Why you should never stop learning – life lessons “Great things happen to those who
This is a true story of a young man who fought all odds to get past the lowest moments in his life.
This is a true life story
It was 5.30am and the only sound aside the constant squeaking of the ceiling fan in the room was that of a cockerel screaming its lungs out to celebrate the dawn after the star-speckled night had given way to dawn.
Peter lay face up on the rough canvas mattress that served as his cocoon and safe haven, wondering why people saw the truth from different perspectives, their narratives of the same events often completely different from his and the continued misunderstanding leaving him perplexed and confused.
His eyes still wide open, he chastised himself even more whilst shaking his head intermittently.
“Silly me. I am crazy after all, but unless someone can prove it, I guess I’ll carry on my God given mission without the hindrance of a straight-jacket and a chemical cocktail for my brain” he chuckled.
He lived with his mum and their relationship was increasingly strained with every conversation they had. They disputed over his diet, his choice of clothing, his joblessness, his devotion to the local church and everything he stood for.
His options were quite limited, he couldn’t move out of the house because he didn’t have enough money to fend for himself and he depended on a few kind monetary gifts from friends and his parents to get by. His room was his safe place, far away from the troubled world where his calmness was mistaken for dysfunction.
The night before, he had had a loud brawl with his mum when she made spirited but feeble attempts to inspect his room. He wouldn’t let her open the door, let alone walk into his bedroom. He considered it an invasion of his privacy- the only bit “they” couldn’t take away from him.
He blinked his thoughts away as though flickering scenes from a TV show and tried to focus on what the new day held for him.
He was just about to pray when he heard the approaching footsteps, each footfall chaotically spaced from the last with no rhythm but an unmistakable urgency. There must have been at least 3 persons he wondered.
It was followed by voices in hushed tones. His eyebrow twisted into a furrow as he tried to imagine why the footsteps stopped at the door to his room. He could hear his own heartbeat in the silence of the morning. Each beat reverberating at the back of his throat.
“Peter, open the door please” the voice was his mum’s and it sounded like she was in some sort of discomfort.
His emotions switched from fear to worry in nanoseconds.
He dashed to the door as fast as he could and in one swift move, turned the key before swinging the flush door open. But in one instant, two men pushed him back into the room. They were not just the “standard issue” for men he was accustomed to. They were large, heavily built and strong mean-looking men with popping muscles. One of them had a syringe in one hand and the other grabbed him before he could make a dash to the only toilet in the room.
“Peter, don’t fight them” cried his mum, “They are here to help.”
They grabbed him by his arm and before he could pull off any more resistance, he felt the tingle of the needle prick as a strange liquid was injected into his bloodstream.
He shook his head as consciousness started to drain from his body like flowing stream of water.
He wanted to speak, but his words came out in incoherent babble. The words, when he managed to speak, sounded like;
“……..this is unfair………kidnap………I am fine…………….apocalypse………soulless”
He reached out with his eyes to his mum as he was carefully heaved into the arms of one of the other nurses outside the house who carried him gingerly into a waiting van.
His mum watched with sad eyes and a heavy heart as her son sat quietly in the medical van looking limp, listless and with glazed eyes. She was convinced that getting him into a mental health facility was the best decision she could make for her son as everything else had failed or made his condition worse.
His continued delusion, delirium and apathy made him a threat to the peaceful co-existence in their home.
Peter was a young brilliant, diligent and hardworking construction engineer. He managed building projects successfully for many years around the country and was renowned for his commitment to the highest quality and his uncompromising stand on fairness and honesty in his business dealing. He had an impeccable record of delivering projects to standards and was unwavering in his commitment to his values.
Although he was yet to hit thirty years in age, his professional experience in the industry was far ahead of his colleagues and contemporaries. He never lacked a project no matter the time of the year. He was as busy as it could get.
Clients fought bitterly to have him manage their projects and some had to put projects on hold for weeks on end until he was available to supervise them. He therefore had to move from one project to the other in quick succession barely having enough time to rest and socialize.
His current project was in Warri – the city is an oil hub in South-South Nigeria and one of the cosmopolitan cities in the region. The building project was nearing completion and he was slightly behind schedule. The project was badly affected by inclement weather and funding. He was frustrated with the client at times, especially with the piecemeal disbursement of funds, but he was convinced he had to see the project through as soon as possible so he could move out of the city.
He had strong reservation for Warri especially due to the pervasiveness of criminal activities and insecurity fueled by agitations of the youths against the multi-national petrochemical companies in the city. Every day was a different drama!
He had been in the suburbs for two months and had only a few days to complete the project before moving home to be with his family. He was an eligible bachelor whose interest in women had been replaced by his love for God.
One evening, one of the contractors on site had asked him to confirm the quality of the next supply of building materials to the construction site. Peter had once complained about the quality of the interlocking stones required for the landscaping and finishing of the driveway. In response, the contractor had offered to replace the stones at no cost to the client.
He had to wait till evening until the truck that had been in transit all day arrived with the shipment.
When the truck parked in, Peter took a cursory look at the quality of the delivery and to his amazement, they fell short of standards and his expectation. He was livid with anger and expressed it vehemently.
“Why do you keep bringing this sub-standard interlocking stones? I have told you time and time again, this is not acceptable and you need to do the right thing. Please leave the site and return with the correct specification.” He turned to walk away.
“Oga, please, this is the same one we delivered to the governor’s house in down town Warri. You can’t find anything better than what we just brought to you around this area” The driver protested.
