A friend of mine, Bennett, once updated on his Facebook about the incident of armed robbery attack that he went through some time ago. A while after that, another friend, Ifeanyi, called me and informed me he had just been a victim of a robbery in his home. And one afternoon after these two occurrences, during lunchtime, in between swallows of garri and Egusi soup and glimpses of Angelina Jolie making yet another exhortative humanitarian speech on CNN on the telly, I narrated these stories to my cousin. During the conversation, my cousin made a comment – that he couldn’t imagine the horror my friends must have gone through when they were turned into victims of such violence. I concurred, and hoped, to the highest heavens, that that horror would remain in my imaginations. In my opinion, experience is best learned from when it’s the story of other people’s lives.
But Fate oh Fate, that mean-spirited teacher with an unpredictable class tutorial schedule had other designs in store for me.
I had a normal day – up at the crack of dawn, went to the workplace in Surulere where I endured deadening hours of uninspiring work, then rushed off for my NIIT classes in Ikeja. Pretty much a mundane day; in fact, right there during the class, I had already determined how long it would take me to get home, eat dinner, put in an hour or two of some movie-watching and then hit the sack, only to rise and shine the next day for the same mind-numbing grind. So after class, I did what I always do; I turned on the music player on my Blackberry, strapped on my ear-piece, and settled in to some serious pinging, all the while sauntering along Oba Akram road in the direction of where I would get Yaba bus. It was 7 pm-ish, the night was warm, my flesh was tired, but my spirit was feeling good, life was good, God was good. Hallelujah somebody!
And then, like a sudden plot twist in a Hollywood movie (What?! Like I’m going to liken my story to something Kanayo O. Kanayo would act), everything good began turning bad. Fast. The movies tell you that right before calamity strikes, in that very millisecond before something terrible happens to you, just as the suspense-filled soundtrack crescendos, that the small fine hair fibers on the back of your neck will bristle and stand on end, that a rivulet of horripilation will race down your skin, that your intuition will kick in and warn you that danger was stalking you, and then you will turn, look evil in the face and scream. Yeah, it doesn’t work like that in real life abeg! All that one is Hollywood jiggery-pokery.
When danger hit, I was blindsided and struck quite literally. It was a blow that came out of nowhere, right across my cheek, hard enough to transmit vibrations across to my ears, causing them to ring and me to stagger. Then the ear piece was yanked out of my ears, abruptly ending all the things Rihanna was crooning to me about me being her Diamond in the sky. Eager hands snatched my phone next, and began pulling my bag from my shoulders. That’s when my shock was short-circuited into anger and my instinct for preservation kicked in. Adrenaline surged and I had the briefest conversation with myself, in my head, that I’ve ever had.
– Walter, your phone is gone!
– Yes, I can see that…
– Your wallet nko…?
– In my back pocket, with serious cash inside…
– And your bag –
– Has my credentials, notes and some very important receipts inside…
– What are you going to do?!
That much was obvious. I knew I couldn’t let them have my bag. It was very important to me. But the thing was, my bag was very important to them too. I counted three guys; they were shoving and pummeling and struggling with me, all the while yanking and pulling forcefully at my bag. But I held on. The strap ripped, a buckle snapped. I held fast. A blow whacked me on my neck. Another caused some serious damage to my ribs. But I still held on. The neckline of my T-Shirt was rent, and I saw my flash drive tumble out of my pocket to the ground. I began to scream and yell. For crying out loud! Someone should come and help me! Couldn’t anyone see that a guy was getting mauled and robbed, right there on the roadside. But the scant passersby seemed to be observing very faithfully the Lagos street credo of ‘See no evil, hear no evil and interfere with no evil’. The much I could see through flying fists and swinging clubs were people hurrying past with the kind of speed that makes you wonder if there were little devils from hell pursuing them.
Hence I was left to my fate and the four of us danced our macabre dance for a few more seconds that seemed to me like an eternity. Sometime, during the struggle, my wallet was snatched out of my back pocket and my watch was jerked off my wrist. I wept silently in my heart, because I was very much aware of these donations I was making to the Lagos branch Foundation of Hooligans and Thieves Association. I could feel every rip, every tear, every blow, and every strike. At some point, I even remembered the Aluu-Uniport incident that has been dominating the air waves for some time now. And a bolt of fear shot through my heart as I began to reason that I was about to become yet another death-by-violence statistic. A voice inside my head told me that I wouldn’t have to be, if only I’d let go of my bag and flee. But an irrational stubbornness just wouldn’t let me unclench my hold from the bag.
– Walter, just let go!
– No! They have already taken my phone, money and watch – I’m not letting them have my bag!
– Just leave them and run –
– Over my dead body!
– Well, that might happen sooner than you think.
But Fate must have felt that I had had enough lesson for one day, because, one of them let fly with a kick that sent me to the ground. And then they turned and fled, another one remembering to snatch my flash drive from the ground. And I was left bruised and brutalized and violated and whimpering on the ground. Yes, I know that makes it sound like I’d just been raped. Wasn’t I? In addition to my material possessions, my sense of security and well-being had been snatched from me, that naiveté that I was somehow beyond such savage shenanigans, that blitheness that comes from believing that it can happen to anyone else but me – all of these things had been shredded.
Still reeling from a gamut of emotions that included shock, anger, sorrow and embarrassment, I picked myself up, righted my clothes as best as I could and began the long trek back home, back to recovery and rehabilitation, and back to the reclamation of my optimism. It is after all one of those things. It could have been worse. I could have lost my life to them as well. So whilst I’m still living, there’s always the hope that I can get me a new Blackberry. And flash drive. And wallet. And watch.
While there’s life, there’s hope. – Cicero Marcus T.
I am @Walt_Shakes on twitter