When you wake up it is not easy for you to know how your day will end. On a Monday of July 24 this year I took things for granted and hoped all would be well and I would be back in my bed with incident by nightfall.
I was wrong! No wonder believers are told by their books of the Scripture to take care of today because Mother Fate takes care of it. “Do not think of tomorrow. Think of today! Tomorrow will take care of itself,” says a piece of some Scripture.
Maybe that is so. However, leaving tomorrow to take care of itself could be a really sad experience. One morning recently I woke up in good spirit and walked out to work. That was routine enough and for all I could think, I presumed all would be well by nightfall.
I was deadly wrong. If there was anything I thought I should mind that day it was bodaboda, taxi motorcycles which, in my opinion, have been rightly so named. First of all, If I think their name is right because it is a combination of three words – boda-to-boda.
I am therefore not surprised that their owners ride them with such madness, oblivious of traffic laws as if they were some fugitive fleeing from a border to another border to escape the law and hurtling like hell.
These boys have literally wreaked havoc on the roads of any urban centre in the country. The way they use the road scares the hell out of pedestrians. In Dar es Salaam, where their population is biggest, they are the most feared traffic predators, as it were.
If you are their passenger you are still not safe from them either, but they become a bigger danger to you if you are walking on or by the road. They assume this landmine position, because a bodaboda comes from any direction, and often from an unexpected one.
The only thing I could therefore not afford to leave for tomorrow to take care of was vigilance for bodaboda. I would do that every minute, every day. This particular day wasn’t really my work day. Still, given the nature of my work, any day is a work day.
I therefore tended other pieces of work first before I could proceed to my work place. That preoccupation took me till sometime in midmorning. After that I did some shopping and head for the office.
Dar’s sun can be hot even before afternoon and I was not taking any chances of becoming sweaty for the distance from where I did my shopping to the office was long. I took a bodaboda and hoped to God I would not break a leg which often happens to their passenger when they get an accident.
I have owned a motorcycle and had preferred riding it to travelling by car. As I travelled by this particular one as a passenger, I enjoyed the journey for it rode well. The boy riding it was a keen rider, who made good judgement in time.
The distance was short – Buguruni market to Tazara, but the boys charged relatively too high for the route because, so they said, it was a congested and infested with nurses- traffic police waiting to pounce on them to know if they had a licence and what have you.
That brought to mind what one senior police officer told me about the behaviour of bodaboda riders. When a police officer stops one, he dashes away. “And chasing him in the thick of traffic is dangerous and could land you in a much worse situation,” ACAP Ka hatano had said.
I could not imagine why a bodaboda carrying me should dash in the thick of mid-noon traffic should attempt to dash and set some traffic police officers after me as though he and I were some international terrorists.
Well, the bodaboda boy displayed enough interesting riding skills and I was reassured I would reach the office well. There is a heavy construction work of building a flyover going on at TAZARA. All traffic lights have been removed in line with that work.
When we got to the junction, we stopped. The police officer had stopped all traffic and was just about to allow some from a side he had not decided to face. My bodaboda boy went through his stopped fellow riders and took the front position to the left ahead of every other rider.
The police officer walked to him and ordered him off the area, saying he was at a dangerous spot for cars taking the corner. “Move down to the right and wait for the signal to go,” said the officer.
The bodaboda boy obeyed the polite order, backed his bike and gently slid into the position said. There was no traffic flowing from all sides. It was that state of no-cars that made the bodaboda boy think he could gun his bike and zoom to the other side. He did just that; suddenly he pulled hard the gas cable and the motorcycle jumped into the air, nose skyward, tail down.
I was thrown down on the road, my shopping falling on me. The boy fell with his bike on the other side, broke his right side mirror into a million bits and dropped on the road heavily like a water melon.
I had never known that there are always plain clothed police officers in the area keeping watch of everything going on. They swooped upon the bodaboda boy like vultures on the carcass of an elephant.
A uniformed police officer came quickly, raised the motorcycle and before pushing it away to a nearby police shed by the road as I gathered myself slowly from the ground like some wounded papa.
“Mzee, have you paid him the fare?” the police officer asked me before he began to push the bike away. “No!” said I. “Then just go,” he said. Dusting my body like some ruffian police had just saved from lynching by an angry mob, I walked away to the office, pitifully still dusty, my shopping in hand.
One thing I learned. You are never safe from a bodaboda – on it as a passenger or away from it as a pedestrian.