By Toyin Falola
Due to Nigeria’s high unemployment rate and stagnant economy, some Nigerians have turned to various unlawful ways of livelihood. Before the early 1980s, drug-related offenses in Nigeria were relatively minor, but over the past decade, drug trafficking has become a significant societal challenge. Most migrants are taken for drug couriers, and the rise in these activities has damaged Nigeria’s reputation, despite the efforts of government agencies like the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to curb this menace. Various reports on organised crime, irregular migration, and human trafficking from Africa to Europe by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), International Organization for Migration, and Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNCRI) reveal that some migrants are directly involved in drug trafficking, which has led to some countries blacklisting Nigeria.
Also, because of the financial hardship in the country, many young people have the erroneous belief that leaving Nigeria to “Japa” will lead to a better life and greater success; thus, they become victims of fraudulent travel agents. They try again after every failed attempt until they eventually find a way, or they get hardened up and adopt the mantra “If you can’t beat them, you join them,” further increasing the already high crime rate in the country.
After Malik’s failed attempt to leave the country, Geeboy’s call raised a new hope in him, and he was ready to give it all it took to secure another visa to leave the country. Their meeting was scheduled for the next day, but he woke up that morning with a skull-shattering headache. For the next few days, he was attended to by a nurse who owned a “chemist” shop down the street. When his strength finally returned, his pockets were almost empty. He had placed all his money on his future and lost it all.
With just a few hundreds of naira to becoming kobo-less, Malik called Geeboy to ask if the job they were to do a few days ago was still available. They fixed a day for him to meet the boss. When Geeboy took him to a club, he was quite disappointed. At that time, he needed a lot of money, which would take more than being a waiter in a club. How much would that get him, and how fast would it get him to his dreams of leaving the country? His friend kept swimming through the dancing crowd, and Malik hurried after him like a child who did not want to get lost in a market.
In the VIP section, Zinzu stood, looking below into what looked like an underground factory. Zinzu was a notorious drug lord who had been declared wanted by the police and the country’s drug enforcement agency. Rumours had it that he had so much voodoo that he could smell the police from several miles away and transform into anything he wanted, making arresting him a daunting task. Malik and Geeboy stood some feet away from him, but they could see what was happening below. Without turning to look at the boys behind him, Zinzu asked Geeboy if Malik was the person he was bringing in for the job. Once Geeboy answered affirmatively, Zinzu swung into an explanation of how the job would be run. The factory produced pure cocaine and methamphetamine worth several millions of dollars, and he sold them to his contacts in America and South Africa.
Malik’s job was simple. All he had to do was carry the drugs with him on trips to countries picked by the boss and deliver them intact to the contacts. If successful, he would be paid hundreds of thousands of naira, but if not, he risked a lengthy jail term or death. His soon-to-be boss made it explicitly clear that he would kill Malik with his own hands if Malik lost his merchandise or tried to cross him over money. As they say, money is no longer in the mouth of the lion but in its abdomen. Malik accepted the job on the spot and was asked to come back so that his travel documents would be prepared.
Geeboy showed him to the guy who would get his travel documents ready. He was also trained on how to swallow the drugs and other things to do when certain situations arose. When his documents were ready, Malik was ready to go on his first trip. He swallowed the drugs like practiced and was driven to the airport by one of Zinzu’s boys, who hung around the airport till he confirmed that the plane carrying Malik and their precious goods was in the sky.
Malik was cleared and checked in, but till he boarded the plane, he could not stop his hands from shaking. He was not sure whether it was jitters because it was his first time flying, from getting caught with hard drugs, or both. For the past few months, he had dreamt of seeing the clouds up close, and now that he was in the clouds, all he wanted was to disembark as soon as he could. His plane landed in South Africa and what was left was for him to reach his contact and deliver, then the money would be wired to Zinzu. He quietly prayed that the clearance at the South African airport would go as smoothly as that of Nigeria. But his prayer was not answered. Dogs swarmed him and started barking, and then police officers led him to a private room.
When his interrogator showed up, he asked the other men to leave. Immediately they were alone in the room, Malik quickly pulled out the insignia Zinzu had given him in case of situations like that. Many people in power knew the insignia; therefore, it would be a safe passage if he got into trouble. The interrogator took a quick picture of Malik and the insignia before leaving the room. Hours later, he returned and led Malik to a car. Malik was dropped off where he did his business, then the interrogator took him to the airport and sent him back to Nigeria.
Back in Nigeria, Malik was afraid as he felt his mission was not successful. He was surprised when the boss congratulated him on a job well done and paid him a little over half a million naira. Malik was overjoyed. He had never made that much at a go. He calculated that if he kept at the job, it would not take him a long time to become rich. Maybe he would even invest in the business too. He returned home to put his house in order while expecting an update from Zinzu about his next trip. Before the end of the second week ran out, he got a call that he was going to deliver goods to Canada. All his trips went off with zero hitches, and he soon started to gain prominence among other mules. The job was like a dream come true for him. He wanted money, and he wanted to travel; his job provided him with both. Malik had stepped on different continents and saw new lands that caught his fancy. He built a flashy new house for himself and his mother and bought a car. Everyone acknowledged that Malik had finally made it and it was his turn to shine.
When Zinzu told Malik about the job in the Middle East, he was more than happy to do it. Some terrorist sects had procured a large shipment from Zinzu, which Malik and other mules would deliver to them. Payment for this particular job was guaranteed to be higher than any he had received in the past. Everything went smoothly at the Nigerian airport, but when they got to the Syrian airport, Malik and the other mules were arrested and detained. They presented their insignia, but they were immediately seized as an exhibit. Considering the high quantity of cocaine they were carrying, Malik and his gang were arraigned before a court in a matter of hours. Before the media could catch on the news and get the Nigerian government and the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission involved, Malik, Geeboy, and two other guys were standing before a judge who passed judgment that all four of them be beheaded.
Se bo’timo ore
Se bo’timo ore mi
Se bo’timo mama
Se bo’timo baba mi
Won n tan e
Dakun ye maa tan ara re
T’ire n t’ire
Ye ma ko ara re
Bi o ba sare, bo subu
Iwo lo lara re
Ore ma paara ire
Ko gba agidi
From Bymo Se bo’timo