I DON HAMMER ONE MILLION DOLLARS O!!

My time is prime like Keke / stay jeje making my pepper...

My time is prime like Keke / just jeje making my pepper…

 

A few good years ago in Jand, I and a couple of workmates decided to form a temporary lottery syndicate, pool resources and buy lottery tickets each, to increase our odds of winning a 30million pounds lottery jackpot.

Normally, I do not send the lottery, as I have always felt that I would have better odds fetching water with a basket, or purchasing an electric cooker because I had belief that NEPA would come good rather than let me starve, or buying a Terry G single for the lyrics. Heck, there are better odds misappropriating Nigerian Pension Funds than winning the lottery at 40 billion to one than winning the lottery. Least I could enrich myself at the public’s expense; worst case scenario, even if I got caught by EFCC or an anti corruption body, I could use connections to get off with a 750000 naira slap on the wrist.

However, this case was different, and I had a reason for playing the lottery .  Some months back, a couple in their 50s had won a record 161 million pounds, which was the highest payout in Britain at the time. The newspapers went crazy when the husband, 65, proclaimed that “they were now as rich as the Beckhams.” True, the Beckhams were worth  about 165 million pounds then.

Wow! I remembered, switching off the TV after I heard that boast, and thinking to myself –  well fuck me, if I won 161 million pounds, I would  scream out from 3rd Mainland Bridge “I am richer than my ex-state governor! I can now afford to hire graduate drivers and pay then 500,000 naira per year to move my trucks on Naija death roads; I can have my convoy of German luxury cars pick me from the tarmac of Murtala Mohammed International whenever I arrive, even though it endangers other commercial flights. Chei, I can have noisy owambe parties and block off major roads and bridges, and inconvenience other road users. While I am at it, I can import runs girls from the top private universities for threesome orgies in my VGC villa. Choi! I could even contest for Senate and win the election without stepping a foot into my constituency….”

In the UK or Yankee, lottery winners are usually inundated with attractive offers from credit card companies and financial investors who offer them all manners of services and incentives. In Nigeria, once you hit any form of millions, it is hangers-on, ‘distant’ relatives, and traditional rulers who chase you  for financial favors or to bestow chieftaincy titles on you.

I had other reasons to play the lottery too. Imagine if because of the mere 1 pound fee it takes to play the lotto, I neglected to try my luck, and then my co-workers scooped the top prize in my absence. Fear caught me o. Britico people no sabi share at all.

So we bought the tickets, pledging that if any of us pulled the winning number, we would all share the jackpot equally.  Imagine 30 million splitting 8 ways – that’s some decent mula.

The next 24 hours were a pain, as I had to play the waiting game. You know that feeling of hopeless anticipation, like when you are sweating in the heat, begging NEPA to bring back the power, but you know remember your neighborhood transformer had blown.  It didn’t stop me keeping my phone close to me, hoping one of the lads would call me to announce that we had won big. I don hammer o!

As I sat there, many thoughts passed through my head. I envisaged picking up my winnings, and hitting the next thing smoking to Lagos. I would rather be a millionaire in the Zanga, than a Big Time Charlie in the land of Mama Charlie. As I sat there, I recalled an instance where a Nigerian friend of mine, from back in Scotland looked up at the sky, smiling as he explained what he would do if he ever won lottery millions.

He shook his head as he said “Esco, all I need is just 500,000 pounds; one million or ten million is even too much. I would first of all call and inform my mother in Nigeria; and  then warn her to quit from that her junk civil service job. I would then go shopping in Harrods, and then return to Nigeria like a prodigal son. I would tell my mum like this – mummy I am buying a shop for you in Victoria Island, so get ready to fly to Dubai to go shopping for stock. Then I would relocate my entire family from FESTAC to Banana Island in Ikoyi sharp sharp.

All for 500k pounds? Ok o. Besides why is that most Nigerians in the Diaspora say they would return to Nigeria immediately if they  ever stumbled upon great wealth. Being rich in Nigeria must be the lick.The Hamptons or Old Ikoyi? Hmmm…

I wanted to snap him out of his daydream, but he preferred to stay in Total Recall mode:”I would then travel to Germany to ship down 3 tear-rubber models of Mercedes – a G Wagon, an ML 500 and a small C-Class for my mum. All my rides would be German, no time for Korean brands.” What about Volkswagen?

