Some days ago, I was in a keke leaving Terminus market in Jos on my way to the Polo ground area, when I heard a young man bemoaning to his compadre how his now erstwhile friends had abandoned him because he was now out of a job.
“. . . I used to send money to those greedy leeches, I practically put Kim on a monthly stipend, and now that he has that NPower job, he hasn’t picked any of my calls and I haven’t seen a dime from him.”
I was all ears on his matter, no need to remind me, I like gossip gan. I forgot temporarily about my unpaid light bill and my fearful anticipations of the men from the electricity company to come for my wire with a plier.
The man told tales of how he had supported his friends through their own terms of unemployment, he remembered with nostalgia how he had helped Simi with money to buy the State Civil Service form some years ago and now she was working in one government office oblivious to his plight and pleas.
I didn’t spend up to 10 minutes with the man but I knew that he had been working in Abuja with a private company until late last year, he had friends named Kim, Simi, Matthew and Mafulul.
He was now unemployed, forgotten by his former friends, and his rent had been unpaid for the past 2 months, he was thinking of going back to Riyom but the rainy season could not be taken advantage of anymore by a prospective farmer as the rains were already here and he was unsure if his old farming skills will come back now that he needed them the most.
“The shifts of fortune test the reliability of friends.” Cicero
I think it’s odd how human beings tell their life stories to absolute strangers. Personally, I think it’s good remedy because the odds of us meeting and me remembering your face is extremely slim, and you don’t know me that well to judge me in the way people who know me would.
As we neared Standard junction, the man on the other side who our weeping friend was talking to, I assumed was his friend. Paid for all our fares and told the man “don’t be scared of starting all over again. Be wary of the people you call friends.” With that, he gingerly dropped from the keke and pressed one #500 note into the man’s hands before crossing to the other side of the road, without waiting for the tear shocked man to say “Thank you”.
“Only enemies speak the truth; friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of duty.” Stephen Edwin Kind
As the keke eased into traffic, the man recovering from his shock said “Abun mamaki! Da ga Adam ban ta ba waye shi ba ama ya yi mun alheri”. I have a minor problem, interpreting this from Hausa to English, but I think it means “A thing of surprise! I don’t know this man from Adam but he has done me grace”.
I don’t want to brag being a Jos boy and all, but that is what Jos is about. Giving totally cryptic words of encouragement!
The rest of the journey was pretty much uneventful as the man whose name I didn’t hear sat quietly brooding. I reached my stop, and walked away knowing that my bill had been paid for by a total stranger.
Oh, I didn’t have any wiser words to impart on him or a fistful of Naira to thrust at him with closed fist so I went away rather quickly.
I tried thinking about the man’s predicament, well that didn’t go far as my mind went to my unpaid bill, and a phrase that I had not remembered in a while came to me. “Money go build him house for inside rock” from the book Chike and the River.
“True friends … face in the same direction, toward common projects, interests, goals.” C S Lewis
Me? I want a friend like Samwise Gamgee the brave from Lord of the Rings. That’s not too much to ask now is it?