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Lola Gani-Yusuf: Finding the Right Balance between Doing a Good Deed & Staying Safe

Lola Gani-Yusuf

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dreamstime_m_60463343It was meant to be another uneventful ride to work. The sky was bright, the sun was out in full blast and I remember pulling down the car sun visor just so I could reduce the amount of sun rays beaming at me and causing some slight discomfort around my eyelids. I thought to myself, ‘At least I will be out of this uncomfortable situation 15 minutes tops.’

About 5 minutes into the drive, my driver slowed down as we arrived at a traffic light that was just turning red. There were about 6 cars ahead of us and I could see cars coming to a halt and forming a queue behind us. Out of nowhere, I noticed a dishevelled lady at the rear of the car, running and at the same time trying to make small talk with some of the passengers in the cars behind us. She seemed perturbed and had her bag underneath her arm. One could tell the contents in the semi-worn leather bag were obviously heavy. It was a no-brainer that the dangling leather bag straps were likely to give way sooner than later thereby justifying the way she carried the bag.

She kept pacing her steps while attempting to start a conversation with the drivers of the cars behind mine; yet no one seemed to be interested in what she was saying. She must have gone past 5 cars behind us before she finally got close to my car. It was then I caught what her discussion had been about all along:

‘Please sir can you give me a lift? I’m going to Florence Primary School. It is just after the next traffic light Sir,’ she muttered with a hint of desperation in her voice.

Initially, my driver pretended he did not understand the words coming out of her mouth.

But then she repeated herself again and this time she added:

‘My supervisor is already waiting for me in the school and I am very late sir. Can you please help to the next traffic light?’

This time around, my driver was already looking at me and the expression on my face was that of:

‘Why the heck are you still staring at me? Give the poor lady a ride, will you?

I must have said this out loud because in that instance, I saw him unlock the back door so the lady could push her bag and weight into the back seat. While all this was going on, my driver seemed to be giving me his ‘caution stare’ and gesture which normally implied:

‘I hope you sha know what you are doing.’  He started to shake his head from side to side in a half-weary, half ‘I-don’t-care’ manner.

It was not until the car door closed just as the traffic light was turning green and other cars were honking their horns in unity to signify we were causing a delay in movement that it suddenly dawned on me the gravity of my actions.

‘What have I done letting a complete stranded female Nigerian into my car?’ A hired car for that matter.

With the back of my eye, I see her rummaging through her purse looking for God knows what. Suddenly, images of security headlines flooded my mind. You would think I was sitting in the cinemas watching in 3D documentaries of other Nigerians who have been robbed, kidnapped, car-jacked or involved in car explosions by similar unlikely suspects – that is, young women and girls being used as a conduit for terrorism.

‘I should know better,’ I thought to myself.

I am a humanitarian worker and I get to hear about these sort of stories every week. Just last week, ‘2 attempts by female suicide bombers were prevented in Borno and security is being strengthened in Abuja too because things are generally hard for the masses,’ reported one of the Security Mangers in my organisation.

‘All staff need to be more security conscious wherever they are so as not to fall victim to these unlikely suspects.’  His words seemed to echo in my head as if that would make me go back in time to undo my actions.

I started to imagine what my mother would say, if our passenger turned out to be one of those ‘unlikely suspects’ capable of pulling any of the listed scenarios above. I can imagine my dearest mama saying:

‘Is Lola a small girl … does she not know how unsafe the country has become in recent times that she allowed a total stranger into her car?‘’

My mind wandered back to the Security Manager at the office using me as a case study during the next staff meeting… and in his usually sarcastic tone recounting all that happened while adding his own extra juicy details just so that staff will pay more attention to the sound of his voice and the security information he was trying to convey.

It was the longest 5-minute lift I ever gave to a complete stranger. When she eventually opened the door to leave the car, while pouring some serious blessing down on my driver and myself, I heaved a sigh of relief that my worst nightmare did not come to pass.

