Fuck the police!
I say it again, FUCK THE POLICE!!
I’m not Dr. Dre. I’m not Ice Cube or Tupac Shakur. Neither I am negatively influenced by rap music. I’m just a simple guy, a law abiding citizen of Nigeria who got caught in an unfortunate situation.
My name is Ben. 13th of October marks the second anniversary of the day I lost my friend at the hands of the corrupt and incompetent lot we call the Nigerian Police Force, and in order to commemorate it, I have decided to tell my story.
I have kept the ordeal I faced at the hands of these trigger-happy buffoons within me this long because I’m still in shock when I realize just how close I got to joining my ancestors in the afterlife.
Two years ago, I was just a regular graduate, self-employed and trying to eke out a living for myself in the harsh economic climate of Nigeria. I was not a Yahoo-boy, neither was I an armed robber or a kidnapper. I was just a web designer; a skill I learned which was totally outside my course of study considering the fact that I studied Political Science.
Business was good. In fact, at the time it was so good that I had just managed to buy a car after a series of jobs that paid well. I bought a Toyota Camry to convey me from place to place as the demand for my skill was high. Things were looking so good that I decided that perhaps, I didn’t need to be employed by anybody. All I just needed to do was form my own company.
My fellow compadres in the struggle were glad about my new acquisition and in our usual manner as guys, we were going to “wash” it. We picked one of the popular open bars in Benin where I resided at the time. We could have gone to somewhere classier but the typical Benin-bred boy loves to hold such outings in places where beer is sold at “pump-price”.
And so the drinking began. It was just me, Efe, Tobore and Anthony. We were all graduates of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and no, we were not cultists! Efe was a Second Class Upper graduate of Electrical Engineering, a real intelligent fellow and one who had high hopes about a Shell interview he just did. Tobore was a straight-up “Waffi” boy. He had been a street hustler all his life and who can blame him? His parents died at a very young age and he practically sponsored himself through university.
Anthony on the other hand, was the “butti” amongst us. His parents and siblings were all based in the United States of America and only came into Nigeria twice in a year. None of us ever understood why he stubbornly insisted on staying in Nigeria. He successfully managed his father’s water factory and was making good money.
We drank long into the night as we all had great stamina in our alcohol consumption; something that took years to build. When it became obvious to me that the money I had earmarked for the night wasn’t going to “cripple” the “barrels” I had as friends, I decided to quit while I was still ahead.
Anthony wanted us to continue at his expense but by unanimous decision, we decided it was time we head home since we had a wedding to attend in the morning. That was the beginning of our misfortune. No one could ever have guessed that was going to be our last outing as a complete crew.
We hit the road at about 1:30am. It was a Friday night and the road was free and I couldn’t resist the temptation to not speed, within reasonable limits of course, as we were all in high spirits and the virgin engine virtually begged to be “flogged”.
We had just got to the intersection at Five Junction when we noticed that the car that had been trailing us for quite a while had picked up speed and was gaining on us. We thought these were robbers or kidnappers as it was quite a phenomenon at the time so I decided to drive to a densely populated place and by this time, the only logical place was Iyaro. When we got there, we parked by the road side and came down from the vehicle as we all badly needed to take a piss.
The next thing I heard was a screech and I turned in horror to see the fender of my new car crumple before my very eyes. I was stark raving mad! The assailant car was actually a battered blue Toyota Hilux truck. As we hurriedly ended our synchronized urinating session to give these idiots a piece of our mind, we saw three men dressed in black trousers and vests on which was written ‘POLICE’ jump out with guns.
Naturally, we chilled in our demeanor but advanced towards them nonetheless expecting an explanation for this madness.
“Oga, why una bash my…” I never completed the statement as the black ugly face I was approaching in the flash of an eye, crashed the butt of his gun on my face. I was in the process of falling to the floor and blacking out when I saw that my compadres were facing almost the same treatment.
I awoke a few hours later in a dark, slimy, smelly cell, stripped to my boxers and singlet. The smell was an unholy cocktail of ammonia and unwashed bodies that hung in the air like a thick layer of smoke and almost choked the life out of me. My head throbbed seriously and that was when I remembered the butt of the gun crashing on my forehead. My hand instinctively went there as it made contact with the foreign bump, I felt pain that I had never felt before. It was like a sledge hammer had just crashed on my skull. I winced in pain still totally confused as to how I got there. My face was filled with caked blood.
I looked around as my eyes got used to the dimly lit cell. There were about 12 inmates in here. Some were curled in fetal positions, fast asleep while other talked in hushed tones. I saw a guy with sparkling white singlet that had several blood stains sitting on the floor with his back against the wall. As I looked closer, I realized it was Tony. I heaved a sigh of relief as I ignored the crushing pain in my head and crawled towards him.
