Even now as I try to put it down in printed words, I am shaking my head with a mixture of amusement and amazement as I punch away on my PC’s keyboard. I am still trying to get my head round that encounter I had on my way home that evening.
It was in Lagos the evening in question as I walked down to where I was going to board an okada (commercial motorcycle) home. As I did, I noticed a small boy of not more than nine or 10 years old standing by the side of the road. He had a tray of fufu on his head and was crying, so I approached him to know what was wrong with him. His story instantly touched me: he narrated how he had lost the entire money he had made from the sale of his fufu – five notes of N200, meaning he had lost N1000.
The boy further explained that the money had been snatched from his hand by some young men who were in a moving vehicle, as he was counting it by the roadside. His story sounded rather believable. I asked him where he lived and he mentioned Iyana-something-I-could not-comprehend. As to whether he lived with his parents, he answered that he lived with his aunt. And hearing that sent some chill down my spine. Some aunts would skin any child who dare throw away a N10 note and only God knows what this aunty could do to this poor thing this night if and when he got home without that ’whopping’ N1,000, I thought to myself. So I started to think of exactly how to help him but I concluded that giving him another N1,000 would not exactly be the smart idea, so I toyed with the idea of going to see his aunt and help him explain to her.
At that point another man noticed the agitation of the boy and joined us. He also expressed empathy with the boy’s situation. Between the two of us, we decided to put the money together to give to him rather than follow him home. The man was rummaging in his pocket while I was trying to find out more about the boy’s plight, when another man passing by said, calmly but sharply, “You this boy, na everyday you dey come cry for here?” He said that without waiting or looking back. I tried to call him back to shed more light on what he had just said, but he wouldn’t budge. “I no know am o,” was the only thing he added. But he had sounded honest and the import of the conviction with which he said those words was unmistakable.
We turned back to our little ‘angel’, with the other man asking shebi you hear wetin that man talk? I added, ‘na true im talk?’ The little thing seemed lost for words momentarily, then quickly gathered himself together and claimed, in a stuttering voice, that the only other time such had happened previously was once when he also lost his money. “And you happened to have stood at the same point as you are now standing that other time? How very convenient,” I said to myself.
Suddenly it all started to come together; his tray still had about 12 wraps of fufu. At N10 per wrap, that would amount to N120. Even at N20 per wrap, that will still be just N240. If truly he sold part of his wares to the tune of the N1000 he claimed had been stolen, that tells us that he initially had about 62 wraps of fufu on his tray – that is not impossible but it is highly improbable and, in fact very doubtful considering the size of the tray. Pray also, a fufu seller who only has N200 notes, no N10, N20, N50, N5? That is quite interesting. It is interesting indeed, that those N200 notes conveniently rounded off to N1000 and not N850, N700, N520, or some other figure not so round in total.
The other man was already too pissed off and was raring to go, urging me to leave the dubious thing there and go my way, too, but I tried one last time to salvage the seemingly unsalvageable: I asked him once again, where the incident had happened and he shifted the crime scene to ‘inside estate, I come shout but them hold me, come run’. I don’t think the other man heard everything else he said after that before he turned and walked off in anger and disappointment.
I gave the little imp a you-are-so-lying-through-your-dirty-teeth-you-little-con look and also walked away as he stood there determined to act out the remainder of his script to an imaginary audience. As I walked away, I felt the urge to go back to him, give him some good spanking and haul him, kicking and screaming, off to his house, wherever it was. But I reconsidered that. Beside a little twine that can cook up such obvious deceit is sure capable of a little more. And God help me if he suddenly yells out for help, claiming I was trying to kidnap him or even worse. So, quietly, I pocketed the Samaritan in me and took the next available okada home, asking myself what the world has come to. But did I hasten into conclusion on that little thing? I guess I will never know now.