FOREWORD: This entry of Lagos Diaries is dedicated to an MMS reader, Lola O, who recently chastised me in the comments section of one other post for not updating regular entries of the series. Seeing as this series are narrations of actual experiences of mine, I asked God to consider giving me one week, one drama, one something to write about. But let the drama not involve me walking through the valley of shadow of death o! Dazzal. Now, on tot today’s gist…
THIS IS LAGOS.
Those are the words that greet you when you make your way into Lagos city by road. As a traveler, you are not being welcomed into the city by those words; you are instead being informed of your arrival into the city. It can’t get any more ‘On Your Own’ than that.
And the general consensus is that these words are there to educate the average Joe on the unique vicissitudes of Lagos living – you know, that visitor from another State who should know that struggling with abandon against a tide of other passengers to get inside a bus may result in the mysterious vanishing of the wallet tucked away in his back-pocket; or the other one who is shouting at the commercial bus driver to stop his vehicle so he can get down, as opposed to him leaping out to the road while the bus is still in gradual motion; or the relocated proletariat who should understand that 4.30am is not always a time when dreams get juiciest, but a time when some people begin their days; or the throbbing vivacity of the metropolis at all hours of the day.
Well, it turns out average Joes are not the only people who could use with this education. Anyone from every walk of life can get humbled by the oftentimes uncaring grind of Lagos living. Anyone and everyone, including rich politicians with tons of cash to carry around…
The gist I’m about to download for you is the one currently making the rounds at Murtala Mohammed Airport. It is a news report brought to you by Amebo TV, so it is bound to vary from whatever AIT, Channels or NTA may or may not have already reported. #JustSaying
I was just minding my business, attending to customers, when I caught on snippets of the conversation between two airport personnel standing close to my work station. 93 million naira… Jeezuzkraist… Nawa o… Police… Too much money… Those words were enough to pique my interest, and when I had a moment, I called their attention and enquired about what the gossip was about.
And so they talked. It would seem that nearly a week ago, some men (varying accounts had their number at 1 – 3) arrived at the airport, passengers who had a flight to catch to Abuja. Separate from their minimal luggage, which they were going to check in, were three Ghana-must-go bags, sturdy and quite weighty from whatever they held in them.
Now, these men wanted to have the bags consigned into a cargo plane and conveyed to Abuja, to get into the capital city on the same day as their flight. Three cargo workers, young, vigorous men that they were, attended to the bags and their owners. They informed the passengers of the costs of the consignment, prices that they inflated so that they could get something extra when the job was done. And the men, who, it had become evident, were politicians, paid up without question.
Apparently, the cargo workers were used to customers haggling with them over these prices, so something about the urgent attention these men had over their bags and the unhesitant speed with which they settled the expenses made them curious. Their curiosity pushed them to investigate the contents of the Ghana-must-go bags.
And voila! They were staring wide-eyed at wads and wads of well-stacked bills, more money than they had ever seen or could ever imagine. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it presented three young hustlers with an opportunity.
And they grabbed it – both opportunity and the bags, they grabbed it all – and fled. They had a head start, provided by the unawareness of the men to whom the monies belonged. And they made good use of the advantage, to perfect their disappearance.
The fact that the consignment was missing was soon realized. All hell was let lose. And several gun-toting uniforms, ranging from the police to the SSS, swooped down on the airport. The atmosphere was tense and alive with acrimony over the disappearance of what turned out to be 93 million naira – just a few million naira notes shy of a billion. The politicians were ballistic. The uniforms became bullies. And the hunt for the three thieves was quickly on. One of them reportedly has a wife and children, and when the arresting officers descended on the place he called home, it was to find the place empty of occupancy and the pot of soup the wife had apparently just cooked still cooling on the ground beside the stove. Another one of them had been forced into a marriage with a young woman he impregnated. He spared no thought for his wife, abandoning the poor woman to face the wrath of the law alone when the uniforms swarmed his place.
The three erstwhile cargo workers were not found, after all the initial gra-gra. For all anyone knows, they are already cooling their heels in some resort in Ouagadougou. Because seriously, 93 million split three ways can get you anything and into anywhere you want to go, right?
And so, one of the airport personnel rounded up our gist hour with the words: “Men, crazy things happen in this country o.” His voice was coloured with some envy, that green hue which I could feel eclipsing my eyes as the other personnel muttered, “This is Lagos.”
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