It had been a normal day in Apapa, the usual traffic conundrum at Wharf Road, the container trucks threatening to fall on the incredibly bad roads, street traders going about their business shouting their wares for people to know and patronize them.
People trying to leave the traffic-insane hell, those in the thick of it blaming themselves for not just passing through the safe and convenient Ojuelegba route to Apapa, it was a frustrating situation, the government has been promising to clear the road of the trucks and also fix the death traps but no solution yet in sight.
Horns blaring from every side, nudging other drivers to move quickly and not give the trucks drivers passage of way, as the drivers were desperate, also careful enough not to hit the Okada or Napep driving like adrenaline-junkie amateur drivers auditioning for a James Bond movie action scene or better still, a feature in the Fast and Furious Franchise.
The Apapa-Wharf road in all of its negative glory and abundance of chaos. Everyone was going about their business, as evening drew closer and closer, the sun was retiring into the night. It seemed like a regular evening but something else was brewing in the inner streets, somewhere close to Itapeju street.
A young man dressed in a blood-stained black T-shirt filled with crazy jeans and black sneakers appeared from an adjoining street, running as fast as his feet could carry him, also holding on as hard as he could to the bag, clutched to his chest, panting heavily.
He looked like he was fleeing death like he could see his demise and probably meet it if he attempts to stop running. Stopping and dying was a sure thing right now.
His sprint was against people pursuing him on foot as well. Ugo was the sole surviving member of a gang of thieves who specialize in robbing Bureau De Change offices, and this particular mission had gone hell so quickly.
The score was supposed to change their lives forever. No more robberies, just split the money as scram away from the shores of Nigeria, their plans were already made but things didn’t exactly pan out as they thought.
They had gotten reliable information about Alhaji Datti, and how much liquid cash he would have at that particular time of the day. It was a risque mission, the last time Alhaji was robbed was over 10 years ago, and none of the robbers lived to tell the stories but Ugo and his friends were friends of the inspirational catchphrase of “Go Big or Go Home!”.
In this regard, they either take this big score and retire elsewhere or continue with the petty Bureau De Change owners at other places or grab phones from unsuspecting people in traffic or boost car brainboxes.
Alhaji Datti’s score is the chance for them to either Go Big or Go Home! As they thought they were up to the challenge. Their 4-man robbery crew who had managed to evade capture all this while just met their Waterloo earlier, just one of them left alive, and quite luckily too with the loot.
Ugo saw as the other members lost their lives, blood gushing out from the various stab wounds. What exactly happened and how he didn’t lose his life in that robbery operation is nothing short of a miracle.
The run for his life was what got him to Itapeju street, if only he could hold unto this bag for as long as possible and not lose his life, his life wouldn’t remain the same again.
The critical mission right now is to still be alive for the next 30 minutes, the next couple of minutes will be crucial. As he stumbled into Itapeju street, carrying the bag close to his chest as possible, he saw ahead a Hausa bike-man having a conversation with his friend inside the small shop in front of the house, he guards.
He pushed the bike-man off, got on top of it, revved the engine, and sped off. He got as far away as possible before his chasers could follow him into the streets, it was his disappearing frame they saw when they got where he was.
One of the chasers received a phone call, he called the attention of the rest, as they turned back, heading back to the office.
Quite unusual that they would leave the thief to escape, but the order was clear, so they obeyed, and went back to the office. Ugo sped off, into the adjoining streets, passing through the UBA, and navigating into Ado Avenue.
He hasn’t had time to even check what his friend, Emma passed unto him before he was stabbed from the back, as the BDC security guys fought back against the thieves.
The next mission is simple, get out of Apapa alive and with the loot that was supposed to be split into 5 ways. If he can survive this ordeal, all of the loot could be his.
Getting into Ado Avenue, he sped right into the Apapa main road and drove up to the bridge. He guessed they weren’t after him, but the best possible thing for him to do will be to get out of town as soon as possible.
