In ’05, I had just got back from Uni, I called my friend to inform him I was around. We used to hang out every day before we got admission into different schools, so we were eager to meet up and trade our stories and experience at our different schools. He stopped by, we hung out, talked and did some catching up until it was time for him to go. I decided to walk him down to my junction so he can board an okada to his house.
Just as we stood at the junction waiting for any available okada to board, pandemonium broke out and people started to run, now this was Port-Harcourt in ’05, when the city was embroiled in cult wars, militancy, kidnappings, and political assassinations and my neighbourhood, Diobu was the melting pot for all these baneful activities.
So naturally when you see people run, it’s usually from the perpetrators of those activities so you run even faster, you try to outrun the people in front of you and hope they shield you from the stray bullets that will be inevitably sprayed. Or it was the Police carrying out a raid.
On this day it was the Police. The dreaded Team 6, they were specially trained to combat the menacing increase in criminal activities and they operated with impunity. For some strange reason we didn’t run, I don’t know why but we didn’t, I guess we figured our new status as Nigerian Uni students who were Aluta driven, we didn’t need to run, plus we were armed with our ID cards for proof that we weren’t criminals. We were solid, or so we thought, all that changed rather quickly. I’ve always known Voom better pass statement formula, I’ve always practiced it fervently, but today I was deaf to the voice of reason. Boy did I regret it? I paid dearly for it too..literally.
They slowly pulled up in front of us, hopped out, their boots stomping the hard ground angrily and with no questions asked, they dragged us to their truck. My friend tried to resist, ‘’I’m a student’’ he shouted brandishing his ID, and in a flash it started raining slaps on him. I believe they were angry we stood our ground whilst others ran. How dare us? I took a cue and gave myself brain,I quickly dropped the Aluta disposition, no need to make it rain slaps on me too. My school was very far, nobody would know. I humbly let myself be dragged and loaded like a piece of cargo unto the truck.
They slapped the ‘’federal bangles’’ on our wrists, and drove off. They drove around and picked up unsuspecting hapless people, mostly young guys. This was purely a case of random selection there was no method to it, they arrested guys that were coming back from work, and from church, guys that were just sitting in a bar having drinks, a girl and her boyfriend were standing by the road, probably waiting for an okada like me and my friend were, they just stopped and shoved the boyfriend roughly into the truck drove off leaving his girlfriend standing there obviously perplexed.
When people saw the Police truck approaching, they broke out, into a weird combination of marathon and huddle races, at least that’s what it looked like. It was funny and frustrating to watch at the same time. When the police men ran out of ‘’federal bangles’’, they resorted to tying people with their shirts. They ‘’hijacked’’ a taxi and crammed people into it to deal with the excess cargo.
When we finally got to the station, I was relieved to see my mother and my neighbour there, some one had seen us getting arrested and was kind enough to inform her. I knew we would make bail and the thought of not sleeping in a crowded holding cell filled my heart with joy. I’ve heard horrendous stories and I did not want to experience any of my own, I wanted to just stick to hearing them. We were however forced into the cell while my mother negotiated bail. They did it to instil fear in my mother and to spike the bail money.
My friend earned a couple more slaps inside the holding cell, some inmates tried to ‘’tap’’ his pockets as it is customary to be searched on entry to a cell and all monies in your possession be confiscated and remitted to the cell Presido .Once again I took another cue from my friend’s misfortune and proceeded to quickly hand all the money I had to the guys that were searching us. I didn’t make it this far to get slapped abeg, I intended to end this saga slap free and I did. My poor friend was an unlucky fellow. We made bail went home and we met up the next day and laughed about the whole incident.
I managed to evade the police for a long time by staying away from crime and criminals, but mostly by fervently practicing the ever reliable ‘’voom better pass statement’’ formula.