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Trouble Walked Up To Me

A young boy collapsed at my doorstep!

I loved corn pudding dearly and he was a corn pudding hawker. I couldn’t resist the urge to call him when he was passing by my building shouting, “Buy your hot agidi jelof! Buy your hot agidi jelof! Hundred hundred naira!”

He was a secondary school aged boy and the first thing that came to my mind was, this boy should be in school. Why is he hawking while other children are in school learning?

I studied him as he got closer with his tray loaded with many wraps of agidi and his neck looking so short under the weight.

He looked tired and worn out and… sad. And I was still thinking of how unfit he looked to hawk under the blazing sun when he toppled and collapsed on the ground  before me, with my toe too close to his lifeless looking body.

I took two steps nackward and looked around as if I knocked him off and making sure no else saw me doing it. The hunger for agidi vanished and those delicious agidi now looked like gravel to me.

“What happened to him?” My neighbour asked from her balcony.

“I dont know.” I said and shove the boy and called since I did not know what else to do.

My concern was this, if anything happened to this boy at my doorstep, people would gather and ask me what happened. And how would I explain to them that I called him to buy agidi only for him collapse before me. How easily would they believe that I did not do anything to him? And who would be my witness when the police would come?

“Take him out of there madam before people go gather on top of your head.” My neighbour said in pidgin English. And she was right. They would gather and ask what happened, and I better have a good answer.

“Come and help me, ma!”

Who? Me? No be me and you. I no wan trouble on top the one wey I don get for my hand.’ I stared at her with my palm hinged on my waist and back at the boy.

The boy turned to lie on his back.

“Please ma, give me water to drink,”  he murmured, his breathing was fast and shallow. I got the water and he drank it.

“What is your name?”

“Ekene,” I stressed my ears to hear him.

“Ekene, are you sick?” He nodded and  roamed his eyes as if he just realised he was in the middle of nowhere. My neighbour joined us. People began to drop one after another asking, what happened to him? Is he sick? And it was my duty to say the same thing over and over again, “I dont know, he collapsed before me.”

“Is he sick?” They kept asking. To this I said nothing. How would I know?

“Are you asthmatic?”  My neighbour asked.

The boy shook his head.

“Who sent you to hawk?” One man asked.

“Please take me to the hospital. If you take me to the hospital, I will be fine.”

“I need to call your parents first. To let them know were taking you to the hospital.” I need a number to call.”

“I dont have parents. Call my madam.”

“Oooooooh! No wonder.” people murmured. “This woman is over-using this boy for her selfish gain. Look at him! Tired and worn out and yet she had the mind to send him out to hawk in his state. If he was her son, would she do this to him? And why didn’t she put him in school like his fellow children?

I listened to their rant as I dialled the number he gave me. A woman answered and I told her what happened. When she said I should put her on a cab to bring him home, I said no. “Come here madam,” I said, ” it’s a matter of life and death.”

“I’m coming,” she said and the line went dead.

People began to disperse, leaving me and him.

“Auntie!” I turned towards him and he said, please I want to ask you for something. I’m sick with malaria but that’s not why I fainted. I fainted because I want money to register for my Senior WAEC. I want you to help me.”


He told me the story of his life. How he dropped from SS3 because no one could help him pay WAEC fees. He had no relative to help him and his little sister. He was the one fending for both of them.

“Who do you live with presently?”

“My employer,” he said.

“She employed you to hawk agidi?”

“Yes, ma. It’s not her fault. I chose to do this to make money for my WAEC, but its hard to save.” At this point I thought I knew what happened. He feigned the whole thing to get me pay his WAEC fee. And he was telling me to my face that he feigned fainting.

I was about to scream his head off when he said, “Ma I didn’t mean you should pay for me. Take me to the hospital and leave me there. I want the doctor to help me get some money from my employer.

I got it. If I took him to the hospital, he would tell the doctor to extort his WAEC fee from his employer by adding some extra cash on his hospital bill..

How amateur his plans! How did he think a responsible doctor could consent to scam his employer?

“Do not do it. I know how much you need this but please stay away from scamming.

He kept quiet. Then he said after a while, “Ma , please when my auntie comes, do not tell her what I discussed with you,. Please.”

I nodded. “But I would if you carried on with your plans.”

“I have changed my mind, ma. I won”t do it. I’ve changed my mind about going to the hospital.

‘You’re not sick anymore?’ He kept quiet. And when his employer arrived, he got up and staggered home by her side. All that I wanted to do was take him in as my child and take care of his need and I wished I had all it took to do that. I wished I could help make his life easy.

I wondered why he could not tell his madam to pay him upfront, instead of using tricks.

Two weeks later I saw him happy, still with his tray of agidi balanced on his head. I asked about his health. He was okay and he did not go to the hospital that day. His madam bought him malaria medicine from a pharmacy. And he sat for his WAEC and the papers were easy.

In the end, I could not help but admired his determination to further his education and how he worked hard to achieve his dream on his own.

I see so many children hawking in the streets. Some of these children have no parents and some have single parents who are disabled or too poor to fend for them.

I like that some African countries have criminalized child Labour but I hope they have something in place to help these children.

More on real stories

Domain Chaos #16| The Gold Wristwatch 4

Ndubisi took a right turn at Marib Junction and headed East. Along Royal Street, a stone’s throw away from the palace, his phone rang.

He stopped the car by the side of the road and picked his phone. He could hear his mother’s voice in the background, but it was not audible enough to make out what she was saying.

‘Honey!’ Ndubisi said, but an icy voice came through. He sat up.

‘I need your attention at your residence.’ Ndubisi arched his brow. ‘You have five minutes to reach here or we do what we got to do!’

