If you’ve ever lived in Lagos or you live in Lagos, you’d agree with me it’s a pretty crazy place. Everyone seems to be angry down here. I can’t really tell if it’s the ever increasing heat from the sun, the highly competitve environment due to the over population or the endless traffic that Lagos is so popular for. Either ways, everyone is always angry about something.
Here I was squeezing my thin frame through the throng of bodies at the peak of the day. I loosened the top button on my shirt as sweat trickled down my back. Another unsuccessful interview. I sighed and then heard my stomach growl. I realised i hadn’t had anything to eat all morning. I stopped by the pavement and looked at the bunch of hawkers hanging around. Nothing they had to sell appealed to me. Actually, truth is you wouldn’t catch me dead eating junk food. I just wanted to get home and make myself a nice hot meal. After all, man must wack.
I was new to the island and wasn’t familiar with the bus parks. I was trying to recollect the direction the corper had given me when I heard the shout of “Iyana Ipaja! One more yansh.” I followed the sound waves with my eyes and ears. I sighted the man shouting on the other side and jogged across the road.
With the thoughts of fried plantain and eggs occupying my mind, I passed the cluster of people by the road side but for some weird reason, I looked back and felt a pull. “Iyana Ipaja one more yansh ooo”, I heard again. I took a couple more steps forward. Still, I felt that nudge to go back. I wiped sweat off my forehead and turned back. The bus was probably far from getting filled for all I know. It’s a known fact that conductors will always say “one more yansh” even if the bus was practically empty. I approached the cluster and tried to peek in between shoulders to see what was going on. Reason one thousand and one why being short is of a great disadvantage. I tapped the man in front of me, careful not to get engine oil on my hands from his very stained overall.
“Wetin?” He growled, veins standing in his neck.
“What’s going on?” I asked, ignoring his grumpiness.
“Dem catch thief.” He answered and turned shouting something in yoruba. Oh, lest I forget, if you are in Lagos and you don’t know a few basic Yoruba words, you are doing yourself a great disfavour. Curiosity got the best of me. I found myself squeezing through to the front accompanied with a couple of yoruba words I assume were insults. I looked at the ‘thief’ and saw an unkempt girl of about sixteen years clutching to a loaf of bread like her life depended on it. She had a bruise on her hand that was bleeding.
“What exactly did she steal?” I asked no one in particular.
“Eye dey pain you? Wetin dey her hand?” I followed the voice and it belonged to a woman standing few meters away from me. Her face reminded me of a song i had overhead on a bus; Black and Yellow” and the zebra stripes running around her arms made me cringe. I subconsciously looked down and in front of her was a tray of bread.
“Oh…” I managed to utter.
“Carry the girl go station Abeg.” The woman shouted. I looked around the same crowd that had gathered. Most were sellers on the street, a few looked formal and a handful of school children. The children threw small stones at her and chanted “Ole” which is “thief” in Yoruba. My eyes locked with the tallest among them and he stopped, signaling to his other friends to do the same.
“All this fuss about…” I looked at the bread and tried to guess the price. “…#70 bread?”
“Paid for it now. Mr offiz man.” One of the hawkers said. I was thrown off by the bad english and accent, i just ignored.
“No o! Nobody go pay for this bread. We must teach am lesson.” Another hawker protested. “Last week, na so she thief buns from my tray. Fifty naira buns o.
“Oooh oh.” The crowd murmured.
I drowned out their voices and looked at the girl sitting on the dirty street of Lagos. Something in my heart moved. I wondered what her story was. Did she have family? Was she sick in the mind? Why did she have to steal? She looked scared and her torn dress looked like it hadn’t been changed in a while.
“This is not neccesary.” I said as the bread hawker pushed the girl’s head forward with so much force.
“Oga Wetin be your own na? Who send you come sef?” She hissed.
“I’d pay for it. Just let her go.”
“No o. Make dem carry am go station. If she come my shop come steal something nko? Wetin I go tell my customers if something miss from their car?. The man in the grease stained overall spat. At this point, I was angry in my spirit.
“What is wrong with all of you? Are you all so innocent you haven’t stolen from someone before?” I turned to the mechanic. “Do you think we don’t know how you mechanics repair one thing and spoil another just to make sure people keep bringing back their cars?” I tried to control my rage. I turned to the school children. “Do you want to tell me you’ve never taken a pen or pencil that never belonged to you?” I looked at the well dressed people. “Are you trying to imply you’ve never lied or cheated or stolen at some point in your life?” Then I turned to the bread hawker. “Don’t you steal from your husband?” She was shocked as it appeared I had looked deep into her soul.
I took another step forward and stood by the girl. With a stern look, I scanned the crowd. “If there is any among you who has never stolen a thing even if it’s a tiny meat in the pot, step forward and drag this girl to the station.” I watched as they all stood rooted to their spots. Then they began to disperse. Some hissing, some giving me the evil eye.
“Oniranu.”, one said as he brushed my shoulder while walking away. Eventually I was left with the girl and the bread seller.
“Who go pay me for this bread?” She asked, scowling and pointing to the girl on the floor.
“I thought you didn’t want the money.” I handed her a hundred naira note, expecting my change only for her to pick up her tray and walk away. I smiled. She just robbed me of my #30 change. Hypocrite. I bent and looked into the young girl’s eyes.
“Broda, thank you.” She managed to say. I opened my purse and brought out one of the two five hundred naira notes. “Take. Go and steal no more.” I helped her to her feet and watched her walk away. “Iyana ipaja one more yansh! Wole pelu change o!” I got there in time to catch the last seat.
As my bus drove past the spot of the incidence. I couldn’t help but smile. I may not have solved the young girl’s problems but I’m glad I was able to save her from jungle justice. I said a prayer for her as the look in her eyes flashed before my eyes.
It was the look of hope.
Inspired by John 8:1-11
Note from the author: Please don’t just read alone. Pass it on and bless someone with this. I love you but remember, God loves you more. Shalom.