A story written by Jakemond… If you missed part 11, read it Here
Moving back to Orji Uratta presented a unique set of challenges. Not only did I have to wake up early every morning to catch a taxi to get to school in Nnaze on time, but I also had to have money to cover my transportation for the rest of the term, and I had no job. My mother and grandmother could not afford to pay my taxi fare every day.
Eventually, I found a solution. My uncle John had started building a house in Orji Uratta more than ten years ago, and though it was completed, no one had moved into it. From time to time my uncle would come up with excuses as to why the house wasn’t ready to be occupied, claiming he needed to make more changes to bring it up to standard. He would tear up the ceiling and redo it in a different style one day, and then replace the roof the next.
People began to suspect that he was in a secret society, as was typical of many rich people in Nigeria. In every secret society, members were required to sacrifice something, sometimes a son or daughter, in return for which they would be rewarded with riches. When a member was without a child, or refused to sacrifice his child, the member was allowed to pledge his or her own life and would choose a specified number of years to live. Members could also choose a tentative period or event that would precede their death—for instance, constructing and moving into a house. So it was rumored that whenever Uncle John’s house was finally completed, he would die.
I saw an opportunity in my uncle’s inability—or refusal—to complete his building. Vandals would often go to the house and steal louvers from the windows, and I began thinking: Why allow strangers to benefit from my uncle’s stupidity? I started taking some of the louvers myself and selling them on the black market to pay for my daily transportation to school. I did this until it became difficult to smuggle the louvers out to sell.
Luckily for me, right about the same time I stopped selling the louvers, another opportunity presented itself. There was a large warehouse by my grandmother’s house in Orji Uratta. Recently, the Nigerian government had brought into the country a huge consignment of foreign rice, part of which was destined to be stored in this warehouse. When the trucks started bringing the rice to store at the warehouse, it created employment opportunities for many young people, including me, for several weeks. We would get paid to offload the rice from the trucks into the warehouse. Despite the pay we were getting for our services, some of the guys were also stealing the rice and selling it to villagers. At first I did not join in; I simply did my job and, when permitted by the supervisors, collected the spilt rice from the floor and took it home. But one day, one of the guys I worked with told me he had a way of stealing bags of rice from the warehouse in the middle of the night with little risk. He said all he needed from me was a place to store the rice. At first I told him I didn’t want anything to do with his scheme, but later when he told me how much money I could make, I had a change of heart.
I took him to my uncle’s unfinished house. I showed him the room where I had stored the stolen louvers before selling them, and told him we could store the rice there. The first night he conducted the operation all by himself, but he was only able to take one bag of rice. The next day he convinced me to go with him, explaining that I wouldn’t have to go inside the warehouse with him—all I’d have to do was climb over the outside wall and into the compound, and when he dropped the bag of rice through the window, I’d pick it up and throw it over the wall.
That night we started the operation at 11 p.m., and by 1 a.m. we had smuggled more than five bags of rice out. I started telling him that we needed to leave because we had taken enough, but he ignored me. I started to shout at him, but he paid me no attention and kept taking out more bags of rice. At 2 a.m., fed up and ready to abandon him, I saw two security guards suddenly appear from nowhere, brandishing shotguns. They saw me and started shouting at me to freeze. But that was one command that I would not obey. I thought of the shame and public humiliation that would come upon my family, as well as the possible incarceration, and I ran. Not even a shotgun could have stopped me as I flew over the wall with lightning speed. They fired some shots at me, but I was unscathed as I landed on the other side of the wall. I ran straight home and jumped into bed.
I couldn’t sleep the whole night. I wondered if they had caught the other guy and he had exposed me as his accomplice. I made up my mind that if that happened, I would deny it and claim that I had been in bed all night. I would have an alibi when my neighbors saw me in the morning.
I needn’t have worried. The next morning, the guy showed up at my house, saying that he had hidden himself in the roof of the warehouse and the security guards had been unable to find him. When they had given up searching for him, he had entered the warehouse and buried himself under a pile of rice until daybreak. As the workers started going into the warehouse, he emerged and blended in with them, resuming work as usual.
Later that morning, we went to the room where I had stored the rice. As we sat there discussing how to move it, Sydney suddenly appeared. As soon as I saw him approaching, I shut the door to the room containing the rice, and we immediately intercepted Sydney at the outer room. I thought we were busted, and that maybe everyone knew we were the robbers at the warehouse last night. Why else would Sydney be at the house at this time unless he had seen something that had prompted him to sneak up on us?
I was completely wrong, though. That morning Sydney was just being his nosy self. Greatly relieved, I indulged him, introducing my accomplice as a friend, and we sat talking about random matters for more than half an hour, after which Sydney finally left.
That afternoon, we were able to move the bags of rice in a taxi to my accomplice’s house. The next day he sold all the rice, and when I went to his house to get my half of the money, as we had agreed, he became belligerent. He said that he had done all the work and taken all the risks, pointing out that I had abandoned him. He concluded that the only thing I did was provide storage for the rice, and therefore I did not deserve to get any money from him. I became furious and felt
To Be Continued…