Ibere Ugochukwu, a gala hawker, who hugged the limelight recently for giving all his goods to prisoners in Lagos State, has revealed that he was moved to the compassionate act because he was once a prisoner.
Last month, Ugochukwu’s story went viral for his act of kindness that was witnessed by a commuter. Despite being a hustler on the streets of Lagos, he decided to render help to some prisoners. The prisoners were being transported in a Nigeria Prison Force van heading to Ikoyi Prison but were stuck in traffic.
As usual, the prisoners stretched out their hands through the tiny holes by the sides of the van and the hawker’s next action surprised everyone. He took the Gala he was selling and began distributing to the prisoners for free. When the van began moving, he dropped his basket by the side of the road, grabbed a handful of Gala and ran after them to make sure everyone got a share.
The Humans of New York, an online platform known for sharing inspiring posts, caught up with him and he shared his story with Brandon Stanton, who visited Lagos. He revealed that he was once a prisoner who was sent to prison by a wicked boss.
In an inspirational post on his Instagram page, Stanton shared Ugochukwu’s story. “A few years ago, I worked as an apprentice in a cosmetics shop. I was supposed to receive a payment at the end of my term. But I was warned by other employees that the owner would find a reason not to pay me. He’d always invent reasons to fire his boys right before their payment. So I made the decision to quit. But when I told him, he dragged me to the police. He told them lies about me.
“He told them I’d stolen so much money. And they tortured me. They tied my hands and legs and they hung me from the ceiling. They beat me. I went deaf from all the slaps. For 10 days I was given no food. My fellow prisoners would share little bits of their meals when they were finished. But some days I saw nothing.
“Honestly I was about to die. And I started to pray to God. And on the 10th day, the guards decided that it would cause too much trouble to let me die. They told my employer: ‘After what we did to him, he must be innocent. Because he’d have confessed if he was guilty.’ They released me into the world like a madman. And I’ve carried the memory ever since.
“I promised myself that if I ever found someone in a similar situation, I would help. So when I learned that prisoners pass down this road, I chose to hawk in this location. I waited until I finally saw the truck, and I pushed all my food through the bars. My fellow vendors couldn’t believe it. They asked me who would pay me for the food. I told them: ‘I didn’t do it for any man. I did it because of what God did for me.”