I was at a bus park in one of the suburbs of Abuja, Nigeria two days ago. I hopped into the front seat of one of the vehicles going to my destination and buckled my seat belt. Some passengers entered behind me as we waited for the bus to fill before we could proceed.
Suddenly, there was a biker leaning back on his motorcycle with his arms outstretched and his legs stretched out on the asphalt while his bike spun with him as the pivot. This was right in the middle of a highway, and with no protective gear! We stared at the daredevil biker with our jaws slack and wondered if he was suicidal. Promptly, he jumped back on the motorcycle and sped away in the direction of traffic and was back riding while standing with his arms in the air, weaving through oncoming traffic like he was hoping for someone to hit him! We concluded he was definitely high on hard drugs!
Motorcycle stunts and impromptu car races are not uncommon in Abuja but they often occur in the main city itself. The publicity is done underground and yields a crowd of onlookers and kids of wealthy Nigerians showing off their cars and skills. It is not usually done for a fee or prize, but just for recognition.
Then he was back again – leaning back onto his bike as it made a couple more revolutions! Traffic grounded to a halt as no one wanted to be responsible for killing a suicidal biker. People began to gather and our bewilderment began to morph into uncertainty then fear. A female passenger echoed our thoughts aloud:
‘I hope this boy is not one of those Boko Haram people! Where is the driver o! I am not comfortable with this crowd!’
The once-quiet bus became noisy as we all began to talk and voice our concerns. You see, there have been recent bomb blasts in the suburbs of Abuja, Nigeria. The most recent happened a mere five days ago and these attacks are often in crowded places like markets and bus parks/terminals. The ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram claimed responsibility for these attacks.
We feared this young man could be a Boko Haram recruit seeking to detonate his bomb when the crowd had swelled to an appreciable size. As we talked, I unbuckled my seat belt and opened the door. One cannot be too careful, I reasoned. I might even have walked away but what guarantee was there that I was going somewhere safe? Passengers, irrespective of religion, began to yell for the driver to get us out of the park.
Meanwhile, the biker continued his stunts until an elderly (Muslim) man took a swipe at the young man as he whizzed carelessly past. I saw the biker park his motorcycle ahead and saunter back toward the senior citizen! The bus hushed temporarily. Was he going to fight the old man? We did not want to find out. The crowd was swelling considerably but we were able to see the two men talking.
Suddenly, news filtered to us that the biker was trying to sell CDs showcasing his skills. There was a huge sigh of relief but nonetheless, we couldn’t wait to get out of there. Some motor park touts took his CDs from vehicle to vehicle marketing them but none of us bought them. I wondered briefly if they would give him the proceeds from selling his merchandise.
As we finally left the park, everyone settled back into their shells and we barely spoke till we arrived at our destination.
As usual, many equate the terrorists with Islam and paint all Muslims with the same brush. This shouldn’t be so. The vast majority of Muslims are simple humans with the same simple needs and a desire for safety for ourselves and our families.
This makes me so grateful for the narrative Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York is sharing on Facebook – the lives of the victims of terrorism, their fears, their tears and the utter desperation that moves that to migrate. May Allah reward him and his progeny with immense good for shining the spotlight on the brave victims, not the terrorising cowards!