Image: The author
This week, I am going to tell us a story that was shared in a group, and it will form the very bulk of my admonition to fellow Nigerians this week. This is the first installment.
Here is the story—as told by one of the dramatis personae
About three phones had gone missing in our room in the past five months. When we reported to the School’s security, they only told us that it was a roommate that is responsible. Every one of us in the room was waiting for the day we will catch the culprit.
Last Tuesday, when we were all asleep; I think it was about 2 am, Ben woke up suddenly and his phone was gone. His phone was the most expensive of us all.
When Ben woke up and couldn’t find his phone, he sprang up from the bed and quickly opened his cupboard. He rummaged the contents, even removed his clothes but could still not find the phone.
I was in the room when it happened; sitting and reading before I dozed off with my heading resting on my books. So when Ben couldn’t find his phone, he gently shook my shoulders until I woke up. ‘It has happened again’, he told me.
I didn’t even need to ask what happened as I could see the panic and loss written in his eyes.
This is the second time his phone had been stolen. So I took my phone and dialed Ben’s number; just to be sure it had not been misplaced. ‘Error in Connection’ was what I saw on the screen of my phone. I dialed it again and it started ringing not just on my phone, but the actual ring tone of Ben’s Samsung phone was faintly audible.
We were both surprised when we heard the tone. I beckoned on Ben to keep quiet, as he was visibly ready to ‘finish’ the person who took his phone. I continued dialing as we moved silently, following the direction of the ring tone. There were four bunks in the room, each with two bed spaces. Ben and I use the same bunk just beside the door and the sound was coming from the last bunk at the extreme left corner.
We tiptoed, Ben and I, until we traced the sound to the top bed space on the last bunk. ‘So it is John who had been stealing phones in this room’. Ben whispered to me.
We shook his leg and woke him up only to find out it was not John sleeping on the mattress. Neither of us had ever seen the guy before. To make matters worse, the ringing was coming from the bag he was using as pillow.
When he woke up, he looked at us strangely as if he didn’t know why we were there.
We opened the bag and found not just Ben’s Samsung, but also three other phones. ‘So, you are the one who’s been stealing our phones!’ Ben shouted at him.
Before he could find an excuse, Ben slapped him on his left cheek and walked out looking for anything to break one or two of the guy’s bones.
I don’t know; but there was something about the guy. So I asked him, ‘Oga, what are you doing here?’ ‘What are you doing with Ben’s phone’? He was just looking at me without saying anything, so I slapped his right cheek with my left hand.
‘ANSWER ME!’ I screamed at him; waking up the roommates who were around.
John had obviously gone to night class to read and I assumed the other three roommates who were absent had also gone to read.
The two guys remaining in the room with Ben and me came and gave their own round of slaps. The accused was now staggering when Ben came back with a long wood hard enough to kill the guy. As he raised it up, the three of us, the roommates, held his hands so he wouldn’t murder the accused.
Ben dropped the wood and swept his right leg against the thief’s legs and he fell down.
I looked at the guy on the floor and before Ben killed him, I decided to interview him, at least to know who he is. He was now sitting on the ground where he landed from Ben’s force. ‘Who are you?’ I asked him again; this time gently. He was crying but it was only the tears that were coming out. It was then I realized he had not even uttered a word since it all started. Not even when he fell to the ground. ‘Why are you in our room’? I asked again. ‘Can you even talk?’ He shook his head then. I was now confused. Why was he shaking his head?
So, I asked again, ‘Can’t you talk?’ He shook his head again. ‘Wait, is it that this guy is dumb?’ I asked the guys.
The guy then nodded his head and pointed to his mouth and then shook his head left to right. It hit me then. The guy is dumb but not deaf. That was the first time I am seeing a case like that.
My anger changed to pity immediately. ‘Are you dumb?’ I ashamedly asked the guy to confirm. Again, he nodded his head.
‘Can you read and write?’ He nodded again. ‘Get me a pen and note!’ I said to my roommates over my shoulder. I collected the pen and wrote on the note, ‘who are you? Explain yourself.’
I was almost in tears as I read his fine handwriting, ‘my name is James; I am John’s elder brother. I am a student of Delta State University. I was traveling to Delta but our bus stopped for the night at Benin. So I decided to sleep with my brother till tomorrow morning. He brought me here around 12 am and went out to night class to read. He gave me the bag to keep for him. So I decided to use it as pillow so that it won’t be stolen’.
I held the note with the guys at my back as all of us read it. I became so weak I almost fell. ‘The guy is innocent.’ I needlessly announced, even I was ashamed of myself.
Ben just stood there with the wood he almost used to hit him, looking as if he was the one who had been beaten. I am not sure, but I think I saw tears in his eyes as he realized he had just punished an innocent man.
So we knelt down; Ben and I, we knelt down and clasped our hands so he will know we were really sorry. With tears in our eyes, we told him, ‘we are sorry. Sorry for accusing you wrongly and beating you for it’. The dumb guy just smiled with bleeding lips from the blow I gave him. He smiled and looked into our eyes. And I could see pity in his eyes. He smiled and shook his head and then wrote in the same paper. ‘It is alright. I took the pain willingly. Please don’t beat my brother anymore. I knew why you were beating me. John had always been a thief, right from home. But please don’t report or beat him again’.
Tears dropped from my eyes. He deliberately allowed us beat him just so that John will be free. I lend my hand and raised him up as I used my cloth to wipe the tears from his face and blood from his lips. It was then my own tears flowed from the corners of my eyes.
Next week, we will examine this episode, and attempt to examine if Nigerians are ready to make sacrifices, or are really in need of change—Only time will tell.
Prince Charles Dickson; Freelance Journalist, Research|Policy|Media|Private Investigation