15,000 Naira, school fees for Tope and Shade. Dupe’s school fees had been paid with last month’s salary. 3000 Naira for electricity bill even when the power supply had been worse than ever, barely 3 hours in a day, and the distributors would just bring estimated bills that are outrageous, maybe it would be better to just bribe the officials when they come to disconnect than keep paying these stupid bills. 8000 Naira manages to feed us for the month. 500 Naira for the water bill, there are still bills everywhere and the 30,000 Naira salary is almost depleted. Lost in thought, his wife nudges him a little, it’s 4:30 in the morning, if he doesn’t leave by 5 he wouldn’t beat the traffic to get to work on time. He pushes his make up accounts sheet into his bag, trying to be as quiet as possible, not to wake the children lying on the floor of his one room accomodation. Intimacy had indeed been difficult if not rather impossible in such living conditions. In less than 15 minutes he had a bath, dressed and was ready to leave. His wife holds his arm just as he is knotting his tie. What the children are to eat for breakfast had not been settled. He grumbles and pulls out four 500 naira notes. He gives his wife three for breakfast and the rest of the day, and leaves one in his breast pocket for transport to work and perhaps a beef roll to keep him going during the day. Akande had always provided for his family even when things were rough. He always tried to give his children the best education, perhaps their lot in life would be better than his. A graduate of the Federal university of technology, Akure, reduced to being paid 30,000 Naira as salary for field work. He had never engaged in anything illegal and swore never to. He had tried to be as law-abiding as possible but lately the temptation has been more appealing. Those in the office had become richer stealing office supplies and inflating several operating costs. He had never been a part of it. If one day he would finally give in, you would wonder. Out he goes and Lagos is already bustling by 5am, and running after one bus or the other he was on his way to another hectic Monday at work. He got out of the first bus into his second, traffic had been slow, it’s 6:30 am and he opts to take a bike the rest of the way. He really didn’t want a deduction from his already meager salary, so he couldn’t literally afford to be late. The bus driver refuses to let him off before the bus-stop for fear of being fined by the state traffic officers. Well, it’s quite fortunate he sat at the door, he could as well jump off when convenient. He calculated the slow speed and next stop, timed when the bus conductor would be less in the way and when impatient bus drivers wouldn’t hit him as they swerved in and out of lanes. Ok, the timing was all right, he lept out like a thief who had just been given a window of escape, and perhaps that move put him in worse trouble than he had imagined.
He was out. He quickly dodged an oncoming commercial motorcyclist, losing the cash in his breast pocket as he did. He tried to pick it up but more and more bikes zoomed through the tight squeeze taking full advantage of their size in the annoying traffic. The driver of the bus he just jumped out off cussing and swearing, yelling that if he had been caught by the traffic officers he would have given him the beating of his life . That wasn’t really on his mind, his balance from his tight budget was on the tar and he was trying to get it without getting hit. The wind was against him , and he was running out of time. He jumped in front of a speeding motorcycle forcing the rider to swerve right, too right perhaps, as the rider lost control taking off the side mirror of another vehicle. Quickly a crowd gathers and both the owner of the vehicle whose mirror had been taken off and the rider are pointing in his direction. A tout sees the money he was reaching for and picks it up, he tries to quickly tuck it away when Akande notices his money is gone and the person who picked it. Quickly he is on his trail running after the tout shouting “thief”. The bike rider sees him running and thinks he is trying to escape paying for the broken mirror and runs after him also shouting “thief” , that was probably the fastest way to catch a running assailant in the busy city. The tout is within arms reach, he stretches, and grabs him by the shoulder, a quick turn however forces Akande to the ground. The tout quickly turns to call him “thief” as he falls and sends a blow across Akande’s face and that knocks him out cold. The rider unaware that Akande was already on the floor was still shouting “thief” as he approaches, and before he could explain that he just wanted to catch him and he wasn’t really a thief, an angry mob had put a tyre around Akande’s neck and doused him with petrol. It’s amazing how quick petrol appears when an alledged thief is about to be lynched in lagos, even when there is a heavy scarcity there is always someone with free fuel to burn a thief. Noticing what is about to happen, both the tout and the rider dissapear, leaving the mob to create stories with bits of what they think he stole and the several new ways people are stealing these days, pointing at his neat clothes and tie. Without thought he is quickly lit ablaze. The sting from the fire quickly brings him back to consciousness to suffer what science explains as the most painful thing that can happen to a man – being burnt alive. His screams of innocence fall on deaf ears and soon become screams of excruciating pain. He twitches as the last bit of life is burnt out of him. His wife, his children how will they cope, will they believe he was a thief? Will they be ashamed of him? Will they survive without him?