I originally intended to write this, then on second thoughts, didn’t feel like doing so. I promised to write on it though, and I hope you’ll forgive me if it reads like patchwork.
The men were standing in a row outside the police station as naked as the day they were born. One of them had both hands covering his crotch. A policeman noticing him, moved in and delivered a stroke with a whip to the robber’s shoulder. He pulled his hands away and stood one with the others, displaying shriveled specimens of male flesh.
In line with the group, I made out a woman. Unlike the men, she had not been ordered to strip but it was apparent from the welts on her skin and the stony, brazen expression she wore that she had been involved. She had earlier tried to hide her face behind her hands. With dexterity surprising for someone her size, an overweight policewoman kicked her in the groin.
I scanned the crowd out of curiosity. It was comprised mostly of women. For a while I wondered if they were present to look their fill, to ensure the woman was not forced to go naked like the men, or both.
A man standing beside me was shaking his head sadly. “This isn’t good. No matter what they did, they shouldn’t be paraded naked.”
“It’s good for them,” a woman who overhead him retorted. “If they’re not humiliated this way, they’ll never learn.”
The people watching the armed robbers were more interesting to me than the robbers themselves. I was more repulsed than amused at the looks on their faces and I wondered if I wasn’t among savages.
In those moments I thought of the story my aunt had told me a year before. She works as a seamstress at Mile 3 (Port Harcourt) but there was a time she couldn’t handle the images of burnings that occurred nearly everyday, carried out not by traders as is usual elsewhere, but by policemen and women, so-called keepers of law and order.
A mother was at home, attending to her washing when a group of mobile police approached and demanded her son. The story was that he had been involved in some petty stealing the day before.
Unfortunately for the woman [and the son], the boy was in. The leader of the gang who had been brought along, identified him as the one they were looking for. If the mother had had money, I’m certain the policemen wouldn’t have been averse to being bought off but as she had none, her pleas fell on deaf ears.
Wailing and asking to be arrested in his stead, she followed them to the Mile 3 park. None of them suspected anything other than perhaps a beating, followed by ‘bail’ which would no doubt end up in the policemen’s pockets.
None of the arrested men had any egunje to redeem himself. After debating among themselves, the policemen decided to do a burning. Each “thief” had petrol on him and a match was struck. I don’t think any of them knew of stop, drop and roll because my aunt painted a very vivid picture of people erupting in flames and running to try to put them out with more petrol being added liberally until the heat took its toll and they stopped struggling. Of course the poor mother went berserk and had to be restrained. The policemen just stood there laughing.
Take the case of the Anglican clergyman who was commuting between Aba and Eleme and got stopped by the police. When the policemen demanded a bribe, he calmly told them he was a clergyman and giving bribes wasn’t in accordance with this beliefs. He got shot and died. A bullet costs a lot more than the 20 naira the policeman wanted 🙁
An okada rider happened to overtake a police car in Port Harcourt and was pulled over. A policeman jumped out and ordered him to open his mouth. He complied. Sticking the barrel of his gun in the okada rider’s mouth, the trigger-happy policeman fired and ended another life.
Funny but sad world – the thieving politicians and law enforcement agents who deserve the naked parades and burning ten times over don’t get any. Well, that was how things were when I left. From what I hear, things aren’t really very different. Now I’m hearing via Chidi that our police have a new uniform.
Old wine in new bottles.
Beckley weather’s been something else lately. I can’t believe it’s snowing right now (somewhere around three inches) when we’ve had weeks of sunshine.