By Lawrence Enyoghasu
Kleptomania! The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines it as “a mental illness in which you have a desire to steal things.” It defines kleptomaniac as “someone suffering from kleptomania.” Until this reporter recently ran into a young man called Olakunke Olabamidele but fondly nicknamed Bansi, those words existed only in statute books, in dictionaries.
But it took a face-to-face encounter with him to prove that the phenomenon is real. And, right now he is seeking a way out of his compulsive desire to steal people’s money, food, and property, whether he needs them or not. The average height dark-complexioned Lagosian is an orphan who grew up in an orphanage in Ejigbo, Lagos.
From his birth, he has been unfortunate. He was reportedly dropped at the orphanage at the age of four. Initially, he shared a bed with total strangers but they later became friends. But unfortunately, he was sent out of the place at the age of 14 when he started exhibiting some bad character traits including compulsive stealing. Thereafter, he took to sleeping in unfinished buildings. He did that for years before he was accommodated by a good Samaritan.
How he started stealing
Narrating his story, Bansi said that he has been on the street all his life, and right now, he knows no other way to survive but to steal. And, he claims to get back his senses only after doing so. He added that even when he has some money on him that can last for weeks or months, he seems to be afflicted with the urge to just go on stealing people’s valuables whether he has a need for them or not.
Giving some insights into his condition, he said that it all began as a joke. “Initially, I could comfortably steal from people without stress,” he said. “It was fun and exciting when I was young. My friends would call me into their homes and ask me to steal something for them. It was really fun then. There was a time I was charging them for the service. I got paid for a while because most times what they want to steal might not be feasible. It might be a key to a door or a safe.”
But from there the instinct developed into a full-blown criminal tendency when he became a pickpocket. His hunting grounds were mostly football pitches and shops. According to his narrative, he terrorized Jakande Estate, Lagos, for a while before he was identified.
“After my secondary school education, I became something else,” he confessed. “I first worked as a conductor. But I stopped the work when I fell off the bus and almost lost my leg. I didn’t have money. So I started running errands for people. That gave me access to their homes to steal from them. There was a day I stole food from a woman who had just served her husband. After eating it, I dropped the plates for them at their gate. I had money on me to buy food that day if I wanted to but something in me urged me to steal the food. I am sure that if I had asked the woman she most gladly would have given me some food to eat. But I didn’t. Instead, I chose to steal it. I felt bad and was remorseful. That was why I dropped the plate outside their gate. They knew it was me but could not say it. The woman just stopped sending me on an errand and that was how I missed that source of income.”
He expresses a desire for deliverance
Now the situation is so bad that in the past two months, he has been caught five times for stealing. The last one was when he entered a club in Ijegun to steal its snooker board cue ball (the white ball used in the snooker game). He was caught and beaten so badly that his head began to ooze blood from all corners. Before then, he had jumped into a school compound close to a mini-pitch to steal their fans
“Immediately I was caught I remembered that it was my secondary school that I had robbed,’ he revealed. “I returned the fans even after I was released. My situation is so bad that I steal things that I might not need. When I see something to steal, it gives me joy. It is after stealing them that I would feel some remorse. Give me an object to steal and you will see me happy. It will be like another spirit has entered into me. You will see my face brightened up. But some minutes after committing the crime, I would feel awful and remorseful.”
Weeping, Bansi wished he could have a solution to his problem. He added that he is ready to stop but needs help. “I believe I can stop it, if only I can have the desired help.” Looking into the reporter’s eyes, he said: “You don’t know how it feels to be tagged a petty thief and be shamed for stealing something you can afford. I have been stripped to my pants for stealing a Nokia phone. It was the most humiliating experience of my life but still, that didn’t stop me. I feel the joy to steal is beyond my control.”