This article is by a friend of mine. Have an awesome evening.
Waking up on a bright Monday morning, I never thought that the day would see me making the acquaintance of men of the Nigerian Police Force so early in the day.
Having so much work to do and with my internet subscription expired; I pack my laptop and head for the nearest café. When I leave the café, I decide to go and buy some things further down the road before going back home and that’s when it all begins.
An armed policeman stops me and searches my bag. Seeing my laptop, he asks for the receipt which is not with me. He then asks me to leave the laptop and go and bring the receipt. Me? Leave my laptop with a policeman who is as good as a thief? Never!
When I refuse to move, he hands me over to ‘Inspector’ – his oga, (like I can’t see that the guy is a bloody Sergeant) who collects my driver’s license and asks me to go and bring the receipt or call someone at home to bring it still insisting that I should leave the laptop.
‘Lai lai, I no stupid reach to leave lapy with police, e better make I throway di thing sef.’
A third policeman walks up to me and acts friendly, telling me quite calmly that I should just give them whatever I have so that they can let me go or else they would arrest me on ‘suspicion of possessing a stolen laptop. As you know, police na your friend and you no go like make the friendship spoil abi? So I weigh my options. It is one of two things.
- Give them the only
N700 on me and go home. Implication? I trek home koboless and more to point, justification that I actually stole the laptop
- Enter the police station and watch the rest of the drama unfold. Implication? I get to see what a police station looks like and my time gets wasted.
Curiosity and a sense of integrity get the better of me so I choose the second option.
We get into the police station and I see someone being handcuffed and another whose carton of DVDs has been confiscated. I am asked to take my seat.
At some point during our conversation, it had come out that I am a staff of a prestigious organization in Lagos. It seemed to vex the guy for no reason. He begins to vituperate while preparing my statement papers, all the while telling me to call anyone I know because once I write down the statement; I would be placed in detention.
At this point his scary tactics are beginning to work and I’m getting a little flustered. Not because of what he’s saying, but because of the look in his eyes. There is something inhumane about his eyes, almost as if I’m looking into the face of a hardened criminal.
So I make a phone call to my brother and I feel better. I delay putting down my statement. I put on my innocent baby face and begin massaging the man’s ego. ‘Oga na your hand I dey so.’ ‘Me? Shakara you? Wetin I get wey I go use shakara you?’ ‘I know say you dey do your work na, das why I tok say I dey your hand.’
All of a sudden, his face softens and the negotiation begins. Some humanity gets into his eyes:‘ My friend, who tell you say you dey my hand? Na me arrest you? Anyway, wetin you fit give person wey arrest you?’ Give? Now I get the gist; my ‘gift’ to the guy who stopped me can erase all suspicion and get all my ‘sins’ forgiven, totally wiped out.
So I begin to roll it over in my mind. This offering, can it really be termed a bribe or will I just be saving myself from…? As I consider this carefully, in comes a family friend who happens to be a Chief Magistrate with the Oyo state judiciary. He introduces himself simply as my uncle and is content to sit and listen to the ‘Inspector’s’ narrative. Shortly after, my brother (a lawyer) arrives and my uncle tells him to go home and get the receipt. I suspect that my uncle doesn’t want my brother around because not only does he (my brother) detest policemen, he has an unpredictable temper.
So my brother turns round and leaves the police station. Meanwhile ‘Mr. Inspector’, wanting to show my uncle that he knows his job and is determined to carry out his duties to the letter continues ranting that I would not be released until he sees the receipt. My uncle ignores him to make a few personal calls. The transforming ‘friendly’ policeman takes the ‘Inspector’ out and they whisper in hushed tones, looking in my direction.
By the time my uncle has finished making his calls, he is tired of the environment and the roundabout process the policemen are adopting to extort money. So he goes to meet them outside. ‘I thought we could settle this matter without having to meet each other formally, but it seems you people are bent on seeing the receipt. While we wait for the receipt to come, maybe I should just introduce myself to you’. He flips out his Identity Card and it is all they can do not to salute. It is like he has waved a magic wand. All of a sudden, the receipt is not so important and I am advised to carry my laptop and leave with immediate alacrity. I suppress with all my might the smirk that is creeping over my face and tell them ‘Thank you’ in the most appreciative tone I can muster. Notwithstanding, I think they can still sense the mockery in my voice, but hey! Who cares? I had the last laugh.
As we left, a puzzle trailed me. If I had given them the money they were indirectly demanding, would I have given a bribe?’
Victor Olugbemiro Twitter: @oluvickie