By Japheth Prosper
I began to take things easy with some kind of people from the day I heard a porter in Kurmi Market brag that he could kill someone if he was paid ten thousand naira to do so. There are different kinds of people in this world and we must always be mindful of how we relate with them. I was bathing in the bathroom one morning when I heard my wife’s voice so loud and piercing. Like a school bell, it wafted into my ears. She was screaming at the top of her voice in rabid indignation. I sensed that someone must have provoked her.
“You are a fool,” she vituperated. “Do you think I am as daft as you are?”
When I heard Ado’s voice, I sensed what the problem was. Ado was the water supplier whom we all referred to as Mairuwa. He brought us water every day in trucks which he pushed from house to house. The closest borehole to my house was about twenty poles away. There was no way I was going to subject my beautiful young wife to the torture of fetching water from such distance. It was for this reason that we patronized Ado. However, I did not realize that this would make us vulnerable until the day my wife and Ado had a brawl.
I quickly rounded off and hurried out to find out what was amiss. Ado had gone by the time I got outside.
My wife was still sulking and grumbling like a child whose favourite toy had been damaged by another. She was washing her underwear.
“What happened?” I threw. “Why were you screaming early this morning?”
She pointed at the tank. “Do you know that Mairuwa has been cheating us all this while? He said he usually filled the tank with six trucks but I took my time to count this morning and discovered that it was five trucks that filled it up. I gave him one thousand naira but he insisted that he brought six trucks and not five. He began to insult me in Hausa when I pointed it out to him that he brought five trucks and not six. He wanted me to give him one thousand two hundred and when I refused, he raised his voice and flung the money at me.”
I was shocked to hear her say that. I’d always warned her to be careful with people especially those with low IQ but she would never listen. My wife, Onize was a very beautiful woman but her temper was enough to split a rock. She would quarrel with anyone whom she suspected was trying to cheat her. She would quarrel with commercial motorcyclists and food vendors. One time at the market, she quarreled with a woman over a bulb of onion. Another time, she slapped my driver for not returning her change.
“You will never listen,” I stressed that morning. “How many times have I told you not to argue with anyone over money matters?”
That response from me made her face burn with fury.
“So, you want me to fold my hands and watch people steal from me in broad daylight?” she fired back at me. “If you have so much money to throw away, this is not the way to go about it. Every kobo is important.”
I didn’t know what more to tell her. She was never going to understand how volatile Kano was. There are people who could kill because of common one hundred naira. I remembered I told her on the day I brought her from Okene that there was so much hate and pent-up anger in the north because majority of the masses were uneducated and poor.
“You must learn to tolerate people here. Learn to respect everyone and avoid unnecessary argument.” I cautioned her that day.
I thought that Onize would listen to all my wise counsel but according to her I was just letting people take undue advantage of me.
“So he came this morning just to steal from me. I can never let him cheat me like that na. Haba!”
“You must be very careful with people,” I cautioned again that morning.
She looked at me as if I was an alien. “Are you now blaming me for what has just happened? You mean I should just let go of my two hundred naira just like that?”
“What is two hundred compared with the malice and hate that you have just planted this morning?” I fired back in anger. “If I, your husband was a porter like Ado, would you let me push that truck to people’s houses and be paid just two hundred naira? Please try to be rational here. God has blessed us enough financially and if there’s anything we must try to avoid, it’s dragging little money with the poor. It’s needless trying to prove to everyone that you are smarter. Some things are better left unsaid. All that you would have done was to pay him and get another water supplier next time.”
With that, I left her outside where she was still washing her underwear. Minutes later, I was gone to the market where I had a grocery shop. My shop attendants were already at the shop and were busy attending to customers. Kano had favoured me so much. I remembered how I came from Okene after my HND to live with a friend of mine years before. Job-hunting yielded no result.
One day, my friend who had a small grocery shop advised me to learn the trade since the jobs had refused to come. I was reluctant initially but later decided to give it the nod after a few weeks of idling away.
