Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sabo: Purpose and Obligation

A nimble pirouette
Leotard-less, dust-coated, clunky-shoed
She's the general of the four feet square
Elements melt at her bidding
Move, stop, hop, skip

She knows we are watching the performance
So we get our ...


No one paid for this
At least, others didn't give us that impression
Listless gaze and janky negotiation of the arms
We are not an audience to be pleased

Taxpayers, yes
Either they didn't know
Or we are not paying enough

I return to her
She's marching now
Measured steps obeying unseen straits
Fluid steps like a hidden dance to an unsung tune
A stolen smile under a sheer veil

Her hands go up
A patch of her neon strip catches the sun
Impatient engines roar
Metals chortling and gurgling
One driver grimaces behind his wheel
Then metal boxes hurtle forward
Race dogs off the pen
As her hands return

Return to the bust
Moving again. Fluid
Like a conductor of an intricate orchestra
Cars roar. Exulted sopranos and humourless baritones

They long to please this master
Unpaid. Undecorated street marshall decked in a Chinese wig

Where this came from: 

Since I left my editor work at the tech news website in January, I have found myself going to Yaba more. Yaba, of course, is the cesspool where tech talents find themselves getting drawn into these days. None of that is for me, though. I have only really enjoyed going to the mall. I enjoy the view out of the coffee shop on the second floor. Not great coffee, but good view. It's never quiet, so I never stay long.

The real attraction is on my way back. If you've ridden through the stretch of road between Sabo and UNILAG, you've seen the fair-skinned traffic warden. The one with the immaculate uniform and gloved fingers. The one that controlled the traffic like she's dancing to a tune only her can hear. If you've haven't, keep an eye out the next time you are on the route. Not that she's hard to miss anyway. 

You know. Now that I think about it, the sound of her tune is not so imperceptible. If one only listened close. It's the heady sound of purpose and obligation. Accompanied by the dance of someone doing what they were born to do.

She looked like she belonged to a different police force. One different from the one her colleagues in Sabo - who wrestle 50 naira notes from bus conductors - belonged to.

Yesterday, she kept the Danfo I was riding in long enough for me to really look. I admired this woman. I admired her uniform. Her glistening acned skin under the Lagos sun. And then I wrote.

I wonder if her histrionics pay. Perhaps they give them special awards for this in the force. Or benevolent folks with higher income and kinder hearts than mine stretched extra monies her way. Does she do it for the money? Or perhaps she had dreams of being a ballerina when she grew up and this is her seizing the day. Making lemonades out the lemons she got? Or perhaps this is her little piece of "fuck you" to a patriarchal world that made a less qualified male become her boss at work. "I'll enjoy life no matter how much you fuckers want to make me hate it." Maybe it's what she quietly mutters as she keeps the cars at bay. A whispering Alpha to a pack of raptors. Unsure, but resolute.

Cheers to purpose and obligation.

PS: I wrote this in a hurry. I found later that her name is Josephine Okeme. And that I am not the first to get enthralled by her rule of the road. Here is a picture of her commissioned by Guinness.

Photo Credit(s): marfis75 via Compfight cc; Josephine Okeme via