Two weeks ago, a Nigerian woman, Nkechi, left Oghara, Delta state, to attend a wedding ceremony in Lagos. Unable to get transportation that will take her directly to Lagos, she headed to Benin, where she was sure to get one. This is where the story got really interesting, or baffling or perplexing depending on the changes in the disposition of the person central to this story, Nkechi.
A Nigerian , regardless of gender, without the benefit of a personal car, travelling such a long distance as in this case, will have many things to carry. And Nkechi did. When she finally got to Lagos , Nkechi found to her chagrin, that one of her bags is missing, one full of personal effects, expensive gifts and other cherished items. To say the least, she was frantic, perplexed and confused. Expectedly, many, friends, family and acquaintances were unsparing in blaming her, for being careless, lack of attention, even naivete. Some of the items in this missing bag, were given to her by some invitees, who could not attend the wedding ceremony for onward delivery to the bride.
Now, she was in a quandary, some darkly doubting her story, her reputation and integrity at stake. There were insinuations….. “who is going to believe this kind of story” ‘Na wa o…dis Naija sa’ ‘Na lie lie full her mouth…..’ And some of those doubting her are her friends!
In tears, Nkechi clung to her story. “I am not like that…God is my witness”. “My offence is carelessness or not being street smart enough to realize I was at a busy motor park”. “I don’t know who took this bag…and I have no idea how I lost it”. Bravely she attended the bridal shower and the wedding ceremony. As she entered the wedding hall, people were casting furtive glances at her….and of course she was the object of secret whispers. Very few believed her…. ‘this is Nigeria o’ many said, judging her by their own standard.
But, Nkechi believed in her own personal integrity and knew she had not appropriated the contents of the bag. Nonetheless, she felt humiliated and let down by the condemnation and doubt of so many. She headed back to Oghara on Sunday, after the wedding. She looked beaten and deflated. All kinds of thoughts flooded her mind. “Who will ever believe me now?” “How can I look people in the face again, with so many people believing the worst about me?”
When she got to Benin, her mood turned ugly, and in the public transportation conveying her, Nkechi completely lost her already fragile composure. She burst into tears and started crying uncontrollably, blurting out to no one in particular. “Why should I have to endure this….I did not steal this bag!” Taken aback by the sight of a lady in distress, some of her co-passengers were sympathetic and enquired from her what the matter was. As she narrated the story, some started exchanging glances, some rolling their eyes, some not hiding their doubt, some openly mocking.
On Monday, at work in Oghara, people asked Nkechi if she was sick. She was unfocused and unable to concentrate. At the close of work on Monday, she asked her supervisor for a one day leave –of absence and headed to Benin…..seeking answers to what she could not exactly determine. She went to every shop she visited on her way to this wedding. She came back to Oghara empty-handed. But there were two shops she could not visit because they were closed. Oghara, being only about one hour from Benin, Nkechi returned again on Friday, this time only one of the two shops was open and she came back empty-handed once more. But she was told the second shop would open Sunday afternoon. Nkechi would not give up….she wanted to satisfy herself that she ‘d done all she could to search for this bag. She had put up with all the ridicule and doubt….only she knew the truth, her conscience was clear. And if after all her efforts, she could not find this bag….she can live with that.
She was at the Benin motor park again on Sunday and tremulously approached the only shop she had not revisited. The shop was crowded and busy. She asked the salesgirl she wanted to speak with the manager. The manager came out, wondering who needed her attention. Nkechi narrated her ordeal in the last one week. A smile played on the lips of the manager. She called one of her assistants by name. A young man showed up. Upon sighting Nkechi, the young assistant exclaimed “haaaa, it’s her!!!, mama, she left her bag here!…., when I saw the bag, I ran after her, she was no where to be found. I described her to many people….I later found out she boarded a vehicle to Lagos. Her bag is here in the store.” The young man disappeared and came back with the bag. Nkechi was, to say the least, speechless. She went through the bag, and found all the contents intact. The bag was never for once opened, the shop manager stated that she had the feeling whoever lost the bag would be back to claim it.
Naturally, Nkechi’s countenance brightened and she headed back to Oghara in a gay mood. She narrated this seemingly unbelievable story to her colleagues at the office on Monday. She called friends and family about this turn of events. The newly-wed couple in Lagos was incredulous. Many reading this story would probably be too. And the reason is that this is not the dominant narrative that lives in the popular imagination of many Nigerians. Yet, there are many Nigerians like this manager and her assistants in Benin, who will insist on doing the right thing. And that is the truth.