He seemed lost in thought and didn’t even notice as I crawled towards him until I called his name.
“Tony!” My voice was hoarse and sounded more like a croak in my ears but it got his attention. He looked at me with a certain dullness I had never seen before. His nose was still bleeding but other than that, he looked fine.
He didn’t respond. He just continued to stare at me blankly.
“Where are the others?” I asked in a whisper as I joined him and rested my back against the wall.
He still didn’t respond as he continued to look straight ahead.
“Tony.” I whispered again. “Where is Efe?”
It was then that I saw the tears streaming from his eyes. I had never seen him cry before. As I saw him cry, the hopelessness of our situation suddenly dawned on me and like a baby, I began to cry too.
We cried for quite a while until the tears could come no more. That was when he finally spoke.
“They killed him.” He wailed.
“Killed who?!” I asked in shock, barely believing my ears.
“They shot Efe.”
It was like my heart stop beating for five seconds as it felt like an anchor just dropped on my chest. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t say a word. I just lost track of time.
“Where is Tobore?” I asked after about an hour in my estimation.
“He must have escaped somehow.” Tony said in between sniffs.
I rested my head on the wall and a kind of fatigue overwhelmed me that I fell asleep.
I woke up with a start to see that everywhere had become bright. I saw dirt and the dirty inmates clearly now. Tony was tapping me gently and telling me to wake up. A woman was at the counter yelling at the policemen on duty.
“That’s my Aunty Gertrude!” He said excitedly. “She’ll get us out of here!”
I ignored the pain and rushed to the iron bars to see for myself. I saw the grey haired woman dressed in a long blue native gown ranting and cursing at the top of her voice.
“I want to see my son!” She screamed.
Finally, they allowed her come through.
“Ah Osasere!” She wailed mournfully. “See what they have done to you!”
“They killed my friend!” Tony cried, and somewhere in the recess of my mind, I thought it was a bad dream. I burst into tears realizing that Efe was truly dead.
Some of the inmates rushed to the bar smearing us with their stink as they begged Aunty Getrude for money to buy bread.
“Mummy abeg na. We never chop for five days.” They chorused.
I could tell that Aunty Gertrude was taken aback by the stench emanating from these unwashed bodies. She quickly pulled out a thousand Naira note and gingerly gave it to one of the numerous outstretched hands.
“For all of you.” She said, but they didn’t hear her as a mini riot broke out as everyone of the inmates wanted a piece of that one note. I looked on in amazement until three officers came to the bar and shouted at them.
“Uncle Joe is on his way to the Commissioner’s house as we speak. You will soon be out.” She said, trying to placate us.
My hope soared and suddenly, I couldn’t wait to get out of here. We heard noise at the counter and there and then, I saw my brother, my cousin, seven combat-ready soldiers and Tobore.
“Peter!” I yelled. I have never been happier seeing my elder brother. We haven’t talked for months because of a mild disagreement we had but yet, he was here.
“That’s my brother there!” He shouted angrily, pushing aside the policeman that stood in his way so forcefully that he fell. He was dressed in shorts and a white t-shirt but by his clean shave, I’m sure they could tell that he was a military officer. His military escorts were already doing a good job of pulverizing anything that wore a police uniform. It was total chaos as the inmates suddenly began to cheer as their ‘oppressors’ were given a taste of their own medicine.
The keys to the cell that the policemen had earlier said was with their oga who wouldn’t be back till monday materialized mysteriously and we were free. My brother was so incensed when he saw my face that he took four of the police officers on duty as hostages until they brought the men responsible for our detention and the death of Efe.
I don’t know what became of the brutes who attacked us as I left for Lagos the next day with Efe’s body for his funeral and have never returned. Neither did Tony; he left for America a few weeks after Efe’s burial and I don’t think he’ll ever return. Tobore is now based in Abuja and is doing quite well.
My web design company is doing well too but I’m more interested in politics now which is rather strange. I love the study of Political Science but I’ve never wanted to go anywhere near Nigerian politics as it is a very dirty game; but after deep thoughts as to why things are the way they are in this country, who will duel with the pig if nobody wants to get stained by the mud?
Since a revolution is highly unlikely in this country, the only way to sanitize the system is for young people like me and you who are positively driven to get into government and effect the changes we sorely need since the punks at the helm of affairs are comfortable with the status quo.
Come 2015, I’m going to contest for a seat in my State’s House of Assembly. Tobore and Tony are in full support and have pledged to fund my campaign even if it means liquidating their assets.
Its the least we can do for our friend.
Rest in peace Efe.
*This is a work of fiction.
Malcolm O. Ifi is on twitter @saymalcolm