fisherman, it hurts me so much to come home when my food is not ready. This makes me mad. What is the work of a housewife? A housewife must stay in the house to cook for her husband, but my wife irritates me. She likes gossiping with friends without realising the time is far behind. The time she will be aware of herself and starts cooking is the time I come home,” Emobu concluded. Emobu is a regular customer to the police cells, so he is well known. As a well-known fisherman, most of the policemen and women used to buy fresh fish from him when his canoe was ashore from the lake. Thus, he thought he could escape being detained for long any time he was brought to the police station. But this time, he wasn’t spared. Babatunde heard the policeman telling him that “I don’t think this time if you leave this place you will love to come back here.” When Babatunde met him at the cells, he brought the idea of the daily prayers so that the almighty Lord would forgive them of their transgressions for them to be released earlier. But when he told him that he beat his wife, Babatunde began thinking that he was not really a good Christian. “If a man who has faith in the Lord would beat up his wife, that doesn’t make him a real Christian,” said Babatunde to Emobu. “Well, you are right, but remember that no one is perfect. The scriptures say that ‘We all come short of the glory of God.’ I know that I will change one day but my wife must change first.” During the first two days at the cell, the police boss Emobu talked about didn’t come for inspection. A different officer did that on his behalf. Later that day, the inmates heard that Inspector Akinbola has travelled for a press conference within one of the states.
  40. 40. Road of Agony 34 Unexpectedly, he appeared on the third day. In his uniform with different badges lined up on his shoulders and a cap to fit, the man didn’t look friendly at all. His coming into the cells created an atmosphere of silence among the inmates that the noise of a falling needle could be heard. Babatunde had already been overwhelmed with fear that he wasn’t willing to talk to the inspector. But Emobu pressed him harder to talk to him. “This is your only chance, Babatunde, do it,” said Emobu. As soon as Inspector Akinbola approached the cell where Babatunde was with his mates, he greeted him in Yoruba. “Ekaroo” (Good morning). The inspector responded and asked him “Bawoni?” (How are you?). Then Babatunde started narrating the incident that bought him there to the inspector. His accent of the Yoruba language sounded clearly as that of a foreigner, yet the police boss listened to him attentively without any question. He finally broke his silence and told Babatunde that he has already read his case, so he should give him three days to study it. Babatunde gave a sigh of relief. He knew that once the inspector had promised him to look into his case, he would surely do it. The Yoruba was a tribe well known for their social love and kindness to themselves and even to foreigners sometimes. This had let other native indigenous people from the country to accuse them of tribalism and nepotism. Two days passed silently without any comment from the inspector when he came to do his normal check up. But on the third day, he gave order to the officers on the duty to release Babatunde on humanitarian grounds but he must find a relative to sign his papers of release. “That politician can’t keep this man here. If he thinks this man is a suspect or responsible for a theft, why can’t he put him in court? The suspect has been here for the past seven days, and the complainant has not been here. They cannot let innocent people suffer like that because of their money,” said the inspector. Babatunde was brought out of the cells to be released. But who is going to sign his papers, when he has no relative in that town?
  41. 41. Joel Savage 35 “Do you have any relative here?” asked the policeman who is about to release him. “I don’t know any one here with the exception of the mother of a girl I have a child with,” said Babatunde. “Do you know where she lives?” asked the policeman. “Yes I do.” Babatunde sat behind his motor bike, and he sped towards Adua’s mother’s house. When they arrived, the woman wasn’t at home. She is still at office. They went to her office and saw her there. “Good evening, Madam, do you know this man?” asked the policeman. “Yes, I do,” Adua’s mother replied “In what way do you know him?” Asked the policeman “Well, he has a child with my daughter,” said Adua’s mother. “This man has been in the cells over a week and today has been released. But he needs a relative to sign his papers for him,” said the policeman, pulling out two typed papers