by Tubal Cain
...It is good to have money to buy things that money can buy, but its better not to lose things that money cannot buy.
——George Horace Lorimer
A mild drama took place inside the commercial Bus Ahmed entered on his way home from work one Thursday afternoon. It was the large recklessly driven type of rowdy yellow Bus popularly referred to as ‘Molue’ which is common on Lagos Highways.
Ahmed sat between two men at the back-row thinking deeply. His thought lingered on the financial problems facing his family. His three kids were to leave for School in three days and there was no money for their School fees. The plastic wares shop he had opened for the wife was not bringing much and the rent was due at the end of the month. The landlady was already threatening them with quit notice, and he was barely able to feed his family. His monthly income from the Bakery where he worked was too small. From past experience, Ahmed knew no one would lend him money even if he tried. Still thinking, he slept off completely oblivious of everything going on around him within the Bus.
A short bald fellow gripping a leather sack had entered the Bus at the same time with Ahmed. He had gone to a seat in front of Ahmed’s row and squeezed himself between two elderly men quietly. As he tried to drop the sack in front of the row, the man sitting by his left protested rudely saying the sack was resting on his leg. The bald fellow shifted the sack to right, the man sitting by his right complained loudly saying he should hold his sack. The short fellow just dropped the sack and relaxed backwards pressing his hostile neighbours further backwards on to the backrest behind the seat. Provoked by the bald fellow’s action, the man by his right grabbed the sack and pushed it directly on his legs. The fellow returned the sack to its former position while asking the man on his right to respect himself, the man instead pushed the sack further. It led to a struggle between the three men till the bag got torn. A live Cobra’s head emerged from the torn spot causing pandemonium within the Bus.
The hostile fellows along with the owner of the sack left the seat running, other passengers rushed to the front of the Bus and pleaded with the driver to stop while Ahmed sat there sleeping. The driver stopped the Bus on a kerb at the side of the road while the passengers scampered down through the front door.
The snake slithered out of the sack. It coiled up raising its head facing Ahmed directly, its darting fangs were on the same level but a few feet away from Ahmed’s face. It was the noise from other passengers that were watching through the doors and windows of the bus that woke Ahmed. On seeing the snake and its darting fangs so close to his face, Ahmed passed-out wetting his trousers.
Promptly, one of the passengers got in through the rear-door and killed the snake. Ahmed was taken to a nearby hospital by one of the passengers. It was the identity card which was found in his pocket that enabled them to trace his office from where his family was contacted. Ahmed regained consciousness that night but acted very strangely. The Doctors at the hospital initially felt he was bitten by the snake but thought otherwise when they couldn’t find the spot and he had woken up without any of the symptoms. Ahmed stayed in bed refusing to talk to anyone for three weeks. He was placed on Dextrose in normal Saline intra-venous drips having refused to eat solid food throughout the period.
Ahmed’s financial problems overwhelmed him, he decided to feign a strange illness and remain at the hospital till his problems solved themselves. The strategy worked, the kid’s school fees, the rent and hospital expenses were paid by the bakery before he left the Hospital. He agreed he was well enough to leave the hospital speaking for the first time after three weeks when he overheard the Doctors telling his wife that he will be discharged the following day.
Ahmed lived in bondage generally. It was not that he enjoyed such a lifestyle. He had unconsciously inflicted this condition upon himself years earlier. It was not the common kind of bondage involving the relationship between a master and his slave. His own kind of bondage was domestic in nature. His problem had arisen from an inner conflict between the wish to live a recklessly banal lifestyle and the desire to conform completely with societal standards in attempt to please and maintain a harmonious relationship with everyone. The conflict manifested in the contrasting pursuits he made since his childhood days. As a young man fending for himself, Ahmed found out that people were not willing to help him whenever he was in difficulty or had problems. Despite his amiable disposition, he had to trick or coerce people into cooperating with him whenever he was in need. He had lost his parents in an accident at the age of fifteen, difficulties associated with growing-up without parental love and care hardened him. Ahmed became cruel and callous even before he reached the age of twenty.
