Rebellion comes naturally to some people.
It does not smack them square in the head and then run into the curtains to hide from the slap that should define their cheeks in the ensuing seconds of passionate retaliation. Nor does it leave them with a stench of guilt like someone who eats garlic daily or like a woman who leaves her vagina unwashed after intercourse.
The ability to be rebellious and feel no remorse at the disappointment on the faces of people as they cuss and glare, is a special kind of rebellion that cannot even be purchased at Onitsha main market. You will appreciate this narrative if you’ve ever had to do business at Onitsha, whether in the market or on the streets, it doesn’t immediately matter. What matters is that you’re charged one hundred naira for a distance that you could have gladly trekked if you’d known just how short it was. But you did not know and you didn’t because no one would tell you such blasphemous nonsense when they could potentially rip you off. When you alight from the Okada that has charged you to make up part of his rent for the month, you’re told at the bus park that transport to Zamafara increased from six thousand to ten thousand just before you arrived. Whether you’re supportive of the concept of Nigerian Capitalism or not, you would make payment because it’s no mistake that Monopoly is the only aspect of Capitalism that you do remember.
But I digress.
Rebellious is what I become whenever I have travel by road. Not rebellion against the incredulous hike in transportation fare across the country. No. That one has been explained as ‘economics, not wickedness,’ in defense of Igbo Capitalists, and I agree because transportation fare from Yenagoa to my mother’s village would be between three thousand five hundred and five thousand Naira. Never mind that both Yenagoa and my mother’s village are inside Bayelsa State. It is indeed economics, not greed or wickedness. It is already trending on Facebook, and if it were Twitter worthy, it would have its own hashtag by now.
Consequently, my rebellion is not against the men who ask women to shift into the second seat, because women should not sit by the window, and the drivers who encourage that disgusting practice. No. That one has been taken care of by the woman who paid for the two seats, and comfortably stretched her very ‘womanly’ legs for the rest of the journey.
It is not even for the gluttonous passenger that makes me buy everything that stops by the bus during traffic, or the ‘odeshi’ passenger that insists on leaving the windows wide open even though his penis, and everyone else’s body, is shriveled from the cold splashing in. No. Those ones were taken care of by my headphones and my ‘fuck-off’ face and the cold war that exists between me and the man that wonders who exactly keeps closing the window seconds after he opens it. Seeing as we’re both passengers, having paid the same fare, there’s mutually assured destruction.
My rebellion could be against the woman who blasts ‘Adim Well Loaded’ through her Nokia C3, presuming of course, that we all want to listen to her playlist because the driver cannot provide one for us. You can easily imagine how that one is taken care of. You can also imagine how the young man who keeps colliding with my shoulder because he’s sleeping through all of Nigeria’s terrible potholes- he may as well sleep through the General elections, is taken care of. Similarly, you can imagine my reaction to the nursing mother who’s strongly recommending that I take motherhood lessons from her- in the form of her very cute one year old who is obviously on a sugar high, because, assuredly, I’m becoming a mother soon.
“It is why God gave you a womb.” Hallelujah!
Now that you are seated comfortably on your window seat and you’ve charged your battery at the bus park and you get ready to indulge Camilla Cabello, Sia, Timaya and Ellie Goulding and their beautiful melodies for the next couple of hours that you’ll be travelling with me, albeit mentally, you are suddenly aware of the very short man standing by the exit. Standing and addressing the whole of our travelling lot. He has replaced the taller man who repeated phrases like-
“e go cure all the yama-yama for ya belle.”
This man has come in the name of the Lord and before you wonder how many buses he has prayed for, and how often they have made their journey safely, let me be clear that my rebellion is against him and everything he represents.
During his prayer of thanksgiving, I gave thanks for the okada man from earlier, you know, the one whose rent shall be miraculously settled? I prayed for friends that sent me money without questions, for the person who invented mobile banking and for the way that everything somehow worked together for my good this year. But I do not pray aloud like the rest of the passengers and I do not say amen to the prayers of this preacher who seems be exerting himself more than necessary, especially for a man of the cloth.
That was our first point of recall.
When he began his sermon, I did not listen. As a matter of personal conviction, I do not listen to preachers on the bus, and their screams about Armageddon and the risen Christ, while consciously spraying a little guilt and fear on everything they say. I do not indulge their prayers about bloodsucking demons on the highway and special safety pins for marking our bus against other buses. Looking at him now, I ask myself, if he gets word that his prayers failed a bus, that the devil prevailed and they had an accident because the buses that eventually do, were also prayed for, does he, like a doctor, mourn and question his God as the doctor questions science when he loses a patient, or does he remain absolute as he is now.
Somehow, a lot of Christians get a kick from knowing that disaster befalls other people, even people of a different congregation, but not them. They’re peachy keen on the fact that God delivers them but allows others to be condemned. It is why you hear testimonies like this-
“Praaaaaaaaaaaaaise Master Jesus! Just the other day, our building collapsed in Port Harcourt main town. Everyone else has been trapped down there for the past three weeks. The government has done little to salvage the situation. It is a pity that in this age and time, our society is ill-equipped to handle such crisis. This is Nigeria!”
At this point, the presiding officer nudges her to get to the point. Because gone are the days when people illustrated, demonstrated and exaggerated their testimonies.
“Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Please tell us what God has done for you. Go straight to the point.”
“I am here to thank God,” she continues, “because my pregnant neighbor and our family friends were all in that building, but I left just before it collapsed. Just before the thing happened, I left that place and out of all of us who stay at Agip estate, I am the only one whom God spared. It is not because I’m better than the people currently fighting for their lives and going through such unimaginable pain, it is not because I am righteous. It is by God’s grace that I am saved.”
I wonder, again, if it’s not possible for him to simply ask for money, like the women from Motherless Babies Home, and the blind beggar escorted by his young son, or simply trade some ridiculous all-healing items like the gentleman before him, because if you really thought about it, they’re all of the God kind and they all need something from the passengers on the bus. But no. The preacher man offers something he believes is commensurate for the help that we render to him.
Just before he makes the concluding prayers, he says to everyone- “if you’re a woman, cover your head let us pray.” He says it twice, all the while looking directly at me and my earphones. He talks about obedience to Christ and submissiveness, something about the way he says it, and the look on face instantly irks me. I’ve never fancied bus preachers, but never has there been any confrontation between us. Normally, they go about their business and I listen to my music. They understand that religion is not by force and everyone is happy. But this man, who talks about obedience to Christ and submissiveness as if he’s just returned from a board meeting in Heaven. This man is spectacular!
In the moment that Timaya sings- so I say, nobody can take my joy away, I hold his gaze and reinforce the fact that my head will remain uncovered. Because God accepts me, as I am, without one plea. When he says “in Jesus name!” I increase the volume on Timaya’s voice, fall back on the seat, close my eyes and thank the Lord one more time for that Okada man.