Head for Ajah immediately or head for Abeokuta? Two cities in different parts of the town. He had a few seconds, at best a one minute to make a final decision.
He started doing quick maths in his head, eventually settling for Abeokuta, he exited the bridge and entered the Iddo area.
Driving past the Nigeria Bottling Company office, through Mainland hotel, speeding through Muritala Mohammed Way then heading down the busy Oyingbo road.
Oh, yea, there is a train station here, and nobody will be looking for a thief on the train at least not yet. He hatched up a plan in his head. The next port of call was for him to find out what was inside the bag.
He ditched the bike somewhere, carried the bag, wiped his face with the singlet underneath his heavily sweat-soaked shirt, an idea sparked into his head, he stopped to buy a dark grey Bagco Super Sack around before entering the eatery.
He bought one quickly, calmed himself down to not draw attention and entered into the Sweet Sensation just after the roundabout, walked in and immediately tried to find the toilet. He went in, and locked the door behind him, with his bags. He didn’t know he needed to pee until he entered one of the stalls, peeing for what seemed to be a full minute, his heart beating like it would explode out of his chest, all the adrenaline pumping furiously into him.
He closed the water closet, put the bag on it, and opened the bag, there were all sorts of currency, majorly dollars, and pounds, stacks, and stacks of bundles of cash, naira included too.
Knowing that he’ll need more time. He closed off the bag but before he did that, he grabbed a bundle of N1,000, took out some and put them in his back pocket. Some money for the journey ahead.
He dumped the rest of the money inside the bag, he took off his singlet and used it to cover the cash. Right now, he would just look like someone who got into a bad fight with bloodstains all over his shirt, he just needs to be lucky enough to miss any Police officer patrolling the area.
No one will want to mess with him, no one will know the fortune that lies underneath the stinking singlet. He left the empty bag in the toilet of the fast food, coming out with the Bagco bag filled with foreign currency.
Now to his next move, how to leave Ebute Metta without being noticed. He knew he had to ditch the leather carry-on bag that he has been holding onto, that was a no-brainer but what if the owner of the BDC (Bureau De-Change) has people everywhere looking for him?
Change outfits, that’s the next action. He looked around then walked briskly into a roadside male boutique, and came out looking like a young fashion poor business executive. He got an oversized sky blue work shirt, with a black pair of loose-fitting trousers, and a pointed black shoe. He rolled up the sleeves to his elbow, picked up his bag and left.
As he approached the train station, he saw some bananas that looked enticing, he slowed down, bought some, and put them over the singlet, which obscured the stolen fortune inside the bag.
As he got out, he heard the steam trumpet of the train, he kept up the pace. Luckily for him, he was able to meet up with the train, secured himself a good seat in the coach, for some weird reason he sat closest to the aisle not the window, with the bag safely tucked in between his legs.
All that remains is for this train to begin to move, everything seems to be going according to plan, he took a deep breath and relaxed.
Meanwhile, in the same Oyingbo/Ebute Metta axis of town, an apprentice is being called by his boss, to get instructions about locking up the shop as the night draws closer.
“Ifeanyi!!! Ifeanyi!!” Papa Ebuka called out for his 23-year old apprentice, Ifeanyi is his sister’s son from the village that was sent to him to train, and hopefully, help his family escape poverty in the village. His sister lost her husband a few years ago to a ghastly motor accident traveling from Port Harcourt to Owerri. Leaving her with 6 children, 4 boys, and 2 girls.
Ifeanyi is the first son sent to Lagos to learn his uncle’s generator selling business in Yaba.
Before he made the journey to Lagos, he had concluded his secondary school examinations, coming out with flying colors. A smart and calculated person, he would have made the world his oyster if only he could get into a University, but that dream is still in his peripheral. It’s doable, and he plans to do it, just not yet. Mama needs all the help she can get.
“You don send your mama that money?” Eze asked as they hung out closeby the shop, unable to hear his uncle’s call.
