The day he first robbed me; I was stopped by the traffic light on the expressway leading to my office; he hobbled towards me like a cripple and I assumed he was a beggar. On some days while in traffic, I had seen him cleaning some windscreens in traffic or begging. And I had given him money at least three times.
My car’s ac had packed up and so my glass was wound down. As he approached me, I expected him to sing the usual babiallah song or go into prayers for my soul and my children and children’s children; instead, he leaned into my car and showed me a double edge knife; one side smooth and sharp, the other side serrated.
I almost peed in my pants; I looked up to see his face; it was red and angry and ready to cut me deep and fatal. So I said, ‘I will give you anything, please.’
I gave him my phone and wallet and he hobbled away.
When the traffic light changed to green; I couldn’t move. I was transfixed; my hands were trembling, my heart was racing…me, a full grown man!
The following day, at the office, I told my colleagues what happened; when I described the thief, three of my colleagues, though from different departments, on different days and few months apart, had also been victims; two had their phones stolen, the other had lost a wallet. They had reported to the nearby police and months after that, nothing happened, no arrests, no phones were recovered, no wallets returned. This discouraged me from going to the police; I mean, how hard can it be to catch a crippled thief?
I had series of nightmares for weeks; every time I got into traffic, I would be hyperventilating! If any beggar came close, male or female, I would go into a panic…me!
I didn’t see him…
But his modus -operandi was clear; he would rob and disappear for a few weeks; change from one side of the expressway to the other and he would time his moves; so even months later, when I eventually saw him, I was too scared to shout ‘ole‘…I mean, what if he had accomplices? I didn’t want to get knifed for a phone or wallet I know I could easily replace.
About 8 months after the first incident I was driving home from work that weekend; yes, my boss decided Friday evening that we should meet with the rest of the creative team to agree on a concept they had been working on that day.
“It won’t be a long plans board meeting,’ he said. “At the most, we would just be done in under an hour, I promise.’
I didn’t believe the man, jare. He never kept his promises. This was a man who promised to promote me after two years and that year was my fourth, still no promotion.
I was working like ‘Jacky‘, in the hope that I would get a better place…all the places I sneaked to for interviews during my lunch breaks were just ‘pricing’ me low; so I was stuck with my stingy boss.
That Saturday, I think it was around 10pm-ish by the time we were finally released by my boss to go home; a meeting of ‘under an hour’ turned out to be five hours!
We got to the office at a few minutes to 5pm because it was a Saturday some of us had weddings, engagements et al, so we agreed to go do our things during the day then assemble for a plans board meeting at 5pm; we were meant to be done by 6pm…you get it now?
So that night, I was already angry that my boss kept us at the office beyond the time he promised and we didn’t even do anything spectacular at the office; I suspect the man had issues with his wife, so he was avoiding home and therefore kept us there achieving nothing.
As soon as he released us; I jumped into my car and sped off before the rest of my colleagues even shut down their computers.
As I headed towards the traffic light, it began to blink; I remember the begging thief and I was not in the mood to be robbed that night, so I accelerated to beat the traffic light…lo and behold, someone hobbling across the road; my headlight caught him, it was ‘our thief.’ He was running across the road. I didn’t release my leg from the accelerator, I jammed it down with two things in mind that night- beat the traffic light and knock off the blighter that had caused me many traumatic nights in the last few months!
I achieved both! I caught our thief by his leg as he sprinted across the road. I heard a small yelp but I didn’t stop; even if I had hit him full blast, babe, I for no still stop, true!
Did I hit him? Did I not?
I know I got the blighter but I wasn’t sure how badly but me, I didn’t stop. I looked in my rear view; I saw him fall as I continued on the express.
On Monday, at work; a colleague who had also showed up that Saturday was telling us about the traffic he encountered on the road; he said there was a case of hit and run and that when he got out of his car to see the victim, it was the thief who had been robbing us on that stretch. He said a number of motorists who also came down identified him as the thief who had robbed them on the express…
He was wounded but didn’t die…in a way, I was thankful for that but I didn’t breathe a word! Not even when my colleague said, ‘I wish the driver had killed him, that bastard!’
I just waka comot
We never saw him again, that thief. That was the end. Maybe he had injuries that finally made robbery difficult, maybe he decided to relocate and terrorize other motorists or maybe…you know na.
I will never know.
(series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)