— By Tobenna from Nigeria
The streets of Lagos are notorious for one too many reasons.
I got caught in a web of one, and this is my story.
A year ago on a sunny afternoon, I left for a nearby bank on an errand to make some deposits. As I was walking, still a few paces from my destination, a little boy caught my attention. I made mental guesses of what his age could be, then settled for 8. Eight years old. He looked ragged, and in the air around him was a stench. My conscience pricked me upon seeing him head my way, making gestures with his hands, asking for help. I had nothing more than my transportation fares and the exact amount to be deposited at the bank.
He looked weak. By his appearance it was clear he needed immediate attention and bouts of love. Going against the urge in my heart to run from this scenario that could get me into trouble, I made efforts to engage the little man in a discussion, in order to get information with which I could work. I made several attempts, but what became evident was he didn’t seem to understand the English I spoke. Making a few utterances in Yoruba, which is the language of the people of western Nigeria, it was obvious that I needed someone who could help translate what the boy tried to get across to me. I desperately wanted to help this boy. A day could hardly go by without a headline in a leading newspaper reporting cases of missing children who hadn’t returned home…one to two years later.
“This could be an opportunity to save a mother’s heart from pain” I thought to myself. With this, I forged ahead with renewed diligence to do all I could to get this young man to safety.
I then looked around for a passerby who ‘looked’ Yoruba, but seeing that this wasn’t working, I made for the kiosk of a food vendor [who I had heard seconds ago, speak over the phone] with the little man, introducing myself and the situation at hand. To this she obliged and even offered the boy a free plate of white rice and stew.
As he ate, she initiated a conversation with him and it appeared that our man was a long way from home. Then it occurred to me that taking him to the nearest police station would be a good decision to take.
And as we were walking to the police station, we were stopped by some mean looking street thugs who demanded to know where I was taking the little boy to. Surprised by their confrontation, I narrated the whole story to them, but to my greatest surprise, I was accused of kidnap, right before my very eyes.
“…The streets of Lagos are notorious for one too many reasons.”
The group of four morphed into one who was over twenty, agitated, and fixing mean gazes at me -the type given to people accused of kidnap, guilty, or not. Each man threw questions at me. Questions that I failed to answer, because I had become numb from the situation and the feeling that I had been caught in the web of one of these notorious situations.
I stood there with tears flowing down my reddened cheeks, not knowing what to say and watching people chant, “Ole! Kidnapper!!”
This continued until an imam present amongst the crowd quieted them, then asked me to explain myself with regards to the accusations leveled against me, which I did with the last bit of strength left in my mind and body.
After taking in my account and thinking for a moment, he concluded that I had done nothing wrong to deserve what I was being put through. He then asked that I be allowed away from the location to where I had to go to.
It was dramatic as I walked through the crowd to board a commercial motorcycle, and as we rode, it dawned on me that I had been a victim of false accusation.
The little man was planted to attack vulnerable ones such as me.
He wasn’t so little after all, when I saw him amidst familiar faces two weeks later.