“Yes o, thanks for that 5k, I just add my own 3k to am, send am to my Mama. Make dem manage that one till Uncle gimme the money wey him promise” Ifeanyi answered.
“Na N50 remain for my account as we dey talk” Ifeanyi continued, fondling with his small android phone.
The hunger in his belly shifted his attention back to the last meal he enjoyed.
“Imagine say, person get that kin money wey be say na every afternoon you go dey chop Amala Canada?” Ifeanyi reminisced to his friend, Eze, also an Electronics sales apprentice in a few stores down from them as they stood beside a lorry that was delivering spare parts, obscuring the noise and their view of their shop.
They were both having this conversation at Eze’s shop because his Uncle was busy with his Yabatech girlfriend, and she doesn’t like Ifeanyi’s guts whatsoever.
Anytime, she is around, Ifeanyi has to find a way to get lost.
“Dem don use Amala Canada do you, this boy!” His friend responded.
“Guy, the one wey I chop last week ehn, I still dey taste am” Ifeanyi responded.
“Ifeanyi!!” His Uncle blurted out his name again, Eze tapped him on the shoulder, pointing to their shop, and the Uncle standing in front looking left and right for him.
“Your Oga dey call you jo, Mumu…Na only food you know” Eze said.
“Make I dey go, Florence na him go kill my Oga,” He said preparing to leave, as he tried to dust his slippers on the ground.
“You and Jude go come meet me for shop abi, una sef go start to dey close now,” Ifeanyi said,
“Yes na but guy, gist dey o,” Eze said.
“Which gist be that?” Ifeanyi asked.
“I see person dey press Rita nyash for inside Oyingbo market, that mechanic Jide na”
“Hahahahaha, Jude go kill person o”
“Meet me for shop jare” Ifeanyi said as he rushed back to the shop.
“Ifeanyi, how many times will I call you? Ehn??!” Papa Ebuka, packing his phones, and keys together.
“I don dey go. Lock the shop, and go house. Me and Florence wan reach quickly reach somewhere “ He said, as he grabbed Florence’s hand to help her up from the cushioned chair behind the counter.
Papa Ebuka and Florence giggled at each other. Ifeanyi knew that the “somewhere” he was referring to was a cheap Ghatview Hotel along Old Yaba road.
As he and his young girlfriend were about to depart, he turned back and handed N1,500 over to Ifeanyi.
“Abeg, buy big banana come meet me for house, and e be like say garri don wan finish. Buy yellow garri,” He instructed.
“If you no bring my change gimme, na you dem go take do sacrifice for village o. You hear me so?” Papa Ebuka threatened Ifeanyi after giving the instruction.
“Let’s go o” Florence said to Papa Ebuka.
“Lock up now o! I no wan hear story o” He said, as he and his girlfriend departed.
Ifeanyi got into action and began wheeling in the generators they initially displayed outside the store.
As he concluded packing up, Jude and Eze arrived at his shop, ready to close for the day and head home. They helped him wheel in the remaining generators, and lock up.
Just as they were about to leave, Ifeanyi opened his loud mouth to an irascible Jude;
“Eze don tell you, him see Jide dey press Rita nyash for inside Oyingbo market”
Jude tried to look away, knowing his friend, he knew there is no way Jude is letting it go. If not for the lateness of the day, he will probably go and find Jide to treat his fuck-up IMMEDIATELY. Rita has been his babe for a very long time, and he won’t let any Ngbati-Ngbati boy snatch her from him.
“Jude! Jude!!” Eze called him.
“No do anything wey you go regret o” Ifeanyi butt into the conversation.
“Na me and Rita get matter to talk, no be Jide. I go see Rita tomorrow” Jude tried to make little of the situation but his friends knew he was boiling inside.
“Make we dey go o!” Eze said. Ifeanyi grabbed a stained white shirt, he forgot in the store for a while now, he has been promising himself to take it home but he kept forgetting until today.
