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How Badalla survived the attack in 1998



Badalla had been stuck in the traffic for close to two hours. All the window glasses were rolled down in the yellow and black striped Peugeot 504 saloon taxi. The temperature was sky high and the extreme humidity made matters worse. It was downtown Balogun market area. There were no alternative routes to get out of the area. The only route was via Apongbon Street to connect Eko Bridge and get back to mainland. It was bumper to bumper traffic. What caused the traffic wasn’t too clear. The driver, Bolade had turned off the engine of the car for the sixth time. He would wait patiently for the next 10 to 15 minutes when the traffic would inch about ten metres forward before it stopped again. Bolade rummaged through the glove compartment of his taxi looking frantically for some item. He did not seem to find what he was searching for. His search became more desperate. He looked under the front passenger seat of the vehicle and could not find it. He brought his voluminous body out of the car and stood on the main road and crouched to looked under his driver’s seat. This was so dangerous. Did he realise how dangerous this was? To pop out of a vehicle on a main road even though the vehicles were stationary. What if a motorbike or bicycle crept up on him? What if there was sudden movement? Badalla did not say anything. Bolade, pulled out a face towel from under the driver’s  seat and struggled to bring his large frame out of his vehicle and re-squeeze himself back into his vehicle. The space between his cab and the car beside his car was so small. He snuggled himself back to his car and continued to wipe the perspiration from his face using the large configuration of his palm. Then like out of a trance, he remembered that he now had the blue flannel.  He wiped the perspiration from his face and neck and chest. He had unbuttoned the first three buttons of his short sleeved shirt to invite in any sort of air.

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Badalla’s white handkerchief had turned brown by now. He had been wiping the perspiration from his sweaty body. He popped his head out of the window and wrung the handkerchief and water poured forth from the white material. A faded yellow coloured transportation bus popularly known as Molue ignited its engine and the exhaust pipe was pointing directly at Badalla’s window which was rolled down. The entire carbon emission from that death box spewed at the Badalla’s taxi and other vehicles close by. There was a sudden scamper. People scurried back into their cars and started the engines. The traffic was about to move and there was this scurry and honking of horns as vehicles tried to make the best of this opportunity. There was no chance for people who wanted to switch lanes. It stalled the traffic further as people cursed and swore. Badalla was coughing badly now. The whole air stenched of smoke and pure black soot. The pollution in the air was severe. How did people survive under such conditions?

For a moment, Badalla’s mind flashed into statistics. “It would be interesting to find out the data for respiratory related illnesses. It would be interesting to find out how many people died as a result of air pollution related ailments?”

The cars all died a sudden death. All engines were switched off and it was just pure humidity mixed with the lingering smell of smoke, soot and fake hydrocarbon elements.

“Buy pure water, buy pure water” a shrill voice of a young girl cried. “Gala Gala, yogurt” a young masculine boy yelled. “Buy groundnut, buy groundnut” an elderly voice whelped. All the street hawkers were busy selling their wares.

“Pure water” Bolade yelled. About five pure water hawkers arrived at the same time.

“Na me first come, oga, buy from me”

“Na lie o, na me first come.”

“Egbon mi, no mind them. No be me you call?”

“Oga take, I get change, my own na the original and e still dey very cold”

Bolade snatched two satchets from the young girl. “Give me change hundred naira.”

The young girl counted out 90 naira change to Bolade and Bolade handed over the hundred naira note.

“Why did you buy from the young girl?” Badalla asked Bolade.

“Ah oga, this one resemble my little girl, so I take pity on am.”

“Interesting how far empathy can lead us in life.”

“Oga wetin be pathy, wetin be that word again?”

“It’s called empathy. It means the ability to have and share the feelings of others.”

“Ah oga, I feel for the small girl o, no be small.”

A cross section of sturdy men and women with different wares squeezed past the tiny aisle between Badalla’s cab and the other vehicle on Badalla’s side.