I reminded him that he had not said anything about cars for his siblings. His answer was followed by an evil sigh “Mcheew…Na them win lottery? Berger for Apapa never close na. I would buy them first class tokunboh in Nigeria. Abi make I carry all my money give them, make them rest? I would then hire 5 domestic servants in French maid outfits to work in my mansion and serve me hand and foot.  I would contest the House of Rep election for my state, and then float a company for winning government contracts.”

I can see it now Lotto Oil & Gas Nigeria Limited. Ok o.

He was clearly enjoying himself too much, and his eyes lit up as he continued to fool himself “All my furniture for my house in Banana Island would be imported straight from England. Every room including the toilets would have an LCD TV. But I would also invest some of the money as well in ventures.”

I looked at him with my eyes open in mock surprise as I quipped sarcastically, you don’t mean it. So now you remember to invest money, 499999 pounds later. What kind of venture would this be, pray tell, O wise one?

He smiled proudly like he had just done something epic like postulating a theory in quantum physics, or deciphering the inner workings of Tonto Dike’s thought process, as he concluded: “I have always really liked alcohol and spirits. So I would open up a distillery in Ughelli, where we would bottle and export local alcohol. Forget Ciroc Vodka or even Vitamin Water, I would export Sapele Water as a premium spirit.” It is a ‘spirit’ alright.

One of my theories about human nature is thus – you can tell the character of a person by the manner and articles they spend money on when they get it. It is easier to take up a goody two-shoes, moralistic posture as a saint with a halo, when you are skint. It is the things you do, the excesses you opt for, or the discipline you show when ‘pepper rests’ that paints your true picture of your persona.

That’s why crooked politicians’ favor objects of expenditure like fast cars, faster women like runs girls or prostitutes,  insane amounts of real estate in high-brow areas and a quest to retain their mandate through selection rather than election. Wealth to them is all about enjoyment, and never about employment.  If corrupt government officials spend their illicit wealth on opening factories which employ graduates, or setting up initiatives to better the lot of the masses, they would make small sense.  But the trend is to purchase unrealistic units of real estate, which lie derelict and unoccupied because they would rather charge ridiculous sums for rent, than accept an affordable fee from tenants. There are thousands of high-end real estate lying fallow, and rooming Agama lizards and weeds in Oniru, Lekki, Maitama and Wuse. These properties are as empty as the owners.

As I sat in my flat, watching old tapes of “A Night of a 1000 Laughs”, I chuckled as I recalled  what my Britico co-workers said they would do with their winnings. Let me just say that their plans were a bit different from my Naija friend:

-          I would move from my tiny council flat in Leyton to a terrace house with a garden in Maida Vale

-          My dream is to open a center for disadvantaged and autistic kids in Brixton.

-          Esco, are you kidding me? I would call in on Monday and tell the boss to stick his job where the sun don’t shine. I would then go on a cruise with a luxury liner around Europe.

-          Men, the first thing I would do is fly out and get smashed on a lad’s holiday with all of you to Aiya Napa. Eh, Aiye wetin?

-          Oh my days! I would use of my winnings to purchase a cottage for my and my partner in Norfolk or Yorkshire

-          Norfolk or Yorkshire? Who wants to live in wet and cold Blighty? I am off to Australia or Marbella in Spain.

-          I have always wanted to do voluntary work in India and Peru, then go hiking and bungie jumping in Brazil.

-          I am happy as I am. I would keep working, and give most of my winnings to charity. I would keep just enough to pay for my funeral when I am gone.

It was a middle-aged unmarried oyibo man who made the last statement.  Everybody else thought it unusual but shrugged their shoulders, as they thought: na your ishoro be that.

In Nigeria, he would have been sent to a church for deliverance from the spirit of poverty.

And I thought to myself, maybe its best I just forget it. The lottery in life is hard work or laziness. You better your odds for success considerably by working hard at something you are passionate about, and never giving up. If I did win the lottery, there are many doors it could open for me. I could set up a foundation to fight against the work of runs girls. I could build WoahNigeria into a Disney-like conglomerate. Yes I do like cars and luxury goods, but I want something I could take with me to the grave. Not to bequeath a legacy that would make my descendants spend more time fighting in the courts for inheritance than co-existing to build something epic for Nigeria.

