I am angry. I am so angry, I’m actually shaking with the emotion.
All day today, since 7am, I have been at the hospital. I’ve had to endure the bureaucratic pace of public healthcare, gotten jammed in a queue of patients, gotten shunted from one department to the other, finally seen a doctor, and eventually finalized my business at the hospital. Then I was homebound, two bus trips later and I was on a bike speeding home to my street.
And then, two streets before mine, a dumpy, middle-aged man clad in an oversized T-shirt and ugly trousers waved my bike to a stop. He waddled up to me and I instantly knew my day was about to get even less pleasant.
“Excuse me sir, can you come down?” he instructed me.
I came down, my face already stony.
“I am from the Mafoluku Police Station, and we’d like to know you.”
“What would you like to know about me?” I asked, pouring my entire displeasure into the question.
“We have not seen you around here before.”
Of course you haven’t. I don’t make it a habit of going around, announcing to the police that I live here, I thought. But I remained silent, waiting for his question.
“Do you live here?” he asked.
“Just two streets away.” I gestured, mentioning the name of my street as well.
“Where are you coming from?”
“Are you working?”
“An MTN Customer Service Rep,” I said, without missing a beat.
“Do you have your ID card?”
“Can I see it?”
I produced my National ID card from my wallet, holding it out for him to see. He made to collect it from my hand but I held it back.
“Let me see it,” he said, a sudden nasty expression coming on his face.
“That’s my ID card,” I said, holding it out again. “That’s my face and my name. See?”
“Let me have it.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t just give anybody my ID card.”
“It’s not even your work ID card. I thought you said you work with MTN.”
“So where’s your work ID card? What ID card is that?”
A policeman had looked at a National ID card and didn’t know what kind of ID it was. Unbelievable!
“It is my National ID card,” I said. “Is it not sufficient enough for you to know my identification? Besides, my work ID is not here with me. But if you want to confirm that I work there, follow me to the airport. That’s where I work. We can confirm from there. The airport is just close by.”
He glowered at me, his fake cordiality slipping to reveal the ugly, corrupt human being beneath it. He waved to another man, even dumpier than he is. This one was wearing the uniform and had just finished harassing another bike passenger.
“Can we see your phone?” he asked as the other one, the uniformed one, marched up to us.
“Why?” I asked. My heart was beating fast now as I braced myself to defy these criminals in law enforcement clothing.
“Because we have heard reports of yahoo boys staying around here,” he said.
“So you want to verify my character?” I said.
“Then follow me to my house. You can ask my landlady and neighbours. My landlady is an upstanding Alhaja on my street, she can vouch for me as a good citizen.”
“Who are you sef?” the uniformed one snarled. “Come on, give us your phone!”
“Why!” I said in a shout. “Why do you want to see my phone?! Thank God both my house and workplace are very close. If you want to investigate who I am, to know if I’m into anything shady, you can follow me to see my landlady or colleagues. They will speak for me. Why do you need my phone when you can speak to these people!”
That was when the plainclothes policeman slapped me. His palm struck my cheek in a stinging blow that brought tears to my eyes – tears that burned with anger in my eyes. I exploded. I began shouting. They were shouting too, threatening to drag me to the station, even attempting to pull me by my trousers. I slapped the hand away that tried to grab my trousers. I was infuriated. They were still demanding for my phone. And I was demanding to know why. I threw words like ‘violation of privacy’ and ‘you have no right’ in their faces. And they laughed sardonically in my face. It was rapidly turning into a real unpleasant kerfuffle, with the two of them repeatedly striking me with their hands and yanking at my trouser pockets as if to relieve me forcefully of my phone. Mercifully, I was wearing jeans and my phone was tucked in snugly. Unless I cooperated, there was no way they were getting that device from my pocket.
And I was determined not to cooperate.
The bike man who’d been carrying me home interjected at some point, pleading with, “Oga, shebi him talk say him dey come from hospital. Na sick him dey sick so o. Why una dey do like this?”
When they heard him, one of them queried me, “Which hospital?”
“Military Hospital in Yaba,” I spat at him.
They drew back a bit and eyed me warily. I still do not know the significance of my answer; the bike man must have understood the reason for their wariness because he spoke to them in Yoruba, words that sounded like he was pressing my advantage.
Finally, one of them hissed and wagged a finger at me. “You are lucky is hospital you are coming from? What did you go to do there?”
I went to visit your mother on her hospital bed, I was tempted to say. Instead, I didn’t even bother replying him, merely glared at him.
Eventually, they dismissed me, turning to pounce on a keke that was trundling by. I watched them pull the keke to a stop and hustle the passengers out of it. I shook my head, feeling my heart swell with so much bile, as I got on the bike and continued on my journey home.
The police is your friend.
Whoever says that to a Nigerian is either a fucking liar or an ignorant fool!
I am @Walter_Ude on twitter