In writing this blog post detailing my experience with the men of the Nigerian Army I first of all thank God for at least letting me come out of this whole encounter in one piece and without much injury, for I would have been dead now had things gone awry. But in the face of my thanksgiving and evident of the fact that I did nothing to merit the dehumanizing treatment I received from these people, I am forced to ask if the Nigerian constitution in any form, under any disguise did give the Nigerian army the temerity to maltreat ‘bloody civilians’ the way they like. The last time I checked “nemo est supra legis (nobody is above the law)”. This culture of impunity is not only unacceptable but one that must be seriously addressed before a major fiasco embarrasses them.
Continue after the break
The evening started on a bright note. I got a clue as to finding my lost laptop. I called the number of the SIM inside the modem stolen alongside the laptop and someone picked it, carelessly releasing some vital information that might lead to the arrest of the thief, while I was basking in the euphoria of getting back my laptop all through the evening I had not even the slightest premonition that my evening will end on a bad note.
I was downloading some files on my system when my uncle came in and asked me to go deliver a message for him some poles away from our house and I obediently left with no idea that some dare-devils in military khakis were waiting somewhere with a dose of agony.
As I was delivering the message just in front of the person’s house two military men fully clad in the army regalia with guns approached us. It was a bit dark as this was some minutes past seven. “Who are you?” they asked me in a very hoarse voice that swept me off my feet. That’s one question I always find difficult answering.” Who am I?” as in my name, where I am coming from or what I do?
I told them my house is just some stone throw away and I was sent on an errand. They asked if I knew what the clock was saying, and I told them it was just some minutes after 7pm. All these while, I wasn’t naive as I thought I was dealing with human beings and since I had nothing up my sleeves.
However, when apparently incensed by my insistence of going back home to tell my people what is happening before they take me to the barracks one of them gave me a ‘dirty’ slap I knew I was dealing with beasts. The first thing that forced itself out of my mouth were the words ‘Sorry Sir’ whatever I was sorry for I didn’t know maybe for thinking that my being a student barrister gave me the right to question their stance. For the first time in my life I came to understand the popular saying that”if army man slap you, you go know sey police na your friend.” This guy’s palm was as stiff as a rock. I bet, two of those slaps will reset your memory and leave you suffering from Amnesia.
As I staggered to find my feet after the slap one of them kicked me with his iron boots and I was forced to frog jump. Gawd!, The last time I did ‘frog jump’ was when some seniors were punishing us back then in Secondary school, here was I seven years later with my hands on my ears squatting like a frog and jumping at the order of these wicked Khaki men.
At first I thought I could do it, I obeyed them, I jumped and intermittently stopped to catch some breath, but then I was gradually reaching my elastic limit and then I did reach, I stopped. My limbs could no longer carry my body. One of them who looked like the ‘Oga’ kicked me at the back, but it wasn’t going to move me, then he cocked his gun… and for the first time in my life I saw a gun being pointed at me. Jeez… a lot of things began running through my mind. I remembered the so many cases of extra judicial killings in the north. I remembered the story of one Stephen Nwosu, a Corps member who was killed in Adamawa sometime in 2011 and was paraded before reporters by the Nigerian army as a member of the Boko-Haram sect. If these people should kill me now what you will see on the pages of the newspaper the following day will be ‘Most notorious arm robber in Owerri killed”…and that will be it. I remembered my parents, mum especially. I remembered my friends in school, Excel, Ekene, Ifeoma etc. I remembered my department, for the first time they were going to bury a serving executive member. I remembered all I have worked for, my news bulletin, my blog and you my wonderful blog readers….yeah, I remembered you guys. There was no way I could leave all these people and things at least not now. So out of nowhere I summoned strength to squat again and begin the frog jump, only God knows where that strength came from.
Amidst all this I was pleading, reminding them that I am a student and also a juvenile…do I look like one? They somehow bought my pleadings and told us to lie down. What a relieve! I would lie down a hundred times that do that frog jump but then I wasn’t lying down on a neatly cut carpet grass, I was doing so on a muddy and dirty sand and for once they looked at us with compassion, they were human beings after all. “You get luck say we no carry koboko” the one I presumed to be the Oga thundered. “Thank God you weren’t with one” I replied in my mind.
They told us to run back home at they left, but I couldn’t run, I was already writhing in pain. I staggered as I walked. My gait was that of one who has immersed himself in a good quantity of liquor. My clothes were full of dirt. Somehow someone informed my uncle of what was happening and he was on his way when they left us so he couldn’t meet them. He was very annoyed, he wasn’t going to let this brutalization go just like that. He put forward some calls and was told that the issue will be addressed on Monday (Tomorrow).
This encounter has taught me so a lot of things. This is an experience Keith Harrell in his book “Attitude is Everything” calls “an Attitude Hazard”. One that comes when you least expect it. One that will change your attitude and leave you destabilized. I learnt that unexpected situations occur constantly; our ability to maneuver through the traumatic changes makes all the difference. So I took the whole experiences in good faith. After all its one of those sacrifices I have to make for being a Nigerian. It wasn’t going to demoralize me, never. It also availed me the opportunity to experience firsthand victimization of civilians by the military. I now know what it means. I will be in a better position to fight against it tomorrow when I have the means.
To the two army guys, you had the gun which you can wield with reckless abandon, people tremble at your feet just at the sight of that. You victimized me without me committing any offence. Its okay, I’m gonna work hard, be successful and come back tomorrow to take you as my security details. Wait for me….