from his file. “Please, I’m sorry, I can’t sign these papers. His boss sent him there, so I think he is the same person who has to sign them for him to be released,” said the woman. Babatunde’s girlfriend’s mother refused to sign the papers, so he was taken back to the police station. At the office, the officer told Inspector Akinbola what the woman said. Babatunde was then told to go home. It was a sunny afternoon. The breeze coming from the lake carried the scent of fresh fish. Below the hill from the police station, one could see clearly the beautiful water stretching along the beach with activities of ashore fishermen and traders. There wasn’t any sign of coming rain but as soon as Babatunde was released, a miracle took place. Suddenly the bright sky became cloudy, followed by ramblings of thunder. There was a heavy torrential rain which soaked him from head to toe as he walked to join the ferry to cross to the town where his girlfriend lived. Babatunde thought the significance of that sudden rain meant blessing and freedom from God. Yes! He has been liberated from the clutches of darkness, wickedness, suffering, and death. Adua wept bitterly when he saw the condition of
  42. 42. Road of Agony 36 her son’s father. Babatunde was lean and stinking like a dead rat. She helped him to remove his trousers and shirt and took him to the bathroom to shower. She then set the table for his meal. Adua knew that her boyfriend was locked up, but there was nothing she could do to help him out. Her pillow was soaked with tears every night, praying and hoping her boyfriend would come home soon. She was aware of the existing problem between the mother and her over Babatunde. Prior to his arrest, he was having his share of problems by trying to be a member of Adua’s family. The more he tried to win the family’s love, the more he was rejected by Adua’s family. Her girlfriend’s mother doesn’t like him. This is not a secret. He kept telling his girlfriend all the time about this problem. But the two were so strong in love that nothing at all could separate them at that moment. The family did not like him due to two facts. Firstly, he was a foreigner and secondly, his profession that period as a driver made matter worse. For, no mother was interested to see her daughter especially with a bit education to be married to a driver. In a sick society that had modified both their lives physically and mentally, drivers were considered dropouts from school who had no future. The issue of poverty in Africa was a thing every family wanted to avoid, especially low income workers. Every mother and father wanted his or daughter to marry a lawyer, an engineer, a pilot, doctor, etc. But the question is, if drivers and cleaners were not necessary or less important in the society, who would drive the doctors to work and clean his or her desk for them to enjoy a clean and healthy environment? In Europe and other advanced countries, such discrimination doesn’t exist. It is very common to see a mason married to a lawyer, a plumber married to a doctor or a bus driver married to a pilot. It is the love that rules, not pro- fession or the amount of money one earns. His girlfriend’s mother was very angry when she heard that her daughter has conceived. In one of her statements of anger, she retorted that “Educated people who have been to Europe to work or study,
  43. 43. Joel Savage 37 can’t even cope up with life, let alone a driver.” Babatunde heard it and he was very sad indeed. He could see that there was no happiness on her face any time they met. He thought since Adua was her only daughter, she wanted to give her the best education she could afford probably, but it seemed Babatunde had ruined the future of her daughter. Adua is a type of girl Babatunde thought could take years to find. Not only was she beautiful, she was also an intelligent person with a wonderful character. Her nice colour like a half-caste girl, even though both parents were black, exposed her identity as a true naturally beautiful African woman. She hardly spoke, unless one asked her a question. In the midst of problems when they started courting, she promised him that she would fully stand by him and she did. She once advised Babatunde to run away together to stay somewhere without the knowledge of her family But he told her that it was not a wise thing to do, since her parents may think he had kidnapped her. In fact, he explained to her that such a situation would rather cause more problems. Babatunde dearly loved Adua but it seemed there was a gap gradually coming between them. He tried his best to close that gap, but the sorrow in his heart over the way her mother disliked him didn’t allow him to do it.