“Oga please sign my waybill so I can offload the materials. I have a long return journey ahead of me” His voice was no longer pleading, it had an edge to it.
The driver went into a tirade, swearing and cursing with subtle hints of a building temper and possible violence.
Peter reinstated his position and walked out of the site leaving instructions with the security personnel not to allow the shipment to be offloaded from the truck. His stand was clear, he didn’t get to be the best at his job, by conceding to flimsy excuses and empty threats.
It was dark already and he liked to get to his rented apartment in good time to get a refreshing good night rest for the next day. He had no friends in the town and his apartment was a walking distance from the project site. It took him 15mins to walk home.
And then he heard the first thunderous scream….
“Thief, thief, thief”
At first he felt unconcerned. He trudged on humming a Christian worship song to himself. He was on a busy road only a few bus stops away from his street, what more could he expect.
“There he is, there he is” the voice sounded a tad familiar, but he didn’t have enough time to process whose voice it was when the first chunk of brick hit him on his back. It hurt deeply.
Angered and insanely scared at the same time, he turned to see a mob circling him. The brains of the mob must have been short circuited by a relentless drip of provocative triggering words from that same voice as it continued to spur the assault.
“That’s him! He is a thief” the voice continued, loud and menacing.
Before he could say a word in defense, the crowd had encircled him. The first slap came from a street urchin with dreadlocks and everything else happened really fast.
He felt hard kicks to his legs forcing him to his knees and the painful impact of small pebbles and then stones and then large bricks targeting his head. He raised his hands to cover his head but they aimed at his torso.
“It’s not me…I am not a thief” He managed to scream, but no one was listening anyway. When he managed to open his eyes, he feared for his life. The look on their faces was unforgiving, mean and angry. They huffed and puffed with spittle pouring out of their open mouth as they struggled to speak at the same time.
Someone hit him with a wooden plank to the side of the head, it was sharp and blinding. He lost hearing in his right ear that moment. Momentarily dazed he fell on his side collapsing into the black asphalt crying for help.
But the mob didn’t stop. More planking was followed by stoning and kicking. The mob had grown in size from a handful of young urchins to a crowd of onlookers. Some had their mobile phones turned on recording the horrific scene. No one knew what he was accused of stealing.
The excitement of lynching a thief was worth every moment of their time.
Peter had cried so hard, his voice had grown thin and his mouth full of blood from the unrelenting battering. His teeth must have been broken when another brick hit him squarely on the jaw. He felt sorry for himself as energy ebbed from his muscles. He could barely open his eyes and his body was a bloodied mass of flesh. When he managed to open one eye, he saw the feet of different men moving in a continuous motion as they took turns to throw stones or planks at him.
“Burn him” Another voice bellowed.
He was helpless. Death appeared to beckon to him. He said a word of prayer that moment as he surrendered his body to the mob.
A disused car tire was thrown at him hitting him on the head. Then another and then another. Gutless and dead inside, emotionally indifferent, the crowd was determined to burn him alive. He laid motionless. What more could he do? Tears filled his eyes as he attempted a scream, but he was too weak to open his mouth.
“Petrol, petrol, petrol” someone from the crowd screamed. A good number hurried away from the melee to look for some fuel to complete the lynch.
That was when the shrill sound of emergency sirens called out into the river of human traffic, and where once there was no way forward a wide swath opens for the police van to pass through.
In the midst of the rouse, the first gunshot reverberated through the noisy crowd drowning the agitation of the mob as they fled in all directions. By the fifth gunshot, there was only a handful of onlookers peering behind closed market stalls and shops.
Peter was a gory sight, bloodied and lifeless after the crowd dispersed. He managed to move his thighs in a slow but desperate move to signify that he wasn’t dead. The police men dragged what was left of him off the road, heaving him into their van callously.
Although he was rescued, it didn’t feel like it. He couldn’t feel his body and he could barely hear when the policemen spoke to him. He had never tasted so much blood as he did that evening. He must have swallowed some as evident in his creamed teeth covered in crimson red. The smell and taste would haunt him for the rest of his life.
The police had managed to arrest some members of the mob- the active ones and they were all arraigned before the DPO at the police headquarters in Warri that same evening.
First aid treatment was initially administered to Peter, but it did little to stop the wave of pain that swelled through his body. Nothing could stop the cry. He wept bitterly. That was all he could manage to do.
When the DPO asked his accusers what he stole, no one offered any credible statement. But the arrested lot pointed to one man as the instigator of the mob action.
When Peter was asked if he could identify any of the young men arraigned in the police station that evening, he managed to open his swollen eye lid to see the driver of the shipload of interlocking stones he had rejected earlier that evening. The driver tried to conceal his face to avoid being identified, but with every ounce of strength left, Peter pointed at the man before blacking out into a faint.
That incident was so traumatic that as soon as his body was strong enough to travel by road, he boarded the next bus to Lagos to be with his family. He left the project uncompleted and was hospitalized for two long tortuous weeks. It was one of the most difficult moments in his entire life. Sleep eluded him for many nights. The dark scared him and every human being was a potential attacker. His right ear was badly infected from the assault and he struggled with other ailments he never knew existed.
He was not only scarred for life, he was also maimed. His leg was badly damaged, he could only manage a limp.
When he arrived back in Lagos, he was welcomed by the wailing, cries and grief of his father’s passing. Nothing prepared him for so much calamity in just a few weeks.
It was just too much to bear and his one-way journey into depression was well under way.
Please follow the second and concluding part of the story.
Your comments are welcome.
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