This is probably going to be one of the longest pieces I’ve written, but please stay with me, as always, I guarantee value for your time.
So I entered what Nigerians have now come to know as a “one chance” vehicle today and the experience is what triggered this piece. I boarded a cab to the office this morning. After about 400 meters, a passenger said he wanted to alight. Young boy, not more than 24. He told the driver to open his boot so he could carry his bag but the driver refused, saying that he had asked a while ago who owned the bag but the young man had kept quiet. After they argued for a while, the driver went ahead to inform the rest of us passengers that the bag contained a lot of money; dollar bills. He said, he did not know how the boy had come across such an amount of money, that it was likely it was stolen and so he would take him to the nearest police station and drop him off. The boy began pleading with the driver and appealed to us passengers to also plead with the driver to let him go. His story was that he came from Kano; he had served his master, who was supposed to settle him after four years but that even after eight years, the man refused to settle him. There was supposedly a room in the “master’s” house where he said no one should ever go into and he had gone in there and found 4 cartons of money, each labelled a million dollars and he had stolen one and fled to Abuja. I was not really paying attention, but this sounded like a classic scene out of a Nigerian movie.
The driver still insisted that we would go to the police station so we continued driving. The lady beside me mildly asked the driver to just drop off the boy while the man in front asked the driver to let the boy go but that the boy would “settle” the driver but the driver would not listen. He said that if it were to have been a bomb that was in that bag, we would have all died and so we continued moving. After a few minutes, the boy spoke up again, still appealing to us to help plead with the driver. I kept mum still and was just texting on my phone. The guy in front once more appealed to the driver to let the boy go if the boy was willing to “settle” him. The driver still refused, saying the same thing about a bomb but the lady beside me joined in the plea and then the driver said he did not want a situation whereby he would agree to be “settled” by the boy and then one of the passengers would take his number and report him to the police. He said the only condition under which he would release the boy was if the boy “settled” everyone in the car, to which the boy replied that he would be willing to do so. When asked how much he would give each person, he said a thousand dollars and at this time I was already irritated but I kept a straight face. My thoughts initially were “so there are still people like this driver that would not sell himself cheaply.” This was when he insisted on going to the police station. But when he talked about “settling” everybody, I decided that his character wasn’t so strong after all. I was asked if I would be interested in the money and I said no, so the driver said they would drop me off. The lady beside me said she also wanted to come down but she hesitated after I alighted and the driver sped off.
Now let’s tackle this gradually. I spoke to my brother immediately that happened and I told him everything in detail and he told me it was the “one chance” people. Essentially, what people like that do is set up this kind of situation to either dupe or worse still kidnap and use unsuspecting people for money rituals. Even when I shared this story at the office, I got the same response. Now, in my opinion, the only way someone can be caught up in a web like that is if you’re greedy and lacking in character. And as a matter of fact, there are people who will be willing to sell off a bit of themselves for the “right” price. One thousand dollars sounded plenty enough. That’s probably how an average person would think. The reason an average person remains mediocre is because they’re caught up in the now. They lack the ability to plan, think ahead or do a reality check. So for an average person, a thousand dollars to keep shut over a theft sounds fair enough.
I discovered that one of the most difficult things to get in life is trust. You don’t earn my trust by simply smiling at me and appearing nice. This is because time and again several events have occurred that proved to me that people are never really who they say they are and nothing is ever the way it seems. Ideally, with a story like the one the boy told, one ought to be moved to sympathy but considering that stories like that are really popular, believing them even on the rare occasions that they are true becomes almost impossible.
Let me shed more light on this. Ever heard of the “professional beggars?” Those that would suit up and tell you very pathetic stories of how everyone in their family died and they are the only survivors of the accident and how they just need a little money to transport themselves. Or they would tell you about how a woman contracted them to bring goods worth millions of naira from Dubai and they brought them but were robbed and cannot find their way around town. Really pathetic but true. Now, encountering these people regularly makes it difficult for you to trust any such story when it comes your way. But this is digressing so let’s get back on track.
Now, assuming that somehow this entire setup was real and I decided to report to the police. Tell me, which police man in Nigeria would not decide to get “settled” and refrain from taking the matter to his “oga?” That’s the Nigeria we know today; the country where integrity is almost non-existent and it’s not just in the police force. We keep talking about corruption in Nigeria today and how it’s destroying our country but we fail to do even the smallest of things that would help make this country better. If you can compromise on small matters, what makes you think you won’t compromise on bigger ones? It’s usually a gradual process that leads to moral decadence, it never happens in one sweep. It starts with signing-in at the office at 9:30am but writing 8:55am. I’ve seen that happen a lot and the people who do it say “oh, it’s not a big deal!” Well, it’s not a big deal, not to you, but soon enough you will find yourself doing more.
I’ve heard severally that everyone has a price. To an extent that’s true. But you know what? I don’t know what my price tag is and I’m not willing to negotiate it with you or find out what it is. That’s the mistake a lot of people make. They stay to negotiate when what they should do is run as fast as they can. Run, no hesitations, no thinking about it, just run. The lady who hesitated in that car today was probably thinking in her head how much she could do with that money. I only hope her hesitation does not cost her her life.
Now, in this same morning, I eventually got another cab to take me to the office. I had been texting my brother, still on the matter and my battery died. I dropped the phone (a blackberry) on the chair and ended up forgetting it there when I alighted. By the time I got to the office and realized it, I was upset. In my mind, the phone was gone. It was at the backseat and the battery was dead so I could not call it. I just thought I should try all the same and I dialled my number. To my shock, it rang, the driver picked and said he was waiting for me downstairs! It was unbelievable! When i got there, he told me how he had seen the phone, noticed the battery was dead and removed my sim to put in a friend’s phone and call any of my contacts. I was shocked beyond words! I thanked him profusely, took my phone and left. Interestingly, he’s an Igbo man. So much for the stereotype that says that all Igbo men are dubious. I’m mighty glad I did that piece on stereotypes and incase you missed it, just click here.
On a final note, I ask you today, if someone asked you to sell “just a little bit” of your conscience to them, what would be your price tag? Would you insist that your conscience cannot be sold? Or would you in that moment convert a thousand dollars into naira and begin to anticipate what you could do with that amount of money?
Please re-read, share and let me have your thoughts. I do not write as a saint or one who has never or can never do wrong. I merely write as someone who had a bit of experience and decided to share. I hope this helps you in some way. Once again, I’d love to get your feedback. Have a fab day.