If you’ve followed this blog over the last couple of years, I feel very humble. If you’ve taken the time to read the stories about my life and my up and down adventures thus far, I’m extremely lucky, so thank you.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts what I do for a living at the moment. For those who don’t know or can’t remember, I’m a care/support worker, helping to look after several gentlemen with very severe learning disabilities. However, this post is not about the gentlemen I help to support, it’s about one of the chaps I occasionally work alongside. His name is Steven (Stevie babe) and he’s not just a working colleague, he’s also a friend.
Steven spent the first 45 years of his life in his native country Nigeria, but he’s lived and worked in England for the last 20 years. When I first started working with him, it actually took him over 6 months to really talk to me properly. All he could muster was a very high pitched “Hello” without any real indication that he wanted to speak to me.
I must admit, when I first heard him speak, I thought he was deliberately making a weird sound with his voice. If you can imagine the British comedian Joe Pasquale’s voice after being smashed in the nuts several times, then you can imagine Steven’s voice! After a couple of months I began to refer to him affectionately as ‘Helium’. He seemed to take my name for him in good spirits because every now and then I would see him try to hide a smile as he ‘Dismissed’ me with a waft of his hand, ordering me to go away.
As I said, after a few months of trying to coax him out of himself with gentle quips, he suddenly warmed to me, unexpectedly telling me I was a nice man and that he knew he could trust me! In fact, after becoming comfortable with me, he often fired back at me by saying, in his helium fuelled voice, tinged with echoes of Nigerian ” You are educated man, yet you clean bottoms for a living”! and then he laughs at me until we laugh together.
I discovered over time that stevie babe is a very private man, rarely talking to anyone at work in the same way that he talks to me, in an open way that reveals his fun loving personality. Over the last couple of years, he has confided in me and told me about his life back in Nigeria and his family, all of whom, apart from his wife still live there. I am only writing the following account because he has given me permission to do so, otherwise I would never break his confidence.
We were sat in the living room, trying to stimulate one of the residents by talking to him when Stevie baby turned his attention to me and started to tell me about his past. We had the television on in the background, mostly for the benefit of the residents. News about Brexit came on and one of the people discussing it mentioned that British democracy was dying. Steven laughed at the comment and said “This man has no idea about democracy”. It was then that he started to talk about his country.
He told me this.
In 1993, he was sat in his house listening to the radio for the results to come through concerning Nigeria’s Presidential election. As the news came through about the ridiculous win for the party who could never win if the election was not rigged, he knew trouble would quickly follow. Steven explained as he turned his radio off, he could hear running and shouting out on the streets. He walked to the open door of his house and was met by his neighbour who asked if he had heard the result? When Steven replied with yes, his neighbour urged him to pack his things because “They will come”.
Steven went back into his house and heard guns being fired and people screaming in the distance. Steven told me that he had only just started to throw clothes into a bag when his window shattered and three armed militia came into his house and started to beat him with their rifles. He told me he didn’t think they were going to stop beating him, but they did. They ordered him to stand up, and as he struggled to his feet, all three of them jabbed the barrels of their rifles into his face and told him to beg for his life.
I didn’t know what to say to him until he said he begged them not to kill him. When I replied that I didn’t blame him for wanting to live, he nodded and said they hit him in the face several times and dragged him out into the street, where they forced him to get into the back of an open top truck. He explained there was nowhere for him to lay down because the truck was full of dead bodies and people who were in a similar state to him, bleeding from their wounds. He laid ontop of a dead body and waited for a bullet to end his life.
The bullet never came.
The truck was driven for hours until it stopped outside a township that he didn’t recognise, partly because blood was still pouring into his eyes.
He said for some reason he was dragged onto the dirt road, along with the other survivors and the truck drove away, leaving them alone, but alive.
Steven hasn’t explain to me yet how he made his way back to his home town, but when he arrived, most of his friends and neighbours had died in the carnage or had left everything behind them to survive. His father and brothers somehow survived, and it was from that moment that Steven thought about why he was allowed to live. He put it down to devine intervention.
His struggles went on for years after that ordeal until he came to England.
Ever since that day, Steven has believed completely in God. He doesn’t preach to anyone, but he believes in the existence of God. Maybe if I had been in that nightmare situation and survived it, I would have believed that someone or something was on my side, I don’t know.
He knows I have no faith or no religious belief and he accepts it, and I also accept that his belief is something real to him because I realise it gives his life meaning.
At times, he’s starts to talk to me about god and jesus but I gently remind him that I don’t believe in anything like that and playfully cover my ears with my hands and loudly hum a tune. He laughs with me and tells me he wants to save me from going to hell, to which I reply “I’m already unsavable, so save your breath and make us a cup of tea”! We laugh and he gives up.
If only he could make a decent cuppa.
Seriously, when he told me about his life, I realised that my life and the trials I have faced are nothing in comparison to his life.
I like him, I like his unbeatable spirit and the hope that burns in his eyes.
I’m proud to call him my friend.