Tales Of The Unexpected
I was a member of a church once and dropped by one afternoon for some business there. On my way out I noticed one of the Ministers seated at a table having a chat with a youngish man. The person being chatted with kept looking at me, his eyes flickering. As I continued on my way out, the Minister called out, "Bro' Wole, this man says he knows you". I drew closer and saw there was something familiar about this man who was slightly older than me.
The man in issue (we'll call him "Jay")asked if I'd ever lived in a certain part of Lagos, and I told him I had. And then it dawned. He had been part of the entourage of one of the most prominent dancers in Nigeria when I was a teenager and had lived with him in a house around my mother's. After we said hello to each other, Jay, with a face now hewn out of granite but dressed in an expensive shirt and an equally expensive-looking wristwatch told me his story as the Minister listened.
When the dancer had been chosen to represent Nigeria in a competition abroad, Jay had followed but had not returned when the dancer did. The British Immigration Officials found him and deported him a couple of years after and that was the beginning of his problems.
He was bent on returning to England and searched high and low for a visa. One day, as he went to another man he felt could help, he was told there might be a faster way to raise money to procure the papers. Armed Robbery. He joined a gang but was caught after a while and kept at the Kirikiri prison for more than six years awaiting trial. He contracted tubercolosis there and the other things prisoners are prone to.
One day, he was told that he had been released. His old gang had bought/lied/cheated him out of jail. But there was one condition, he had to repay the money used to spring him. Since he had no job, they told him he had to become a driver for their capers. They inscribed some stuff into his wrist (alternative medicine) and made him live with them in the apartment they inhabited around the church as they planned their next enterprise. He had been released at the same time with another young man they had co-opted into the gang too, and together they'd come to the church for services but one day, according to Jay, the gang had found a journal the other young man had kept of their activities and had killed him and thrown him by a roadside to make it look like a ritual murder. One of the leaders of the gang according to him, owned a nightclub in the Somolu area while another owned a petrol station chain. I knew the nightclub and the petrol stations (they exist till today, I reckon)
He had come to the church according to him, because he was afraid for his life and just wanted the fare for transport to Benin where his sister lived and where he aimed to start a new life away from the gang and other such influences. He said the gang did not know of his sister and he would run that instant if he had enough money to flee the city.
I gave him all that was in my pockets that day and the Minister told him that might be the last chance he would have to save his own life. He said he was fleeing to Benin from the church as the money I'd given him was adequate.
His memory faded for a few years and I left the church and moved country, then came back home. One Lagos monday morning, about 3 years ago, I drove out of the apartment I was staying in, turned onto a major street, and there was Jay! He was walking on the side of the road I was driving on, dressed in a long flowing caftan peculiar to the senegalese. He didn't seem to have a destination, just a liesurely stroll on a monday morning with those eyes that appeared as if they had ridden through hell and back and seemed to be looking for passengers. I stared hard, craning my head as I drove past, disbelieving my eyes. With the instincts of a true criminal, he turned too, probably feeling my eyes on him and for a long time, watched my car go down the road.
He didn't know who it was, I'm sure. But I knew that Jay still lived a life of crime. I just knew. I asked a friend one day, what he thought might have happened if Jay had entered my home with an armed gang and I'd recognized him.
He made a graphic gesture with his hands. I understood.