At Santana market, I once lost my purse with a huge sum of money in it. I once bought a Samsung Galaxy phone only to discover later on that it was a China phone that wasn’t even worth one-third of the money I paid. I once paid for over 10 crates of eggs after I broke the whole thing when I mistakenly stumbled on the table they were placed. But none of these can be compare to being wrongly accused of running away after buying tomatoes and fresh pepper on credit. It was the worst experience of all.
I remember that day vividly. From the beautiful pearl embellished pink and white dress that I was wearing, to the roadside sellers who beckoned to me as I walked passed them into the market, to the woman I almost stumbled on while rummaging my bag for my list, to the market woman’s plain over side jumpsuit and tattered hair and lousy makeup. Even the fury in her eyes and the anger in her voice, I remember it all.
It was a Saturday morning. A hot sunny day. I had barely entered the market when she grabbed at me.
“I thought you’ll never come to this market again,” she said, pulling me from where I stood towards where I later learned was her stand. “You must pay me my money today,” she added.
I tried to break free from her grip but she wouldn’t let go.
“What money?” I asked, shooting her my most puzzled look.
“What money?” she asked. “You are acting as if you don’t remember buying tomatoes and fresh pepper from me on credit.”
“Yes, you. I can never forget your face and that day you came here to beg me to sell to you on credit. Tomatoes and fresh pepper worth N5000. You promised to bring the money the following week,” she said, her voice rising with each word. “It’s been over four months,” she screamed.
What?! It sounded so ridiculous I almost laughed. Me? N5000? Tomatoes and fresh what? Is she alright? I have never bought so much tomatoes and fresh pepper in my whole life. The highest amount I have ever bought is N500. This must be a joke. Why is no one laughing?
“Please,” I said as polite as I could, “let go of me. I’m not the one.”
“You’re mad. I should leave you? You better pay me my money before I change my mind.”
“Madam please don’t insult me. I said I am not the one or are you deaf?”
Who told me to ask her that?! She slapped me so hard I thought her hand was made of stone.
“It is your mother that is deaf, you thief,” she fired, pulling me around like a common thief.
Suddenly there were voices from the people around us. They were talking about how wicked I am to want to dupe this poor woman of her hard-earned money.
“Madam, stop lying and pay the money,” one of the voices said.
“How can you be so wicked? Don’t you realize that this is how she feeds her family?” said another.
“She has to sell as much as 5 baskets of tomatoes and fresh pepper to gain N5000 and you just want to steal it just like that.”
“How do you sleep at night?”
“She must have been doing this for long. This cannot be her first.”
“She better pays the money or else we’ll naked her here.”
The jibes from the sea of people that gathered around us were mean and discomfiting. I tried defending myself but no one would listen.
Close to tears and with a painful bloodied eye, I phoned my brother who works opposite the market. He came with a friend and they managed to get the woman to let go of me.
My brother then suggested we go to the police station, but the woman said she was not going. “Police wasn’t there when she bought my tomatoes and fresh pepper on credit. Why should I go to them before I collect my money?”
When my brother insisted we go to the police, the woman went into a hissy fit and started raining abuses on us. Other market women quickly took her side, telling us to pay the money and calling us all sorts. It was an embarrassing moment and my brother was already thinking of paying her the money when she suddenly remembered that her son was there when I supposedly bought the tomatoes and fresh pepper.
She called her son and told him to come to the market asap. “He will be here in 10 minutes,” she said, after the call.
While we waited for her son, my brother and his friend stayed with her and I went to get all that I wanted. By the time I came back, her son was already there. He took one look at me and told the mother there was no way in hell that I was the runaway debtor. He was shocked that the mother had mistaken me for her.
At that moment, I wanted to grab her and pluck out her eyes. But my brother reached for her before I could make a move. He dragged her so hard I thought he was going to contort her waist.
She was saved by the market leader who intervened and apologized to us. She was asked to give me some money to treat my bloodied eye.
I left the market with my brother and his friend.
Whenever I think of that day, I remember the woman and how convinced she was about me being her runaway debtor even when I said I wasn’t. But, it is the voices of the onlookers – who were quick to judge me and call me names, without considering the fact that the woman might have completely mistaken me for someone else – that I remember the most. It is because of people like them that a lot of innocent people are rotting in jail. They believe anything without questioning it. They will support anyone as long as they know him/her irrespective of the fact that he/she might be wrong. They are part of the evil that is in the world.
Have you ever been wrongly accused? How did it happen and how did it make you feel? Kindly share your experience in the comment section below.