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    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN (The B.O. Okoji Experiences: Episode 9)

I stood in the dark, dingy cell – a tiny space that was drenched with the smell of urine, foul air and sweaty bodies – and I was clad in my native trousers, which was turned inside out with my singlet. I could hear one of the suspects preaching the word of God in a thin soft voice. I looked out through the single window that faced the outside, while rubbing my left cheek. It still stung from the hot slap I got earlier from the aboki Mopol. I squinted at the stars dotting the night sky, tried counting them, anything to take my mind off my predicament. I had being brought in and detained along with nineteen others, all of us so-called suspects. The arrest had been swift, and I felt my mind beset with bewilderment over how I landed myself in this mess.

EARLIER ON . . .

A purported robbery had taken place forty five minutes earlier in my neighbourhood. The word on the street was that a top government official of Lagos State had being robbed and shot at gunpoint. The man had been a regular nocturnal visitor of a brown duplex down the road occupied by a mulatto chick, obviously his mistress. As a result of the violent act, the OP MESA and NPF security operatives were out in full force, sweeping down on my area and picking questionable characters from the streets. There was no room for explanations or ‘Abeg officer…’ or any cause to identify oneself as the arrests were made.

That Friday had been its usual casual, dress-down day at work. However, by noon, I started feeling feverish. I declined oga’s directive to go home and rest. I had my reasons; because it was Friday, the local mosque in my area would be having the Jumat service, and the noise from their speakers was capable of worsening my precarious health condition. I decided that on my way home, I would get malaria drugs from the nearby pharmacy.

Curled up in my seat, I glanced through certain files and law reports to take my mind off the thoughts about my health. Suddenly feeling pressed, I got up and made to go to the gents from my cubicle. I was suddenly struck by a wave of dizziness and I tripped and tottered to the ground. My mortification was complete as colleagues rushed to my side.

“Berthram, what’s wrong with you . . .?”

“Your temperature is high o. . .”

“You might be having fever. . .”

“Eiyaa, your glasses even broke o, Berty,” someone said, handing me the damaged spectacles, as I was helped to my feet.

I stifled the agitation that mounted on top my mortification. With my glasses broken, my poor eyesight was going to be a bit of a problem for me. I could barely make out what was in front of me without my glasses. And I couldn’t do anything about it until the following Monday, when I would be able to get it fixed at the optician’s.

The hours sped by after that incident, and soon closing time came upon us. I left the office amidst the hustle and chatter of my colleagues who were all making plans for the weekend. I was feeling too ill to focus on what the weekend had in store for me. By the time I got to the bus stop close to my area, the evening had stretched its gloomy blanket across the sky, and lights winked at me through windows and doors and verandahs. I stopped by the pharmacy and purchased my drugs.

As I walked home, I couldn’t help noticing how unusually quiet and calm my neighbourhood was. That was strange for a Friday night in an area that had joints and kiosks littered here and there. I couldn’t be bothered though to enquire from any familiar face I passed on the road as to the reason why this was so. My head was pounding and my body aching too much for me to concern myself with anything other than getting home and getting some rest. I pushed on toward home, squinting hard with eyes rendered useless without my glasses.

And just then, a harsh, bright halogen light from a torch was turned on in my face, sufficiently blinding me. Provoked by the thoughtless action and spurred by the irritation I’d been feeling all day, I snapped, “Who is this idiot that’s shining that torch in my face?! Are you mad? Comot that light from my face, my friend –!”

Before I was done fuming – SAWAAAAM! – I received an anointing in the form of a ringing slap on my left cheek.

It was followed by a gruffly-uttered “Na your fada you dey curse, idiot!”

I heard the sound of a gun getting cocked. And the same voice growled, “Wallai! Just try run, I go blow-scatter your head for here sharp-sharp! Sarge, we don cash one of dem for hia o!”

My head was reeling, and confusion swamped inside me. What was going on? Who were these people? Armed robbers, robbing this early in the evening? Nawa o, nothing wey person no go see for this Lagos.

Before I could give voice to my bewilderment, I was violently shoved to the ground.

“If I hear one word from you bah, I wii kiiii you yan’zunan!” This came from a snarling voice that had a strong Hausa intonation speak.

I chanced a look upward, and squinted hard to make out my environment. I saw a Toyota Hilux van drive by, with people huddled together in it. The van bore the inscription, ‘OP MESA’. I looked to my other side to see another similar vehicle parked nearby. A bright light from another torch hit my face. I flinched away from it, lifting a hand to cover my face.

“Kai nyamiri! You no dey pear worh bah?” The Hausa guy thundered. “I will blow your bloody brains out! Comon hands up! Shehgeh!” He was stomping toward me.

