On my way to a meeting last week, I decided to board a bus since I had about an hour to spare. The journey was uneventful for the first 15 minutes. Then, about halfway through the journey, we were urgently flagged down by a young teenager. He looked to be around 14 or 15 years old and he was obviously agitated and uneasy. The moment we picked him up, he kept looking around the bus with fear in his eyes. His bum was barely touching the seats. His attitude piqued everyone’s interest, especially the bus conductor who immediately asked “O gini? What is it?” The boy, still looking around, responded fearfully “Onwendinaachum. There are people after me.”
We were all puzzled and people started murmuring at this point. The conductor quizzed further? “Kedu ndi na achugi? Who are those after you?” The boy refused to say anything. He looked so scared. The conductor stared at him for a while, shook his head and laughed. I couldn’t help but smile because I could imagine what was going on in the conductor’s head; that at such a young age, the boy had involved himself with things like cultism and self-imposed pressure.
A few minutes later, a group of three young boys close to his age urgently flagged down our bus too and everything went sideways from there.
The moment the bus slowed down, they all jumped inside searching for the boy and as soon as they laid eyes on him, they started trying to drag him down from the bus for some insane reason. The boy clung tightly to the iron bars of the bus and refused to come down. At this point, everyone started panicking because the other boys looked like the real-life resume of dangerous cult boys and they had guns and weapons. One of them especially kept threatening to do ‘something’ if the boy didn’t release his grip and alight the bus. That statement alone caused pandemonium – everyone suddenly wanted to alight and not be caught in a crossfire. The boy and his attackers blocked the exit. It was a really fearful situation.
Finally, one man sitting in front somehow convinced the boy to come down, promising that he’d alight with him and help him. The boy reluctantly agreed. He alighted but held on tightly to the man, hiding behind him. His attackers couldn’t reach him because the man kept blocking them off. He yelled at them in a commanding voice, asking them to tell him what happened.
The one that was eager to attack annoyingly said that the other boy stole a phone and he must be punished. He touched his hand to the ground, making a gesture and swearing that he’ll make sure of it. At this point, the man dragged them all off the road to resolve the issue.
I had had enough, I got down, trying to find my way out of the messy situation and still be in time for my meeting. As I tried to walk away, I saw the bus conductor had a situation of his own – he was coordinating a group of passengers that already got down, ushering them back into the bus. The moment he sighted me, he started waving me back into the bus, “Aunty we are leaving now now!” he kept yelling. I sighed, I didn’t feel like having a verbal war with him so I simply obeyed and got back in.
Everyone else got back in and the driver made to leave, but the man who was trying to settle the issue amongst the boys shouted that we shouldn’t leave him o, he hasn’t paid any money o. I mentally applauded him for the last comment. We had to wait, as no conductor or driver would ever leave money behind.
He made a show of rounding up his ‘big brother settles the case’ charade and while we waited, a conversation about the incident was agog inside the vehicle. I sighed yet again – I could already feel a headache building.
Everyone was yelling at the same time, wanting their opinion to be heard first, one woman kept screaming “Jesus oo cult boys oo, driver move this motor!” at the top of her lungs. The man beside me, after talking to no one in particular, finally directed his conversation at me. I made a show of listening to him. He was saying “The driver did the wrong thing, he wasn’t supposed to stop for that boy in the first place, the way he was looking, you’ll obviously know something was amiss but these drivers eh, anything for money!” I gently asked, “what if that boy has been wrongly accused and he is in genuine danger, are we not supposed to help him?”
“Ah! Aunty, don’t talk like that o. What if those cult boys had started shooting and a stray bullet killed someone else, what would you say then? Ah! Abeg o, dem no dey do Good Samaritan for this our country again o”.
By now, the man that settled the case was back in the vehicle and the driver zoomed off. Immediately the driver quizzed him, “oga wetin happen?” We all fell silent – even I wanted to know what happened.
The case settler disclosed that the boy was accused of stealing a phone but he was vehemently denying it, after which he said that he had resolved the issue. I was taken aback. Just like that? The conductor beat me to it, “resolve ke? How you take settle am?”
The man, feeling quite important, went on to scold us for being wicked adults. He said, “Now una wan know how I settle am, why una no come help me? In this our country, all of us just wicked. Una see small boy like that and nobody even get human sympathy. If that boy na girl now, everybody go jump down go help am but if na man everybody go just leave am. Make nobody disturb me o”
By now, I had simply had enough. The headache had finally arrived with all the yelling, I simply alighted at the next bus stop. I, however, thought about all that happened. The man beside me had mentioned we no longer practice being a good Samaritan as Nigerians, with good reasons too. There are countless stories where people got themselves killed or jailed by simply trying to help. We the passengers that put ourselves first and wanted to leave the situation immediately merely did so out of fear of how quickly that situation could have escalated.
It made me wonder, do Nigerians still help strangers, or has that become a thing of the older generation?