I recall a particularly rough period in our lives when we were evicted from our house and had to live in an uncompleted building.
Calling the house decrepit would have been a compliment; since there wasn’t any toilet we had to run “shotput” and till today I affirm that that experience scarred me for life.
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Things didn’t stay bad for us forever though, we eventually climbed up the social ladder.
Eventually, we were able to afford a middle-class school and even though we were the poorest kids in the school, I don’t recall ever going to sleep without eating.
We never got gifts or phones or treats from our parents but at least we ate 3 times a day every day.
I never really came to terms with our poverty till we enrolled at the new school. If poverty must die, what can be done to kill it.
Since most of the people that stayed in the hood with us were within the same income bracket I never saw real money till I resumed in the school.
There’s this awe that comes over you when you see a kid spend your father’s monthly salary in one sitting.
Kids were buying brand new phones for their girlfriends, going for parties every night and trying their best to live their lives to the fullest.
I made up my mind to get money, either rough or not, no matter what it costs me. I threw my home training out of the window and arranged a meeting with one of the richer area boys in my area.
Johnny was well known in my area; a giant with a scowl that made grown men pee their pants.
His mother was a famous loose girl who later got knocked up by a guy that was uninterested in raising a child with her.
He left her the next day after she told him she was pregnant. Johnny’s mother left him with her own mother as soon as he was born and went to look for greener pastures.
In her defense Johnny’s grandmother tried everything possible to raise the boy right, she believed the child was her second chance at being a mother since she failed at the first one.
Unfortunately for her, the fates had decided the path the child would take in life. He started stealing at age eight.
Nothing serious, just petty theft-a wallet here, a phone here, a television there.
By the time he was ten he already had a reputation in the hood as a truant; eventually, he caught the attention of the older goons in our area and had the privilege of being the youngest cultist our hood ever produced at the young age of 12.
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At 18 he was into everything-drugs, kidnapping, election rigging, theft etc.; Johnny was a certified hustler with stone for a heart. He had only one weakness, his ego.
Massage his pride and you could get him to do anything you wanted. Johnny could kill a newborn baby if it increased his street credibility.
He was very sensitive about his mother and her past and was determined to obliterate that past by being the biggest gangster in our city.
The way he saw it, the only way to wipe away his mother’s deeds were with extraordinary deeds of his own and so once you praised his accomplishments or admired his fierceness out loud you could have him eating from your hand.
I went to Johnny’s house-a well-furnished duplex; the second I saw his house and cars there was no longer any iota of doubt in my mind about the step I was about to take.
Here before my eyes was proof that crime pays and I was ready to do whatever it took to make money or at least I thought I was.
Our community wasn’t a small one but us poor folk managed to know each other; if not by name then by the parent’s name, or the name of a sibling, or the occupation the person was engaged in or the compound the person stayed in.
It was not uncommon to hear phrases like “the
What he didn’t understand, however, was why I came to see him since I had a reputation in the hood for “acting holy” as they called it.
After greeting him I expressed admiration for what he accomplished on his own in such a little time, that was all that was needed actually but I decided to go for gold when I told him I wanted him to mentor me
Johnny was ecstatic, he was trying very hard to hide his excitement and failing miserably.
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After I was done with my pitch he started his; talking about how he has admired my brilliance from afar and how coming to meet him cemented the high opinion he already had of me.
Long story short, I became a gangster in training at the age of 14 that day.
My parents were surprised when I told them I was having a sleepover with a friend in school because everybody knew that I didn’t have friends but since I had already established my reputation as the responsible child they didn’t think twice before giving me the go ahead.
The first crime I ever committed was a stick-up. I was amazed at how easy everything was, we hid in the bushes and abandoned buildings on a lonely street in one of the more expensive areas in our city.
Soon as our victim reached a certain bend in the road where he/she wasn’t visible from the junction we sprang out and surrounded him/her.
We were 4 in number-myself, Johnny and two of his friends. After the initial screaming, we were always able to calm down by the victim by displaying our knives.
Johnny didn’t think the job was serious enough to warrant bringing a gun out and so he got me a silver dagger after allowing me to practice concealing and removing a dagger with his own.
The moonlight reflecting off our blades was enough to ensure the compliance of the victim. We’d collect their phones, any cash they had on them and jewelry.
After 3 hours of hard work, we decided to retire for the night. Back at Johnny’s place we took stock of our earnings for the night and discovered we had 128k, 15 phones, and 8 wristwatches.
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Johnny and his friends said the money was chicken change to them so they let me have it while they selected new phones and wristwatches for themselves from the loot.
I couldn’t sleep that night, Johnny fixed a room for me in his house and despite the heavy meal of eba and properly garnished vegetable soup prepared by one of Johnny’s girls and the chilled air-conditioned room that I was in my eyes were wide open.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how easy it was to make the money. What was I going to do with 128k? It felt like 1 million to me. I couldn’t wait to go to school the next week.
Now matter what, Poverty Must DIE, continue in Episode 3
Written By Leon Chuks