An indigene of Maiduguri in Borno state, he first sold off his father’s landed property within his village and travelled widely before settling down in Niamey. He secured a job working as an Interpreter and a Bilingual Editor for “Succour for the Needy,“ a Philanthropic organization floated by an association of religious groups with a regional office in Niamey the capital of Niger Republic. Ahmed’s job was threatened when he stubbornly allowed the publication of a defamatory article on the front page of the organization’s monthly magazine. The article had criticised the authorities of the organization for desperately soliciting for and obtaining food aid from various sources which they sold to the less privileged enriching themselves in the process. While the article caused an internal crises in the organization, there was a world-wide reaction to it from different religious groups.
Christian organization reacted by questioning the sources and moral
justification behind some of the organization’s food distribution programmes.
It accused the organization of feeding some of the less
privileged Christians with what it described as “Forbidden Mutton,“
food that it alleged was against their faith. The Christian
organization documented the fact that the philanthropic firm was regularly
sending remains of meat sacrificed to strange deities during
pilgrimages to Christians within the African
Ahmed was queried
for allowing the article on the monthly Magazine. He left the
firm without resigning after the query. He started off as a
white-slaver in the southern part of Niger Republic after leaving the
job. He had posed as a wealthy businessman trying to help some of the
less privileged families in his village. It was after selling out the
remaining part of his father’s landed properties in neighbouring
villages despite the uncle’s warnings that he schemed out the dubious
idea. He approached some families with generous financial gifts
asking for the consent to take their teenage daughters abroad. He claimed he
had secured several factory jobs for them outside the country. Most of the
families approached obliged him. He conveyed the girls by road to Birnin-Koni
through the porous Illela border route in Sokoto state. He then coerced
the girls into prostitution after seizing their travelling documents and
starving them for several days. He lived extravagantly on the proceeds
from the girls’ labours.
Ahmed was queried for allowing the article on the monthly Magazine. He left the firm without resigning after the query. He started off as a white-slaver in the southern part of Niger Republic after leaving the job. He had posed as a wealthy businessman trying to help some of the less privileged families in his village. It was after selling out the remaining part of his father’s landed properties in neighbouring villages despite the uncle’s warnings that he schemed out the dubious idea. He approached some families with generous financial gifts asking for the consent to take their teenage daughters abroad. He claimed he had secured several factory jobs for them outside the country. Most of the families approached obliged him. He conveyed the girls by road to Birnin-Koni through the porous Illela border route in Sokoto state. He then coerced the girls into prostitution after seizing their travelling documents and starving them for several days. He lived extravagantly on the proceeds from the girls’ labours.
Ahmed’s line of trade which was popularly called the ‘connection business’ in Niger Republic thrived profitably in the late nineties. His set-up near the popular KADO - HOTEL was very lucrative since he could speak both French and Arabic languages, he had many friends among the influential indigenes. Ahmed ran one of the most sophisticated hospitality brokerage institutions in Niger Republic at the time. He also hired several mud-brick apartments from the indigenes which he rented out to other non-nationals at very exorbitant rates.
Ahmed became a wanted man in his village after one of his captives, or rather one of his ‘connections’ had escaped to tell the story of his exploits at home. With threats from parents of the ’connections’ coming from his village, Ahmed sought for an easy way out of Niger Republic . He hastily fell in love with the lurid skills of one of his connections and married her.
Thalatu, the skilled ‘connection’ was light-fingered. She successfully drugged one of her customers, an unsuspecting French tourist and stole his briefcase while he was still sleeping.
She had confided in Ahmed who suggested that they should escape after he had discovered that the brief case held a large sum of money in various currencies that night. They travelled to Lagos and hired an apartment at the Ilaje water-front near Bariga within the Lagos mainland.
It was a week after settling down in Lagos that they both discovered that a greater portion of the money within the briefcase were counterfeited notes. It led to a serious misunderstanding between them as Thalatu accused Ahmed of replacing the notes with counterfeits in attempt to cheat and abandon her. She took to drinking and seized the remaining part of the money squandering it on gambling sprees till it was exhausted.
Ahmed could not return to Niger Republic nor his village as he had been declared wanted in both places. Stuck in Lagos with an erratic wife and no money, he took to surviving on menial jobs.
With time, they raised three kids. Thalatu became very difficult over the years, she had an insatiable craving for stimulants and constantly threatened to inform the police about the crimes they committed together over the years. Afraid of going to jail, Ahmed was helpless and lived in total submission to the whims of his wife.