However I, like all Nigerians, could handle the disappointment of not winning, and still kick on regardless. In a way, we Nigerians play the lottery everyday when we vote in questionable leaders on ethnic or personal grounds; we keep gambling with our future and those of our kids by celebrating mediocrity, corruption and the illicit stockpiling of wealth. We play the most unfair and unwinnable lottery when we expect a different outcome by repeating the same mistakes that got us here in the first place. What we win is not a million pieces of silver or units of legal tender; our takings are a million steps backwards into stagnant under-development or one billion decibels of pain and frustration with our national experiment.

Needless to say, the call that I had won the lottery never did come. I reported for work on the cold, misty Monday morning, and had to contend with a few of the sad and crestfallen faces of my co-workers, especially the one who was really looking for the bachelor retreat in Aiya Napa, Cyprus. I laughed inside like, una never jam.

 

What would you do if you won or came up 1 million dollars right now.  Please be truthful and don’t try to sell a pipe dream. If you already have a million dollars, what would you do with 1 billion dollars? And if Dangote is one of my readers, good afternoon sir!

 

I would be lying if I said I didn’t want millions/

More than money saved, I wanna save children/

Common (The 6th Sense, 2000)

 

PUSH ME, I PUSH YOU

Aja in the okuko's shadow...

Aja in the okuko’s shadow…

Some years ago, on a hot summer day in the fourth year of Obasanjo’s terrible second reign, when home internet was but the preserve of the Dangotes and Ibrus of this world, Esco decided to arise and take a journey to the neigbourhood cybercafé to do some browsing.

It was a Saturday like any other – NEPA had struck, and generator noises played the soundtrack to the story of Nigeria in the background, male agama lizards and the female ones doing shakara played ‘hide and seek’ in the cracks of the walls of the houses in the street, open gutters festered in the sun with the putrid smell of hot stagnant water and piss, and a bus conductor’s aggressive voice added to the medley as he barked his advertisement “Ojuelegba! Stadium!! No change o, make you hold ya side!!’

 

I got to the cybercafé, bought a ticket and logged in. The cybercafé was very full. There were all sorts of punters there – some youngsters who came to check JAMB and exam results online; then there were a few pervs who were staring at pictures of scantily clad chicks on dodgy websites; there were the perpetual scroungers who used the web to pester their relatives overseas to send the money, then there were those who typed emails by pressing one key at a time with one finger until they exhausted their credit without finishing the email.

I was a bit crestfallen when I opened my inbox messages and there was not a new message to be had. My spam box however did not disappoint. I had various ones – one for abuna enlargement; another email announced that I had just won a lottery for $5million dollars. Wait, won’t I need to have played it first before I could win?

The last email was from some dude named Anthony Prince asking me to send 5000 dollars so that he could pay the inheritance taxes to enable him withdraw his late ex-minister father’s balance from a Swiss account. He promised to share the largesse with me. As if I would ever trust anyone with a double barreled English name like Anthony Prince. By the way why do 419 and yahoo yahoo swindlers choose ridiculous oyibo names like Prince, Don, Peterpaul, Wilberforce, Vitalis, Felix. The runs men of the 80s were money doublers.

Normally I replied 419 email by reprimanding the sender saying something like “419 is a sin o” but that day I decided to let it slide. Plus key “4” on the keyboard was broken.

I was debating whether to log out, and save the credit on my ticket for another day, when commotion broke out. Alas it was between a dude and a lass just a row across from where I was seated. They were trading insults. Remember that these were the days before YouTube.  I decided to chill and observe. Kai, where is popcorn when you need it?

Apparently the chap has been browsing when his phone rang. He left his folder on the table and stepped outside to take the call. A lady in her late 20s, had just purchased a ticket, and saw the spot empty. She then shoved the chaps folder aside, and restarted the pc, logged in, and starting surfing the web.

When the dude came back, he tapped the lady on the shoulder and tried to explain that he had been there before. The girl would hear none of it, despite the fact that some people seated around there were corroborating his story. The guy explained that he would have forfeited the space for the lady but he had an urgent email he had to send to his brother who was a business partner. He was also irritated that the lady had shoved his personal belongings aside and re-booted the PC.

Before long, a heated exchange ensued between them, and the lady started getting really abusive:

Girl: “The computer is not your personal property so why should I stand up. Abeg abeg..”

Guy: “I never claimed that it was my property. Now please stand up, as I don’t have time for this.”