“How that ya Yoruba girlfriend wey dey UNAD na?” Jude asked
“Funke?” Ifeanyi asked
“Carry your man aproko go. I no dey answer you” Ifeanyi replied laughing.
As the night drew closer, Ifeanyi was escorted by his friends, as he rushed to the garri seller to buy before they closed for the day. The garri he bought was too heavy for a regular black nylon bag, so he bought a Bagco Super sack bag.
With Eze opening it wide enough, he was able to put the garri in there, and he threw the white shirt over the garri. He lifted the bag, and saw a fruit-cart with Banana, made the purchase quickly, dumping the banana over the white T-shirt with the garri underneath.
He carried the bag, and then they headed towards the train station, as the train was about leaving.
“Guy, do na!” Eze and Jude beckoned on their friend to walk faster if they’ll make the train.
Lucky for them, they were able to make the train, pay, and move briskly into the train. Tonight’s train seemed to be packed. Ifeanyi, Eze, and Jude made their way to a coach that seemed comfortable and less busy.
Ifeanyi sat on the same row of the train as his friends, in the classic example of face-me-I-face-you type coach, putting the bag of garri and banana in between his legs as they continued their gist.
Making their way to the seats just between the aisle, was a young man who looked badly dressed with a similar bag in between his legs, not strange really but quite the oversize shirt he had on.
Ifeanyi noticed him, but the man was in deep thoughts.
Besides the “office man” was a clergyman who just sat beside him, just opposite of them, closer to the door, enjoying the view before the trip began.
In a few short minutes, the journey began, in the crowded train populated with everyday Nigerians, the fortune thief, rambunctious friends who are just trying to have fun while they enjoy their train ride home, one of them an irascible young man trying to forget the fact that some guy was pressing his girlfriend’s behind just earlier in the day.
Fortunately for him, he just saw someone who looked like Jide, the mechanic walking through their coach. Jude’s fist tightened as he watched him come towards their direction.
He thought he could hold unto his anger, but seeing Jide smiling railed him up, as he rubbed his elbow against Eze who was sitting beside him. Eze looked at him and looked next at the direction where Jude was looking.
The thought that he was happy annoyed Jude, as he approached them, he blocked Jide as he was about to pass.
“Jide, I don tell you make you leave Rita alone,” Jude said, invading his personal space, only a breath away from Jide’s face
“Wetin dey do this, Omo-Ibo. Na my house she go sleep this night sef” Jide said, laughing.
Infuriating Jude more, fight broke out inside the coach, with Eze fighting alongside his friend, Jide’s crew also got into the fight too.
Ifeanyi and the Pastor beside the office guy on the other side of the aisle stood up to separate the fight. As the Pastor stood up to try to get into the aisle to separate the fight, Ugo, the poorly dressed corporate man had to relocate his bag from in between his legs to the side, almost underneath the seat, so that the Pastor can move freely to separate the fight.
The break-out fight between Jude’s crew and Jide’s crew had intensified, there was a lot of pushing and mouths bleeding, somehow in the heat of the fight, the two bags were closer than ever.
Unfortunately, the bags were identical, there was a banana on top of it, with a white shirt underneath. Both Ugo’s bag and Ifeanyi’s bag had the same content.
As the fight seemed to draw to a close, Ugo dragged a bag, and put it in between his legs, Ifeanyi also dragged the bag back to the side of the aisle.
Ifeanyi was so tempted to eat one or two of his Uncle’s bananas but he knew what that would lead to. The hunger was getting unbearable, fortunately for him, they were close to their bus stop soon.
Ifeanyi alighted at the Oshodi stop, as the train continued the journey. Ifeanyi got on a bike, but before that, he saw an elderly lady selling fried yam and akara by the side of the road.
He bought a few and munched on the road, as he moved the bag from his right hand to the left hand, he couldn’t remember the bag being heavy as this when they got into the train but he pushed the thought to the back of his mind.
