06 Jul Albino boy
Lagos is an over populated city. So is Oshodi. I’d like to say it’s the most congested place in Lagos but for the fact that there is Ikeja, Makoko, and many other towns in Lagos. Every one seemed to be walking in one and every direction at once, each person with a look of false confidentiality on their faces. It is an unspoken rule to never let your face show your state of confusion, just like you’re told not to cower when faced by a bear. Wildlife tips 101.
I walk through the suffocating crowd that reminded me vaguely of a can of headless sardines. The smells wafting around me make me long for the popular feature of Voldemort because no one should have to go through this. As a girl of towering at height of 5’4, I’ve learned to adapt to my best features, my ears, which are pricked by now, sieving through sounds to hear the distinct call of bus conductors.
“Keja-Keja”. “Kejakejakeja. Enter with change o!” “Keja wasoo”
I elbow my way through deodorant-starved armpits and moist shirts, heading towards the voices beckoning to my only means of transportation around this city.
“How much?” “Hundred naira”
“100 naira ko. No be 80 naira?”
“Madam na 100 naira abeg. If you no wan enter, comot make this mummy pass”
I’m tempted to keep haggling with the singlet and shorts clad man but common sense tells me better.
I scale over and into the bus – because that is what it’s called, scaling, not climbing or boarding – and seat myself at the far right side of the rusting danfo. Pictures of a smiling Pasuma stare back at me as if mocking my current situation. Caught in this stare-off, my mind is vaguely averted to Tayo and pooling moisture between my legs when I feel the rush of hot air race past my right ear. Then I hear it. The sound of pandemonium and harmonized screams.
“Thief! Thief o!”
All at once as if controlled by a puppeteer, a section of the crowd begins to run after the sounds and the rapid ‘thump thump’ of bare feet in a race for survival. I could only see the numerous backsides of the crowd, and not the culprit. I stretch my neck further to catch a glimpse of the race, that is when I see that the race has in fact, ended.
In the midst of the excited crowd is a boy, not more than 15 years from the structure of his face although the bones jutting out like branches tell otherwise. One might mistake him for a fake Halloween skeleton. I squinted harder and notice his eyes – sick yellowish orbs planted in sunken sockets, large enough to compete with those of a night guard. He is clutching tightly to a red round ball in one hand and shielding his face from the hard slaps coming down at the speed of light. The boy seems unfazed, righteous in his sin. No one seems to take notice of his age. He is slapped and kicked and punched, still he hands.
In one swift movement, he lifts the hand clutching the red ball into his mouth and swallows in one gulp. This seems to drive up the anger of the man dressed in a pink dress shirt and brown trousers because he raises the heel of well-worn shoe and brings it down hard on the head of the thief. He slumps. But the battery continues.
The mob, now consumed by anger and twisted sense of justice, have somehow found a tyre. A charcoal-skinned man throws it over the slumped body, which all of a sudden, jerks and is half-alert. The boy makes to crawl out of the tyre but the branches attached to his body as limbs do not allow him. The crowd vomits a 25 litre jerrycan of fuel all over the melanin-free body of the young boy. His eyes are now wide open, his lips muttering words that are silenced by the turbulent crowd. A box of matches is produced.
The albino thief is set ablaze like a bonfire amidst the crowd. He flaps his arms like a bird learning to take flight before he heaves a great sigh that can be seen, the weight on his chest finally dissipating. He shivers once, twice, and is still. The crowd begins to disperse like a court out of session, judges and jury rising. The air is eerily calm, leaving no trace of the conviction just carried out as the wind carries the smell of burnt tyre and flesh. At the side of my eye, I spot the man in the pink shirt enter a danfo and wait for the bus to fill up. It is like nothing had just happened; no theft, not murder.
The danfo I am sitting in fills up and begins it’s journey. I am mute. Turning my head towards the back of the passenger in front of me, I hear her ask the conductor what the thief took. A tomato, he replies. My eyes catch sight of a poster I had not noticed.
“Nigeria, My Great Country!”