Stepping out this morning,
I noticed a commotion beside one of the neighbourhood shops. Walking a little closer, and with the small crowd forming, I already guessed what it was before I actually saw it. From the distance, I had heard the pelting of leather on flesh. It was a belt.
The teenager was giving a silent cry as the older man flogged him. From the conversation between other observers, it was clear the boy had stolen.
I approached the owner of the shop who was attending to customers while monitoring the progress of the drilling and asked what happened. I was heartbroken when he told me the boy stole two sachets of milk worth N100.
With a few sane others, I begged him to let go as it was clear the boy was motivated by hunger. The man after a little reluctance, told his friend to let go. He said if it was where he comes from, somewhere I won't mention, he would have seen that the boy was...erhmm...lynched.
Walking away, I heard a woman who runs a small kiosk close to this other shop say the boy had earlier stolen doughnuts from her and that she was sure it was him who stole her kerosene yesterday.
It confirmed my thought, that the boy was hungry.While it isn't right to justify theft, I created an excuse for him. I told myself the boy wasn't exactly the problem, but the economy. If he had something to eat, he probably won't have stolen food. Worse case scenario, he would have stolen at home. But there may be nothing at home, and the whole thing again points at the system. I was reminded of African China and the real thieves he sang of. That little boy who probably left his soaked garri rising, in the hope that he was going to return with milk to make it a balanced diet, was going to chew it caked. Maybe there was no garri at all; maybe there were younger siblings at home, younger siblings waiting for Robin Hood. But then, this is Nigeria where hunger is a way of life.