  44. 44. 38 The Separation Three days after his release, he kissed his girlfriend and his year-old child and bid them goodbye. As soon as he arrived in Lagos, he resigned from his work. He hadn’t any place to live, so he continued to stay in the company’s premises without his boss’s knowledge, since he didn’t know that he has been released. He was weak, feeble, and emaciated. But spiritually, he knew that the Lord was with him and would help him through those difficult moments of his life. He prayed daily, without ceasing. The light suddenly went off one evening. He lit a candle and placed it on the table in the centre of the small single room. He lay on his bed thinking of what the future had for him. Within a short period, he had fallen asleep without putting off the candle, not knowing the melted candle has spread flames all over the table and some clothes hanging in the room. The room choked with heat and smoke woke him up immediately in intense sweat with the room engulfed in fire. He had no problem with his door. It opened and closed regularly. But the very moment the room was in flames, the door wouldn’t open when he tried it. In a serious situation without knowing what to do, he gave the door a mighty kick, and it opened instantly. He lifted the burning table and threw it
  45. 45. Joel Savage 39 out of the room and quickly removed the burning clothes outside too. He couldn’t sleep the whole night without thinking of the incident. He could have died by inhaling of combustion or simply being burnt to death. When his boss heard that he had been released, he withheld his salary. He lost all his benefit for the two-and-half years service to the company. His boss has a bad reputation for similar cases against his workers. Babatunde witnessed three workers sacked during his service in the company. One of them who was in his late fifties died a week after his dismissal. In another incident, a well known bank in Lagos, took him to court over monetary affair. Throughout the whole week, posters were pasted on his office walls for his assets to be sold on auction by court orders. Mr Ekanem quickly talked to the man pasting the posters on his walls that he would employ him and give him a good salary if only he would quit his job. The young man, knowing how wealthy Mr Ekanem was, quickly agreed to his proposals and resigned to work for him. As soon as he paid the money he owed the bank, he got the young man from the auction company sacked. It wasn’t long too when the sudden death of the transport manager was announced to him by his family. Doctors couldn’t find the exact sickness that killed Mr. Adebayo after he had been on admission at the hospital for almost four weeks. Before his death, the handsome good- looking man was emaciated to the thinnest creature. As a former driver to the managing director, and later appointed as a transport manger, he served the company for twenty-five years. For his silver jubilee service in the company, he was given a beetle Volkswagen car, as a long service present. But when he died, Mr Ekanem went to the deceased family to claim back the car, saying it belonged to the company. When Babatunde finally left the premises of his former employers, he went to live with Adjani, his junior brother, who had also arrived in Lagos from Ghana a couple of months ago and worked as a cook for three engineers from India. His stay with his junior brother was a great family reunion. Babatunde was always happy, and he and his brother discussed their family’s developments, high prospects, and the need to further their education. They were glancing through the evening
  46. 46. Road of Agony 40 newspapers when they came across an advertisement by a company looking for a salesman. The next day, he and his junior brother set off to see if he could get the job. Walking towards Isolo express road, one of the busiest roads in Lagos, connecting Ikorodu road, a mini bus passed by them. In the bus were three people, the driver in civilian clothes and two armed soldiers at the rear. They were watching the two brothers as the vehicle slowly moved along. Babatunde quickly saw them that they were focusing their attention on him and his brother, but Adjani didn’t notice it. “Did you see the small bus that just passed by us? The three men inside were watching us,” Babatunde asked his brother. “No, I didn’t see them,” replied Adjani. Suddenly, they saw that the bus they were talking about was reversing. When the bus reached the exact spot where the brothers were, it came to a halt. One of the armed soldiers got down, walked to meet the brothers, and asked them of where they were going. “We are brothers who are just looking for a job,” said Babatunde. Without any reason, the soldier gave a command to the brothers to enter the bus. In fear and confusion, Babatunde resisted and told his brother that they should flee the scene. The brothers then took to their heels while the soldier ran after them. Few metres ahead of the direction they fled, the brothers saw another soldier standing with man in plainclothes near a huge advert board. Babatunde thought they could help, therefore they ran straight to them. It was really a bad decision they made. They were escaping from Sodom, a burning city, to Gomorrah, also waiting to be destroyed. Unknown to them, the soldier they thought could help them was also a criminal. Behind the advert board, he was robbing the man in the civilian clothes. The soldier’s hand was firmly in the man’s pocket trying to steal his money, whilst the man was struggling with him to escape when the two exhausted brothers ran to meet the crime he was committing. The brothers’ sudden intervention paved the way for the man the soldier wanted to steal his money from his pocket to escape. As he fled for his life, some of the money in his pocket
  47. 47. Joel Savage 41 fell. He didn’t waste any time to take them. He left them and escaped. The two brothers had saved a man being robbed by a soldier to escape but they were now in trouble. When the soldier noticed that the man he was robbing his money had escaped, he went mad and poured his anger and frustration on the brothers. Meanwhile the other soldier who was also running after them came to meet the brothers under interrogation from the mad soldier. “What is the matter with you?” he roared with a certain notable accent. “On our way looking for a job, we were confronted by this soldier. He asked us to enter the bus packed over there. We were afraid so we ran away,” said Babatunde. “So you are running away when the law enforcement officer told you to enter the bus. You mean you have no respect for him at all?” asked the furious soldier. Babatunde was about to explain to him when like a flash of lightening a dirty slap descended across his face. The impact of the slap pushed him backwards. He was ordered to come forward and he did. Again he was about to say something when he was given another severe slap. This time, he fully surrendered to the soldier to do whatever he wanted without a word. During that time, Adjani, who was very perplexed, stood quietly beside his senior brother, without saying a word. The angry soldier finally handed them over to the armed soldier who was pursuing the two brothers and he escorted them into the bus. When they took off, they enquired from the brothers if they had any money on them. ‘Actually, we were looking for a job when this happened,” said Babatunde. The soldier ransacked the brothers’ pockets, but nothing was found. Some few coins dropped into the bus. Since that was not what they were looking for, they refused to take them. Babatunde picked his coins back into his pocket. After about ten minutes drive, the soldier asked his companions what they must do with the brothers. “Let them go, said one of them.” The bus then came to a halt and the brothers were set free.
