Thursday, 15 December 2016


There I was rummaging through the dustbin as usual looking for scraps of metal to sell to Baba Ajah, probably I would get enough money today to buy a little morsel for me and mama to eat.
Mama would have done it but she is now too old and she cannot see anymore. I can do anything for Mama she took me in when everyone turned their backs when my parents died. At a tender age of ten, I have had experiences worth a lifetime.
Mama and I lived in an old dilapidated house in a crowded area, she used to farm and sell to pay for my school fees until a cobra spat into her eyes in the farm and no family member came to help we were on our own. 
The farm was sold to pay for Mama's treatment and what does a child know about selling lands, I sold it for peanuts because I didn't want my Mama to die.
We managed for years and Mama always told me one thing " Ope don't ever steal " she made me promise her and I tried to live by it. I became a destitute searching for scraps in the trash and selling it, I saved hoping to buy a wheelbarrow so I could make some money from transporting goods in the market, presently I had saved four hundred naira.
Sometimes the hunger was so real, I would want to steal, I would see heaps of swollen cakes and would dream of sinking my teeth into the dough satisfying my hunger. I would hear a voice telling me to grab one and run, but Mama's instructions were clear in my head like a jingling bell in a graveyard so I complied with her.

I had this friend Yola, he was from Niger , we would move together searching for scraps and sell it, the difference between Yola and I was he saw nothing wrong in stealing, he was poor,homeless and he was like the Robinhood of street children, stealing from the women selling snacks and food and sharing it with other homeless kids, they adored him. He was our leader and big brother, his works were admirable but wrong I always tried to tell him but he would wave it off, a street kid has got to eat he would tell me.

One horrible day, a day I would never forget. I woke up that day with the usual rumble in my tummy, I went to greet mama and after a meal of soaked garri, I left the house to hustle.
I met Yola at the usual spot where we picked up scraps, we chatted away as we rummaged as usual through the rumble.
Two men approached us, we made to run but the men assured us that they were friends not foes and we believed. They offered us a job, very simple job. They would offer us five thousand naira each if we broke into a store, before we could object they claimed it was their store that they wanted to know if the store was burglary proof.
It was too good to be true , I immediately refused but Yola believed them, he said he would do it, I pulled him aside and told him not to, It didn't seem right , but Yola was adamant , " Do you know how much bread and garri we can buy for the street kids, we would have something better to eat for once " He said with his hazel coloured eyes bright with hope.
Yola wouldn't see reason so I left him, I wish I didn't.
The next day, I was up bright and early, I went to the market hoping to make little money from carrying the loads of market women to their shops. Two hours later the cries of thief thief filled the air, I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me to the direction of the cries. The thief was sprawling on the muddy ground with different men throwing blows at him.
I asked a bystander what had happened, she told me a young boy was caught breaking into a shop, stole thousands of naira from the shop of a goldsmiths and has refused to say where he had hidden the money.
Then I heard his voice,  it was laboured and filled with pain " I didn't do it " i didn't want to believe without seeing it with my own eyes, I crawled through the crowd and just as I feared the supposed thief was Yola and amongst the men lynching him were the two men who offered us a job. Confess they shouted at him where is the money you stole they hit him with sticks and my friend, Yola, was a bleeding messy pulp, he had been beaten morose he could barely speak anymore.
The owner of the goldsmiths shop arrived and was told by the two men that, Yola had broken in and stolen money and had refused to say were he had hidden the money. The man tried to talk to Yola but he wasn't responsive, He started shouting at the two men asking why they had beaten him so badly, they claimed they were trying to torture the truth from him. The man, Mr Sunday was a really nice man and tried to get Yola to a hospital despite chants from the crowd to burn him. Yola didn't make it to the hospital, he died on the dirty, muddy market floor in the pool of his own blood.
When they realized he was dead all the bystanders one after the other walked away.
We,  the children of the streets we came out of our hiding places and we carried our friend to our hide out there we cleaned his broken body and wore him the best clothes we could find,  it took us a long time but finally we were able to dig a grave deep enough for our friend,  we didn't have a coffin so we wrapped him with a clothe Mama gave to me.
For days the cries of the children of the street were heard , we had lost a brother, a friend and a hero........

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