Short Story: The Root
By Eniola Olatunji
It was all over the internet. BlowQ, one of Nigeria’s finest artists, gifted a lady two million Naira for her honesty. This lady was a cleaner collecting a salary of twenty thousand Naira, yet, she returned missing forty thousand dollars to the owner. The news went far and wide. In this economy where things were difficult, such honesty was rare.
Baba Ade was a popular taxi driver in Lagos, Meiran. He was popular because he had been a driver for twenty years plying that same axis. He was the oldest driver there. Despite being a driver for twenty years, Baba Ade did not achieve or build anything spectacular like other drivers. Younger drivers who came after him had built houses, and married wives. Some saw him as foolish and contented with poverty. Others saw him as a humble man who hated an affluent lifestyle. His son, Ade, was amongst those who saw him as foolish and contented with poverty. Ade was three years old when his father began driving, so he had witnessed his father’s driving career all through. He saw how younger drivers whom his father introduced to driving became rich by cutting corners. Yet, his father was poor. He was too honest. Other drivers made money from extraneous means aside from driving.
There was Malik, a young man who got into driving through Baba Ade. Malik was a “smart man” whom Ade admired. A foreign businessman got into Nigeria and hired Malik to be his driver. Being a “sharp guy”, Malik connived with thieves to rob the man by informing them of the businessman’s movement. The man always had money on him, so the robbers made a lot. Consequently, Malik received eighty thousand Naira per steal. The man was robbed four times, amounting to three hundred and twenty thousand. This was aside from the four hundred thousand the man paid Malik for his driving services, plus an extra hundred thousand as a reward for not quitting his job despite the recurrent robbery attacks. Many opportunities like this came his father’s way, yet Baba Ade never took advantage of them.
Baba Ade knew the sort of son he had. Anything honest irritated his son. But quick money schemes and dishonest shortcuts caught his interest. Baba Ade had heard from his son about the cleaner whom BlowQ rewarded. That was the first time Ade was happy over something honest. Baba Ade was joyful at first until he discovered the reason Ade was happy. It was not because of the Cleaner’s good deed but because of the monetary reward the cleaner got from it. Baba Ade felt sad. This apple fell extremely far from the tree.
26th of January, 2021
Baba Ade made his usual prayers and left for work. His first passenger of the day was Mr. Ki. It was odd because Mr. Ki had a car of his own. Mr Ki was a popular man in Meiran. He was Chinese, a “Chinko” who employed cheap labor to run his factory. His workers worked like rats, yet he owed them salaries and refused to buy protective gear for them to wear while working. Baba Ade knew people who had died of Tuberculosis after working in that factory for years.
Throughout the ride, Mr. Ki was arguing with someone over the phone. When he arrived at his destination, he alighted hurriedly. Baba Ade continued his driving and resigned home later in the evening. As was his practice, he proceeded to wash his car. It was there he discovered that a white envelope which Mr. Ki was carrying in the morning, was stuck under the seat. Mr. Ki had forgotten it and it had fallen into that hole. Luckily, no one saw it. Baba Ade opened it and was flabbergasted. He counted the new currency notes, it was a hundred thousand dollars.
At every stage in a man’s life, he is confronted with an event that challenges his faith. Joseph was confronted with Portiphar’s wife, David was faced with a giant, while he was faced with a hundred thousand dollars. Mr. Ki was a stingy man. There was a high probability that he would not reward him for discovering the cash. Baba Ade could take this money and disappear with his family for life. Since Mr. Ki had not contacted him since morning, it was likely that Mr. Ki did not link the misplaced money to him.
One hundred thousand dollars was seventy million Naira. Baba Ade had returned a missing hundred thousand, and higher amounts, even four hundred thousand. But all these were in Naira. He could spend four hundred thousand Naira within a month. But seventy million? With the right investment, he would never smell poverty again.
He called his wife for moral support. His telling his wife was the same as telling his son. They both suggested subtly keeping the money but capped it with “do what you think is right for this family”. They were too righteous to blatantly say he should keep the money.
Baba Ade got up and headed towards Mr. Ki’s factory. Mr. Ki thought the money was stolen in his office and had fired those whom he suspected could have stolen it. Mr. Ki had even decided to deduct his worker's salary to make up for the amount.
Baba Ade returned home two hours later. His wife and son were standing at the door with long faces. “I have returned the money”, he said. He brought out twenty thousand Naira and gave it to his wife. “That was all he gave me”, he said. He could see the heavy disappointment on their faces.
He went to his room and locked the door tightly. He looked around and proceeded to a spot where he hid things. He stuck a white envelope filled with a hundred thousand dollars there and covered it up. Karma be damned!
Eniola Olatunji is a law
student at the University
of Ibadan. He enjoys
researching into new
areas of life, reading
comics and writing plays.