DANFO CHRONICLES: Cursed are the peacemakers

DANFO CHRONICLES: Cursed are the peacemakers

People generally
avoid fights, especially in public transport. The idea of becoming a
spectacle, throwing lame punches while others watch in glee, makes most
people break out in sweat. But conductors are not like that.

They are, as a
rule, a quarrelsome lot though rarely do their rows come to blows. In
danfos, threats are usually thrown around like confetti, and on many
occasions I have seen shirts removed in readiness for combat – as two
gladiators prepare to slug it out – only for the contest to end in a no
show. Somehow, these things fizzle out without a punch.

Conductors have
come to seem like shadow boxers who enjoy the idea of a roforofo fight
more than the fight itself. They have an uncanny ability of knowing
when a hustle will require muscle, and they frequently withdraw from
the fray before that. But in the interim, you get to see a lot of
spectacle, a lot of noisy entertainment – if you like that sort of
thing. It reminds me of Shakespeare’s theory of life as a tale told by
an idiot: “full of sound and fury”, signifying nothing. Or in the
inimitable words of Fela, “na shakara.”

Once in a while,
however, you get the real deal. There is still “sound and fury” all
right, but there is also what the police might call an “attempt to
cause grievous bodily harm”. Such was the case that day at the Ojota
bus stop when our conductor took on the conductor of another bus that
rammed into us while we were slowing to a stop.

Now that I write
this, I realise how very rare are the moments when I have heard a
conductor’s name called aloud, either by the driver or anyone else. It
was always some crazy pseudonym or the generic, “ogbeniyi”, this
fellow. Immediately the accident happened, our conductor jumped down
and approached the other bus whose conductor was also spoiling for a

“I hope you know that the biggest fool has nothing on you, you and that your useless driver,” he said.

The other
conductor, a little older and a little fatter, removed his shirt and
announced to the gathering that, “it will never be good for anyone who
attempts to separate this fight. His generation till kingdom come shall
contain only imbeciles and never do wells. Cursed shall be the mouth
that says ‘stop’ and cursed shall be the hands that attempt to separate
us. This is a fight to the death and let death only be the referee.”

The crowd was taken
aback by the curse, and by the vehemence with which the man pronounced
the words, looking from one side of the gathering to the other while
rolling up his trouser legs. Our conductor added a postscript: “All of
you have heard. Anyone whose life is damaged should come between me and
this fool; anyone who is a bastard should intervene in this fight.”

By now, the buses
had emptied and some had gone on their way. Yet the crowd of onlookers
continued to grow. It was a real brawl, a roforofo fight; the two
conductors threw wild punches with few actually connecting, all the
while cursing like prostitutes.

The crowd cheered
every punch, even those that missed their targets, and every time
someone tried to intervene, he or she was quickly told of the curse
hanging over all peacemakers, and advised to desist.

This went on for a
long while and it soon began to get boring, as the steam seemed to have
gone out of the combatants. They clung to each other and wouldn’t let
go, breathing heavily. Suddenly, one of them, I think it was our
conductor, said, “But what kind of people are you? Are you people going
to watch us until we kill ourselves?”

The fatter conductor turned to us and begged, “Please separate us o. All curses have been withdrawn now and forever, I beg!”

The crowd burst into laughter and someone moved to end the drama.

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