Contributor: James Ogunleye
Illustrator: Femi Adetunji
DRAMA ON THE TUBE
The incident in question was reminiscent of daily happenings on Lagos molue buses (rickety buses in downtown Lagos). It was 4.50 pm on a breezy Tuesday afternoon. Some two stops before hell broke loose, I had got on the district line train. I deliberately chose the last coach to tally with the exit on the platform on which I would alight.
I was on a mission. Well, not really. It was actually an interview appointment with a City expert. The interview in question had been postponed quite a few times before that Tuesday. In fact I had just about written it off when I suddenly received a phone call scheduling the interview for 6.00pm the same evening. I had no option. I had to say `yes' because the interview could be crucial to my academic project. So, on the tube, my mind was set on the interview. I started a late revision of the intended questions.
The coach was sparsely filled. At that time of the day, this was not unusual on a westbound District Line train. I was the only passenger sitting on the elongated seats on the right-hand side by the last door. Sitting almost directly opposite me was an `African lady' who was to feature prominently in the drama about to unfold.
The train stopped at the next station - Bromley-By-Bow and a handful of passengers got in (some six passengers to be precise). Amongst them was a heavily built, stony featured Nigerian man. I knew he was a Nigerian, but please don't ask me how I did.
The man sat at the far end of the opposite elongated seat. As the train began trundling towards the next station, the driver relayed a familiar message: " ... due to a security alert ..." You can guess what followed that announcements. It was a waiting game that was to last for some 15 minutes.
I lost concentration and decided to pack up my interview notes. Suddenly, the Nigerian fellow got to his feet and (in a charged mood) started coming in our direction. "What is he up to?" I asked myself.
"Jok?! Jok?!!", the man shouted before he got to where we sat. I noticed that the African lady had started feeling uneasy. In no time, the man was standing before Jok?, his massive backside turned in my direction. Before I realised what was going on, his hands began registering slaps on Jok?'s cheeks. Jok?'s toned face was nearly disfigured as a barrage of fists flew. The man tried all sorts of techniques reminiscent of amateur boxing. But this wasn't boxing. It was simply a display of shame.
Jok? on her part acted very maturely. She made very little attempt to respond to the man's unprovoked(?) aggression. She tried against all odds, to defend herself. In fact, she was more concerned about her dignity - she tried to minimise the embarrassment by covering up what was left of her ripped blouse.
The train got to the next station (Oh thank God!). I noticed white passengers changing to the adjacent coach. At first I thought they were going to alert the driver. But they didn't. They had had enough. The train moved on. The intensity of the `row' nosedived. But the shouting match continued. At any rate, the total number of people in the coach was now just five - all black people, with exception of one elderly Asian woman.
Should I intervene? Trying to settle lovers' tiffs can be a thankless task, so I decided not to get involved. At any rate, my mission was too important to be disturbed by such petty stuff. Instead, I reached out for my note pad to capture the ugly drama.
But this world cannot be totally short of peacemakers. One fellow - a Ghanaian man - could not stand by, idly, any more. He had to do the right thing! And the right thing he did. "My brother", the man said in a strong Ashanti accent, "Please leave the lady alone." He moved closer to the guy, who at this time had already sat the lady down.
"Do you know what she did?", the Nigerian fellow responded in his own Yoruba-laden English, and began to explain what the fuss was all about. According to him, Jok? was his "woman". He invited her over from Lagos. After living with him for some six months or so, Jok? simply vanished from home and he was seeing her for the first time in about two months.
"Is that all?" the peacemaker asked. "Yes", snapped the jilted lover, adding: "I have promised I will show her pepper until she hands back the money I expended on her coming over." Then the Ghanaian man, now sitting between the feuding parties, asked the lady if she had anything to say to what "the gentleman" had just said.
Jok?, I must stress, won my admiration for the way she handled the whole drama. She remained composed and kept her wits about her. As I had said earlier on, She did not fight back. Neither did she respond much to the verbal assaults from her "man".
She told the Ghanaian man that it was true that the guy invited her over, but things started falling apart soon after she arrived when they discovered that they were poles apart on virtually every conceivable issue. Her "man", she said, had a nasty habit of going after other girls. Streams of girls. She made every attempt to smooth things out but, the guy wasn't interested. And it was against this background, she said, she had to "call it a day".
So did she actually "disappear" from home? "Abo ya were: Talo disapia nile?" (Are you crazy? Who disappeared from home?). She was disgusted. There you have it.
Now that the Ghanaian realised it was a lovers' fight, what could he say without being seen to be one-sided? He appeared to understand this too well. He adjusted himself on the seat, cleared his throat, and pronounced his "judgement".
"Will my sister refund the money to my brother?" "Sure", Jok? responded. She promised to arrange with the guy on how the money would be "settled". Chapter closed!
Next station - Mile End - nearly everyone got off. The journey from Bromley-By-Bow to Mile End had gulped another twelve minutes because of the security alert.
Jok? couldn't continue her journey to Central London where she held a part-time evening job - according to what she told the Asante peacemaker. Her blouse was an eyesore. She crossed over to the eastbound platform, cutting short her journey.
Her "man" took the Central Line as I did. I got off at Bank Station already late for my appointment while the guy continued his journey to ... don't ask me. I have no idea.