Olaolu read the warning and laughed the way he laughed the day he watched a comedian on video making a drama of it. Good joke! he thought. He began to urinate in spite of the warning. “Babalawo fee lo ito okunrin. To sibi. O see pupo”. (The witchdoctor needs a man’s urine for witchcraft. Urinate here. Many thanks). He looked around him. Spots of urine abounded despite the warning. He finished his act, read the notice again and laughed again. He remembered how the comedian had, after mistakenly urinating near similar notice, suddenly proceeded to pull off his shirt and use it to suck up his urine.
What an ingenious one! Olaolu thought. He admitted that it would have scared him away from urinating there if this hadn’t become a hackneyed joke. Better than the normal warning: DO NOT URINATE HERE. He went on his way and boarded a bus for Mile 2. He must keep the appointment with one of his clients at FESTAC TOWN.
The pressure on his bladder had propelled him to quicken his steps and search frantically for a gutter close by or a wall or any ‘suitable’ place to urinate. He had been holding it back for about ten minutes until he found that funny warning.
The way of rebellion is sometimes imperceptible. Take the way Olaolu had become uncivilized, for example. Here was a well educated fellow, a graduate of Theatre Arts, whose social commitment and sensibilities once forbade spitting out of a moving vehicle or throwing peppermint wrappings on the street because it had become too embarrassing to him how people, including the international press, ceaselessly referred to Lagos, his dear Lagos, as the dirtiest city in the world.
He used to argue that the duty to keep the country clean lies at once with government as with the individual. In this reasoning, he found a fitting parallel in the logic of Thomas Carlyle: Make yourself an honest man and there will be one rogue less in the world. “Spread no dirt and Nigeria will be one dirt less”, he says.
But the way of rebellion is sometimes imperceptible. Olaolu’s grouse had sprouted from the difficulty he had in finding a job for five years and had grown progressively morbid ever since. When he finally got an employment, the salary was nothing to thump the chest about. It hardly paid his transport fare to and from work throughout the month, let alone feed him. Yet, he had to appear, as they say in Lagos Lingo, corporate? And no class of professionals in Nigeria was ever more corporate than practitioners of advertising.
Anyway, the way of backsliding is sometimes imperceptible. So, Olaolu had become defiant in his own way. One of the ways he mocked society was to care not where he urinated. How better could one do in a country where a public toilet is a rarity? He especially chose places where government inscribed a warning on a wall. “NOTICE: DO NOT URINATE HERE. VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED”. He dared government. Once, he was arrested alongside others by local government officials for urinating by the road side. While others pleaded and were made to frog-jump by those uncouth LG men, Olaolu, adjusting his tie straight and anchoring his thumbs at the base of his suspenders, dared the corrupt men to take him to court where he might have the opportunity to look the magistrate in the face and ask him where a citizen should urinate in a city without public urinals. Of course, LG men knew trouble when they saw it and would not like anyone to frustrate their bribe-hunting exercise with men an d women who could be threatened with court appearances. So they let Olaolu go: “Leave this yeye man! Na so-so grammar e sabi talk. Kobo no dey ‘im pocket!”
It is oppressive the way the mind sometimes dwells on trivialities. That was what Olaolu was thinking as the bus from Oshodi was on the last stretch to Mile 2. Silly thoughts! It even made him laugh at himself at one point. But now, it was nagging: Suppose it is true that there is a witchdoctor who truly needs a man’s urine. Okay, even if I consider the idea stupid – of course, I’m a Christian and cannot ever believe in such heathenish notions – suppose some idiot who believes in witchcraft takes my urine and does whatever with it. Well, I’m a child of God’s. No weapon fashioned against me shall prosper! But the Bible says there are witches. The Lord is my shepherd. But Christ never tempted satan. He rebuked him whenever they encountered each other. He conquered Satan. The blood of Jesus is all over me. Satan has no power. But, something told him, You have walked with your own feet into the home of Satan. You were testing God. That’s wrong. You have behaved like that fellow who jumped over the fence into the lion’s cage at the University of Ibadan. Did God stop the lion from tearing him into pieces, in spite of the fact that he held on to the Bible and called himself a preacher? You’ve dared the devil.
Olaolu swung his mind away from silly thoughts and tried to focus on the prospects of his new cosmetics account for which a media campaign was to break in three week’s time. But the way the mind dwells on stupid things is sometimes frightening. Your urine! Babalawo could use it for whatever diabolical purpose he might imagine. Olaolu countered; Other people urinated there as well. The other voice said, Does that count for anything? The devil carts people away daily in their thousands. Must you be one of those? Through your carelessness? This is a heathen country, you know. The other day, some nincompoops got hold of a job-seeker girl and plucked out her eyes in the belief that they could produce a money-making charm with them. Whether or not their charm would work, the girl lost her eyes. Panic seized Olaolu: Or is it going to make me impotent and unable to sleep with a woman or make children? He found out that he was now sweating. This is a heathen country, you know. Look a t the themes of our recent movies: witchcraft, murder, kidnap of people for use in some form of devilish ritual or another. These people believe in these things and watch movies that celebrate with them. That witchdoctor who needs a man’s urine, may indeed, exist, Olaolu decided and panickly hailed the bus to stop, and hopped off. He began to make his way back to Oshodi.