But shortly after, as I continued the ride to work having regained my false sense of safety, I began to ponder on this short experience of mine. Reflecting on it, I was filled with a great sense of sadness when I realised how the current state of the nation is taking its toll on my psyche. Or better still, I wondered what my dear country was turning us all into.

We live in a country where citizens walk with fear and trepidation often concealed in our sub-conscious, waiting to be triggered by the slightest occurrence within our environment. A country where one is afraid to do a good deed due to the fear that one might fall into the wrong hands. A country where a simple, desperate looking or not so desperate looking man, woman, boy or girl could have an explosive underneath their garment waiting to be detonated. A country where you need to consciously evoke your six senses before attempting to throw caution to the wind and help another fellow human being due to the fear of being harmed, scammed, robbed, kidnapped or even killed.

How did we get here? Are these security fears of mine valid or am I suffering from a serious case of watching or reading too many horror stories/series? This is what my curious mind would like to find out because surely, I fear losing my humanity just for the sake of keeping myself safe.

If you think I am just being silly, please smack this fear and silliness out of me. I would gladly oblige. But should you find yourself in my shoes or in the thick of it, which would you choose: Goods Deeds or Personal Safety?

Photo Credit: Innovatedcaptures | Dreamstime.com

Lola Gani-Yusuf is a Child Rights Advocate, Campaigner and a Communication for Development Specialist. She is an avid reader with a curious mind about life. She writes to silence the ramblings in her head. You can find more of her musings on www.chattymind.com Instagram: Chattymind

10 Comments

  1. Marian

    November 24, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Story of my life. This is something i struggle with and it makes me so sad.. It’s not just personal safety now, You have people who will prey on your good heart and use it against you too.
    My family and close friends are my voice of reason cuz i unfortunately don’t have a filter. I don’t ever want to change that part of me and i’m trying really hard to hold on to just doing good deeds anytime the opportunity presents itself.

    Everytime i’ve felt forced to choose personal safety still haunts me; like what if the old lady begging was not part of a cult trying to use her as a decoy to rob or kidnap people and the real truth is she’s not had anything to eat all day.

  2. Odufa

    November 24, 2016 at 10:27 am

    When I was still very young, a choir rendered a song in my church, and in the lyrics “because iniquity shall abide, the love of many shall wax cold” and was part of the lyrics I pondered on that part for years not knowing what it meant, the meaning got to me in adulthood. The world is wicked, most people needing help on the street are usually there because of their evil deeds, God will make a way for his own, the devil will leave stranded his own after using them. I’ve accomodated a corper after camp and all she did to pay me back was to join people to acuse me falsely, when I told her to leave my room, she insulted he’ll out of me and left with my mattress, all because I was to give it to her when leaving, me that had a room and a foam, was left with just a mat like foam I borrowed. The morals of the whole event for me was NEVER EVER help any stranded girl, if you are good, God will make a way for you.

    • Femfem

      November 24, 2016 at 5:44 pm

      Please why the he’ll did you allow her to take your mattress

    • Odufa

      November 25, 2016 at 8:18 am

      Like I said, I was supposed to give it to her when I’m about to leave the room as I had just pass out from Nysc

  3. Odufa

    November 24, 2016 at 10:37 am

    In addition, if you still want to offer help, your beneficiary should be kept at arms and legs length put together, else they will invade your source and leave you stranded. Not every of these needy people are needy, some are like the famous roaring lion going about looking for whom to devour. Instead of giving a lift you can pay the Tfare.

  4. Sai sai

    November 24, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Even the bible says that the heart of man is desperately wicked..till this day i live by the mantra ‘you only know of yourself’..i am alwayz scared to render help to people who come begging for alms simply because of the fetish stories i have heard all my life whild growing up in Nigeria, one of them is “if you give money to a destitute on the street, they will take your money to the coven and sapp away your destiny’..Okay!
    That was how i helped a lady with some money when i worked in the bank to deal with domestic issues..The next time she came demanding! Talk about ‘Stage 3 of Entitlement disease’, when i politely declined, she began to beg all the customers to beg me for her sakes..Cut the long story short, i was severly cautioned by the branch manager and narrowly escaped query letter..
    These days i only render help when i am led!