His mind was on what his Uncle’s wife cooked for the evening, got home, had his bath, and thought about his day tomorrow, and also called Funke.
By the time he got home, by some weird twist of fate, his Uncle was home before him, and as soon as he saw him, he screamed at him, asking why he took him so long to get home, asking about the Bananas.
Ifeanyi rushed in, apologizing. Their 2 bedroom flat was built in such a way that it is the kitchen first, with a room in front of it, then followed by another room before eventually getting into the living room.
His Uncle had seen him from the living room and had begun the rant as he was about to enter the house. He dropped the bag in the kitchen and picked up the banana. His hand rubbed against the white shirt underneath the banana, which seemed dirtier than he thought it was and what seemed underneath seemed like it definitely not grainy. He rubbed his hands more, and could feel some type of texture that was paperlike, money?
His heartbeat increased rapidly, money?? Wasn’t it Garri that was supposed to be in there? Not just any type of money, Dollars, and it looked plenty, as he peeped in.
“Ifeanyi, where is the banana now?” His Uncle’s voice beamed from the living room as though he was walking through the hallway to the kitchen.
Ifeanyi grabbed the banana close to his chest, as he couldn’t even comprehend what was going on. The hard bellow in his Uncle’s voice was what broke him out of his thoughts.
“Ifeanyi!!” He beamed.
Ifeanyi’s feet felt heavy but able to carry him just to the door where he saw his Uncle, he was able to obscure his Uncle’s view of the kitchen, handing him the banana.
“You no hear me since abi? Your ear dey pain you” His Uncle questioned him with a huge frown on his face.
“Sorry Uncle.” Ifeanyi said
“Sorry for yourself,” Papa Ebuka said, turning back, and strolling back to the living room to meet his wife and Ebuka watching Telemundo in the living room.
“Put the Garri inside the cupboard o, No leave am for ground o” Papa Ebuka said from the living room
“Uncle, the Garri woman don close before I reach there. I go buy am tomorrow” Ifeanyi came to the living room to explain.
“No be wetin I dey tell you for shop now be that?” He responded.
“If you forget am tomorrow, just enter night bus dey go village,” His Uncle said.
Ifeanyi ran back to the kitchen, paranoid that someone must have taken the bag only for him to see the bag safe where he left it to answer his Uncle.
He took the bag into the room, and kept it under the bed, with the rest of his things, putting it further under the bed than where he knew to hide things, silently waiting for everyone to go sleep.
He shared the room with Ebuka, who was a loud and deep sleeper. A heavy snorer for a 10-year-old. He waited for the boy to sleep, then around 2 am. He got up, kneeled in front of the bed, and dragged out the bags, till he found the one he was looking for. He sat on the floor and went to lock the door behind gently.
Making sure that no one heard the door locked, while father and son snored like a choir’s rendition of a call and response song.
He switched on the torch on his phone, and began to bring out all the money, he counted and stacked the dollars aside, the same thing for pounds, and the naira. By the time he finished counting.
He could account for 14 bundles of $10,000, 8 bundles of £5,000 and 6 bundles of N1,0000, bringing it to a total of $140,000, £40,000 and N570,000.
Converting to Naira, the dollars were N50.4 million, while the pounds were about N18 million, putting it all together to over N68 million.
He had arranged the money back, stashed some nairas in the pockets of his outfit in the port motor. He went back to bed, but couldn’t sleep.
How is it possible that someone with N50 left in his account a couple of minutes ago is now in possession of over N68 million naira.
Different thoughts crossed his mind, but the ones he was sure about were. First, there is no way he is giving back the money to the Police or the owner, secondly, whoever owes that money will come back for it.
He knows he will be without sleep the entire night thinking about how to make sure this money remains in his possession, and that won’t be easy.
For now, the money resides with him, at least tomorrow he wakes up a multi-millionaire.
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