04 April 2006

Being your brothers keeper

One Wednesday sometime late last year, I decided to play hooky with a colleague of mine, well not hooky like that, we left the office at 5 to go watch 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory;! So here we are armed to the teeth with popcorn, drinks, candy bars and hot dogs sitting in a cinema full of kids. I had a great time.

Not long after the movie starts A lady comes in with a small boy, too small in my opinion to be at the cinema, and on a Wednesday evening no less (school night). Any how I am watching the 'Umpa Lumpa's' perform and don't pay much attention to them. Then the lady leaves the boy and not long after a gentleman comes in with a drink (I have excellent peripheral vision, plus I can really multi-task!) The guy sits with the boy for a bit then as he leaves; then a lady comes in and sits next to the boy. Okay, this boy is accompanied, so I put all my resources into watching the movie.

Just as Charlie and Mr Wonka are traveling all over town in the glass 'elevator' I hear a whimper, I look to my right and it’s the boy. I look in the seat next to him and the lady is still there. The he starts crying really softly, and I look again. Then he starts crying properly and the lady on his right leans towards me and says 'could you please attend to your son' I am in shock! 'Isn't he your son?' 'No' she replied, 'Well he isn't' mine I reply. Then we both look at the crying boy, who by now is actually bawling. I am sitting there thinking 'what to do?' as I try to console the boy. The lady to his left had tactically changed seats and had joined with the rest of the cinema in shooting dark looks my way (everyone assumed the boy belonged to me). My colleague has an amazing capacity for concentration and only became aware of the unaccompanied boy after I put him on my lap and was trying to soothe him. ‘Where did he come from?’ she asked her eyes never leaving the screen. ‘Dunno’ I reply it seems he is here unaccompanied. That got her attention (she has a 5 year old daughter whom she loves and cares for fiercely) ‘What?’ she almost shouts. ‘Calm down’ I beseeched her; we are making enough noise as it is. Now I am angry, 'Na by force?' 'Must this boy watch this movie?' As I said earlier he was way too young to be at the cinema at all (still in diapers), not to mention unaccompanied. I tried to calm him down, we decided to wait till the movie ended, that way we would get to meet his parents/guardian and have a word or two with them. The movie ends and holding firmly to one hand while my colleague held the other one, we led him out (he is still crying oh). We are both vibrating with anger now, and would really like to meet the fool of a parent/guardian who did this.

As we emerge from the theatre, a young man springs forward and says ‘Ayomide’ and the boy looks up and reaches for him. ‘Who are you’ my colleague and I ask in unison. ‘I be im papa driver’ he responds a little startled. ‘He say make I wait for am make e finish make I carry am go wait for moto’ My colleague is soo angry she resembles a fish as she opens and closes her mouth not making any sounds. ‘Let me get this straight, you were supposed to wait for this boy outside while he watches the movie?’ I ask. People had started to gather round. ‘Yes’ he replied. ‘Where are his parents?’ I ask ‘Dem dey inside’ he says as he points nowhere in particular. ‘Where exactly?’ I ask. He really can’t say. ‘Do you know I could have kidnapped this boy?’ I ask He smiles a relieved smile, ‘Madam you no fit’ he assures me. ‘This picken wey still dey wear diapers, na to wrap am inside coat carry am go now’ my colleague shrieks (she is able to talk again). The boy had stopped crying and was looking expectantly at the driver. We let him go and he goes to stand behind the driver, peeping at us from behind his legs. I am convinced the boy knows the driver and all that, but I am also shocked at the conduct of his parents. So this boy had to watch a movie on a school night. He could easily have been kidnapped and then killed or sold. I am wondering why any parent would do this, the child is obviously under 4 years old, and the last time I checked it was free for 4 year olds to watch movies at Silverbird. Since it’s a Wednesday, its half price for adults (750). Couldn’t the parents have just bought a ticket for the driver so he could sit with the kid in the cinema? All this one we are talking sef na grammer, enter market the vcd is just 200 naira and the boy can watch it as many times as he wants in a less spooky environment. I ask the driver to give me his oga’s number, he also volunteers his oga’s wife’s number and tells me where they work, live etc. I get the impression that this particular couple does this kind of stuff all the time and he (the driver) is sick of it. Unfortunately we were unable to reach either parent on their phones (signal jammer, concrete walls, etc), and actually waited with the boy for like 40 mins while we watched him play in the car and they didn’t show up. The way he jumped from chair to chair, making a mess with his biscuits, it was obvious he was familiar in his surroundings and that the driver’s story was true. We left him then and I dropped my colleague off home. As I drove home, I asked myself, supposing that boy had gotten into the wrong hands, what would happen? What would the parents/guardians say/do? For sure the driver would be in deep dodo, never mind that they were careless with their kid. What if the driver, hard up for cash or whatever actually colluded with kidnappers say or child traffickers, and turned the boy over for a fee? A well, there isn't much I can do now, I believe I have done my little bit.

I was reminded of this incident this morning when I received the
following link in an email from a friend. Its so easy to steal a child, I think its even easier here than abroad. For such a communal community, we have managed to learn to look the other way, and I think this is quite sad. On that Wednesday, people just gathered round to look and everyone went about their business. The lady who was sitting on his right in the theatre just vanished! There is a Yoruba proverb that comes to mind ' Eni keni ti wo ba ni pa lati se iranlowo fun o, ohun na leni keji re toju re' which literarily means whomsoever you have the means to help, help them, they are your neigbour.


ToyinE said...

that clip was amazing... I would think that maybe he was her stepdad and the child was misbehaving becos many a child has temper tantrums you wouldnt believe! BUt that little boy in the theatre by himself?? Those parents should be ashamed of themselves. They should have at least sent him in with a househelp or the driver being that like you rightly said the movie was only 750. It just makes you wonder what parent would do something like that and if you guys hadnt intervened - what would have happened to the boy?? Would someone else have been responsible enough to take him outside or he would have been wandering all around Silverbird by himself!!!

Pilgrimage to Self said...

Wow! I am absolutely horrified by this story. If it had happened here,social services would have stepped in so quick it would have made the parents heads spin, and I would have probably been the one to place the call!! How reckless, selfish and stupid those parents are. If you are not prepared to look after a child then don't have one.

It was good of you and your friend to look after the boy. And please don't give up trying to contact the parents, they need a good telling off. Another thing you can do is get in touch with the Bruce brothers and get them to put up a notice that all children below a certain age have to be accompanied into the cinema with an adult, plus they should have someone at the door ensuring this rule is obeyed. Poor child. I hate to think what else his parents get up to.