Sunday, 6, November, 2016
So, this morning, I stepped out in a pair of camouflage trousers and a t-shirt, looking as ordinary as day. I walked streets and crossed roads in the forbidden code, careless of my insult on the Nigerian army. Hours later, a boy with extra on his height would be accosted by Mr. Soldier Man for being a civilian wearing camo.
I was aboard a Danfo in transit to Ikeja. As expected, it slowed at every bus stop to take in commuters and sped off immediately like it was on the tracks of Formula 1. But at this stop, it stayed for longer, owing not to traffic. Old Man sitting directly behind me didn’t waste time to express his irritation (in Yoruba): “Ogbeni, oo de je kamalo!” Mister, why don’t we get going! The rest of us strained our necks towards the windows, because our delay surely came from outside. Suddenly, a fully clad man of the army jumped into the bus, dragging this unlucky boy along by the shirt. The scene promised to be thrilling. On the soldier’s face was rage, and when he spoke, he spat anger. To the boy he said, “You don’t know the gravity of what you’ve done!”, and to no one exactly, “and they say it’s the soldiers that cause trouble!”
Terror was having a great time on the poor defaulter, from his dyed gold hair to his long legs. He didn’t even have enough years on him to be able to deal with the soldier and co. once they got to the barracks. One could tell he was barely out of his teens. We, the no-camo-wearing civilians just observed. No one spoke; we didn’t dare. After an awkwardly quiet drive for about 5 minutes (even the conductor was cautious), the captor and the captive received phone calls. Mr. Soldier Man’s voice sounded submissive, and from his replies, someone had ordered the boy’s release. Meanwhile, the boy whispered on his call so that we could deduce next to nothing. After returning the phone to his right pocket, the dissatisfied soldier ordered the bus to stop at once so that they could both alight. Sadly for us, the show had ended too soon. But that didn’t mean we weren’t going to attack the incident. Some chose to speak and others preferred to listen, nod and tilt their heads to any direction opinions came from – one of whom I was.
The woman next to me said, “And I wan beg for the boy o.”
The man behind me added, “Na small boy na.”
Another at the front seat yelled, “You know see him face? Na omo olowo. He for settle the man.”
But mister by my right was quick to correct that, “Ehn! Soldier no dey collect bribe o!”
Conductor also added, “If he for go barracks, dey for finish am. Na tha im boxers he go take commot for dere”
It was funny how a situation of just two scenes got almost everyone saying enough to write a novel.
I, on the other hand, entered my zone, where I thought back to just this morning. What power kept me from such harassment after flouting the same rule someone almost got stripped for? Less than five seconds in the zone, I was soon dragged out by Madam who sat on my left. For some reason, her voice had risen a decibel as she tried to enlighten us all
“Those army cloth plenty well well for okrika o. Shebi oyibo people dey wear am.”
Well ma’am, I guess not all “oyibo” lifestyle is safe for us Nigerians.
Cover design by Akeem Alawoki