What do you say to a man hanging by the scruff of his neck, holding on to fickle hope as thick as a strand of web, sharks awash below, an avalanche overwhelmed by a hailstorm above; a man on the zip line between life and death?. MAFO!
How do you bring light to a mind darkened, deadened by the blackness of bitterness, of grief and of depression, a life ferrying through the stormy seas of life on a boat riddled with holes, taking in water, the clouds overhead dense and dark and doom is almost a surety? MAFO!
How do you give comfort to a life bereft of cheers, burdened with the ills of life, a life that has made crashing into the walls of life a livelihood and without buffer, bruised and battered by the unrepentant minions of torment and torture? MAFO!
In what direction do you point a man lost in the noise of the world, a broken heart and a broken compass; his only guide, lost in the abyssal belly of the valley of perdition, broken by the sledgehammers of disappointment that constantly hovers over any and every man on the journey of purpose? MAFO!
There’s a sort of power the streets have given to this crude, disyllabic word of encouragement. It is a charge that didn’t graduate from the walls of The Philosophical Institute of Formal Motivation, but has transcended expectations and broken the records of both contemporary and conventional motivation by establishing a far reaching dominance on the streets of life.
On the streets of Lagos, sometime pre-pandemic, a bus conductor, obviously an alumnus of the fast-paced, never sleeping School of Lagos Street Urchins once performed a miracle to the utter amazement of the educated passengers on his DANFO bus. He had picked a well-dressed; suit, tie and crisply ironed shirt man, would have been no less than a banker or a lawyer by the looks of him. The bus conductor couldn’t help but notice the agitation, the restlessness and the occasional deep heaves and sighs, all the signs that the suited banker was obviously troubled, it didn’t take a genius to figure that out. We all noticed the man was troubled, but here, we all carry our storms in our heads and one could care less if the next man was dying, as long as what ails him isn’t contagious and doesn’t add to the madness of our personal lives.
Two stops to the final destination of the bus, we were seven passengers left in the 18 sitter bus, we heard a hushed dialogue proceed out of the mouth of the “Oga” (boss) on suit. It was nearly no dialogue at all, but we were able to pick out, “my guy, please help me”. If you were conversant with Lagos commuter-conductor relationship, you will agree with me that, help was something that sounded to the conductors like you were trying to be smart and they (conductors), as a common trade mantra probably taught at the school they all attended, if any, do not take lightly any attempt at outfoxing them. In a sort of reflex response, the conductor said “Lorya Festus, abi na Kunle, if I wozz you, you go forget say I be your guy” (Lawyer Festus or is it Kunle, if I slap you, you will realize I ain’t your friend).
The suited guy went on and on, embarrassed by himself and knowing what precarious situation he was in, getting harangued by a conductor wasn’t part of how he’d planned his day, neither is to be harassed and manhandled, but his situation was far worse and he could care less of the beating, cos he had been beaten, he had woken up that morning, a champ, a brand manager for a popular beverage company in Lagos and had lost it all that day, when the auditors came and found a major scam in the department he headed. He got fired, his accounts frozen and his pension trust of over 15 years forfeited pending further investigations, which could land him a minimum of 7 years if he was found culpable. This was what he was trying to explain to the conductor, but it was fast progressing into a verbal war. Somewhere in all that, I and most of the other occupants were already rolling our sleeves to mediate and settle a fight at the stop.
Five minutes to the end of the ride, the conductor who had gone berserk with his garrulous ranting and threats went mute and just stared out the bus like he was lost somewhere away from all that. We all hopped out of the bus, including the reluctant passenger who was expecting a beating upon arrival. The ex-brand manager opened his mouth and just before he could finish the first word, the conductor said “Sir, I understand your predicament, it is the nature of the country we are all in. We are all victims of a failed system and that is the singular reason, I, a graduate of economics with a second class, upper division is out here on the streets of Lagos, trying to make a living” all these in crisp, well-articulated English language. “I feel your palava, you for tell me before you enter sha, but all the same, MAFO!” He hopped into the moving boss like a Kangaroo and rode into the vastness of eventide like a knight. And yes he was to every single one of us at the bus-stop that day, even if we didn’t stop to discuss it, we all were thinking it.
It doesn’t take much to be a hero in a derelict world. Empathy, understanding, patience, tolerance and a word of encouragement is what we all need and that is the starter pack of heroism nowadays. So as you step out today, be someone’s hero, tell a troubled soul, MAFO!