“We’re here at our agreed meetup point. Exactly where are you?” Nnamdi stood beside his metallic blue saloon. He had on a black V-neck over a pair of Chinos shorts. The pair of sneakers he had on his feet completed the picture of someone out for some fun time.
“The ladies are not smiling here,” he said into the phone after a brief interlude. He looked up and down the road off which he was parked as he spoke. “But I do understand the situation. It cannot be helped. Do take good care of mom. We will find our way around.”
He opened the door to the driver’s seat, sat and turned to face the occupants of the car. Up front and beside him was Bola in a simple flowery dress. Behind her sat another lady who had on a white t-shirt over a pair of faded jeans trousers. The car air conditioning system was on the lowest temperature and blowing cool air at a fast pace. Still, some trickles of sweat could be observed on each occupant of the car. The afternoon tropical sun was simply on a vengeance mission to punish everyone who lived within its sphere of influence.
“Ladies, I have not too good news. We are going to have to do this on our own,” he said. “Kola won’t be joining us this afternoon.”
The second lady spoke up, “He’s just begging to be lashed. We drive all the way from Lagos to Abeokuta. We are here on time, and the person who lives here himself is nowhere to be found.”
Abeokuta was a Yoruba city in south western Nigeria less than a hundred kilometres from Lagos. Its name means “Under the rock” and was so given because the city was laid out below a major geological marvel – a huge rock set on a hill. That rock – Olumo Rock – was a tourist attraction for the city.
In ages past, the rock was a place of refuge for residents in times of war and a strategic point to monitor enemy advances. The settlement had since spread out from the rock and developed into the city that is a mixture of the ancient and modern that it had now evolved into.
“Rita,” Bola turned, “Easy, girl. Let’s find out what happened before we send the whip squad after him.”
Nnamdi replied, “He just got a call from his mom. She’s a bit under the weather. He has to go see her. You know she lives alone.”
“He was already late anyway. He kept us waiting. He gets off the hook today because of his mom. Next time, he will hear from me!” Rita wasn’t going to let the moment pass without pointing out the obvious.
“Well,” Bola chimed in, “None of us here knows the way to Olumo Rock. What is the plan now?”
Nnamdi picked up his phone again. “Perhaps it is time to depend on an old friend of mine.”
While the ladies looked on in interest, he found the application labelled “Maps” on the phone and tapped to launch it. Rita tilted her head a bit and asked, “How reliable is that thing?”
“It has helped me quite a bit on a number of occassions in Lagos and on trips to Abuja. Let’s hope that its got Abeokuta fairly covered well. Olumo Rock is a major landmark of this town. If anything should show up on this map, it should be Olumo.”
The phone displayed a message to indicate a search for GPS signals. “GPS is a network of satellites used to fix positions all across the planet. If we get a signal, we are good to go.” Nnamdi explained.
“Beep. Beep.” The GPS signal was found. Nnamdi hit the “Search” button and typed out “Olumo” in the field. The results popped up and indicated that it was just five kilometres away.
“Nice,” Rita said. “What next?”
“We follow her directions,” Nnamdi tapped the ‘Drive’ icon on the maps application and a road map to their destination was laid out. A soft feminine voice instructed, “Drive straight ahead for the next 300 metres and take the left turn.”
Nnamdi grinned and looked from Bola to Rita. “This babe here never let’s me down!”
“I see,” Bola spat, “I let you down, right?” She shifted in her seat, mock anger on her face. Rita laughed and rocked at the back of the car.
“Jealous of a computer programme? I’m shocked.” Grinning from ear to ear, Nnamdi fixed his seat belt. The car pulled on to the road and picked up speed. “That is a new one,” he muttered playfully.
“Me? Jealous of what? We should be asking you why you seem infatuated by a computer programme. Not so, Rita?”
The lady in the back rocked again and laughed back. “Bola you should watch your man closely. Men of this age are strange creatures, you know. Fancy falling for a computer.”
Experience told Nnamdi that when you have two ladies team up against you, you play along. Resistance is futile. Plus, he could take good-natured jabs. This was good-natured. The smile on his face wasn’t forced. He was enjoying this, and the way to go was to make the ladies get out of this scoring high.
“You know that Bola has nothing to fear from this computer programme, even if I am a wee bit infatuated with it.”
Bola raised her eyebrows at him. He could see her from the corner of his eyes.
“This computer programme does not tell me that she loves me. She is incapable of a kiss. And she certainly cannot keep me warm when the weather is cold.” Though he spoke, his eyes were on the road now.
Abeokuta traffic was leisurely. Apparently, no-one was in a hurry here – a stark contrast to the race track attitude that was prevalent on the roads in Lagos. Here, it seemed more like a pleasure ride, which was exactly what he wanted.
“That’s my man!” Bola said and stroked his head gently. “Spoken like a true warm-blooded male creature.”
“Ahem, this car is beginning to get warm, for some reason. Please, spare me the lovey-lovey thing. My man isn’t here, you know. Can you be considerate please?”
Everyone laughed together as Nnamdi took the left turn prescribed by the maps application and then listened for the next instructions. The car cruised down the narrow side road. In the far distance, the peak of the rock loomed.
A few minutes later, the female voice on the phone said to the hearing of the occupants of the car, “Now turn right and you have arrived at your destination.”
To the right was a well laid out gateway, boldly painted red, and behind it, the magnificent rock called Olumo.