Abowu District Episode 19

Toye stared at Afonja with suspicion, wondering why the man suddenly wanted to be cooperative. He didn’t see any weapon in his hands or detect a menacing aura about him, still he had to be certain that this wasn’t a trap.
“If you have anything to say, why didn’t you just come to the station? Why did you have to stalk me in the dark?”
“I can’t walk into your office and tell you anything, if I do, I will be dead by the next day.”
“And what makes you think that I can help you?”
“You’re the only one who is different, you’re not corrupt.”
Toye wondered about this, considering the fact that he had just been about to take Doyin’s proposition. He looked around and as far as he could see, they were the only ones on the road. He beckoned at him.
“Come into this stall and say what you have to say.”
Afonja glanced around and then walked towards the stall that Toye was standing in. He smelt of stale sweat and engine oil and Toye held up his nose.
“Say what you have to say quickly.”
“I know those who are responsible for the burglaries at Alafia, but before I say anything, you have to promise to protect me and make sure I don’t go to prison.”
“Are you directly involved in the burglaries?”
“You have to promise me…”
“I cannot promise you anything if you are directly involved.”
“Then I can’t tell you anything…” He made to leave.
“Wait! Alright, I promise to keep you out of prison.”
“Swear it.”
“I swear it! Will you tell me what you know now?”
“I don’t know everything that is happening, but what I know should be enough for you to find out the rest for yourself.”
Toye frowned.
“I don’t know who they are, but there is a gang that burgles businesses, they work with the vigilantes and the police and share the profits. They must work with several people in different communities for them to have the amount of money they do, but these people are very organized and efficient.”
“They work with the police?” Toye couldn’t get past this revelation.
“Yes, they do. Like I said, you are the only one I can trust in your station.”
Toye laughed nervously. “The only one?”
“I’m not saying that everyone is guilty, but I’m not sure that they are innocent either. You are the only one I can trust.”
Toye pondered over all he’d heard. “But you haven’t really told me anything, what is your proof of this gang? How do you know about them?”
“My neighbours, Uche, Papa Ufoma.”
“The Okafors?”
“Yes, he is in charge of the gang in Alafia. He started out as an informant but the man is a bully who is willing to do anything to be rich. He got promoted when he organized the burglary of one of the Lebanese shops and handed the profits over to the gang leader. He said his boss was so impressed that he promoted him to the position of the area leader. The former leader was made his assistant. Ever since then, he’s been organizing a burglary every month. They pay him a lot of money…”
“So what is your part in this?”
“I’m part of the Alafia vigilante, we make sure that our team doesn’t patrol the area they are burgling.”
“We?”
“Yes, they’re about three of us who work with the gang.”
“So where can I find Mr Okafor… Uche….”
“I can take you to his house.”
Toye sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Why are you telling me this? I was at your house and you pretended as if you cared about what was going on in the community, you didn’t even want to tell me where the Okafors lived.”
“All I can say is, people change.”
“I want the truth, otherwise I don’t know if I can trust the information you’re giving me.”
“He almost killed me, just because I was asking for my money. Nobody does that to Afonja.”
Toye thought for a while. “That means you know who threatened you mother.”
“No I don’t, but I wish she hadn’t come to you. The woman has never minded her own business.”
“You mean you’re alright with the fact that someone threatened her?”
“People who don’t know how to mind their own business always suffer.”
“Where are your wife and children?” Toye asked out of the blues.
Afonja jerked back in surprise. “Why are you asking me about them?”
“I want to know.”
Afonja looked away. “She left me and I told her to take her children with her.”
“Why did she leave?”
“That is none of your business Inspector.”
Toye smiled. “Alright, where can I find you when I need to?”
“I’ll find you.”
Before he could retort, Afonja was gone. As he walked home, Toye realized that his resolve to close the case had greatly weakened.
**********
Babatunde returned home three hours after he had left for work. Sewa was dozing off when she heard the knock on the door.
“Babatunde?” she said when she opened the door. “What are you doing here? Did you forget something?”
“Give me a cup of water please.”
Sewa returned with a plastic cup and gave it to him with trembling hands. She let him take a long gulp before interrogating him.
“What is it? What happened?”
“I have been laid off.”
Sewa gasped in quick succession, placing her hand on her chest and staring at him in unbelief. “Why? What happened?”
“My boss had a nephew who needed a job.”
“So they let you go because of someone else?”
Babatunde sat back in the chair and hissed. “This happened because I am the son of no one important! Mr. Debo didn’t even think about the fact that I have a family to provide for. He simply replaced me with a young chap who has no responsibilities.”
“What do we do?” Sewa said despairingly. “How do we cope?”
“We will have to rely on whatever comes in from my carpentry.”
Sewa knew that it would not be enough. As they sat side by side and took solace in each other’s company, Sewa decided that perhaps it was time to do the unthinkable. The next morning, she went from door to door, telling her neighbours that she was selling food. By the end of the day, no one had come to buy her food.
**********
Toye stared out of the window of his office, thinking about his conversation with Afonja two days ago. He didn’t think that he could trust him, all it would take for him to be the enemy again was for Afonja to receive the respect he had been denied. Afonja would deny everything that he had said and he wouldn’t be able to prove anything.
With each passing moment, Doyin’s proposition became more appealing and Toye struggled between remaining honorable and meeting his family’s needs. Doyin came in and slapped his arm. Toye sniffed and frowned.
“Did you eat fufu?”
“Yes, with a delicious bowl of vegetable, garnished with smoked fish, ponmo and beef.”
Toye hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch. “No wonder,” he replied as cheerfully as he could. “Your hand smells of fufu.”
“Have you eaten lunch?”
“Not yet, I‘m trying to finish some of the work on my table.”
“I wonder if you want to kill yourself over this government work. You’re not even well paid!”
“But it isn’t really all about the money. What about the people who are waiting for justice?”
“Justice?” Doyin laughed. “Do you really think that there is justice in the courts?”
“We have to play our own part whatever the case. If not for anything, at least for a good night’s rest…”
“I sleep fine, whether or not the criminal is in prison. It is not my fault that someone else committed a crime, why should I lose sleep over that?”
Toye looked at him in amazement but Doyin was unperturbed. “Have you decided on the case at Alafia?”
Toye rubbed his eyes, afraid of seeing the look on Doyin’s face.
“I swear, you like suffering! You better think about it well.”
Doyin took his seat, hissing and flinging files around his table. Toye thought about what Afonja had said.
I’m not saying that everyone is guilty, but I’m not sure that they are innocent either. You are the only one I can trust.
It was then that Toye realized that the rich Uncle that Doyin had talked about was not a relative.
**********
It was the second day of Sewa’s new business venture and still, no one had come to buy her food. She heard a knock on her door and rushed to open it, thinking that someone had come to buy some food. It was Simbi.
“I heard that you have started selling food.”
“Yes?”
“Well I’m not discouraging you, but I honestly don’t think that you’re the type who can succeed in this business. It takes courage and ruggedness, and I don’t think you are any of those. Pack it up and find something else to do.”
Sewa gently closed her door and sat down on the chair close to the door. What if Simbi was right? She was ill prepared and uninterested in the business, what had possessed her to follow Babatunde’s suggestion?
Later that evening as she prepared to dish the food that no one had bought for her family, Teju rushed into the kitchen.
“Mummy, some people want to buy food! I told them that you prepared amala and ewedu and they said that you should bring it.”
Heart thumping in her chest, she asked, “Where are they?”
“Outside the door, come quickly Mummy, they look very hungry!”
Thirty minutes later, Sewa began another dinner, the one she had earlier prepared, completely finished.

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