“Yogurt, gala.”

A young sprinter arrived. And in a jiffy Badalla’s side of the window was swarmed with different ware sellers. Badalla was almost suffocating. He needed some air which was already stifled. Another cluster had formed on the opposite window, just to attract his attention. Badalla brought out a hundred naira note from his wallet. “Oga collect change first o before you give money. These children too smart” as Bolade belched into a laughter.

“Thanks driver.”

As Badalla was drinking the yogurt from the pack and eating his gala, four rough looking young men came by the car. Their eyes were blood shot. Two hung by his back window and another two hung by the opposite back window.

“Oga mi, find something for your boys now. Your boys dey loyal.”

Badalla maintained a straight face.

“Oga mi answer us now. Your boys dey loyal, make you find something for your boys.”

Their voices were croaked like a frog’s and it was cracked as well. The car began to inch forward. Badalla was happy that some movement at least and perhaps soon they would drop off.

He did not respond to them. He kept munching at his gala, sipping at his yogurt and maintained a straight face. His heart was beating faster.

He couldn’t roll up the glass because it would be suffocating in the car.

“Oga mi answer your boys now, you just dey blank us, dey chop your gala, dey drink your yogurt.”

Their breath stank of weed and tobacco. The situation was not looking too good.

The driver Bolade pretended he did not hear or know what was going on.

“Oga mi e be like say you want make we use this blade design this your fine body” they chorused.

Badalla turned around and looked, slipped in between their fingers were brand new Nacet razor blades.

“We just dey talk with you softly softly before you just dey blank us like say we no dey here.”

Badalla could not imagine the thought of those blades running across his body. A gun might be better. A shot or two and you are done compared to four blades running across your body.

Badalla dipped his hand inside the right front pocket of his trousers and dug out his wallet. He opened it and brought out a ten naira note for them.

“Wetin be this?”

“Na money!”

“So you sabi talk. We think say you be deaf and dumb before. Now empty your wallet.”

“I need some money to pay the driver please.”

“Wetin be please, before we dey beg you make you find something for your boys and you just dey do yanga*, now you dey beg us. Empty your wallet.”

Badalla emptied his wallet. He had heard stories of horror about these Area Boys and he knew that they don’t mess about. They meant business and they had a back up crew somewhere within reach. Nobody dared to mess with them. Even the police struggled containing them.

Badalla didn’t want to end up as a stat.

“Empty your other pockets” the one with deep tribal marks on his cheeks on the left hand side of the window barked.

Badalla did as he was instructed.

People walked past, hawking, buying, selling as if somebody’s life was not under threat. Even more depressing was the fact the driver did not utter a word.

After his whole pockets were emptied, the traffic began to move. It seemed as if the logjam conspired with the Area Boys to rob Badalla.


*yanga – pidgin English word meaning –swagger – conducting oneself in an arrogant or pompous manner.


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  1. What happened was just a typical life situation in Nigerian cities especially Lagos which was where the story happened. Similar heavy traffic situation occurs in Abuja, Poet Harcourt , Kano and Onitsha. But such harassment is common in Lagos and sometimes Onitsha. Thank you very much for the good work.

  2. The scenario that was described is one that most Nigerians are familiar with especially if you have to be on the road on a regular basis.
    First, the writer shows us how a typical day on the Lagos road looks like, the usual traffic jam and the bad state of some vehicles, then moved on to show how social vices can take place anywhere and lastly how an average Nigerian is expected to take care of himself or herself alone, everybody on his/ her lane.
    The writers choice of words made the story interesting and captivating.
    Nice one!

