By OSA AMADI, Arts Editor
I as the driver and Freedom as conductor, we worked from 5:00 a.m. to about 10:00 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays. Initially, we delivered about N5, 000 to Caro. Later she increased the delivery to N8, 000 or so.
Each day, after delivery, Freedom and I would have about N1, 500 to share. I would give him N600 and take N900. For someone who was earning N800 a month, N900 a day was a goldmine!
But it was a terribly hard work. There is no way I could have survived it if I had not had a Spartan training. Soon, trouble began.
Caro had rented a one room apartment in another side of Mafoluku for Freedom her cousin, and Longinus her younger brother. So I left No 9 Awofodu Street Palmgrove to go and live with Freedom and Longy in the one room at the other side of Mafoluku. Caro’s mother also came from the village and was staying with them in the big house where we used to park the buses.
Suddenly I noticed that Caro’s attitude towards me had become cold. I also noticed that the attitudes of Longy and their mother who came because Caro had a baby then, were no longer friendly towards me. I discussed it with Freedom and he told me that they were beginning to think that we were making too much money from the bus. That was when they increased the delivery amount to N8, 000.
In order to meet the target and still have something for ourselves we were coming home almost at midnight. One day Caro called me and said that I should be filling the petrol tank of the bus before I park it every Saturday night. This was because they always took the bus out every Sunday on picnics and some other outings.
I told her that if I filled the petrol tank after work and delivered N8, 000 to her Freedom and I will have little or nothing to go home with. I also explained to her that what we normally do is to leave enough petrol in the tank that will enable us to do first morning trip and then buy fuel. She got angry and said I should drop the key of the bus. I dropped the key and went to the yard where I was staying with Freedom and Longy.
Later Freedom told me that they have given the bus to another driver. I said there was no problem but I felt bad that Caro, who was my childhood friend and school mate; who knew my family and academic background; Caro who knew I was chauffeur-driven to school with my father’s police orderly sitting in the front seat, could treat me like that because circumstances had reduced me to the level of working for her as a driver. To be honest, I wept secretly.
But I had to move on. I walked the streets of Mafoluku, looking for another job. As I was passing one street one day I saw a notice in front of a chair, table and canopy rental services advertising for a driving job. When I inquired they told me that I had to see an Alhaji, owner of the business. Upon meeting the Alhaji he told me that if I was sure I could drive a big Diana truck he will test me and if I passed he will first give me a job as a loader before employing me as a driver. I agreed.
The day he took me out on the test he invited another Alhaji friend of his. They sat in front of the big Diana bus and I drove them from Mafoluku to Iyana-Ipaja. It was God that helped me that day. I was not very conversant with Iyana-Ipaja then. I missed quite a number of turns. But the two Alhajis were satisfied with my driving. They spoke Yoruba all through (except when they wanted to talk to me). I heard a lot of ‘omo Ibo’ in their conversation and knew they were talking about me. He later came to love me.
After the test the Alhaji gave me a job as loader and off loader of rented party chairs, tables, and canopies. I worked both diligently and cheerfully. But it was a dirty job, far dirtier than commercial bus driving and conducting jobs. And I was Mr. Clean!
I took it as a sport. I could not remember how much I was paid at the rental services business but it was not up to what I was making as a commercial bus driver. Most of the work fell on weekends, from Fridays to Sundays. With my Calabar work mate called Ibanga we would load the tables, chairs, and canopies into the big trucks and follow the truck to the venue of the party. There, we would offload, set up the canopies, tables and chairs. After the party we would go back there to dismantle, pack, load, and bring the items back to the office or take them to another party venue where they had been booked.
Strangely, I was enjoying the labor!