We don’t play with children in Naija — Peju Akande

We don’t play with children in Naija — Peju Akande

I know we often like to think that in today’s world, it really doesn’t take a village to raise children but in many ways, I still believe we Nigerians take raising children seriously. We watch out for our neighbour’s children.

Yes, we have learned to refrain from smacking them because we won’t get a “thank you” from their parents for our contributions towards the upbringing of their children. Still, when our neighbour’s children start behaving “one-kind”, we let the parents know “before they join bad gang.”

It was that feeling of ‘I am my neighbour’s children’s parents when they are not around,’ that must have been at play when one day, while in a BRT bus, the driver began to speed off as a group of school children approached.

Yes, the bus was full, and yes the school children already in the bus were a rowdy lot. They were talking excitedly at the top of their voices.

Also Read: Sometimes bad things happen too early in marriage — Peju Akande

Yes, we the adults, seated and standing wondered if these kids never took baths…the sweat and grime and dust they had accumulated had mixed up into a very pungent pervading odour stifling the air in the bus…but when we noticed the bus driver deliberately accelerating as the group of school kids approached, we screamed at the driver to stop for them.

I mean, what’re a few more kids in the already filled-up bus?

They could wait for the next bus…in another 30-45 minutes’ time.

They were kids and had the energy to burn but no, we screamed at the driver to stop. The driver called back, reminding us the bus was already full, reminding us the children should wait for the next bus…but we were having none of that.

“Stop for the children, jare, where are you hurrying to, in this traffic?”

And when it looked like he wouldn’t, a few adults shouted obscenities at him.

E no go betta for you, you no get children?”

“Are you blind, can’t you see from your rearview mirror they are children?”

The driver was cursed until he grudgingly stopped and a few more, 11 or so children rushed in gleefully, adding to the cloying odour in the bus.

Needless to say, we all happily welcomed their stench and laughter and laughed at their loud jokes as the bus crawled in Lagos traffic.

A few months after this incident, I travelled to the UK for work. I was on a bus when a lesbian couple, one black and the other white, were practically walked out of the bus with their baby in a pram simply because there already were three buggies on the bus.

Here’s what happened.

One of the mothers had tapped on the bus’ side doors to open in order for her to push the baby in the pram, while the other mother went through the normal front door to tap her card for the ride. The driver, a female, had opened the side door to let in the pram pushing mother only for her to jam back the doors trapping the baby in the pram right between the doors.

I let out a cry, expecting to be chorused by other passengers on the bus.

No one cued in.

No one said anything, not even when the pram-pushing mother protested and called out to the second mother to tell the driver to reopen the doors.

The rest of us passengers, since I realised no one was going to say jack, looked on. No one said, there is a child in the pram, open the door!

Even when the driver, a tall black full bodied young female in a catsuit spandex came out of her cabin to ensure the couple didn’t get their pram in.

I was amused by them

All they did was talk politely to themselves.

I heard, “Are you really having a bad day today?”

“There are already three buggies in here, you can’t come in.”

“If you’re having a bad day, you shouldn’t take it out on us…”

The other mother began filming the incident and the driver said, “Why don’t you record from the other side if you’re going to record?”

But I could see all three women were agitated, how they managed not to spit into each other’s faces still baffles me.

Nobody in the bus said, “E don doo, na, driver na small pikin…”

Or “So what if there are three buggies already? Four can fit in nicely, e no mean anything.”

Or, “You’re just a wicked human being! You will never have children in your entire life!” and a chorus of “amen,” to support the driver’s lack of empathy for a child!

That’s how the two women climbed down, with their baby in the pram and not one person volunteered sympathy toward them.

There was no, “Sorry o, another bus will soon come, sorry, oh.”

I tire o. In Naija, henh, the driver would have been told the history of her life by every single mother on that bus and there were many, I tell you.

We would have reminded her how her mother forced her out of her pelvis and thank God for the likes of us, she wouldn’t have been alive today.

But nobody talked.

I shut my Naija mouth and didn’t say anything to African mothers. But e pain me, sha!

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