The recent news of the arrest of @eggheader by men of the Nigerian Police for taking pictures of an uncompleted windmill in Katsina has jolted my memory and brought emotions pouring out like tears from the face of Rachel Oniga. For clarification purpose, @eggheader is a high-ranking official of the Nigerian Twitterati and his arrest generated the expected brouhaha on the internet: from the netherworld of surprises, attractions, and confusion called Twitter; to that open court called Facebook; and the haven of opinions called blogosphere, the news was broken, disseminated, analyzed, dissected, buried, exhumed, and at the moment is simultaneously lying-in-state in different parts of the internet.
I have to confess @eggheader is a lucky man, he was told why he was arrested, he was questioned like a gentleman, his belongings were not seized, and he was released on the same day, these were the luxuries that were not afforded to yours truly when the Police offered a taste of their friendship to him at around 8:30pm on Wednesday, 14th February, 2007. It was a breezy Wednesday evening but I defied the elements to go and watch my beloved Arsenal play against Bolton Wanderers in an FA Cup replay match at my favourite viewing centre on Old Yaba Road in Ebute-Metta, my hood, where I grew up. Arsenal won the match 3-1, with two goals from Adebayor and one from Ljunberg, but I did not see the match live because I was rounded up by the Police on my way to the viewing center.
It was a commando style attack that would have rid Nigeria of criminals if they are deployed on the right people at the right places. It was like reliving that scene from the movie 44 Minutes where the cops came in from all angles, blocked all exits and focused the high light beams on the criminals, only that these policemen were sporadically shooting into the air, and the light beams were danfo headlights, and we were not criminals, just innocent bystanders and passers-by with neither weapons nor criminal intents. We were all rounded up and loaded into the Danfos with gun-toting policemen hanging on the doors like lawless bus-conductors. I quickly called Lakers to inform him of my predicament, unfortunately, he was not around and it was then that it dawned on me that I would be spending that night in a police cell. We were all taken to Adekunle Police Station, beside the State CID popularly known as Panti, in Ebute-Metta. On getting there, men who could afford it were let go after greasing the palms of the policemen around and the rest of us were relieved of our belongings and shirts and herded into cells already filled-up with some other guys who I am reluctant to refer to as criminals considering how I came to find myself there.
Exaggeration aside, that was the longest 10 hours I had ever spent in my life, before I spent another 17 hours in a “The Young Shall Grow Bus” from Lagos to Sokoto for NYSC Assignment. The cell was like a village playground with red dust on the floor, with the smell of sweat and the odour of filth permeating everywhere. To maximize space, we were all made to sit with our legs spread wide apart and then bent upwards at the knee such that the back of the person in front rests directly on the stomach of the person at his back and his arms rests on his bent knees. The experience was all like a dream and I kept trying to recall how the day started and how I managed to end up in Adekunle Police Station. I had spent the whole day indoors hugging my GMAT Study Guide in preparation for Aptitude Test at Zenith Bank the following day, I only left the house in the night because of my undying love for Arsenal, I guess we can say Arsenal owe me some barrels of happiness. It’s a fair exchange.
People started flocking to the station around 6am to do what they had to do and take their people home. The policemen kept coming to call people out the way a nurse normally calls patients in to go see the doctor. My Dad, who lives in Alagbado in Ogun State, eventually came to the Station around 7:30am and did what he had to do and I was called out of the cell. While I was waiting for my belongings which were taken from me the night before, the policemen emptied the cells, brought all the inmates out and make them sit in a semi-circle; from nowhere, different weapons ranging from daggers, home-made pistols, automatic weapons, rounds of ammunitions, and several sacks of marijuana were all packed in their front; a television crew from NTA Tejuosho started filming, and a spokesman for the police started explaining to the reporter that they got a tip-off about a criminal hotspot in the heart of Ebute-Metta which they followed up on, and with their expertise and tactical nous they were able to apprehend the criminals and recover the weapons and drugs on display. I was astounded and confounded! How could people be this heartless?! These were innocent passers-by and bystanders who were rounded up, some right in front of their houses! I was lost for words and I kept looking at all the policemen trying to convince myself that they were actually human-beings.
Like lightning, the reality of the ordeal I had just experienced hit me at that point, and all the pent-up emotions had to be unshackled and I broke into tears and I continued to weep uncontrollably for about 30 minutes. I imagined the cheap publicity I would have earned for a wrong reason. For a brief moment, I imagined all the ladies I have eared my collars up for while explaining to them why we should be together. I envisioned what my family and friends would feel upon seeing me being ‘advertised’ as a hemp dealer and user. @eggheader is a lucky man. Deep in the heart of police cells across the country are innocent folks who today are incarcerated for just "walking around" on their streets. It is not an experience I wish to recount again or wish any innocent Nigerian experience. Each time I see a police man, several thoughts rape my mind. In my private moments however, I process the thoughts of who they are clearly. They are members of our society. They belong here. They were not imported from Mali or from Kabul. If suddenly the police force in Nigeria is friendly, we should be afraid. It is tantamount to the kind of fear mixed with surprise you feel when suddenly you have power in your house for 24 hours. That’s UnPHCNish! @eggheader, if it is the Gangnam Style you prefer, please help yourself. If it is Azonto, please feel free. You are a lucky man.
God Bless Us All!!
See You Next Time!!!
Facebook: Rasheed SirRash Adewusi