Fear was nothing compared to what Olufemi felt as he ran for his life. An angry mob wielding Sticks, Machetes and other dangerous objects pursued him, shouting in his local Yoruba dialect “Ole! Ole!!” which means “Thief! Thief!!”. Recently, perceived perpetrators of criminal acts have been publicly shamed, and often times, killed. Hence Olufemi’s panic.
As he ran, tears flowed freely down his cheeks as thoughts of his heavily pregnant wife and two hungry children flooded his mind.
Suddenly, and out of nowhere, a heavy blow hit his head. He fell facedown and passed out and later woke up in a police station.
Since Olufemi lost his driving job late last year (following the demise of his boss), his wife Kemi became the breadwinner for the family. However, she had been on a medically prescribed ‘house-arrest’ for over three months, having had a near miscarriage in her first trimester, after tripping in the bathroom. She has therefore been unable to visit her shop where she sells kitchen utensils. Consequently, the family has been living on their meager savings, augmented by Olufemi’s daily share of profit from working with his neighbor as a bus conductor. But with the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19, there was no more daily income!
The enforced restriction of movement aimed at mitigating against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic had inadvertently erupted a ‘Hunger Virus’. Last night, they ate their last supper (as Kemi had jokingly called it), considering that she had prepared the last tuber of yam which the family ate with the remaining palm oil and ground pepper in the house.
Olufemi couldn’t sleep all night long as he wondered what his family would feed on in the coming days, especially as the lockdown was to be extended for another two weeks…
“So why did you run?” a policeman asked. His thick voice jolted Olufemi back to reality. He had drifted into deep realms of thought whilst recounting his sorry tale. He was seated on a stool in a poorly lit room, with a policeman standing in front of him. The policeman seemed concerned as he interrogated Olufemi.
“Officer, I was scared” Olufemi continued. “I had to come out to look for food for my family. My wife is pregnant Sir and I have two children. Last night we ate our last meal and I couldn’t sleep all night. Earlier today, at about 5 am, I decided to quickly come out in search of food, hoping for a miracle. I heard that market women operated in the wee hours for fear of being arrested. Officer, I was determined to beg the women for foodstuff, if that was what it took. I could not bear the thought of coming back home empty-handed. But as I turned into Mosafejo street, I came face to face with a group of vigilante youths. I was afraid and started running back home and they pursued me. Sir, I am not a thief!”
© PETER NWAOBI, June 2020.