“No vex! No vex, officer!” I hollered. “I am sorry, sir!”

He stopped, hissed and gave orders that ‘we’ be loaded into the van and taken to the station. “You! Oya, hold your fellow criminal by the belt! Hold!

I jejely got to my feet. Someone held me by the belt, while the light of the torch directed me to the next person. We were quickly bundled into a waiting KAI truck and driven to the Police Command. Minutes later, I was thrown inside the cell.

I could not believe what was happening to me. I had suddenly been reduced to nothing. I couldn’t exercise my legal higgi-hagga or legalous swagger that had, in former times, played a role in securing freedom for detainees/criminals. I had been ‘Tafar’ed’ and humbled. Miraculously, my temperature hadn’t worsened, but I couldn’t feel my face, and my eyes were swollen from the aftermath of the anointing slap.

And somehow, I managed to pass the night in the stink hole without losing my mind.

The next morning, the sound of loud footsteps approaching the cell was what woke me. A policeman soon came into view. Banging his baton against the cell bars, he roared, “Oya, oya! Make una comot in threes; make una hold the person for your front!”

We were led out into the large parade ground of the State Police Command. Four Hilux vans drove into the compound in a haze of dust. The next few minutes were spent with an exchange of salutes and shouts. Doors banged. Boots stamped on the ground. And orders and cross-orders were fired this way and that.

There was a certain tension in the air, as though they were reacting to some pressure to produce culprits for the crime of the shooting. “No member of the media should be let into the premises until I am done here!” a senior officer barked as he strolled into our full view.

He came to a stop before us and rested a hard stare on us.

He had just opened his mouth to start speaking when I immediately raised my hand and hollered, “Sir – excuse me, sir! Good morning, sir…”

Someone from behind me slapped my hands down and hissed, “You dey craze?” It was a police officer. The voice sounded like it belonged to the one who harassed me yesterday night. “Area Commander wan talk you dey talk? You don dey mad, abi? If I slap you, eh? Comon shuttup dia!”

But like Zechariah in the bible, I refused to be cowed. I ignored him and shouted louder, “Espirite d’corp, sir! I demand to speak and be heard in the spirit of fair hearing as ascribed in the constitution!”

The silence that greeted my words was complete. I could feel the burning stares of both police and my fellow cellmates. Even the senior officer’s expression had turned from impatience to a wary puzzlement. I could almost hear him thinking what sort of person I was and if I would be any trouble to him and his investigation. He gave a quick wave of his hand, gesturing me to speak.

And speak I did. I spoke of my travails from yesterday, starting from my ill health to my forceful arrest. I let my indignation seep into my words. I fumed a little, not too much, but I let my assertion show. My legalous swagger was finally on display, and there was no quenching the flow of my legal higgi-hagga. I was a Nigerian who knew his rights, and – By God! – I wanted them respected.

By the time I was done, the officer had on a great look of discomfiture, and the glare he stabbed his men with seemed to say: You had to arrest a lawyer, una dey craze?! The man gave my shoulder a condolent pat, all the while offering me his ‘sincerest apologies, on behalf of his men and the NPF.’ He was an ACP in charge of Operations. He asked me to step aside and be taken to his office. My self-satisfaction was complete when he berated the DPO who led the sting operation.

I was checked up at the police clinic and thereafter, had to turn down the ACP’s offer to have me dropped off at home. I just wanted to have this entire episode put behind me. I cared less for the other detainees in the parade ground, and tried not to look in their direction, not to notice their long faces as I made my way out of the compound. Once beyond the gates, I took in a deep breath, letting my relief fill me with the inhalation. And with it came the awareness that in spite of my career as a legal officer, I had finally stepped on the other side of the coin.

Written by B.O. Okojiothers 62

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23 Comments

  1. nik

     /  February 18, 2014

    Oga d law, ayaf missed your episodes well well. Where have you been? Chai so had it been any blogger mistakenly took picture it would have been ‘gunmen who killed senator so so were caught by the police last night, among them was an acclaimed lawyer ……’. Welcome back oga the law nice piece .

    Reply
  2. Gbegbe

     /  February 18, 2014

    Intelligent write up, I like.

    Reply
  3. Oby

     /  February 18, 2014

    Onyii U̶̲̥̅̊ re a very good writer. Keep it up my dear. †ђξ Lord is your strenght.

    Reply
  4. Mixed feeling. First of pity then of pride… I remember we are in a messed up system where anybody could be punished for just anything… Well am glad at the end you got to show them the stuff your made off and it ended galantly. That’s more like it. Every line was filled with suspence and a desire for more… More ink to your pen… This is what I call super duper story… Oga the law!

