The second police experience happened some four years later, I was back home again, in my ‘’hood’’ in ’09. Our transformer ‘’blew’’, the only way to charge our phones was to go to the ‘’barbing saloon’’ at the street corner. Usually we left our phones there in the shop, and we would return later to collect them. In a neighbourhood like mine where ‘’palming’’ was a norm, you may return to meet just the power chord if the ‘’palmist’’ get small joy. On this day, I was in the ‘’barbing saloon’’ charging my phone, the barber was kind enough to entertain us with a martial arts movie, his speakers were blaring, we were all engrossed in the movie aloof of the happenings outside outside his shop.
The door of the ‘‘barbing saloon’’ that was halfway shut, now slid open, some policemen walked in and ordered us out. ‘’oya alele, make una stand up go outside, if you like run, I go just shoot you’’ several rifles were cocked to buttress the threat. In a single file we were goaded into a waiting bus, one guy tried to break the line to go get his phone from the shop and he got a combo of kicks and slaps that set him right. We filed like ants into the waiting bus. I was still oblivious of what was happening. I thought about the almighty ”voom is better than statement” formula. But the Policeman’s threat didn’t seem like a hollow one.
I peered through the window to get a glimpse and hopefully grasp what was happening. I noticed the street was deserted save for the few motorists that were plying through and the petty traders who were hastily parking their wares, the motorists also had the same confused look I had. Broken bottles littered the street. I looked at the other side and I saw a small group of people, I recognized them, they were tenants of the compound opposite the barber shop. The compound had just been robbed I figured. One small group of tenants were talking to the police, the other group formed a small circle and were talking and gesturing, I saw one man form a gun with his fingers. Another lady was seated at the far corner ,visibly distraught and disoriented, she kept re-adjusting her perpetually loose wrapper, smacking her lips and cursing at the ground. One policeman walked to a young boy helping his mother pack and quizzed him, next thing; he grabs him by the belt and hauls him towards the bus that we were in. He was forced to let the young boy go when his mother created a scene and the other police officers intervened.
When we arrived the mile 1 Diobu police station, the bus was unloaded, we were made to ‘’lap’’ each other to accommodate all of us that were arrested. As soon as we got to the police station, terms like suspects, criminals, armed robbers flew back and forth, we were ordered to empty or pockets and strip down to our boxer shorts. They handed us plastic bags to put our clothes and belongings into them and they taped our names to them.
They crammed us into an already overcrowded holding cell, first thing that gets to you is the heat, then the smell kicks in. The cell reeked of stale urine, sweat and faeces. The cell was dimly lit, the only source of light and fresh air was from the locked gate behind the counter. The two small windows were incompetent, the light didn’t even make it all the way in. Every other corner was dark, making it impossible to know the actual size of the cell at first. The walls and floors were irritatingly sticky. I noticed there were a lot of legs, people rarely moved, space was like gold, it took me a while but I found a spot to stand, I stood a long time, there was no way I was going to sit or lie down in that filth, I would have to shed my skin when I got out.
Needless to say, time crawled, the morning didn’t come quickly, and I stood until my legs were weak, then I squatted and then I went back to standing. My thigh muscles were gone, I was in dire need of a deep clean fresh breath, devoid of all the noxious fumes in the cell, I needed some sleep too.
Salvation came by way of my father, he brought his friend who knew the DPO and they paid for my bail. After retrieving my belongings, I managed to walked to the car albeit great difficulty. As soon as I got home, I boiled some water, barely mixed it, I wanted it to be scathing and then I went on to have the longest and most rigorous bath of my life, I ate some food and slipped into deep slumber that had the semblance of a coma.