Time and again, I was told of the birds that journey the clear skies above us; the God who created them had already made provisions for their bellies and the same was being said of every other being, humans too. Growing up with this level of optimism made me believe strongly that life, no matter how hard it gets to be, will be beautiful before the day death comes for me. I viewed every difficult situation in this light and I can say it worked just fine many times; enough that I preached this philosophy to every listening ear. I did preach so, that the best things in life – the things that keep us here – come free to us; until Mr Abioye’s story.
“Water, e no get enemy!” Mr. Abioye sang, cheerfully, as he rode out on his motorcycle that morning. He was probably singing to detach his mind from the intense storms raging in his life; or maybe just to prepare his mind positively for the day’s hustle. His marvelous rendition of the legendary Fela Kuti’s hit, “water no get enemy” couldn’t prevent him from meeting with the average Nigerian road user’s number one enemy: the men of the Nigerian Police Force.
Being stopped by these men in the morning is a bad omen; always has been, especially for commercial bikers called “okada riders”. Mr. Abioye would not have wished his enemy was caught up in this, especially after yesterday. He is a widower, who takes care of his two sons with his okada hustle. Yesterday was a bad day for him. He had spent almost the whole day at the mechanic’s, fixing his motorcycle. The little money he made the day before was used to buy parts that were replaced.
He used what was left to buy drugs for his sick child over the counter at a medicine store. He was unable to pay the mechanic yesterday but was lucky the mechanic agreed that he returned to pay him after the day’s work. His child had been sick for two days but he could not take him to a hospital due to the lack of money. He had promised himself that whatever he made today would be used to pay his mechanic and to take his son to the health Centre at Ijeda.
“Officer, abeg make I go come; I go find una something”
He pleaded with the police officer who had stopped him. The officer, as always, expected he had “something” for him and his colleagues – “something” which he did not have today. He pleaded with the officer as he sought his understanding to let him go, with a promise that he would give them something later; that same day.
“Oya park well, make I see your papers, since na beg beg you sabi!”
He handed over his motorcycle papers to the policeman, who scanned through the papers with the intent to find something to indict Mr Abioye. Seeing the poor man had all that was required, he took a look around the bike this time, looking for something only he could explain.
“Oga, your front pointer no good!”
Laughing mischievously as he finally had a thing to hold against his prey.
Abioye replied, “it got broken last night. I will buy a new one this morning”
“Ah! You don enter gbese be that na. Na so, una take dey cause accident for road”
You could sense that the officer was quite happy and would not listen to anything that would not have to do with being “settled”.
Mr. Abioye tried to explain how he could not have fixed the pointer late last night but the police officer kept shouting and laughing hard at the same time; his trap had caught a game.
“Oga, you too dey talk; find me something now now o or you go reach station and you know sey na 3,000 you go take carry this motorcycle if e reach station”
Mr Abioye pleaded with the officer that he had no penny. He explained his situation to him, but the officer was unmoved. Forty minutes later, they took his motorcycle in their van and drove to the station, some kilometres away.
Mr. Abioye walked to the station, met with the officer in charge and pleaded to have his motorcycle released but again, the officer turned him down. He offered to leave his phone and bike papers behind as collateral, till after a few hours when he must have made enough money to settle them. Even explaining that the life of his son depended on the availability of the bike, the stocky officer did not budge. Rather, he asked Mr. Abioye to leave the station or risk being locked up too.
Dejected, he left the station. Not knowing where to go, he sat in front of the police station, bitter and broken. People walked by him as he drowned in his tears and they acted like he did not exist. Few who were kind enough threw pitiful glances at him and went on with their businesses. A tacky man in his early fifties, walking with two other men in the same age bracket and on the same level of insensitivity approached him, saying,
“Oga, why you dey behave like woman na?” see as you dey here dey cry like small pikin, you be sisi ooo”
One of his companion added, feeling proud of himself for his sagacity and great words of advice;
“I tire o. Even if you wan cry, go your house go cry.”
Not to be left out, the third man added;
“Even if na person die, man no dey cry anyhow. No dey disgrace men laidis!”
Mr. Abioye was shell-shocked by the words of his fellow men, who instead of comforting or sharing in his sentiments, were more concerned about his crime of ‘disgracing‘ men. Terrified and devastated, he stood up and walked home to see his son having a convulsion. He hurriedly took him to the nearest hospital.
He was asked to make a deposit before his son could be attended to. He pleaded with the staff that he had no funds, going further to explain how his day had gone up to that point, but he was told the hospital policy could not be changed. He, for the second time that day, offered to drop his phone and license; or to even run out to exchange his phone for money while they tend to him but that was not persuasive enough as they stuck to their guns.
Mr. Abioye watched helplessly as his son turned cold in his hands. He let out a huge scream and then…silence.
He could not cry anymore; probably because he did not want to appear weak.
He dropped his son in the morgue; where he was admitted without any deposit and walked away. So much for the saying;
The best things in life come free to us
Lost in thoughts and oblivious of the world he found himself, he fell into a manhole and in his weakening breaths, he hoped the heavens would let his last son have it easy in exchange for his own apparently meaningless life.