It’s no longer news that the likes of Mr Chameleon ex Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who escaped Europe in 2005 to avoid being prosecuted for money laundering or the other guy who became the governor of Delta state shortly after being sacked for stealing at a UK DIY store are easy ice breaker wheVn meeting strangers from out of country for the first time.
Despite all these corrupt public officials and many 419 email scams, there lie many, many Nigerians who are still very trustworthy and take pride in their work.
Professor Tim worked at an African Literature department in a UK university. When he was a young associate in the early 1970s, he visited the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study more about Nigeria literature. He was there for some time, a year, I think. During that time he had a steward called Patrick, who was slightly younger than Tim. They forged good friendship. Time came for Tim to leave, he left and that was it.
In 2005, I happened to be in the same place with Tim so he recounted his memory of Ile Ife, he spoke fondly of Patrick and wondered how he was doing. Perhaps he’s gone back to the east. Tim was just retiring from his professorship and would like to get to help Patrick financially, if he happens to need any.
A few years later, Patrick and Tim lost contact once again, they both have relied on letters – the last letter Tim had received was not particularly a happy one, he was concerned for his old friend, he asked if I could help locate him, again.
This time, it was a bit different as the popular market of Old Buka had been moved to a new location within the campus called New Market. The moving was very significant as it meant those short on cash were not able to relocate to the new area.
My sister was the No. 1 Lady Detective Agent – no one has seen Patrick in a long time even well before the move. Given the relatively small community nature, eventually after three weeks we found Patrick in his house bed-riding recovering from okada (motorcycle) accident.
He was like many ordinary Nigerian caught up in a lawless society. Knowing that he would not be able to afford the relocation to the New Market, he had used his savings to purchase a motorcycle to carry passengers, hoping his daily bread would be secured that way.
One day on his way back from dropping a passenger at the Sabo Market, a private car hit him unaware, sent him flying off his motorbike. Given it is during the day, and witnessed by many passersby, the driver of the car behaved responsibly and paid the initial hospital bill, then disappeared into the thin air.
Patrick narrated his story with shaky voice, a sixty something years old man who has been working from his teenage years (that’s very common for the Igbos around my town) and now at the mercy of samaritans. He was ashamed to hear from Tim but glad anyways that he still thought of him.
The friends were later reunited.
Regardless of the terrible news about Nigeria, Patrick is a reminder for Tim that there are plenty of decent everyday people in all of our cities, going about their daily businesses – it was this mindset that inspire the strength to reunite friends.