I wasn’t in the university by 17, unlike many kids today; and it wasn’t for lack of trying.
I was working at a bookshop after failing to pass JAMB twice, or was it thrice.
I was told I was still young and should use the opportunity of being at home to learn about ‘life.’ As if anyone can learn life…even in a lifetime.
Anyway, at the bookshop, I met different types of people in the course of my budding ‘salesmanship’.
I made plenty of mistakes, too; I misjudged people because I was naive and often I saw only the good in everyone.
There was the time a bookshop owner from Ibadan told me a convincing lie.
He begged me to help cover the cost of the books he’d come to buy, promising to pay back the following week.
I gave him some of the little I earned (it was a token but it meant a lot to me), hoping he would truly come back with my money as he promised.
Maybe he will show up tomorrow.
Well, that’s how naïve a normal 17-year-old is; foolish as in my case and in most cases, a poor judge of character.
So, my pain was raw when I saw the obituary of a 17-year-old; handsome looking ruddy lad.
The sad thing is that the life of Emmanuel, the boy in the poster, wasn’t cut short by disease, accident or the system that we so often blame for tragedies such as the one that befell him.
Emmanuel’s young life was nipped in the bud simply because of his naivety.
He trusted the people he called his friends.
Let’s flash back a little.
Why did Emmanuel, a fresh undergraduate of the University of Abuja drown in a pool while his friends stood by and watched him struggle for his life?
Was it that he couldn’t swim?
They said he’d been boasting he could – millions of 17-year-olds do that.
Was he drunk, just like kids these days are wont to, upon experiencing freedom for the first time and so had underestimated the depth of the pool?
Was his drink spiked by his friends, so when he jumped into the pool, they knew he would die?
It does appear premeditated.
But we may never know.
What we do know is that Emmanuel went to a pool party with freshers like himself, kids his age, his buddies who were also perhaps his classmates, and they watched him die.
They offered no help to save him nor called for help.
Emmanuel was said to have paid their gate fees into the pool area, the sum of N6,000 plus his own, making it N8,000.
He probably bought them food as well as drinks, maybe.
We are looking at nothing less than N20,000, give or take.
So, he probably spent in one night what his friends get for a whole semester! This was seen as a crime on his part by the people he was helping.
Another crime was that, despite being the son of a rich man, he was also blessed with good looks and all the girls naturally gravitated to his charm.
So it was very easy to see why Emmanuel was murdered by his friends. In their minds, he would always be one up on them.
They went into the pool area as innocents, minors, 17-year-olds but emerged with blood on their hands.
Emmanuel’s naivety led to his untimely death.
He did not understand the subtle jibes from friends over his looks…he ignored the snide remarks his friends made over the fact that, girls liked him better than them; and the fact that he was from a rich home.
He must have convinced himself that his friends meant no harm, they were just being…well, friends.
But when he began to flay in the pool, arms wildly seeking for something to hold, something to grip and hurl himself out of the water…
When the water entered his lungs and burned like liquid fire and he gulped more than he could spit out…he called out to them, help, help me, I can’t swim…
They think I am joking, he must have thought as he fought wildly against the water’s overpowering force.
His eyes burned, his neck ached; and as he sought to fill his lungs with air, more water poured in.
Once again, he flayed his arms, hoping to get his friends to jump into the pool to save him.
Instead, they watched, whispering among themselves.
Let him die;
he boasts too much;
didn’t he say he could swim?
Let’s be rid of him, he took all the girls we’ve been eyeing;
let him die!
Help never came; the sure hands of friendship he trusted never reached out to hurl him out of the water.
Instead, they watched as he finally stopped struggling.
Satisfied as his body floated above the water, they paused to see if he would move again.
When he didn’t, they went for his clothes, where he had left them in a pile.
They searched his pockets, his phone, wallet, and they took his shoes…and calmly walked out of the pool area, happy that it was past midnight, and that there were no other witnesses to their crime.
Except for the all-seeing-eye of a CCTV camera.