    Reply
  5. @bertokoji

     /  February 18, 2014

    @nik! Tanks, I flew abroad to recover afta d episode o, just came back into d country. Afta all sum pple fly abroad for checkup on headache. Loooool

    @oby tanks o and Amen.

    @Gbegbe. Appreciate

    Reply
  6. Lisa

     /  February 18, 2014

    Betty Betty I know say one day you go make us proud!!

    Reply
  7. it is sad the shameful, unintelligent and lack lustre conduct of investigations by the law enforcement agents and the blatant and nonchalant manner of trampling on human rights….how dare you raise your weapon to an unarmed man who is not resisting arrest?!..

    I am glad it turned out well…ndo

    Reply
    • @bertokoji

       /  February 18, 2014

      @topazo! Am sure Hon Patrick will green wit Envy wen he reads ur comment. He will feel assaulted on ur English…Looool. Tanks sir

      Reply
  8. Mr. Bert Okoji, so it is you here. Hehehehe. Tuale! You’re a good writer. See me swallowing every line and wanting more even till the end.

    Pele for your experience sha. This police business is a nightmare.

    Again, I enjoyed this. Don’t take another year to write another, biko

    Reply
    • @bertokoji

       /  February 18, 2014

      Learning to be like u pple Ma! Am trying my best to reelout stories o, Real life xperience isn’t easy, moreva I don’t pray for such xperience everyday Ma. Loool

      Reply
  9. Yemie

     /  February 18, 2014

    Jeez! This was one very unfortunate incident, a sob story. Made terribly worse by the state of health you were at the time. What’s it ’bout you and imminent dangers though, Mr Okoji? Glad you’re up and about and may the Good Lord continually keep and preserve you IJN, Amen.

    Sordid tales like this one are rife. How the police will just sweep in on peeps and bundle ’em off to be detained for having done nothing wrong except for being at the right place at the wrong time. And absolutely nothing’s being done to correct this grave anomaly in the system. So many innocent peeps locked away in prisons all over the country for no wrongful doings. Its pretty sad!

    LMAO@ I had been ‘tafar’ ed’ and humbled. This makes for an interesting read, Sir; double thumbs up to you. And Kachi sweetim, you know the deal,
    SKIP! ROTFLMAO!

    Reply
    • I was appalled by the story. And check on it, it was the fact that he was a lawyer and fast-talked his way through that he went scot-free. What about the other detainees who aren’t lawyers and are not well-versed with their rights. They’ll remain under detention for a crime they most probably didn’t commit, arrested by a police force that are much too lazy and incompetent to do its work well.

      Reply
    • @bertokoji

       /  February 18, 2014

      @yemie! Guess it comes all in d line of duty ma’am. Dats Y its an experience dat I pray dat doesn’t happen always

      Reply
    • Kachi

       /  February 19, 2014

      Lols. Comment that I haff read and pass. I wee adjust, don’t worry,I know say talk plenty for ur mouth ni. Just don’t forget to inform me when you start ur blog. :p

      Reply
      • Yemie

         /  February 19, 2014

        Kachi wee not murder pelson with laughter. Thou art very funny and I’ll be sure to let you know if I do decide to start a blog, which I daresay is not in the scheme of things right now, but thanks for the vote of confidence. And before signing off, I say; You’re tha Man and you rock much! Regards! LOL!

  10. @bertokoji

     /  February 18, 2014

    @Oga Walt! Ur guess is as good as mine. But as long as God gots a brothers back, we will continue to Walk Tall init. Tanks boss

    Reply
  11. @bertokoji

     /  February 18, 2014

    @lisa! Hmmmm papilo is taller dan me o, but I will do beta wit my Pen and not d Milk.looool

    Reply
  12. jane

     /  February 19, 2014

    Fabulous! Nice work. A very pathetic experience. It depicts the sorry state of our Police force. A wake up call to all well meaning Nigerians to the pains and sorrows of innocent citizens of our great Nation that are languishing in cell / jail. Berty you will go places. Good structural arrangement. I like the way you started the story. Kudos!

    Reply
    • @bertokoji

       /  February 19, 2014

      Tanks Ma! As long as my ink cruse doesn’t dry up, d Pen will keep writing

      Reply
  13. Jay

     /  February 19, 2014

    Excellent Write up and i dnt want d story 2 end but it had 2 cus u proved 2 dos cops u no eat ur sch fee n u knw ur RIGHT.

    Reply
  14. Thank God for the knowledge of the law, i wished others could have exercised their rights the same way. Nigerian Police Force is just a sorry tale. Well done.

    Reply

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