By Fr Pat Amobi Chukwuma
A warehouse is a place where goods and commodities are kept for later use. Events shape memory. Memory never dies but it can depreciate. Death begins from loss of memory. Thank God that I can still memorize, though not all.
When I was eight years old, two of my childhood friends came to our home. By then I had only three siblings. All of us as children interacted and played in many childlike ways.
Our main concern then was ‘eat and play.’ After playing happily on that day, we went in to eat the food kept for us by our mother who went to farm. My two friends joined us in the meal uninvited. It was a plate of fou-fou (akpu) and delicious snail soup.
The food meant for the four of us were consumed by six children. Hence none of us was satisfied. Out of my benevolence as the next of kin, I rushed into the warehouse and slashed additional quantity of the swallow and its corresponding quantity of soup for us all. Before I could look down, it was bulldozed.
I went in for the second time and collected some quantity. It was finished in a twinkling of an eye. What baffled me was that my two uninvited friends went into the warehouse by themselves and looted the remaining quantity of ‘akpu and ofe ejula.’ In fact both the fou fou container and soup pot became empty.
Instantly, my face failed because I was responsible for showing my two friend looters the way to the warehouse. I became afraid and was contemplating the explanation I would give to my mum for the disappearance of the big quantity of fou-fou and soup she kept in the warehouse for herself and for our supper. The food warehouse looting took place by late morning.
Eventually my mother came back from farm. She went into the warehouse hopeful of dousing the hunger making noise in her stomach. She opened the swallow container as well as the snail soup pot and found them totally empty. By then my two friend looters have disappeared like a dog that polluted the air.
My hungry and angry mum summoned four of us children to answer for the disappearance of the food she kept securely in the warehouse. My three siblings pointed accusing fingers at me for leading in the food looting. I stood speechless and helpless before my mother.
I had no concrete reason to offer. However, I narrated in tears how my two friends broke into the warehouse to loot the food after I went in and collected additional quantity for the six of us. I did it out of goodwill. My beloved mother scolded me for tampering with the food in the warehouse.
For this reason she gave me six strokes of minor cane for the blamable role I played in the childhood food looting. Till today, whenever I set eyes on those two friendly food looters, who are now married adults, I can’t but laugh. One day one of them asked me out of curiosity, “Father, why do you laugh whenever you see me?” I answered, “I always remember something.” “What is that thing?” he enquired further. I sarcastically replied, “Forget about it.”
Sometime ago, I went to Onitsha Main Market to purchase some electronic equipments. I went from one shop to the other bargaining. As I was going, a handful of boys trailed me from behind like toilet flies. Wherever I stopped, they also stopped.
If I ask the shopkeeper about any equipment he did not have, one of the boys would come forward to say, “Oga, wait. Let me go and bring it from our warehouse.” Then he would disappear like lightening and come back within few seconds with the commodity.
They did it several times. At a point an idea struck my mind. I disguised myself and followed one of them to the acclaimed warehouse. Lo and behold, I caught him red handed in the shop of another talking with the eyes. The warehouse runner would then add his own gain.
This process is popularly known as ‘oso ahia.” Some of those boys parading about in the markets have no shops of their own. They eat from the sweat of their feet and conviction of the tongue. Seeing the warehouse gambler I shouted, “Old boy, is this the warehouse!?” He turned and said in low tone, “Oga, man must chop. It is better than stealing.” My mouth was shut up.
The warehouse boys are like horde of adult flies at Mgbuka Obosi Motor Spare parts market. Whatever you want is in their warehouse. Even if you want human head, it is in the warehouse. There are warehouses. There are warehouses, genuine or fake. Shine your eyes whenever you enter any market in this country Nigeria; be it at Onitsha, Lagos, Aba, Ikot Ekpene, Abuja, Ilorin, Makurdi, Kano, Jalingo, etc.
They all have warehouses, real or imagined. It is even safer not to accompany those boys to the warehouses to avoid punching your eyes with hot blows. My Igbo people say, “Ka a hutachaa ka mgbo ji tua enwe n’isi.” This means that over curiosity is dangerous. Often I pity the warehouse boys due to the man-made economic hardship in this country.
The recent EndSARS national youths protest ended with the looting of state government warehouses. Little did I know that such warehouses are in all the states including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. Most of the governors stockpiled the COVID-19 palliatives in the warehouses for genuine or selfish reasons. Indeed it is the rat at home that informed the bush rat that fish is in the basket.
In other words, the hired workers who packed the palliatives for the government revealed to the looters their whereabouts. Immediately the looters and hoodlums hijacked the peaceful EndSARS protest sparked by the innocent blood of the youths killed by unknown soldiers at Lekki Toll Gate. From then things fell apart.
Hungry, angry and jobless boys rose in their large number nationwide and broke into different states’ warehouses and looted everything “lootable,” which included foodstuffs, provisions, medical materials, educational materials and movable machines. One of those boys reacted seriously when they were referred to as hoodlums.
According to him, “We are not hoodlums but hungry Nigerians.” If those boys were only hungry, why did some of them loot a number of beautiful girls? Were those beautiful girls also edible?
The looting was severe due to the disappearance of policemen and other security outfits from their duty posts. They went into hiding to avoid being massacred by the hungry and angry boys. Even the governors themselves were nowhere to be found during the looting.
They reappeared sorrowfully after the quick and callous looting of various national, state and private warehouses. I beheld the Commissioner of Health in one of the 36 states weeping publicly because of the excessive and merciless looting in his poor state.
Nigerian youths are desperate and fed up with our past and present leaders at state and national levels. Even houses and offices of some of the political leaders were broken into and looted. It is high time our leaders recycling themselves in political offices incorporated the teeming jobless youths into the political leadership of this country.
If not, the hungry and angry boys will soon loot, not only properties but lives. A stitch in time saves nine. There is a limit to endurance.
The youths are the leaders of tomorrow. They should be given opportunity to climb the political ladder of leadership. Our past and present leaders have eaten unripe fruit and the children’s teeth are set on edge. Therefore, in the 2023 political dispensation, the youths should join political parties and vie for different offices at the state and national levels.
They should no longer be used as thugs during campaigns and later dumped like useless rags. Sometimes they are armed as political thugs and the sophisticated arms are often left with them. As a result, some of them end up either as armed kidnappers or armed robbers. In fact, it is easier to give a monkey a cup of water.
The great task lies in getting back the cup. To state the obvious, millions of our youths are jobless, hungry and angry over the state of affairs in Nigeria since Independence. Hence they want to take over because the elders have disappointed them.
Indeed they know where the warehouses are because they were paid to pack the essential commodities and palliatives there. If not appeased, they are ready to break into more precious public and private warehouses here and there.
In conclusion, I appeal to our present leaders to read the handwriting on the walls and act rightly before it is too late. On the other hand, out of excessive anger, the offspring of the mother vulture set their family house on fire which consumed his ailing mother. Later he regretted for his angry action.
Hence till today, the young vulture hovers over any place there is fire looking for his precious mother, but all to no avail. Therefore, let the rampaging youths take it easy. It is easier to destroy than to build. Setting individual, state or federal assets on fire does us no good. It is not progressive but a retrogressive action. Virtue lies in the middle.