‘Who are you?’

‘Be warned. I don’t have the patience for your questions. Running out of patience at a rocket speed!’

‘I want to speak to my wi–‘ The line went dead. He stepped out of his car and thought of what to do. Should he go home as ordered or should he continue to the palace to show His Royal Highness the wristwatch planted in his son’s bag after school by an unknown man? After a few seconds thought, he hurried home.

On reaching his main gate, he saw it wide open. Two police cars were blocking the entrance. He drove past his compound and packed his car by the roadside. Inside his compound, he saw two police officers coming out of his house. They were holding his wife, one on either side of her. Fury swept through him, and he trotted to them.

‘What’s this? Why are you taking my wife?’ Chinwe struggled in their grip and they let her go.

‘Stand back and do not move!’ A frenzied police officer aimed his rifle at him. Ndubisi backed away, with his hands in the air.

‘What is the meaning of this?’ He said.

‘Search him!’ The frenzied police officer ordered, and another ran his palm along Ndubisi’s sides, slapping his pockets and the length of his trousers. As he made to empty his pockets, Ndubisi recalled he still had the wristwatch in his pocket, there was nothing he could do. The wristwatch and and keys fell at his feet. Eyes glared at it and at him.

The man who claimed he owned it rushed to it and picked it up.

‘My goodness! This is the wristwatch I’ve been looking for!’ He looked up at him and Ndubisi dug out mockery from his smile.

Chinwe’s eyes were wild.

‘How?’ She said. He did not tell her he got the wristwatch, that their house help gave it to him that morning.

Ndubisi’s head dropped. Chinwe moved towards him but the police officer ordered her not to move any closer. She stood back. 

‘Mr. Ndubisi, you will come with us to the police station. You reserve the right to remain silent, for whatever you say from now on, maybe used against you in the court of law.’

‘Officer, my husband is not a thief. This is a mistake!’ Chinwe was frantic and Ndubisi was sorry. He kicked the car keys at his feet towards her. As they took him away, he could hear their sobs and his mother say, this is not the time to cry, go to Igwe’s house immediately.

To be continued.

Domain Chaos #15 – The Gold Wristwatch 3

“Chinedu!” Ndubisi called.

Chinedu turned off the shower, blew the water finding their ways into his mouth away and strained his ears and heard his father call again and again.

“Yes, dad!” He reached for his towel and hastened to the bathroom door. he took a few steps towards his father who was standing in the middle of his room. His razor-sharp eyes were fixed on his eyeballs. He felt them pierce through his mind, searching for something.

What have I done? Chinedu thought before his eyes caught the wristwatch sitting on his palm. It was the most beautiful wristwatch he had ever seen but..

“What is this?” His father’s tone demanded a quick reply.

“It’s a wristwatch.”

“I know it’s a wristwatch young man! What was it doing in your school bag?”

“My school bag?” Chinedu wiped off the water dripping from his wet, afro punk from his forehead and dried his hand on the white towel around his waist.

“Yes, speak up! How did it get into your school bag?”

“I don’t know how it got there, believe me, dad!” His coarse voice quivered, his eyes as wide as possible.

Could it be the wristwatch he was being accused of? No! That couldn’t be. He didn’t take it. He was quite sure of it.

“Is this not the same watch that the man who brought you home came looking for? As you can see, this is a gold wristwatch! What have you done?”

“I swear, I didnt take it. Believe me!”

A strong knock came on the door. Father and son turned to look at it. Ndubisi slipped the wristwatch into his pocket and gave the bulge three taps. They returned their focus on each other.

“Dress up. I’ll be dropping you off at the school.” Ndubisi’s voice was stern. He strode to the door to get it.

“Yes, dad.” Chinedu was a bit shaken. How did the wristwatch get into his bag?

“What happened?” Chinwe dashed into the room ready to protect her son from possible punishment. “Why all the shouting? What has he done?” She looked past Ndubisi at Chinedu, ”

“Mum, Im about to put my clothes on.” When Chinedu asked for some privacy, she hesitated at the door before closing it behind her. She hurried to the bedroom where she found her husband gawking at his closet, absent-minded.

“What was that all about? Don’t I have the right to know?” Ndubisi was not going to tell her about it or he would be giving his wife something to die from.

“It’s nothing, honey. I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept thinking about yesterday’s incident- the men who gave our son a lift y and the missing gold wristwwatch. It’s possible our son took it and hid it away? I tried to get him talking but he insisted he didn’t do it.”

“He is telling the truth. He didn’t do it. He can’t do such a thing, ” she rounded him, took his shoulders in her palms and looked into his eyes. “Let’s believe our son. Let’s trust him.” Ndubisi responded with a nod.

“One more thing, stay home today, the man said he would come today by 10 am with the police. We need to fight to protect our son.”

“I’ll be around. I have called my assistant to let him know I won’t be at the office.”

“You also need to see Igwe Okelue.”

“What mama said about Eke is starting to make sense to me. Please talk with Igwe.”

“I will.” Nduka picked his car key from the side table and gave her a light kiss before going downstairs where Chinedu waited for him.

As they headed towards Otigba roundabout, Nduka felt the wristwatch in his pocket and glanced at his son who had gone frigid.

“Chinedu, I believe you when you said you didn’t steal the wristwatch. I guess they are Eke’s boy trying to incriminate my son to get at me. But I will handle the issue well. I want you to do is keep this a secret. Don’t say a word of this to your mother or any of your friends. I’ll get rid of it somehow. They can’t prove it’s with us.”

Ok. See you later, ” Ndubisi watched his son disappear into the school and drove to Igwe’s palace.