I had a few minutes to kill before I had to go.
“Have you guys seen Joshua?” I asked the three boys sitting under the Queen of The Forest tree.
No brother, e jo e fun wa lowo ebi’n pa wa (No brother, please give us some money, we’re hungry).
This was Ikeja City Mall, a place that calls to fun seekers and the less privileged who would use the opportunity to request for money under the pretext that they were stranded, lost or hungry. I met Joshua a few months before while at the mall; a ruddy child, he just seemed a victim of the circumstance that makes people believe they’re less important or useful than others because they weren’t born in the Aso Villa. After a snack of bread and a bit of counselling, I left him and told him to return to his job as an apprentice to a plumber and continue his education.
I knew these kids would try to play the trick on me so I wasn’t shocked to hear that they were stranded and had come thinking they’d get money by singing. After a game of beating around the bush, with them sticking to their story and me trying to figure out who they were and to talk them, we sort of landed on a neutral ground. Since they figured I wasn’t there to judge them they opened up a little.
Their names were Muiz, Lekan and Timo at a point, then Samson, Jamiu and Fatai, and after the unspoken truce I was able to figure that Timo and Lekan were real names. Lekan looked to be the leader of the trio and could not have been more than twelve, Timo, the youngest, would barely have been nine. Samson (I think) was Young Dollar on the stage while Lekan was Coded.
Their awe of foreigners at the mall pointed to the fact they thought themselves less important because of skin color, the idea that a non-black was wearing a hijab was almost ridiculous. I let them lead me inside the mall to see a church (I didn’t believe when they told me there was a service inside the place); they had to stay close to me as the security men who knew their game would turn them out the door the moment they were alone.
I had little to give them except a little money and to pray with them: that they find their way home (not just to their houses but to Christ and the realization of their worth as people who aren’t second class humans); that they find someone to give them money to go home (Samson insisted on this point) and to give thanks to God for making me meet them. However, they had a lot to impact on me: the determination not to be lax in my desire to see young kids off the streets and its unpleasantness; to be consistent in being available as a model to less privileged people and not as judge and jury; to ensure that those that do get off the streets via my impact in turn help others out of a backward mentality and empower them (hopefully in skills and kind).
I left ICM thinking if only there were more of me, but there is… and that’s you. Help out where you can in tiny ways or big ones, it doesn’t matter. As a light guide people to who they ought to be.