In less than two years, my business grew rapidly like wild fire. I never envisaged that I was going to be that successful. When I moved my shop to Kurmi Market, my fortune swelled even more. I went to Okene and brought boys to work with me.
In no time, I bought two houses in Kano and one in Okene. My boys stayed in one of the houses while I lived in the other. In 2014, I travelled to the village and met Onize who had just graduated from the University of Abuja and completed her NYSC in Abakiliki. In 2015, I took her with me to Kano.
Because she was not the buying-and-selling type, I decided to set up a cybercafé for her. However, because she had people who worked for her, my wife spent most of her time at home. She spent more time on the internet selling jewelry there.
That day after the confrontation with Ado, something told me that I should look for the young man and beg on her behalf but I decided to wait until evening when I hoped I could find him at the tea and noodles vendor’s shop.
If only I had known..
We were busy attending to one of our very notable customers when my cell phone rang. It was Adamu, the bricklayer. I thought he was calling to ask if I had a job for him. I let the phone ring thrice without attending to it. It stopped for a while before it rang again.
Adamu’s call became persistent. I began to sense that something must be wrong. When I answered it, all that he said agitatedly was;
“Please hurry back home. I saw people gather in front of your house. I think something is wrong but I don’t know what it is because we rode past on a motorcycle.”
When I hung up, I quickly dialed my wife’s phone number but there was no response from her. Again, I called but she did not answer.
I called one of my boys to accompany me as I was certain that I might be needing help. At home, just as Adamu had said, I found a crowd in front of my gate. My heart was pounding when I parked the car and hopped out of it.
My neighbour, Mr. Bature told me all that I needed to know. He came and placed his hand on my left shoulder.
“Oga Omeiza, I am sorry to let you know that your wife has just been attacked a while ago.”
I was told that Onize had been rushed to the hospital. She was stabbed many times and in grave danger. Ado had returned in the afternoon with a truck of water.
No one suspected anything until he had gone into my house and people began to hear my wife scream. Neighbours broke in to rescue her but the assailant had already scaled the fence before they could get in. he was chased by some angry youths in my neighbourhood. Fortunately, Ado could not get too far before he was caught.
I drove like a mad man to the hospital. There, I was told my wife was in ICU battling for her life. Pints of blood had been fed into her veins intravenously. I was told that she’d been stabbed in six different places. The assailant wanted him dead.
She was at the hospital for close to two weeks and survived miraculously. Until this day, the scars on her neck stand erect like computer cables on her skin. It nearly disfigured her.
The law took care of Ado but the experience took a great toll on me. Lots of money was spent on medical bills to save Onize. Even though we have learnt our lessons, the obvious fact that what happened could have been averted still leaves us in regret. Having a borehole in my compound was not a big deal for me. I had the money. It could have saved us all the trouble if I had considered that instead of making myself vulnerable.
And if Onize had just let the sleeping dog lie..
For just two hundred naira only, she would have lost her life. As humans, we most often take so many things for granted. There are lots of angry and hungry people around us. They are not difficult to identify. By their fruits, we could know them. Those kinds of people with low IQ should be avoided in heated arguments. You don’t need to argue with them especially when money is involved because you will be dealing with a wolf not a human being. Our society has become very vulnerable now because of our quest for financial gains. This has brewed so much hate in many hearts.
However, in this apparent societal vulnerability, we must be cautious of the things we say and do when we relate with people around us. To say the least, many a human being has been sapped of the milk of tenderness. Although I made so much money while I was in Kano, that experience made me leave for Abuja where I currently live with my family. We left because even though Ado was thrown behind bars, hundreds of his likes still hovered around us. Also, the shivering fear of the unknown which left my wife forever paranoid was enough to send us packing.
Life is a precious thing that we must always strive to preserve. I have heard my wife advise people these days to be calm and foolish because being calm and somewhat foolish a times is also a sense of being security conscious. She learned the hard way.