I am an Ajebutter. Not by birth, or by formings, or by swag – I am simply an unapologetic ajebutter by default. I didn’t choose to be born one. God, without seeking my opinion (because He’s God, I guess), gave me the genes of an Ajebutter and a funny BriMericana accent . By luck or some twisted work of fate, fortune, karma (I might have killed ten defenseless puppies in my past life) or destiny, I have found myself in Lagos, crazy Lasgidi, and this is my story…
Keke drivers in Lagos are one peculiar folk. They are calm, chill, and universally docile. They remind me of cute sheep whose daily routine involves waking up, bleating (driving their tricycle), grazing (collecting fares), and bleating (exchanging pleasantries with colleagues)./
Simply put, these guys fascinate me. Not the kind of amusement to make me roll all over and crack up with laughter, no. It’s the kind to make me smile a bit, and look away.
They dress chill and functional, nothing fancy. Their vocabulary isn’t exactly the award-winning kind, in fact, it is lean and without ‘grammar’. They even prefer pidgin English. It’s faster, smoother, gives them identity, and puts off the Agberos at bus stops.
My best Keke memories in Lagos are still ahead of me, I hope, but I have had quite a few which has helped shaped my existence, and influenced my view of life on the streets.
I once took a Keke whose driver thought he had found the distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth. The first words I spoke to that man were:
“Hi Sir, how much is the trip to Badore”. Brimerican accent and all. Fire down, Joey, fire down.
“It’s just N500, please”. He had an accent, and it was fake. I have a nagging feeling that it was the product of watching Jim Iyke flex his vocal chords on the screen. A bad mixture of Yoruba intonation, and wannabe Western.
“Are you going”. He asked, his arms gesticulating and inviting. I took one look at him, whispered ‘bad market’, and said no. Shaking my head as I walked away.
Badore, from Ajah’s main bus stop, was a distance worthy of N100. This man wanted five times that amount. ‘Ole ni e’.Thief.
Lesson learned. These Keke sheep aren’t exactly sheep. They have a wolf streak within. No wonder they don’t smile much. I guess an eternity of dealing with Lastma (Lagos state ruthless transport rule enforcers), Agberos, and the police have corrupted them.
Another day, I fought side by side with another Keke driver. He wasn’t my friend. Neither did I feel strongly for him. But together we had engaged verbally with a truck driver who almost crushed us.
After screaming for the errant driver to stop, he alighted from his monster, and yelled at us.
“Idiots”. He yelled.
“Buffoon, moron, nitwit, blood-thirsty bandit, simpleton, slow job, nutcase, nutjob, wackjob, wanker, bastard, dumb pig,”. I opened the flood gates.
Trust my driver, he was in fine form, spitting out the Yoruba curses, with such flair.
“Ode, olodo, ori e, Iyala iya, get out (that sounded a bit like ‘ghetttat’), idiot,…”. He was impressive.
“What if you had crushed us, you animal”. I asked.
“If I crush you, na sara”. He replied, with no forethought.
Then I saw it in his eyes. They were wild, and without a soul. It struck me then that I wasn’t conversing with a human. This was a man who was less than a man. He was an animal. Probably might have killed before, and will kill again.
I simply tapped my driver’s right shoulder, ushered him back to his tricycle, and we resumed our journey. Deep in my heart, I knew that I had narrowly escaped death. Not a driving error, but death in its absolute form.
2 weeks later, I had the ill luck to board the same Keke, and we had a driving error again. My guy was at fault, but he still wanted to argue. I slightly raised my voice and requested.
“Would you please just drive?”. I asked firmly. His reply was a classic.
“Omo Oyibo, no dey insult me”.
I shut my mouth in disbelief. Sorry Sir. I won’t insult you again. Turns out he had forgotten how we stood side by side, and fought off evil. I think all Keke men have Alzheimers.
I still take Keke rides. I’ll rather ride in one, than keep company with bikes. In Lagos, Keke drivers are not just a funny lot. They are the best…at what they do – taking, driving, cursing, and fare collection. I think they are legends, and you should hug one today.
See you next week, Peace and good hustle.