I used to play tennis. Well, sort of! When I learnt to play the game I was in secondary school in Zaria. Then we called the racquets bats. Bats were simply shaped from slabs of wood into things that resembled oversized table tennis bats with longer handles. So my tennis is queer! Indeed in the early nineteen seventies when I was working in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, the great Arthur Ashe was on tour, trying to spread the gospel of tennis, holding coaching clinics. I remember being among about fifteen pupils to whom he gave lessons. I cannot forget the sort of look he gave me when I swung at the ball! He must have thought, `Gosh, where did this creature come from?’ I simply wielded the racquet like a machete. Well, I had simply so got used to my ways that no amount of coaching could change me.
On this particular evening I had driven to Surulere to play tennis. And I had enjoyed every minute of it. I left Surulere about seven o’clock in the evening for the drive back to Festac. As usual there was traffic especially as we approached Mile Two. I could see the traffic congestion snaking from Apapa expressway down the clover leaf into Badagry Road on which we were. Suddenly, my Peugeot car stopped moving. I turned the key in the ignition to no avail. All around me the other drivers wanting to make progress just crawled along. Those behind me manoeuvred their ways past me. There being no street lights only the car headlights provided what lighting there was. Suddenly three youth surfaced.
`Oga, open the bonnet,’ they said.
I looked round. I had no choice but to open the bonnet. I stood watching them. I did not know much about cars so I let them fiddle with it. But I knew they were up to no good. Then one of them brought out something. He announced, `fuel pump is bad.’
Good heavens, I thought. I was still at least two miles from my house. I did not object when they offered to push the car nearer the median. The chap said, `Fuel pump na one thousand two hundred naira. Oga, make we fix am make you go home. Dis place no good.’
I knew I was in trouble and had to leave there as soon as possible. From the other side of the median another youth walking in the opposite direction said, `Oga, dis place no safe. Make you leave here before someting happen.’
I knew he was one of the gang and I had no illusions. Suddenly somebody appeared out of nowhere with another fuel pump. I did not argue. He fixed it and I paid. I was relieved when the car moved. I was happy to drive away from there.
Half a mile from home the car again refused to move. I managed to steer it off the road and stood thinking what to do. Then out of nowhere a couple drove by and parked. On the car was boldly written `Missionary.’ I did not care very much for these modern day saviours. The church had become another big business, an avenue for survival. If all things fail just get your own dog-collar and very soon, with ignorance and poverty ravaging the nation you can soon have your own congregation and you can live ever happily thereafter. A man wearing a collar and a woman came out of the car.
The man asked, `can we be of help?’
I replied, `My car broke down. Some ruffians down the road sold me a fuel pump. But it did not solve the problem.’ I surveyed him, He looked ordinary, no menace about him.
He said, `I am Pastor Emmanuel. And this is Sister Rebecca.’
I said, `I am David. I live about half a mile down the road.’ I told him what happened and that all I wanted was to get home, away from the unsafe major road.
Pastor Emmanuel said, `Yes, it is a familiar story. These chaps have a way of going under your car and blocking the fuel line in heavy traffic especially when it is dark. Then they take your perfectly good fuel pump and sell you a bad one. Sorry, sir. You’ve been had. But do not worry. God is in control. We’ll push your car home or at least near to where you can get help.’
He had already gone and locked their car and together we pushed my car all the way to about one hundred yards from my house from where I was able to go ahead and rally the local mallams who came and helped to push the car home. Pastor Emmanuel and Sister Rebecca refused any money. They just thanked God on my behalf that I did not come to any harm. They also prayed for my safety and the safety of my family and of Nigeria from all the ills plaguing it. To all that I replied, `Amen’.
All that night I marvelled about human beings, from ruffians, the bad people who set up business ripping innocent people off in the dark to the good who would go out of their way, inconvenience themselves to dig innocent victims out of trouble. It is indeed a wonderful world, a world of contradictions, of the good and the bad.

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