OkabaBy Muyiwa Adetiba

The car screeched to a halt.
The driver peered out of the
window at what caught her eyes. And then she felt the pull to come out of the car.

It was not the safest of places – nowhere is these days for a man, let alone a woman – but daylight was just fading if that accounts for anything. Besides, it was a route she was used to as it led to her house.

She had seen these makeshift houses several times as many like her, who live around the Lekki side of Lagos would have.

These are on open spaces or undeveloped plots that have been divided and portioned out – for a fee – by mai-guards, or those who are supposed to keep trespassers out, or simply the ubiquitous ‘omo onile’. Those spaces are taken up by ‘tenants’ with the understanding that they could be driven out at a moment’s notice by the real owners or by government.

Thus, nothing permanent or expensive is put up. It is exploitative because the cards are stacked up against these ‘tenants’. But it is an acceptable exploitation borne out of necessity if not desperation.

Many of those who live there service the high-brow areas of the State like Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki as drivers, cleaners, cooks and artisans. Many are law abiding or at the worst, operate on the fringes of the law.

Only the lady could tell what made her stop on that day.

It was a rainy day which meant the canvas which served as roof for many of the houses would be leaking in places. They also had no doors – only light piece of clothing that served as curtains for privacy – which meant a strong breeze could flood the spaces with ‘showers of blessings’.

She must be used to people scampering for shelter on those rainy days. But this time something caught her attention and she felt compelled to stop. It was a picture of a young woman and her little daughter as they huddled together to keep each other warm inside their ‘home’.

The roof was leaking; the floor was flooded. They huddled at the driest part end of the room expecting, but fearing the inevitable. There was no privacy as the piece of clothing that served as curtain was dancing in the wind.

With their earthly possessions exposed to the elements, they cut a picture most artists would love to draw and most painters would love to paint – mother and child in desperate embrace; two forlorn people against the elements. It was this picture that caught the eye of the driver.

She got out of the car and beckoned on the young lady. She asked if this was where she was going to spend the night with her daughter. The young lady nodded in the affirmative.

She then offered them refuge for the night at least and was surprised at the meagre belongings that followed them into the car. The following day after a warm shelter and meal, the Good Samaritan interrogated the young lady to find out about her job and that of the child’s father.

She then explained to the young lady that she usually divided her year between UK and Nigeria. She was already one month in Nigeria and had another five months left.

The young lady and her daughter were welcomed to stay for those five months. To show her gratitude, the young lady started to clean the compound and the other areas available to her.

The Good Samaritan however insisted on paying her for those services.

Five months went like a night. Mother and child were very happy. The child particularly felt she was in wonderland.

One of the touching parts of the narrative was the excitement the child showed on knowing that light could come at a pinch on the wall. She kept nudging her mother to put on the light and then put it off.

It is hard to believe that any child born in Lagos would not know about light switches. Or be familiar with how a room is lit.

That is an indictment on how the State is run and to an extent, on all of us who close our eyes to the plight of the underprivileged.

There shouldn’t be that level of depravity in a State as rich as Lagos. The story speaks to the huge gap between the poor and the rest of us.

But that is not the reason for its narration. Today is about the act of kindness and empathy shown to a complete stranger.

And in these days of kidnappings and money rituals, it is also about the almost childlike trust shown by the young lady in question to the offer.

Neither of them knew where the other came from. It didn’t matter. At the time, it was about humanity and the belief in the inherent goodness in all of us.

Does this driver represent the average Nigerian or is she an aberration? I know she is not an aberration.

There are many Nigerians who are reaching out to make a difference in the lives of people they come in contact with.

They may not be enough but they are there. I know a few. I want to mention and appreciate the late Sir Bonajo Badejo SAN for his acts of kindness.

May his soul find rest with his maker. May his children be beneficiaries of love and kindness. This story will tell those who reach out in kindness to others that they are not alone.

It will hopefully encourage them to do more. This story will also tell those who have not started touching lives that little acts of kindness go a long way; that they can change the course of a life that could otherwise have led to crime. And in the words of Julia Carney in ‘Little Things’ – ‘Little acts of kindness. Little acts of love. Help make the earth happy. Like the heaven above’.

The story didn’t end there. This young woman was telling some people about the Good Samaritan who virtually picked her from the streets and housed her when another kind heart heard, was touched by her story, and offered to pay a year’s rent in the first instance.

This is a love story worth sharing in this season of hate in the country. It also shows I hope, that the average Nigerian is kind at heart.

There is a part of me that is almost wishing that the unknown driver, the Good Samaritan, will get to read this story wherever she is.

She has contributed her bit to make the earth a little happy by offering succour to someone at her wit’s end and bringing joy – and hope -into the life of a little child.

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