Life had always been difficult for him
He wondered what offence he committed from heaven
That of all places he could have been born into
He came into his country of origin
He didn’t ask for any of this
He didn’t even ask to be born
If God would be fair in any way
God would kill him
He had tried to kill himself several times
He always chickened out at the last minute
Of what point is living like this?
His parents were the grand commander of poverty
Amongst the row of shacks in their community
Their shack was the poorest
His father and mother were the harbinger of poverty
If any of their neighbours encountered his parents early in the morning
They knew the sun would not shine on their endeavors that day!
At the age of fifteen, he had worked almost ten thousand hours as a farm labourer
The little he earned was to offset the debt his parents owed long before he was born
His was a miserable life
In order to eat meat, they had to dredge swamps for frogs
They had to plant cassava in order to eat starch
He had never tasted rice before
The first time he drank a bottle of Coke
He wept like a baby
It was as if he was sipping heaven
That moment was still the greatest of his life
When he clocked 18, the debt was completely offset
He had worked for 13 years to clear a 200,000 debt
All that while, his poor father was drinking local gin
And lamenting the fact that his mother couldn’t conceive another baby
It was the same routine everyday
“He wakes up, lamenting about not having another baby, goes out to drink. He returns, lamenting that if he had married another woman his lot would have been better. He goes out to drink some more. He returns drunk to eat whatever he sees and sleeps off threatening to marry a second wife!'
He was the bread winner for the family since he was five years old. The little he made as a farmhand even at that age was all they lived on.
As he grew older, he worked other people's farm and still cultivated any available land nearby with cassava, maize, vegetables and legumes for his family
His mother helped tend the farm while he worked to offset the debt
He never even thought of getting an education or learning a craft/trade.
The period between his eighteenth birthday and the twentieth were better. He was able to keep some of the money he earned as a farm labourer and felling trees for firewood!
He wanted to travel to the city
Get a better job
But life wouldn’t let up
His mother fell ill
They tried all the local remedies they know
She was eventually rushed to the hospital
When he heard the amount of money it would take to cure her
He gave up
He packed his bags
Took his savings and left for the city
He didn’t say goodbye to anybody and he couldn’t bear to watch his mother die
Knowing she was going to die was enough
He didn’t want to die without seeing the city
He took a canoe from their shack to the other village
Walked for six hours until he got to the motor park
Took a bus to the city
The city was beautiful
People were many, there were lots of big cars and big houses
He didn’t know anybody
That first night, he slept in the city motor park
He was used to eating so little
And the cost of food in the city was just too much
He spent very sparingly and always asked around for a job
Eventually he was directed to an estate
Someone needed a gardener!
He jumped at it
The Family was very wealthy
The woman’s husband was not around but she had a daughter
The woman asked him several questions about his background
He answered truthfully
He was given the job
He was to come around three times a week to care for all the plants in the beautiful garden
It was a good day!
He did the work diligently
Trimming, weeding and watering
The woman would sometimes offer him lunch
At other times she would give him some change for transportation
At the end of the month, she paid promptly
He resumed work one day and met some new plants
Somebody had given his madam some new pots of flower
He started watering and caring for the plants as usual
It was about six months after he started the gardening job
Somebody came to the house and told the woman
‘These plants are dying” your gardener has over watered them
What kind of nonsensical talk it that
Can somebody die of too much food?
Can a plant die of too much water?
All these people are the same
They pay you so little and yet would be looking for faults in your work
The woman, obviously fuming, didn’t say a word
At the end of the month
The woman paid her one-tenth of the agreed salary
She said she had deducted the rest to make up for his carelessness
He begged and cried!
The woman just wouldn’t hear
She told him to go away and never come back!
He trudged angrily to the changing room
Why had he been rewarded so harshly for his dedication?
Was it because he was not educated?
Was the woman saying his life and survival is inconsequential when compared with her plants?
Was his life considered to be so insignificance?
His anger boiled over
He walked back to the house, kicked the door down and bludgeoned the woman with a metal pipe he picked up in the compound
The woman’s little daughter screamed
He struck her too
He went into the woman’s bag and took all the money he could find
She had thousands and thousands
And she denied him so little!
He kicked her lifeless body
Spit on her
He went to the motor park
Took a luxurious bus going far away
He was “free’’ at last
He could start afresh but he had money now and that would make things easy
The journey took three days
He got to a bigger city
A man he met on the bus and became fast friends with had offered to accommodate him
He stayed with the man
The man was into used clothes business
He followed the man to his shop
Studied the trade
Invested his money in it
Started sharing a shop with the man
Started making money
Started making friends and visiting the city
He got to do the thing with a woman
Life was great!
Policemen came one morning, He didn’t know how they knew where he was
He committed the sin in another life
Almost 18 months ago
Far, far, away
And yet, they stood right in his shop at that moment!
He was taken away!
He was beaten!
He had nobody to bail him
The police did a parade
He told the whole world what he did
He begged for forgiveness!
“It was the devil”
PS: This story was a major news in 2009
The writer was at the police parade in Lagos, Nigeria