  3. The story basically depicts the lifestyle of Nigerians on a daily basis. Using Lagos as an example, the writer has shown us what a regular day looks like; the hustle and bustle, the heavy traffic; with or without a cause, the thousands of hawkers on the road trying to make ends meet, the environment situation (heat coupled with air pollution from everywhere) and social vices bound to happen.
    What stood out for me in the story was that, living in Lagos means survival is your personal business. Everyone is on their own. Imagine Badalla being robbed in daylight and no single person cared to intervene, just shows the popular saying, ‘dey your dey, make I dey my dey’, every man for himself.
    One needs to be extra cautious when living in one city. We don’t want to get on the bad side of these thugs/area boys but at the same time, we should be street smart.
    I think the writer should have shown some bit of concern from the driver or someone else because reading this just kind of feels like, if someone that isn’t used to this lifestyle is involved in such situation, no help would be rendered. It’s be robbed or get killed.

    Interesting piece!

  4. Typical day in the ever bustling Lagos. Vices, physical, chemical and biological one is exposed to. The best route to take is not to resist else one ends up as part of the statistics of those robbed, maimed or killed.
    The driver and the passenger’s name should have started with different letters.

  5. The story allows the reader to “experience ” the fun and fury of Lagos downtown traffic chaos with attendant hazards of insecurity and environmental pollution, a dangerous daily living that’s left unattended by the governors of the city dwellers.
    The author arrested the attention of the with participatory narrative . An exciting piece despite the presence of a few words in the story are like appendicitis to the human body. Both the story and the man are fitter without them…

  6. As i read through this story i couldn’t help but applaud the writer’s ability in painting a clear picture of a typical day in Lagos traffic, through the use of literary devices.

    Basically, this beautiful write up is choke full of images and undertones which gave the story a touch of reality.
    It is sad that, Badalla felt a surge of empathy towards that little girl hawking her wares, but he had no one to do so much as cast him a pitying glance while at the hands of those hardened Area boys.
    The story ended quite abruptly; the writer’s idea of denoument beats my imagination.

    • Thanks Mary for your comment. I find your comparison between the driver’s empathy towards the little girl and his lack of care towards his passengers assault quite remarkable. Perhaps you got the names of the driver and passenger mixed up. Do have a look again please.

  7. I liked how the writer could envision a typical life story and connect it together into a written piece. The funniest part was where badalla kept a straight face but knew deep down that if he doesn’t cooperate he’s a gunner for life 😂
    Also the empathy expressed by bolade the driver was so relatable and heartwarming. Being that this is a short piece, the story ended well. Thank you. It was simple and easy to read.

  8. Shallow and lacking an actual imagination and does settle well for a short story

    The writer struggled to depict an actual event that could happen in a normal lagos setting, this could be for the fact that the writer has no real experience with lagos traffic dilemma, so he had to come from a madeup fantasy angle even fictional stories have actual information.

    The writer didn’t not obviously follow through the story properly, he seemed to be hovering around the characters, situation and grammars. There by giving too much details of the situation rubbing readers of their imagination nor throwing more light on the situation where it was necessary.

    Also, the characters were not given enough information, we read through the characters with little or no details, where are they coming from or going to, how did they meet and most importantly who is the story centered on. He simply just arrived at the dead end traffic distracting us away from potential stories around them.

    Lastly there were moments not written down nor described in the story that all of a sudden each character was doing it, just like when bolade was eating gala and yogurt when the thugs were harassing him and also who then bought the pure water?. The writer was either confused by the two characters names that he couldn’t clearly depict who the driver or passenger was.

    • Thanks for your comment Chijioke. I would like to benefit from your sense of depth and imagination. Would you be kind enough to support me in this?

  9. This story carried me away on a cloud of imagination yet somehow kept my footing on reality. To a foreigner who has never set foot in Lagos, I envisioned the weather, pollution, traffic, and incident so clearly as if it was happening right in front of my eyes. It is easy to empathize when you can perceive the helpless look of Badalla as he moves away with his empty pockets. It is amazing how the author can manage to intrigue the readers when he smartly weaves the lines to reach the climax.

    • Thanks Rebecca for your comment. I am glad to know that through the story you could visualize life in Lagos. That should encourage you to perhaps visit Lagos someday and enjoy the uniqueness of Lagos.

