Shoes. That is the reason I am in jail today.
I have a thing for shoes; be it men shoes, women shoes, any kind of shoes. I just love them.
I love smelling people’s feet in it. It helps me imagine the kind of life they live. From your shoes, I can tell who you are. The shape of the heels, the soles, the insides, the leather, the ridges…I am just fascinated with shoes; in fact, I can tell your shoe size just by looking at you and dis no bi juju o.
I was born in the north and I am 23 years old. My father was a shoemaker; but that is not the reason I am in love with shoes even though I grew up in a home where there were piles and piles of shoes. Used shoe, fa!
Sometimes people would bring shoes for repairs and not come back for their shoes again. Sometimes we would repair shoes and the owner will not even recognize the shoes again because we had redesigned it. So, I know about shoes a lot.
But the life of a shoemaker is a poor one or have you ever seen a shoemaker that is rich before?
As for me, I never wanted to be a shoemaker. I wanted to be the kind of person that makes new and correct shoes for people. I will look at you and say, this is the kind of shoe that will be good for you or this is the kind of shoes you should be wearing. But tell me, how can the son of a shoemaker ever become the man who makes new shoes? Very impossible except Allah wills it.
I started doing okada business at Abule- Egba side when I came to Lagos; I wanted to have enough money to start my own business of making custom shoes for people because I know about shoes.
I came to Lagos because we were all running away from Boko Haram. After they attacked our village, we all ran. I heard my father died; my mother left him a long time before Boko Haram came, so it was only my father and three of us his sons. I don’t know where the others are, everyone is running for his own life.
Anyway, after I started okada business, I realized it will take me a long time to gather money and start the shoe business. Before you deliver, pay task force, pay police, all the money you earn in one day has vanished and you still have to eat on top.
It would be hard. Then one day, I was at the mosque and saw plenty of shoes and the thing came to my mind.
Take these shoes.
Take these shoes.
See, we have mosques in my village but all you see are slippers. So, I was just looking from shoe to shoe and there were plenty of very nice shoes.
So it started like that; stealing shoes from mosques, from parties where people are required to remove their shoes before they enter into a place, anywhere I see plenty of shoes knowing that when I take a few, nobody will quickly notice, I will go there and take the ones I like. And keep them in my house.
Although, sometimes I wear the ones that are my size but I don’t even go only for my size. I get others and I give out to my friends or family the ones that are not my size and because my friends know I have shoe maker background, nobody worried about the numbers of shoes I had in my bags at the place where we stay.
How was I caught?
It happened during Jumat. I usually go late for Jumat so that there would have been plenty of shoes outside the mosques; I also don’t go to the same mosques regularly. I go to different mosques and there are plenty around here.
You know with so many people like that on Friday Jumat, it is very easy for people to take other people’s shoes by mistake. So that day, I finished my ablution, pretended to walk into the mosque but instead walked towards where men drop off their shoes at that mosque, the shelf for shoes was already filled up, there were so many shoes on the floor, so I quickly picked three pairs straight to my bag.
I always have a big nylon in my jalabia to pack shoes, yes and my bike was parked not too far. That day, I did not know somebody was watching me. It was when I went there the second time for more shoes that the person began to call out, ‘Ole, ole.’
His shoes were one of the ones I picked, it was a new pair, real leather. He must have been watching out for the shoes, me I didn’t know. And see, I didn’t even want to pick his shoes, they were new and I knew that the owner would be guarding it because if they belonged to me, I would do the same but I was just carried away.
I took eight pairs and for that, I was handed over to the police station that was just a walking distance from the mosque.
It was those shiny brand new leather shoes that put me in jail today.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)