The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality-Dante Alighieri
He felt Conflicted, a way he hadn’t felt since the night the Knicks played the Clippers-being a Knicks’ man all his life, he couldn’t decide between supporting his team or Chris Paul, his favourite player in the NBA. The events that led up to his having to make a decision tonight would have been funny if it weren’t so serious. For you to understand this a little, let me tell you a little story about this young man.
From the time Ahmed was 16, he knew what it was to be a man. He’d lost his father at a pretty young age, so he’d learnt how to shoulder the responsibilities of his family. Inches from abject penury, he had worked extremely hard to pull himself and his family from it’s jaws. As the Universe would have it, he was able to go school, graduate and finally get a job with one of those organization that deal directly with flood victims. Over the years, he rose through the ranks to become the assistant director of “The Relief of Flood Victims Program”. Now a successful young man in his late 20s, he was proud of his achievements and hoped to accomplish more in future. So you can imagine his dilemma when he stumbled on an information involving his best friend-whoever said ignorance was bliss knew what the hell he was talking about.
Ahmed and Tarila had been friends for about 10 years. Ahmed thought Tarila was the kindest person he had ever come across, a virtue that made him cultivate a friendship with him in the first place. So, it was only natural that when a spot opened up at the centre for an accountant, he recommended Tarila. Ahmed liked working with his friend, it is not everyday you have someone who subscribes to your ideals and principles with you on an almost daily basis. So you can imagine his shock when he was on his way home and the figure “……10 million Naira” filtered to his ears from down the hall. He stopped and doubled back to the office where the voices where coming from. They couldn’t see him but he could hear them clearly.
“Is 10m not too small, we should be aiming for the jackpot now.” Joe said.
Joe was the office prankster, a jovial young man that worked in audit but Ahmed sensed that beneath the jovial exterior was something darker and what he was hearing just confirmed that suspicion.
“We could get into a lot of trouble for this, this is already more than what we usually divert.” A worried Tarila replied.
“Don’t worry about it, there’s no way we can get caught, with you in accounting and me in audit, we make the perfect team.”
“All I’m saying is let’s do the 10m, then next time we can go higher, deal?”
“Okay, we do it your way this time.”
At that point, Ahmed had heard enough, so, he stepped into the room. They both jumped up, startled.
A livid Joe turned to Tarila and said “Thought you said everyone had left?”
“I checked, didn’t know he was still around. How long have you been standing there?” Asked Tarila.
“Long enough. For how long have you guys been doing this?”
“A couple of years now.” Replied Joe. If you want we can bring you in, it won’t be much splitting it 3 ways, but if it would keep you quiet, why not? He continued with a shrug.
Ahmed dismissed him with a fleeting glance and turned to Tarila. “I expected this from any one else but not you, do you know how many lives you’ve ruined by doing this. These people are already suffering for heaven’s sake.”
Tarila kept on looking everywhere but at him.
“You have to say something to the boss tomorrow if not I will.”
“If you truly are my friend, you would not say anything, you will turn a blind eye to this or join up.”
Ahmed turned and left them standing there with no inkling as to what his decision would be.
He drove home that day with a heavy heart and so much thought running in his head- Why was Tarila doing this? How could he have sunk so low as to steal from the already deprived? Was he in so debt that this was the only way he knew how to pay back- taking from Peter to give to Paul? or was it just pure greed? Would reporting him mean I’m a bad friend, but what about those who were meant to receive the money in the first place? Can I really rat him out to satisfy my conscience? Should I just pretend I didn’t know what was going on?- talk about the devil and the deep blue sea.
Like I said he was conflicted. He couldn’t sleep that night, he tossed and turned, counted sheep, paced, he even took a drink, something he hadn’t done in years.
The following day, as he watched Tarila and Joe being hauled away in handcuffs by the men in black, his heart broke a little for the friendship he knew would never be salvaged. He knew he did the right thing but that didn’t stop his heart from aching about it.
Note: We’ve all been in Ahmed’s shoes, at one time or the other….