  48. 48. Road of Agony 42 After their ordeal, the brothers didn’t go to look for the job any longer but went straight home. How could soldiers or police officers who were supposed to protect innocent citizens and foreigners rather put on uniforms to rob and victimised them? The effect of the slaps he had from the angry soldier produced thick marks across his face. It was a senseless beating that he didn’t deserve because he hadn’t done anything wrong. “It’s good this happened to me but not you,” said Babatunde to his junior brother, for he really cared much about him.
  49. 49. 43 Behind the Steering Wheel Again As the economy of Nigeria was gradually going down on its knees, getting a job was a problem. Thus, the easiest job for a foreigner was driving for those who were looking for drivers with much experience. Driving in Lagos needed much patience and experience. Since most of the drivers were illiterates, they drive dangerously reckless. Babatunde had no choice but to go into driving once again. He was very lucky to get a job at an engineering firm. He drove the assistant managing director of the firm for about six weeks and then the man transferred him from the office to drive his wife. That was when Babatunde started reaping problems he had not sowed from the man’s wife. Mrs. Alagomeji was a business woman. She had two big shops in the city. As a typical Yoruba woman married to an engineer, her pride of travelling abroad many times and her wealth ruled her character. She had no damn respect for any one with the exception of her husband and members of her family According to a co-worker of the firm, Mrs Alagomeji had changed more than five drivers. Every driver she engaged to drive her disappeared within few weeks of employment. She was actually finding it diffcult to get a driver who could tolerate her nonsense, that was the reason her husband removed Babatunde from the office to drive her.
  50. 50. Road of Agony 44 She once picked up a quarrel with one of her drivers right in the middle of the city. The driver who couldn’t take any more of her nonsense abandoned her in the car and walked away. He was never seen again. Since she could drive, she drove herself back home. There was once a misunderstanding between her and Babatunde she was very angry that she stepped out of the car and joined a taxi home. The following day, her husband called Babatunde to explain what happened. When he had finished speaking, Mr Alagomeji told him that he should know that the woman was his wife, so whatever happened and whatever the case may be, he would support his wife. “So please, take it easy with her,” he concluded. Babatunde listened to his boss and gave his wife every due respect. But her bad character caused more conflicts between her and her drivers. If one wanted a good relationship with his driver, then he or she must repect the driver; unfortunately, drivers got no respect from Mrs. Alagomeji. What one gives is exactly what you will get. Babatunde drove her to the bank one day. After her transactions, she sat comfortably behind the car and Babatunde drove from the banks premises to the immediate junction. At the junction, he watched both sides of the road and there were no coming vehicle coming from any direction. He watched again. It was safe, so he quickly moved to join the main road. These were common rules of safety every experience driver followed. As soon as he joined the main road, a van doing about eighty miles per hour in an area of forty-five miles per hour suddenly caught up with him. The speed was too much that, to avoid running into Babatunde’s car, the driver swerved his van, which resulted in it climbing of the pavement and crashed into two stationary vehicles. Behind him, Mrs. Alagomeji screamed and asked him to stop because he had caused an accident. “What do you mean by ‘I had caused an accident’?” Asked Babatunde. Then argument ensued behind the vehicle bewteen Mrs. Alagomji and him. Unexpectedly, a man standing nearby who had witnessed the whole incident came closer to Mrs. Alagomeji and asked her “Why do you have to shout on your driver to stop? Do you think it was his fault? Is this an express road for such a terrible speed?” The witness’s questions