Girl: “If I refuse to stand up, what will you do? Infact I am not getting up from here. Do your worst!”

Guy: “This can’t be serious.  E be like say you dey find wahala today. If you see am, you go run o”

Girl: “Wetin you fit do? If you have ten heads, touch me and see what would happen.”

This was the era of the hipster  for women. Imagine a really curvy size 16 lady in bright colored hipsters, a belly chain with hips and bakassi  that would make Toolz Oniru look like Fido Dido. She was heavily made up with her nails done like Wolverine.

Every other person in the cybercafé also quit momentarily and started watching. They seemed to be willing the parties to resort to angst-filled violence like Olisa Dibua versus the staff member of that radio station; like Jim Ikye versus the world…What is it with us Nigerians and violence?

As she argued, she stood up to tower over the guy, while showering him with expletives and spittle. From outside, the both of them looked mismatched like Julius Agwu versus Eniola “Gbo Gbo Biz Girls” Badmus. The guy held his ground, and held the arm of the chair, while wedging himself against the table, to prevent the girl from usurping the space.

The girl also held on to the headrest part of the chair, as she continued her verbal tirade: “If you are a man, try me na. I will finish you today. Shebi  na Lagos we dey. Dey here, your mates are erecting mansions in Lekki and Ikoyi, you are here paying 50 naira to browse for 30 minutes and fighting over chair. Idiot!”

The guy wiped his face, as he snapped “You are stupid for that statement. You don’t know how foolish you look wearing this undersized trouser with a tight belly chain. You look like pure water tied with rope.”

With that the girl started free-styling insults. She attacked his manhood, she abused his clothes, she said his shoe was so worn out, that the heels had chopped and had a slant like a Bobby Brown hair-cut from the 80s. She insulted the man’s handset, saying that he just carried a unit without a sim-card in it. All this while waving her hands in his face and standing over him. Her 40DDD boobs were pointing in his face like howitzers.

The man decided he had enough, so he grabbed his folder, and shoved her aside out of his way like Joseph did to Potiphar’s wife. She immediately dove to the ground, like she had been struck by an assassin’s bullet from Colonel Dimka. She started screaming and screwing her face in pain as she writhed about, with her facial expression like Davido when he sings.

“Osanobua! You have killed me o. Ah, see my face. Why did hit me. How dare you put your filthy hands on me? You are finished today. My uncle is a local government chairman. My brother-in-law’s cousin’s husband is related to a police commissioner in Edo state. You will sleep in a cell today. It will never be better for you!!”

The guy started sweating like Charles Okafor in a Nollywood film. He looked both amused and confused at the same time.

Everybody’s eyes shifted from the girl on the floor to the guy like, it is your move now.  Some people were arguing that he should have relinquished the chair to the girl. One woman was visibly pissed and gave the guy a piece of her mind for ‘hitting’ the girl. Public opinion seemed to berate the guy for putting his fingers on the girl. Like short man devil wey only get power when him see woman.

There are 3 instances when a woman can render a man defenseless in the court of public opinion. One is if she accuses you of beating or physically assaulting her (sadly, this rule may not apply in all the states of Nigeria). The second is if she accuses you of rape, whether or not you really had consensual sex. The third is if she abuses you about your lack of sexual prowess or stamina. I mean what come-back is there when an ex calls you “2 minute noodles” or “water pap.”

Silence is the best answer for a fool like you.

There are those who believe that verbal sparring with a woman is allowed as far as you do not put your hands on her in any way (including  a shove). I believe that even if you must have a verbal exchange, one way not to do it, is the way it was done in a scene in “Wild Chicks 2″ the Nollywood blockbuster   starring Tuface Idibia’s better half. Check out the action from 16.50 on the time-scale.

Meanwhile, with all the commotion, I decided that it was time for me to beat it, before EFCC would swoop on the café and arrest everybody present, and then announce on NTA’s 9’O clock news that they had busted a yahoo yahoo syndicate. I made slipped away and made a run for it like Alameisegha.

What are your opinions on what happened? Who was wrong between the two parties?

