When I finished school more than 12 years ago, I wanted to work in a bank. As you see me, I am a graduate of Banking and Finance. But bank job didn’t come. I calculated that if I didn’t get a bank job within two years of graduation, I would go into buying and selling.
True, true nothing happened. I was able to raise a small capital to start trading. ‘Buy something from the East- stock fish, cray fish…Egusi and Ogbonna seeds.’ The thing is, no matter what, people will eat. If they don’t eat, they can’t work to take their money to the bank.
So small, small, I began to make small, small money. Then I later had a small shop at Keffi. Then Covid came and scattered things for me. It scattered things for everyone- even banks were laying off staff, market people too experienced losses. For me, selling stock fish and food items, it was a loss because all the markets and shops closed down and rats took over.
I was almost broken but I told myself, “Linus, you are not the only one affected by this thing, you will survive, God dey.”
It was hard to start over because even the small money that we kept in the house, we used it to buy food and because we couldn’t go out, remember lockdown, I couldn’t make money.
Anyway, as everybody was recovering, I was recovering too.
Small, small, I began to do my business again through the loan I got from one micro finance bank.
I was trading well, traveling and bringing food to Lagos. There was this day, I brought in a huge consignment from the East. You know, in that business, many times, you also buy on credit so that when you sell, you remove the money you got on credit from your profit. That day, I was planning to discharge all the stock to my customers the following day.
My mind was telling me to do it that evening but it was getting late and area boys were already disturbing me. I told them I would settle them but I wanted to do proper bookkeeping the following day so I could know where shortages may come from.
I wish I had discharged the market that day. Overnight, there was a fire.
My shop was among those affected. I also suspect the area boys had a hand in the fire…anyway, everything was burnt! Everything, that is one truck load of stock fish, dry fish, cray fish, pafuka, like that!
When one of my boys called me around 6am to tell me what happened, I just fainted. My wife, who was pregnant at that time called our neighbours to revive me. They wanted to take me to the hospital, I said, “Who sai? Carry me to the shop let me see things for myself.”
Everything was destroyed, in fact I didn’t even know where my shop was, all the shops in my row were burnt…people lost millions and millions of naira!
How would I pay back the loan I took from the bank?
How would I pay rent? Send my son to school? My wife at that time was expecting our second child…I wanted to die.
But death didn’t come, so I told myself, “Linus, since God said, no death, oya, get up, go and find work to do.”
That’s how I began to run around, looking for what to do. Business… anything apart from robbery …
Then one of my friends said my car can be used as Uber. So I borrowed money, again, to go and toucheé up my Camry for Uaber.
I am not a lazy man, I have a family to take care of.
That’s how I finally finished the Uber inspection, we passed, o.
I began work as a full Uber driver…only yesterday. Just yesterday, not even up to 24 hours!
So what happened to me?
I was hailed to come pick up someone around Lekki Phase two side, from one estate. I went there. I picked up three guys. Immediately they came out of their gate, I said, “Chai Linus, your first pick up na yahoo, yahoo.”
You can immediately recognize them; from the slides they wear with socks and basketball shorts.
They said they were going to Surulere.
Being my first ride, I was just eager to start earning my money…I didn’t have any business with their clothes. They were talking big…you know all these children who haven’t seen life. They were talking of millions, talking of buying things, talking of big, big things…I just kept quiet and drove. My own was when we get to the destination, pay me my money.
Ok, as we descended from that Falomo Bridge, going towards Kingsway road to connect to Osborn and then Thirdmainland bride, police stopped us!
I felt my body go cold because, we know our police don’t like to use eye to see these yahoo boys…
The thing to do was to keep calm. And begin to pray. The boys had stopped talking as soon as they saw the police.
Police asked them to come down…they searched all of them, even me as the driver…shinshin they didn’t find on me. They searched the boys, just small change on them. They searched their bags, their pockets…they found just small change on them…I was even thanking God that they didn’t find cannabis or any drug…
As they were about to let us go, we had got back into the car, I was about to start the engine…one of the policemen shouted, “ Hold it!”
He asked us all to come down again…
We did. The police man just went into the car and began to search again…I was wondering what it was that he wanted because the others had searched…
He bent into the car and was pulling out the carpets…
As soon as he pulled out the first one, all the boys just took off! As in, like someone blew a whistle and they just scattered in different directions, even I was confused!
The other two police men chased after the boys but they ran in different directions. Me, I was just standing like Dundee united.
The police searching came up with five flattened packets of Tramadol!
I wanted to faint!
I was begging the police men, “Officer, I don’t know about it. It doesn’t belong to me…”who sai!
They dragged me back into my car and ordered me to drive to their station! I begged, I knew if I ever got to their station, it would be even bigger trouble for me. I swear, I knew nothing about the drugs but who believed me? They then took me to one side and told me they knew I knew nothing about it because the culprits who put it there just ran off. So what was I supposed to do?
They asked me to give them N200,000.00.
In this Buhari economy? Where would I get that when I hadn’t even made one naira. I told them this was my first trip but they didn’t listen. I told them my life’s history that I lost money in a fire…who sai!
Finally, finally, we agreed to N50,000.00. Even so, I had to beg friends, family…one gave me N10,000; another N5,000. I borrowed here and there and finally, N50k was complete, after like maybe 5 hours of calling and begging and crying. Yes, I cried because the suffering was too much for me.
Last, last, I went to ATM to collect the money and gave to the police…that’s how they let me go.
So I will be paying back money I haven’t even earned. No bi juju bi dat? That’s a big scam, I tell you. Big scam!
Maybe if those boys had got to Surulere, they would have run away, who knows, sef?
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)