At twelve years old, over a breakfast of garri and okro, I read my first newspaper article. I remember it vividly. It was The Daily Punch. Page 4. That page designed to grab your attention with weird stories of people who did silly things for silly reasons. ‘Crime Watch,’ it was called.
That day, Crime Watch was about two men. Two fools, they were called. One was on his way from work, fought with someone who tried to rob him, shot him and died, himself of multiple stab wounds. Here comes the shocker. It was all for a thousand naira.
Several questions arose in my little mind. Where did the man who was robbed get the gun from? The workplace he was only just arriving from? When the robber saw the gun, why didn’t he stand down? Had he been listening to too much of Sia’s Titanium? Only for a thousand naira? A measly thousand naira? That couldn’t even cook a good pot of soup! Couldn’t pay power bills! It couldn’t even pay for internet subscription on phones people used then. I don’t remember what they were called, something. …berry. Yes. BlackBerry. Two men killed and two men died. I agreed with the newspaper. They were fools indeed. Aunty Maria thought so too.
She couldn’t stop talking about them. Two men who threw away their lives for nothing. She spoke of the lack of patience Nigerians suffered from despite the fact that the First Lady then was named Patience. She who used to scold me for talking while eating–bad table manners she called it–couldn’t stop talking. I wondered if I should remind her about her table manners after all. I wanted to find earphones to plug my ears with but that would only have made her talk more. I couldn’t blame her though. I understood her anger. I felt it too. We knew one of them.
I didn’t quite understand the rationale behind the actions of these men then as a child. But now that I’m a thirty-five year old adult, I understand it now.
That robber didn’t take time to think, to question the wisdom of his actions. He didn’t perform the 4-way test boldly displayed then in front of UNIBEN’s main Auditorium, or at the roundabout in Maryland in Lagos. No. He was too busy trying to attend to his needs at that moment. A wise man once said, “You’ve got to have been satisfied with the basic needs of life before you can listen to someone preaching on how to behave.” That’s what he’d been doing. Satisfying himself.
A thousand naira was good enough for him. It was enough to get an average meal for himself and perhaps those that mattered to him. It was enough to buy drugs, enough to settle whatever debt he owed. It was enough for whatever he needed it for.
But what could excuse the man who was robbed? Perhaps, the very same. Maybe he needed it to fend for his children at home and that thousand naira was all he had. His last card. Maybe he was desperate, too. Desperate enough to shoot a man for it. Maybe he hadn’t meant to shoot him and just wanted to scare him off. Maybe, just maybe.
After they died, what became of the thousand naira? I’m sure it must have felt like the most powerful currency note. Guess what. It may not have been the most powerful, but it sure was powerful. Powerful enough to turn two full grown men to idiots. My mother would say, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” I beg to differ. Love, generally, is tbe root of all evil.
As an adult, I see the brief struggle of these men even more clearly and I’m astonished at the brutality of people’s desires and ambitions. I’ll be damned if I risk my life for a mere thousand naira. I’m way bigger and more learned to do that. Besides, I’ve got what I need. Unfortunately, there’s a huge difference between what I have, what I want and what I need. I discovered something else.
I have to have what I want.
Some call it greed, others call it covetousness. But for me, it’s plain human nature. Some might think they are way above that. I laugh. I wish they will take a moment and try something out. Imagine yourself, one dark night, standing in the centre of a room filled with high denomination currency notes. Imagine the thoughts that will run through your mind. The thoughts of how much more comfortable your life will be, your parents at home, the fast cars you will buy, the boat cruises you will go on, the socialites you will get to rub shoulders with.
Fun, isn’t it?
Now indulge in another fantasy. You can have all the money you have ever wanted. Every good thing you’ve ever thought of can be yours. You don’t have to steal, no decades of hard work. Now, that wealth will be yours if you can do this one thing.
Yeah, I know you’ll grab the chance with both hands. Don’t tell me you won’t because that’s a big, bogus lie. I trust you will make all the shakara and do all the yanga. I know you won’t want to sell your soul cheap. You will have your terms and conditions. You will ask for time to meditate and think. Your price may not be the same as mine, but there is a price. Judas’ was thirty pieces of silver.
Admit it. You have a price and you’ll kill for it.
It’s better to live a life of luxury than that of penury, dontchya think? Better to ride in a Bugatti than to trek about on the streets. You never can tell what you just might find on those streets. You never know who you might meet. Maybe a beautiful young girl that may be the love of your life, or a man like my father, with a knife held tightly in his fist, needing whatever you had to offer. Maybe even me, as naughty and deadly as I can be. Maybe, just maybe.
Life’s hard lesson. We have to have what we want. We have to be the one who walks away alive….. and free. We have to win.
Rest In Peace, Papa.