Let me begin by sharing one of those WhatApps messages that I know must have gone round the world a million times; the one extolling a thief. How weird.
-IRONY OF LIFE!
The lawyer hopes you get in trouble
The doctor hopes you get sick
The police hope you become a criminal
The teacher hopes you are born stupid
The landlord hopes that you don’t build a house
The prostitute hopes you don’t marry
The dentist hopes that your teeth decays
The mechanic hopes that your car breaks down
The coffin-maker wants you dead
Only a thief wishes you prosperity in Life!
Hug a thief next to you!
The very thought of being robbed is frightening enough. If you’ve ever been the victim of an armed robbery attack, you will never joke about hugging a thief. I have personal experiences and hearing about those of others is enough to traumatise me for a long time.
The recent robbery at Lekki still leaves me very nervous when I’m on the road. Thankfully that day, I wasn’t among the unfortunate victims on the road but when I watched the video sent by someone who witnessed it I remembered my own experiences on Lagos roads.
The first instance happened years back; I had gone with my sister to church for the Night Watch service to usher in a new year. We were done at the church and waiting for transportation home at the Palmgrove bus stop. There were hundreds of other worshipers there so it wasn’t exactly deserted. Suddenly from afar, we saw a group of young men, numbering about 30 or more, all jogging towards us. Yes, jogging, like it was a parade of sort.
I remember someone saying, “these ones too are looking for bus, na here we go sleep today”.
Nothing prepared us for what happened afterwards. As soon as this group of joggers crossed over to our side of the road; it was to unleash the worst kind of assault on everyone at the bus stop.
As soon as they hit us, they went for everything we had: they snatched bags, tore off earrings, wrist watches, phones; everything we had; they went for us with slaps, punches, and a few knife stabs. Bewildered passengers took off, some ran into the road without watching out for oncoming cars, others struggled in vain to hold on to their bags as the thieves took off with their items. It looked like something from a badly written script.
Before you could say, “what the…?” They had jogged away, leaving mothers screaming for their kids and everyone trying to gather their wits and make some sense of what had just happened. By the way, that was the last time my father let me attend any watch night service.
The other occasion happened on Carter Bridge, just a few years ago. At that time, I was working on the Island, rather than wait for the staff bus, I hitched a ride home with one of my colleagues. You all know how bad traffic can get on that bridge on the ride home.
Suddenly, in the midst of all the traffic, a troupe of okada riders came from the opposite side of the bridge heading towards Apongbon. They crossed over to those of us stuck in traffic and began to rob from car to car. We watched horrified as they ransacked cars, waving guns and brandishing machetes. We watched them take laptops and all the gadgets they could carry and as soon as they got these items, they passed them to their co-thieves waiting on okada on the opposite side. Those ones would ride away, while the thieves continued looting.
We were all too shocked to react, we saw everyone robbed and we could do nothing but sit and stare and wait our turn to get robbed.
After that incident, I made sure I avoided being caught on that bridge during the rush hour drive.
The last time for me was on a weekend. I was stuck in traffic on the Anthony side of the Ikorodu expressway. My kids were in the car, bickering and fighting as is normal for them.
Suddenly, the car began to overheat; the first thing I did was to put off the AC; I had the option of stopping on the expressway to let the engine cool but I continued, I wasn’t sure anyone would stop to help a distressed female with kids at a spot notorious for robbery. I wound down the windows after I put off the AC.
The open window and heat didn’t stop my kids from bickering. But then they suddenly went quiet. I checked them in the rear view mirror to be sure they hadn’t passed out from the heat but they were both staring at something.
I turned and lo, there he was; dirty t-shirt and equally dirty jeans, blackened teeth from whatever keeps him high, his hand slowly wrapped around the gold chain on my neck. I felt his hot fingers on my neck as he made to yank off my chain.
There were vehicles behind me, everyone was watching. I froze, hoping he would just take the chain and leave. But he looked at my terrified kids, his hand on my neck, then he withdrew his hand, crossed the express and was gone, like a ghost.