  5. Valentina

    November 24, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    my case is a little bit different. So i wanted to transfer some money to a stranded friend but I had just relocated to a new state for school, i decided to try using the ATM, on getting there i asked someone for help and he instead gave me a code to dial through my phone which was a lot faster and really helped me . i gladly went back to my hostel, that same night a friend of mine also wanted to transfer some money for aso ebi and didn’t know her way around town just like me, i helped by sharing the code with her, she tried using it but it didn’t work for her, she then begged me to help her transfer the money through my own account, then she would withdraw the money and pay me back ,i agreed and did just that and she paid me cash. Now, this same “friend ” is now directing her other friends to me saying I should transfer money for them and they would pay me cash, like WTF? because I helped you as a “dear friend ” you’re now directing other people to me? I’m not mother Christmas that transfers money for everyone, haba, let’s stop taking people for granted it’s unfair.

    • eesha

      November 24, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      My dear better start charging for service rendered (service charge for every transfer you do).

  6. Ajibola Amzat

    November 24, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Lola, really I was screaming at you in my head until I read to the point that showed you were safe. Really, I was asking similar question your mum would have asked. “Is Lola a small girl…” I think some do-gooders were not as lucky as you.
    But thinking about it, I realized I have taken similar risk during the period of fuel scarcity. And I have done that several times after. Yet, there was a time I had to refuse a man desperately asking for a lift.
    This is how it happened.
    As I was stepping out of a bank at Ikotun area in Lagos, the man appeared to be crying. I noticed he was a bit dramatic about it. I was less concerned though until he approached me and asked if I was going towards Oshodi, I said yes. He then asked for a lift because he wanted to QUICKLY get to LUTH where his wife was admitted. I looked at the man up and down, then realized he was carrying a black plastic bag. An alarm rang in my head. If you were the type that reads metro pages of Nigerian newspaper everyday like I do, you cannot but have warning alarm ringing in your head at such situation.
    So I decided to test the man. I told him I needed to attend a meeting at Iyana Iba first which may last for an hour. That was like going towards opposite direction. And guess what? The man was willing to go with me. Then I realized he was up to no good. I denied his request and drove off.

    So my dear GY, you may need to do some due diligence before you admit a stranger into your car . You may not be lucky the next time. And one moment of tragic experience is enough for one to throw away certain humanitarian value. Stay safe, my lady.

  7. OA

    November 25, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Sorry, I have learned and like someone above said, only do it if led. This also goes to the pastors asking for money in church. If not led, I am not giving a dime. Thank God my church is not like that, but then we have some visiting pastors who just overdo things at times, but I digress.
    I have learned that “ore soro se.” Ahn-ahn! Not that I am evil, but I used to be one of those, before they ask, I have given. Now, I have become hardened. In September, while in Lagos, I had to go and see someone at Sabo Market. The driver had just found a juicy spot to park when one lady just traversed the road like a ballerina with a baby strapped to her back, and splatted her face and hands against the car window. I was like WTH, where did she come from? Soright, I could deal with that till I sparingly rolled the window down and asked “Yes, how can I help you?” Her response was: “I want to see you, Ma!” This triggered a puzzled look on my face followed by a “I don’t know you, what do you want to see me for?” She replied, “I don’t know you too-oo, but I want to see you!” I just rolled up the glass and ignored her. She then came to the safer side of the car and balanced herself there. When the person I wanted to see was ready for me, I just got out of the car and left her there. It wasn’t even the “I don’t know you too” that annoyed me, but it was the way she said it. It was almost like “please don’t waste my time jare!” I asked the driver “se o fi nkan se nu ba mi so oro ni?” (Did she use jazz to talk to me?”) Iranu! She was one fine-ish curvy babe too. Certainly did not look like she was lacking anything.

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