  10. (1). The message and idea the writer was trying to pass on to the readers was properly potrayed .

    (2). The driver buying water from the little girl.

    (3). When the area boys confronted Badalla and the interaction between them.

    (4). The writer should have further talked about Badallas interaction with the driver after the traffic moved, how Badalla payed off the driver and his reaction to the whole situation that happened that day.

  11. (1) when the area boys did not hurt Badalla while robbing him.

    (2) when the area boys left Badalla.

    (3) when the area boys left Badalla and the traffic moved.

    (4) there should have been a further interaction between Badalla and the Driver after the traffic jam moved.

    • Thank you for your comment Marcus. Your suggestion is taken onboard, there should have been further interaction between Badalla and the driver.

  12. This story is talking about the misfortune of a man named Badalla, who was on a journey with his driver named Bolade who were stuck I traffic.
    1. What worked out well was that the fact that all the street hawkers were busy selling their wares, was the only thing that worked out well for Badalla. Because, assuming there was no food or drink or water presicely, it would have been an emergency case for him. Because, he was already coughing badly, the air is stenched and the temperature is sky high.
    2. I like the fact that Badalla did not try to retaliate or raise an Alam , even when he knew he was capable of doing so. He was trying to protect himself and his driver, though he was frightened by their threat s.
    3. The fact that Bolade did not show concern about what was happening or what will happen to his Oga(Boss) shows that he is an accomplice with those Area Boys.
    4. The writer should have told us where Badalla was going to or coming from, how the Boys left him and Badalla’s reaction to Bolade.

    • Thank you Eseme for your comment. Your comment dissects the story. Yes you are right…the writer should have told us where Badalla was going to or coming from. Keep reading and keep writing.

  13. 1. I can feel the authenticity of the story. Badalla’s dillema is a reality I have personally experienced in Lagos although mine wasn’t in a taxi but a private ride in a traffic.
    2. I like the fact that the story depicts the reality of what an average resident in Lagos face daily.
    3a. Badalla’s wasn’t thinking like an average Lagos resident. Most people don’t think about the health hazard caused by atmospheric pollution, here’s Badalla’s thought : “For a moment, Badalla’s mind flashed into statistics. It would be interesting to find out the data for respiratory related illnesses. It would be interesting to find out how many people died as a result of air pollution related ailments”.
    b. The fact that People walked past, hawking, buying, selling as if somebody’s life was not under threat. Even more depressing was the fact the driver did not utter a word. This shows that this has become the norm in Lagos where no body cares about the other.
    4. Yes, the story is for a Nigerian audience. Other statement written in pidgin should be also interpreted for better understanding for non-Nigerian readers.

  14. This story depicts a typical day in a Nigerian’s life. For example the humidity and heat as well as the hustle, traffic and the insistence of the hawkers on the street. I believe that the main message of this story is that no matter who you are, anything can happen.
    This man is shown to be kind, buying pure water from a little girl who reminded him of his own daughter.
    He also internally complains about the pollution in the air, wondering how people manage to live in these conditions, leading me to believe that he was perhaps abroad for a long amount of time and is now being reintroduced to Nigerian life.
    When the ‘area boys’ came to him, there was nothing he could do, he was forced to simply give them everything he had or be maimed.
    The saddest part about this is how business goes on as normal. Even his driver says nothing, choosing to save his own skin. It is also inevitable that at least a few people saw what was happening in the traffic, but nobody chose to even try and intervene.
    At the very end, the traffic moves on and he feels that the logjam conspired with the ‘area boys’ to rob him.
    In this kind of situation, it is foolish to try and resist. The only thing that will happen will most likely you getting robbed and maimed at the same time. But if you bear witness to this sort of event, for the sake of your conscience, draw as much attention to it as you can and intervene. You’d want that if it was you.
    All in all a felt like it was a great story and one that many people should read.

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