Madman tales

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Madman tales by Andy Buhler, CUSO, 69-71

At the moment I’m sitting here gently smoldering. After a disappointing trip to Lagos and a rather bad trip back, I’ve just had Fr. Golli take off for supper in Asaba. He was supposed to be taking me along. So here I sit writing letters. I really should write this tomorrow when I’m in a better mood.


Good evening again. Today I borrowed Sister’s car and went to Asaba. I made apologies for last night’s absence and had lunch today instead. I saw the nutritional unit they are running. They have two cardiac patients with gross anemia and the rest, 15–20 of them, are malnutritions or Kwashiorkors. They feed them up on high protein CSM (Casein/Soy/Milk), stockfish (60% protein), and some gari and eggs. One little fellow has gone from nearly nothing to standing on his own now. The nurses are very pleased and proud of such progress as they can see their work accomplishing something.

The trip back was a bit grim. This was my second time of driving a car in Nigeria and as I started back a major cloudburst arrived. The road was all rivers and lakes. I nearly lost the car in a couple of waterholes but managed to slide and bounce out again. Great sport!

After Friday night I was a bit worried though. I didn’t want to be stuck in a rainstorm for six hours again like I was on my last horrible trip from Lagos.

I had left Lagos about 12:00 noon after fighting traffic for four hours in the morning. Out of Lagos to Ijebu-Igbo we saw the usual number of gory accidents, a mammy wagon on fire, plus one fisherman lying drowned in the water. A crowd was about to take him out. Had lunch at Ijebu-Igbo then decided to go back to Ogwashi that day.

I stopped at the convent in Benin City. Sister there had a madman in the compound. One policeman had flattened him and tied him up and was relating all the incidents several times at the top of his voice, how he heroically kicked the feet out from the man, and such things. Then a second policeman came. I had to stop the police from abusing the man too badly and told them not to use their cudgels. The police didn’t know what to do with him and finally they decided to throw him out on the side of the main road. Isaac wanted them to break all his joints with a nightstick so he couldn’t come back. Isaac is my / Sister’s driver and a fairly literate person too! The police couldn’t decide how to take him. Finally, Sister got a taxi and they were going to take him to the station. The police told the taxi driver to take him there but they wouldn’t get in the car to restrain the man. Eventually I got in and told the police what cowards I thought them to be. Sister berated them until finally the police, their cudgels, and the madman all got into the taxi and off they went. Where they finally went I’ll never know.

At Benin City it started to storm and driving in the rain and mist was terrible. Traffic wouldn’t move over, roads were quagmires or lakes, and vision was horrible. Cows and sheep found the road the warmest place to rest on a wet night so they slept on the tarmac. We nearly hit several. Then 27 miles from Ogwashi at 9:00 p.m. the car suddenly lost all power -- no lights, no horn, no starter power.

The rain started up again. I stood out in the rain with my flashlight to prevent other vehicles from running over our unlit vehicle.

Eventually we got a ride for Isaac to Ogwashi and he came back to the van at about 3:00 a.m. I arrived home about 4:00 a.m. cold, wet, stiff, and hungry. Then, when Fr. Golli left on me, I was somewhat annoyed. However, now I’m dry, rested, full, and in much better humor.

[Editor’s note: when we were passing through Abeokuta we nearly hit another madman who lay in the terrible traffic, showing no regard for life or limb. I asked Isaac, my driver, why no one seemed to be concerned, or offered any assistance. What would happen to this poor soul? Isaac shrugged and said, “It may be that he wants to give up.” This led to the following free-verse poem.]


“It may be

that he wants to give up.”

He lies upon the dust and refuse,

slightly curled,

there in the middle of the busy street,

stripped of dignity

and cloth.

The crowds upon the roadside

murmur, gesture,

and go about their daily business.

No one moves to stop the flow of traffic

or to give a shout of warning

or to give a hand in aid.

A mangy dog barks mournfully

and someone kicks it

into submissive silence.

Soon there will come a car

whose driver is less cautious

or more merciful.

It will hit him.

He will die --

there upon the road

amidst the dust and refuse --


His cry will go unheard,

unheeded as his pleas before.

Against a hostile world

he was only one man.

”It may be

that he wants to give up.”

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