Thanks guys for indulging me and reading my first post. The good feedback I received prompted me to do this sequel quicker than I planned. Sit back and enjoy; Setup.
… The screeching tyres, the swift disruption of our movement, the prompt dispersal of the mad traffic, was just like a scene from a Hollywood movie. The armed men in uniform jumped out of the red car and headed in our direction. Not wanting to be caught in any accidental discharge, I advised the bike man that it wasn’t a good idea to attempt any form of escape. I was certain he must have committed some sort of traffic offence and was the target. Then I saw the grubby hands stretching towards me and I was pulled and dragged to the car swiftly. I wondered what was going on, what in the world had I gotten myself involved with? I was dumped in the back seat of the unmarked car, hemmed in between two of my assailants, on my left was one of the men in uniform while the boss, distinct in a brown safari suit, sat at my right.
He was clearly in charge and I saw him make a show of lodging a report via his walkie talkie that the suspect had been arrested. I knew I had to pray, but I just couldn’t form the words. I had no business being here, I had a premonition that something would happen, yet I did not take heed… the pull of the money was too strong. There was no point in praying, I reasoned, if only I had listened to that inner voice.
The driver zoomed off towards Surulere, even before the doors of the car were closed. What is your name? What do you do? Where are you going to? What are you carrying?… The boss reeled off the questions impatiently. I was later to understand that this was a tactic, to occupy my mind and ensure I entertained no silly ideas that could disrupt their plans. I was quick to identify myself as a student, I was in Lagos on holiday and was running an errand. The content of my package was cash… hard currency. Then it dawned on me that I was in real trouble. If I was under arrest, how come no charges had been made? why were they using an unmarked car? I should be worried but I was strangely calm, very calm. They frisked me and stripped me of every valuable… My precious gold plated pen, eye glasses, wallet and of course the priceless package.
I had never fallen foul of the law before now but here I was, confined in this small car with tough looking men. Numbness crept down my legs, the two men that flanked me had immobilized me. Sitting with their knees pressed directly on my thighs, they had impeded blood circulation to my legs. I was in pains, but I bore my burden, carefully avoiding to look at them closely and trying my best to be cooperative. We were somewhere in Ijesha approaching the Oshodi – Apapa expressway, when the man in front brought out a canister that looked like a hand grenade. I panicked, it would have been better to be shot than to be blown up, at least my remains would have retained some level of dignity. I lost my cool and started to plead for mercy. This infuriated the boss and I received some fierce slaps for my efforts. I thought you were reasonable, he bellowed in a gruff voice, don’t let me use this hand cuffs on you, he warned, brandishing the metal cuffs. That was enough to knock some sense into me, the situation was already bad enough as it were and I didn’t want to aggravate it.
The man with the canister poured the seed-like contents on my hair and I was pushed out of the moving car as they joined the expressway and sped off. I had watched enough movies to have an idea of how to break the fall… I folded my knees and rolled. I landed safely on the side of the road with few bruises and frantically tried to dust myself and throw off the seeds dispersed on my hair. Then the pains hit home as I tried to open my eyes… I was in distress and couldn’t see. It was tear gas, I had experienced its effect once as policemen tried to disperse rioting students in my school. This was however different, the whole content of the canister had been emptied on my woolly hair. I couldn’t escape from its effect, it went with me, a demon sent to torture.
I managed to flag down a taxi and set off to the office to narrate my ordeal. The old taxi driver did not envisage the discomfort that followed and was relieved when he eventually dropped me off and rid his car of the irritation. Everybody had been looking for me but only a few could withstand the effect of the tear gas, to hear my tale. With teary eyes and running nose, I narrated my ordeal to a dumbfounded audience, there was no one to collaborate my story but the reality was that the money was gone.
The men had disappeared into thin air, the police investigations yielded nothing, at some point the military police even got involved to no avail. These were professionals and left no trace… I was conned, all along thinking I was under arrest, but the men were on a mission and the execution was flawless. The whole scenario reeked of a setup. The signs were evident but there were no clear suspects and investigations were at best random. I was a victim of circumstance.
This was Nigeria in the Nineties. Corruption had eaten deep into the fabric of society and it was a survival of the fittest. Those whose duty it was to maintain law and order, were the ones conscripted to steal from those they were meant to protect. My Christmas was ruined… had our Leaders given their tomorrow as they professed, I would have been spared that experience.
Nevertheless, crucial lessons for life were learnt and today I have a story to tell.