  51. 51. Joel Savage 45 embarrassed her so much that she finally told Babatunde to move the car. In the midst of the crowd watching the accident scene, he drove away before the police arrived. It was that very day Babatunde made a decision to quit the job but thinking of all the difficulties he had been through, he decided to hold on firmly to his job. Economic reasons and hardships had forced hundreds of Africans to emigrate from their countries to neighbouring Nigeria. Due to the huge number of immigrants, foreigners lost their respect in the eyes of most Nigerians. The citizens considered foreigners as thieves and criminals, despite the fact that most of the thieves and armed robbers caught in any of the states were purely Nigerians. Also in Ghana, some years back, there was nothing like armed robbery. Then suddenly it surfaced. The shocking fact was every armed robber caught appeared to be a Nigerian. Despite all this, all foreigners are considered thieves in Lagos. It was the same perception the family of Mr. Alagomeji, especially his wife, gave Babatunde, even though he had worked for them for months without any theft record. The sad part of it all was when she gave her dresses to Babatunde to take them to the laundry for dry cleaning. A week later, when he went for collection, he made a big mistake by not cross- checking to see if the number of the dresses were exactly the same as he took along. He foolishly walked away to give the dresses to his boss’s wife. It was when he gave the dresses to her before he was made aware that two were missing. He went back to the laundry to make enquiries but he was told that he didn’t leave anything behind. This is ridiculous, he thought, since he didn’t drop anything when he went for them. At that point Babatunde knew that the dresses were stolen by the laundry staff themselves, but how could he explain to his boss’s wife to believe and accept this explanation when all foreigners were considered as “Ole” (thieves)? Finally, it was concluded that he had stolen the dresses to his girlfriend. According to Mrs. Alagomeji, since she bought those dresses in London and Babatunde can’t afford to buy them, he was enticed to steal them. She was very sure of her accusation because at that time, her friend whose shop assistant was a foreigner, too, had been
  52. 52. Road of Agony 46 arrested for embezzlement and was serving a prison sentence. When Babatunde couldn’t handle the accusation any longer, he developed mental frustration. To make matter worse, the Alagomeji family lost confidence in him, while he was still fighting to recover as a victim of a situation. There is no need to continue working for someone who do not trust or like you. Therefore Babatunde quit his job without giving them any notice. While he was having problems with the Alagomeji family before he stopped working, his brother, Adjani, was also having his share of problems at where he was working as a cook for three Indian engineers living in the same flat. For the past four months, he hadn’t received his salary. He received information that he was going to be paid soon; unfortunately, it was only one month’s payment. According to the Indians, the company they were working for was facing financial problems. This had adversely affected them, too. But Ajani didn’t care. He needs his money. He thought three months salary in arrears and empty promises were enough. He went on a day’s strike. That morning, the three Indians, when ready to go to work, found no breakfast on the dining table. Two of them got angry and ordered Adjani to leave the house. “How can I leave your house without my money? You have to pay me first,” said Adjani. As they were talking to Adjani, Mr Chakroparti, the eldest among them, saw Babatunde in the house and asked Adjani who he was. “He is my senior brother,” said Adjani. “How many times have I told you that visitors are not allowed in this house?” asked Mr Chakroparti. “He is my senior brother, I said. If you didn’t hear it clearly, then I’m repeating,” said Adjani. Mr Chakroparti, burning with anger, moved towards Adjani, but Mr. Chopra held him back. No one knew his intention, but it seemed like he was ready to test his arms to see if he was still like his youthful days. Mr Chakroparti looked at Babatunde’s face and told him to leave the house. “Wait a minute,” Adjani told his brother. He walked to his boss and said, “Let me tell you something. In your country, if a
  53. 53. Joel Savage 47 brother can’t visit his brother, in mine, we do. My brother has the right to visit me anytime, you stingy men of three who share a bottle of beer.” Mr. Chakroparti watched Adjani’s face for a while and departed into his room. One would never ever understand the concept behind the way most Indians treat foreigners, especially blacks. Even though there are black Indians, the Indians discriminate a lot against Africans. There was one called Mr. Mattew, who Babatunde helped for three weeks when he was a driver at the engineering firm. He cooked his meals. But the stingy man measurd his rice with a small Vaseline bottle because he didn’t want to share his meal with anyone. Once, he saw Babatunde tasting his rice to see if it’s well cooked, and he was angry. As a matter of fact, Babatunde wasn’t interested in his food. He was not a vegetarian. Mr. Mattew lived on vegetables and often ate his rice with fermented yogurt. That’s not the type of dish Babatunde liked.
