Fuel hustle

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     My yellow fuel keg stood last at the back of the line. Twenty other kegs lined up before mine. Yeah I had enough time to count. The queue was so long, kegs lined a path almost touching the entrance of the fuel station. 

     Cars one side, “okada” the other and then kegs, just like mine, formed a partition

This order was just out of formality though. Is it not Nigeria? 

This country called Nigeria? Nigerians, They’re not made to rule not for rules.

“They’re punishing us. I mean there’s fuel but they’re hoarding it. They’re just taking advantage of the scarcity and making money by hiking the prices” 

No electricity, no fuel hence; no water 

Everyone is on their own. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no government in this country” 

I suspected the man speaking was a lecturer 

He was dressed formally, corporate wind-collar shirt and all. His tie, however, was hanging on his shoulder; his italian shoes bore scratches with it’s lower sole lip open ajar as if to say “oga, I’m retiring soon”

He wearily leaned on his grey Camry car as he and other men discussed the usual; The situation of the country. Lastly his choice of words weren’t like a regular Nigerian one who uses phrases like ” ( examples of such) 

“Make Buhari commot jare” 

Another man contributed. 

Lasisi Olagunju was right. I mean right there and then their predicament was relateable since we were all in it. Everyone was getting along. No tribalistic Segregation. I could hear a fair Igbo man say “my broda,the situation in this country is a “soori” case” 

He dragged the “broda” and “soori”as most igbos do. Our thick Igbo accent betrays us often times. He was speaking to the man with tribal marks.

You’d think he committed a huge crime and was punished with those marks because they were a bit unusual. Like he fought with a lion. I continued to stare; don’t blame me! I haven’t seen any one like that. He caught me staring and I looked away immediately.

All were leaning on the lecturer’s Camry car discussing.

I began to consider how funny it was that we do not come together to solve our problems we only assemble when we have to struggle for what we actually deserve. Things like fuel,covid palliatives and naira notes thrown by politicians during their campaign.

A young guy, sat on the trunk of his Toyota car labelled with a learner’s sign, sipping a small bottle of a local gin was shouting on the top of his voice . He was like a time bomb, ticking, waiting to explode. I could feel it. 

45 minutes into the wait, people gave in and began cracking jokes as a normal Nigerian would; make a joke about anything worth laughing at. 

Maybe if we stopped laughing and faced our problems, things might be better. I recalled this from chimamanda Adiche’s Americanah I read last year during the three months Asuu strike. The Nigerian’s logic does not flow this way though. “I cannot come and go and kill myself,I no fit kpai” they would usually roar and then continue laughing. 

“It’s only a revolution like that of the French revolution that would solve our situation in this country” my dad once said 

“But how many are willing to sacrifice their lives for this country, not much. Many would say it isn’t worth it and it’s not their fault considering what happened at the lekki toll gate last year” 

“The massacre that almost didn’t change anything”

I balanced my weight properly on both legs, I had been leaning on one leg, and moved my keg forward. Wiping beads of sweat off, I looked around and I wasn’t the only tired of standing. Most were already sitting on their kegs. Out of no where a woman with a faded Ankara wrapper tied to her chest went to the man before me. I have never seen a begger exude such kind of confidence. “Efu mi lowo” she demanded and the man to my surprise brought out a crumpled 100 naira note and gave her. She added it to her arranged bundle of notes and put the hundred naira where the hundreds were. She even had a 500 naira note 

” Chaii!,Bi like say this begging business dey pay,na to find “abo” (plate) and tear my clothe remain” someone commented and everyone laughed; their minds momentarily off their present predicament. It was serious yet comical.she left without a thank you and moved on to another well dressed guy demanding, not begging, like a charm was working for her. A guy this time who had chains on and dreads on his head. “In this economy”? He said and went back to whatever he was doing on his phone, ignoring her. Looked like the charm didn’t work on him, I though. One would need spiritual fortification to collect money from any one considering the economic situation.

The queue moved and everyone stood up to move their kegs too . I was three kegs away when a fight broke out.

Apparently a group of people had smuggled their tanker sized kegs from a black Lexus car to the front not bothering to join the queue. The young guy drinking earlier decided to perform and spilled fuel from a keg just so his point is made. Hell was let loose and everyone scattered to different direction. I had already gotten to the entrance of the station when I realized that the commotion had settled as fast as it had begun. It was obvious I was the only one scared that the station might catch fire.

To them getting the fuel was a do or die affair.


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