Yesterday being my eleventh year wedding anniversary, I was driving home after work to meet and celebrate with my darling wife, my sweet potato, when one of the plugs of my car forcefully pulled out on top motion, accompanied by a deafening bang. After that, the car began to waver, but somehow, I managed to bring it to stop without hitting other cars. It was 5:30pm in the evening and everywhere was getting dark on the Marina Bridge in Lagos. Because everything happened so fast, I could not choose where to park the car; what was important was that the car stopped somehow. But I noticed it was a secluded and portion of the bridge and help seemed so afar off. I and the colleague I was driving with were all alone.
But as soon as I parked the car, out of nowhere, we were swarmed by 5 fierce-looking area boys. It felt like they had been waiting for any car to stop at that point.in such moments, it was easy to think about stories you hear about what happened to people in such circumstances; how some were robbed, maimed, harassed and sometimes, even killed. At that moment, we were hapless and it felt like the personal belongings (new laptops, phones etc.) in the car would be carted away. While I was processing my thoughts, my colleague had removed his suit, undone his designer shirt which gave him away as an “aje-butter”. “At least, let them not hurt anyone”, I heard a voice say to me. “Lock up the car”, and run for your lives another voice suggested. But I was determined to find the courage not to allow such thoughts in my heart. Instead, I started to speak in tongues.
As if sensing our discomfort, one of the guys (who later turned out to be their leader) said to me, “We don’t rob people. We will ensure you are safe and that no harm comes to you.” He then added in pidgin, “Had your car stopped at this time under the Marina bridge rather than here, then, we may not have been able to help as you would most likely get robbed by some other boys. But here, we will protect you”
In fact, rather than harm or rob us, one of the boys took a bike went to help me search for and buy the plug. Since I had no cash on me, he bought the plug with his money and even found a mechanic who followed him to the point to fix it. All through the period the mechanic was at work, their boss was assuring us nothing will happen to us. After they had fixed the care, they followed me to a nearby ATM so I could refund their money. Not an extra Naira did they collect except that I cheerfully gave them in appreciation. They did not even demand for it. Wow. Before continuing our trip, I and Wasiu exchanged numbers. During the remainder of my trip, Wasiu was in touch, ensuring my car got me home safely. This might be a simple thing for some, but for me, it is a big deal, a big favour from an unlikely quarter, timely help in time of need, and I am indeed most grateful.
Since yesterday, I have been having a mental replay of that experience: What if Wasiu and his team had had a better opportunity in life, would they still have ended up as area boys? Secondly, yes, those guys may have been dreadful area boys but still, they have some good in them – they showed my colleague and me a token of that good. So, how about if we create a sustainable framework through which that token of good, even if little, in area boys is encouraged and harnessed? Like a conscious effort to take them off the street, retrain and equip them with better skills, so that they can pursue their biggest dreams? And those who still have a career in the transport sector would do it in more innovative, dignifying and rewarding ways.
Imagine the impact that would have? Crimes would go down drastically (do you still remember the story of the young medical doctor at LUTH who lost his life few days to graduation after he was attacked by areas boys who wanted to steal his phone?) We would have a society where there is no fear, where people can freely drive/walk at bus parks across Nigeria without trepidations. It may seem difficult but it is not impossible.
I say a big thank you to God again. To Wasiu and others like them, there is a good that exist in you even in the midst of the chaos that surrounds you. You are destined for great things.
To everyone reading this, let’s make a new future for Wasiu and people like him in various car parks across Nigeria. It’s the much we owe them for a better future for or country.