By Adrianpastol Nnochiri
The sound was really extreme, so something must be wrong. I switched on the main lights from the wall switch close to my door so I could see better, standing up to reach it was the first punishment of the new day. I knew it wasn’t as early as the sun was already up; I have been awake for the past half hour but have laid back on my bed reading a novel as I do every morning, It had become a ritual in my life. Every morning I wake up, still laying on my bed I say my morning prayers which was usually very short as I am not the heavy binding type. Then I pick up whatever book I am reading from the side of my bed; switch on my bed side light and read. This was the only time I could actually concentrate, pushing up some chapters before starting out my busy Lagos life, I was reading AdrianPastol’s The Consequences, and I was so engrossed.
It was the shouting that startled me back to my earth and I realized I was running late for work and so had to start preparing. It didn’t take much time for me to realize that the neighborhood youths were chasing a thief or thieves. I wasn’t quite sure as the shouting is usually the same, whether it is one person or more. “Thief, thief, thief, ole, ole – hold am, catch that idiot…” the noisy chase had simply passed by descending as quickly as it had ascended.
“Another thief again”  I thought to myself, wondering in silence what he could have stolen this time or was it one of those notorious gangs that usually carry high grade weapons that only God knows where they get them from. “Hope they did not kill anybody” this time, I had unknowingly said my thoughts out loud but just as I said it, it also occurred to me that I had heard no gun shots.
I entered the small built-in bath room of my single room and parlor self-contained apartment, hum! “How small can a bathroom be” I thought to myself hissing at the very thought. This was another unconscious ritual I had developed from the very first day I washed my body in my apartment and yes, I said washed my body, not bath as there wasn’t one in the room; although I knew the word simply referred to the act, it angered me every time as neither was there a shower or tap for water supply and I had to go out to buy water from the local sellers twice a week. Among other things that angered me in the house I have now lived in for over eighteen months and although I had only six months left in the two years rent I paid for, I remember that I have not ever finished paying the loan I used in renting the place which I was paying with almost half my monthly salaries so I knew I was stuck here at least until I am able to get another job.
I chuckled at the thought of another job, knowing it took me four years after graduating from the university to get me this one where I am given peanuts for a salary. “Why won’t people steal?” I asked myself, “when they are no jobs, no opportunities, no up-keep allowances, whether you are educated or not; expensive transport fares on our bad roads, high electricity bills for power we don’t even get, high cost of living and the one the stabs me the most, outrageous house rents.” I was now complaining to myself.
“Okay, I believe I am good to go” I said glancing at the mirror. I looked at the time, 7am. I smiled acknowledging finally that I am one of the lucky ones in Lagos who could leave their house by this time to work since I would only be boarding one bus, most other people leave as early as 5am just to beat traffic; Seun my next door neighbor and only friend in the hood was a typical example. He usually leaves by 6am but then I realized I did not hear him leave today, how unusual. I locked up my door and took a quick peep at his just to be sure. “Yep, he is out alright. I guess if we are lucky and there is no hold-ups  today after work he might be back early enough for us to see and maybe even have dinner together.
I walked out of my street and turned for the bus stop but was greeted by the site of a huge crowd, the shouting was difficult to make out, then I noticed the police van driving away, I knew immediately that this would be the end of a man’s life. “They must have refused to turn the thief over to the police, what an unlucky bastard”
This was a scene I always never hoped to see, but as I noticed Seun standing there I had to move closer. “Seun, what is it?” I asked like I never knew already, “they caught a thief” he replied me, but the expression on his face didn’t make it seem like it was a good thing. He held me so I wouldn’t get knocked down in the crowd. “They have been beating him for the past forty minutes, interrogating him at the same time. Susan, trust me this is not something you want to see” It was then I noticed he was already dressed for work; he must have stopped to see things for himself. My curiosity rose and I pushed forward to see for myself.
The sight was the most frightening I have ever seen, there was blood everywhere, the boy could barely move but one could still tell he was alive. I noticed stones and big sticks all over, “My God! What on earth could this boy have stolen?” I noticed one of the mob bringing in car tires and another that looked like an okada man (commercial motorcycle rider) sucking out fuel from his tank. I confirmed what I had already knew, today was his last. I looked around; some men like my friend Seun simply stood-by mobbing. I could see in their eyes that they did not approve but they did nothing. Some women had tears in their eyes and the ones that could not take it, turned and headed their way, others cursing the thief and swearing in anger. I looked at the poor boy again and I realized I also could not take it, I turned and walked out of the crowd, Seun who had been holding my hands all along also turned and followed me behind. We were walking to the next bus-stop. “What did he steal?” I asked. They went to rob at a house two streets away from ours; I think they were three of them. They say they were carrying machetes and got 15,000naira at the house, the other two got away but he wasn’t so lucky.”
“Susan” he said, “that boy is only fourteen” I swallowed my own saliva with the thought, I knew many had been killed for far lesser but then it never have been clear to me, why people stole billions with pens and Ghana-must-go bags and are given interviews, but others were burnt for 15,000naira. Why people would simply stare and do nothing, why even the police would do nothing. It wasn’t clear because I thought we were civilized. “15,000” was all I could murmur back; I knew I was also guilty for am walking away, I knew the rest of my day was going to be a disaster, filled with this thoughts. I knew I would have to go through the other stop on my way back so I wouldn’t see the burnt corpses. I knew this was injustice even to a criminal, I knew it was inhuman, but when I opened my mouth to speak, it wasn’t about the injustice, it wasn’t about how we were suffering and still inflicted worst suffering on our fellow men, it wasn’t about how the government have failed us, but rather it was to ask Seun if he would be back on time so we could have dinner together.
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