Thursday, 20 September 2018

Who Be Thief?

It was a blindingly hot afternoon in Balogun market, and as usual, it was teeming with a crowd of people hurriedly going about the business of buying, selling and commuting.
Standing at a point where he had a good view of all the goings-on was Jendo. His eyes, still sharp, despite the fact he had just downed several shots of alcoholic bitters, pierced through the crowd, searching for his next victim. 

 Jendo was a member of a gang of pick-pockets who worked the markets, steadily and skillfully disengaging unsuspecting buyers and passers-by of their possessions.
His eyes soon locked unto a worthy victim, a young lady who was trying on a pair of jeans she wanted to buy from a roadside hawker. She was trying to wear the jean under the gown she already had on and at the same time trying to hold on tightly to her phone.  
“Ah, correct target,” Jendo thought to himself, and began to move slowly towards her.
He stood close to her, ensuring he was not noticeable by pretending to be waiting for a bus. Then at the perfect timing he grabbed at the phone, gave a sharp twist that got it free from the lady’s hand, and ran off into the crowd. 

“Ole, Ole!” the lady screamed and the person she had been trying to buy the jean from ran after Jendo, also shouting, “Ole, Ole.”
“Thief, thief, catch am!” A few more people joined the chase and Jendo realized that if he continued running, he would be caught soon. So, he stopped and began shouting too, “Ole, ole. Catch am.”
And to make it more convincing that he was not the thief, he grabbed at a young man close by. “Ole, Ole, I don catch am.” 

“Me? Wetin I thief?” the man protested. The only crime of the innocent passer-by was the fact that he was dressed in faded chinos and a black shirt similar to Jendo’s.
“Shut up. You be thief.  You thief that girl phone. I see you as you take am,” Jendo accused him.
His pursuers arrived then. “See am, na him be the thief,” Jendo said to them and landed a punch square on the man’s face, followed by a kick to the stomach. 

“I no be thief, I no be thief,” the man pleaded but more blows and kicks landed on him from Jendo and the pursuers. “Bring the phone come out now. Bring am!”
They tore his shirt and began searching him. Only a small Nokia phone was found on him.
“I see am when him pass am to him second,” someone spoke up from the crowd. Jendo looked up. It was one of his cohorts. He and Jendo made eye contact and Jendo thought, “Wa sere, omo iya.” 

More beating was dealt to the man, this time with sticks and metal rods. Someone had already produced a tire, and shouts of “where petrol, where petrol?” could be heard.
“We go burn you here today, you this bastard thief.” The accused was weak now, but kept saying, ‘I no thief, I no thief.”
Jendo himself was at the crux of it all, pushing the man down and forcing the tire over his head, as he waited impatiently for the petrol. At that moment, a loud ring tone of the song Legbegbe pierced over the noise of the crowd. 

“Na my phone be that. Na my phone dey ring so,” the lady who had been robbed spoke up. While the beating was going on, she had been more concerned with tracing her property and had borrowed a phone from someone to dial her number.
Jendo became uncomfortable as the phone kept vibrating and ringing in his pocket. He tried to slither out of the crowd before anyone noticed, but a couple of guys had already identified that the phone was ringing on his person.

He was nabbed and searched, and the phone was found in his pocket. “Na wa o, so na you be the thief. You come dey beat another person, dey call am thief. So we for just kill am for nothing,” the people gathered were amazed. They descended angrily on Jendo with the planks and metal rods, while his cohort that had spoken up earlier melted out of sight.

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