Not so long ago, in the city of Lagos, in the bustling streets of Ikorodu, there lived an old beggar. But unlike other beggars, he was odd. Why?
Everytime he was given a thing, he would reply… “You’ve done it for yourself.” This amused a lot of people who often gave him sums of money to hear him repeat the phrase… You’ve done it for yourself.
And so it went for a long, long time.
Eventually a rich Chief named Ladipo started building a house not to far from where the old beggar often sat. As is the way when funds are more than sufficient, he was soon done and moved in.
One day on a leisurely stroll, he chanced upon the blind beggar. Dipping his hand into his pocket, he pulled out a crisp thousand naira note and put it in the begging bowl. The old beggar smiled, his gums almost devoid of teeth and intoned. “You’ve done it for yourself.”
Puzzled, Chief Ladipo walked off, scratching his head as he went.
As months passed, Chief Ladipo visited the old beggar several times and always got the same answer when he dropped his alms.
“You’ve done it for yourself”
Gradually, Chief Ladipo began to be annoyed with the beggar. What insolence. He had given out enough to sustain him for at least a year, and every time he went did he get thanks? No! Just that stupid, senseless mumble. So he took it to himself to punish this beggar.
So he got into his car, and was driving to Ahmed’s house so they could together, plan a befitting punishment for the beggar, and then he noticed a crowd. His curiosity piqued, he came down from his car, went closer. He discovered it was a fulani snake-charmer, surrounded by a dozen calabashes. One of which was open. As he watched, the man took out a flute and began to play. A snake slid halfway out, and danced even as the melodious notes poured out of the flute, washing over the ears of all present like rushing water over stones in a stream. As the crowd watched, he made it do several amazing twists and turns, and the snake danced on seemingly hypnotized by his flute.
Chief Ladipo watched, enthralled. Eventually the show ended, and as the man gathered his charges, he approached him and offered a sizable amount for one of the calabashes. The snake charmer amiably agreed to sell it, but first warned him that the snake was very dangerous. And showed him the cobra coiled inside. After instructing him on it’s feeding habits, he gave Chief Ladipo a flute of his own, set the lid firmly on the calabash and bid him goodbye.
On getting home, he sent for the old beggar and gave him the calabash, without warning him of it’s contents, and then sent him on his way. Chuckling, his mind full of malicious intent, he went off to the balcony to observe what he was sure would be the quick demise of the old fool.
Not too far from Chief Ladipo’s gate, Chief Ladipo’s only child Yetunde was coming back from school, she had just dropped from a taxi and she saw the old beggar coming out of the gate. Being a spoilt, naughty child, she accosted the beggar and roughly demanded to see the contents of the calabash that he had “stolen from them.”
The old beggar feebly protested that it was a gift from her father to him and as such, he should be allowed the right to open it as his leisure and in private, but Yetunde would have none of it. As they jostled, she forced the cover open and… and… The snake within lashed out, lightning quick and bit her on the hand, before slithering away into the bushes nearby.
Chief Ladipo cried out in horror from his vantage point on the balcony and rushed downstairs. Grabbing his key, he got into his car, with the help of his gate man and the beggar, got her in and zoomed off to the hospital.
Before they got there, the Chief became childless. Yetunde was gone.
As he sat destitute, abandoned and shedding hot tears of deep sorrow, Ladipo remembered
“Whatever you do unto others, Lying with her, eyes closed, hands folded over his chest and as dead as a doornail, was the undertaker himself. You’ve done it for yourself.”