  54. 54. 48 Living in the Slum Neighbourhood Adjani finally left his job and the house his employers provided him when he thought they were wasting his time. This affected Babatunde, too, since he had been spending the night at his brother’s place. There was no available good place immediately for the brothers to live when Adjani left his job, so they moved deeper to join other Africans living at the slum make-shift houses at Ebute-Metta. Ebute-Metta was better than Ijora, another place in Lagos, where a lot of illegal immigrants were living and where the two brothers chose to live. Unlike Ijora, the make-shift houses were built on marshy stagnant mosquito breeding pools. In the past, hardly could any citizen go for those types of houses, but due to accommodation problems, the two brothers settled together with other foreigners and Nigerians. Viewed from outside, the scattered unplanned wooden structures looked very ugly, but inside them were full of surprises. There were beautiful decorated walls, hanging posters of great musicians and footballers, television sets, video recorders, and stereo players. From the wooden ghettos come booming sound of all kinds of music including high-life and reggae.
  55. 55. Joel Savage 49 Africans, especially Ghanaians and Sierra Leoneans, are well known for their love of reggae, the music allegedly carrying a prophetical message, the truth and the light. Reggae Music originated from Jamaica. That little island in the Carribean has produced great artists such as Jimmy Cliff, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Don Carlos, Eric Donaldson, Desmond Dekker, Joseph Hill, and Culture and host of others. Adjani, a reggae lover, believed that a prophet in the field of reggae music had passed away unnoticed and that was Robert Nester Marley (Bob). There was a joke that a Ghanaian who was travelling to Europe picked up all his favourite reggae cassettes, but at the airport, he realised he had forgotten his passport. Around the reggae-booming ghettos, all kinds of African foods were for sale: Kenkey and Banku with okro soup, fried red plantain with beans, yam, fufu, and other African meals. With all these native foods available in a foreign land, most of the Ghanaians and other nationals feel at home. However, they at times become victims to some of the duty policemen, who, when one unfortunately walked into their net, exploited them. When one was accused of any wrongdoing while these off-duty policemen were around, hardly would one be taken to the police station. One would be threatened to “settle” oneself, meaning to pay bribe for one’s freedom. However, sometimes when you fell into the hands of the merciless ones and you had no money to pay for your freedom, they would take you to the police station and put a charge on you as a wanderer or illegal immigrant. For example, one midnight, Adjani went out to urinate at the backyard of the house, since the urinal place was situated far from the wooden structures serving as sleeping place. Within a second, he became a victim of two policemen. Adjani was arrested and taken away without the knowledge of his senior brother. A woman who sold a locally prepared alcohol in the neighbourhood saw when the policemen were taking him away. She therefore screamed in the middle of the night to call Babatunde. He quickly took some money and raced outside to “settle” for his brother’s freedom. Late September 1985, Babatunde decided to fly from Nigeria to Europe from his hard saved money. At the Tafawa
  56. 56. Road of Agony 50 Balewa Square to buy his air ticket, he sat down for a while and then changed his mind not to travel. Thinking of all the hardship and suffering he had gone through, he was scared to leave his junior brother behind. Instead, he preferred for Adjani to go first, then he would follow later. One couldn’t describe the love and affection he had for his junior brother. For most of the time in his prayers, he would ask God to pro- tect his brother and if at all anything would happen to Adjani, that catastrophe should happen to him, Babatunde, instead, because he knew that he could survive any ordeal better than his brother. After purchasing his ticket, both of them went to Eko, the congested trade centre in the heart of Lagos, to buy some few things he needed for the journey, including a winter jacket to stand the cold. In the first week of October, Adjani successfully flew to Europe, through the famous Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos. After his departure, Babatunde came home to pray for his brother’s safety and gave thanks to the almighty God, who made it possible. Adjani’s departure to Europe was a break through as one of the family’s top priorities. When almost six weeks he hadn’t heard from him, he became a little worried. He wasn’t thinking of any misfortune but he thought six weeks was enough to read from his brother. Then at the seventh week, unexpectedly came a letter with two beautiful photographs of his brother, taken on the snow. The background of the pictures showed that Adjani was completely in a new world but part of his letter carried a sad tone. According to him, the shoes were not good enough to stand the cold, so he suffered frost bite. The cold was too severe that he had to be treated at the hospital. It was like all his toes were dead, making him not feel anything at all when walking. One would never ever know about the harsh conditions of Europe until one was there. Actually, he needed a strong winter boots for the journey, but these were not sold in Africa. Just few months after his departure, some laws in Nigeria concerning foreign travel were changed by the Federal Government, which would have affected Adjani if he had not travelled out of that country earlier. The Nigerian government passed a decree that all foreigners living in Nigeria who wanted

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