 I met a woman plus a lady that was sweet and unique/
She was no trick or no tramp, she was no freak off the street/
I was amazed, looks and attitude, I spoke of gratitude/
She wasn’t stuck up and rude, and we became cool/
From then on we leaned as friends, then as lovers/
You could be my girl, I’d be your man just forever/

 Daz Dillinger (Only For You, 1998)

We Police Ourselves

Police is your friend.....and friends depend on friends

I have often mentioned it to anyone who cared to listen that the source of Nigeria’s socio-economic problems is that people feel they can get away with any wrong-doing, misdemeanors, torts or crimes. The average man may not be held accountable for acts or mis-acts. This is why you may see a woman crouching in a corner to defaecate and throw used tissue paper against a wall even though it has “Post No Bill “sign clearly inscribed on it.

The short arm of the law is a huge social anomaly – yes, even bigger than corruption. Let me illustrate: A chap decides to drive his new Honda “End of Discussion” flash motor without a current license, car particulars, motor insurance, fire extinguisher or a caution sign. The officials of V.I.O flag him down on Adeola Odeku Road in Victoria Island, and beckon for him to pull over for a random vehicle check. He gets down, and it is discovered that in addition to the above, he does not have M.O.T for his car.

The V.I.O officers decide to tow the car away and issue a N50, 000 fine. The chap starts begging, gets on his knees and offers them a token to make the traffic crime go away. After much prompting, the officers ask for N20, 000. They both finally agree on N15, 000, which the boy pays in cash and drives away, sighing as he adjusts his rear-view mirror.

Even if this chap is a Dangote or Otedola, and 15 grand bribe is chicken change, his time has been wasted, and this becomes a huge deterrent for him, so he makes sure his motor particulars are complete to avert a future occurrence. The long arm of the law has taken its course to shape a person’s behavior in line with societal ideals.

In Naija, anything can go. If you believe in it long enough, and if you have the money, time or connections to back it up, it can happen. In this country, someone can sell you a plot of land on the moon, and provide the certificate of occupancy as evidence. Here, a sports minister once took a huge generator plant from the National Stadium to his village house for domestic use. He should have taken all NEPA’s faulty transformers and power plants along with him.

In the early 1990s, a popular and rich former presidential aspirant paid a visit to his Alma Mata somewhere in a rural part of Ogun state. He was received by the principals and vice principals and the students congregated at general assembly to meet with him. Noting that he had observed the bushy areas in the school environs, he announced that he was donating 5 grass cutting tractors to be used to cut grass, clear bush around the school, and also help cultivate the school’s huge farmland so as grow food for the student’s feeding. All the students were elated. At last maybe there would now be some actual rice to go with the stones, which usually constituted their afternoon lunches at the school refectory (dining hall, but refectory sounds better)

The principal gave a huge speech, espousing the qualities of the donor, and the school head-boy came out in his over-starched bongo shorts to give a vote of thanks on behalf of the entire student body.

True to his promise, the tractors were delivered about 3 weeks later by the wealth aspirant’s agents. Immediately the agents left the school premises, the principal convened a general assembly. His announcement cut like a knife: the tractors would be sold and the money would be used to buy 10,000 cutlasses, so that now every student had his own cutlass for general labour.

The principal later actually bought 5,400 cutlasses and a used Peugeot 504 saloon car for himself and pocketed the change.

Some years back, my friend’s cousin Gbenga came to Nigeria for Christmas holidays after about 15 years in America. On Christmas Eve, we all decided to go out to a couple of bars and clubs so he could have a good time. My friend had a 6 pack of Heineken in the car and some bottles of Peppermint Schnapps, Rum and Chelsea dry gin for “topping up” before we entered any joint. Don’t blame us, we were cheapskate university kids then, and there was no way we were paying cut-throat fees for warm beer or a watery cocktail in an overcrowded over-rated bar.

Oceanview restaurant had just opened then so we touched base there. The place was as full as hell, so we decided to leave after like 35 minutes. Gbenga was enjoying himself, and we were bumping Ether off Nas’s album “Stillmatic” while cruising past Adeyemo Alakija when we got to a mobile police checkpoint. The junior constable started flagging us down, with an enthusiastic look on his face, like he was seeing awoof. “Make una switch on una car inner light!”

Gbenga started panicking, trying to hide the open and half empty bottles of liquor under the car seats. He couldn’t hide all of them in time. The policemen saw Gbenga’s hand movements under the car seat, and one of the them waved his automatic rifle carelessly, as he asked “Na wetin dey under there?”

My other friend quickly interjected, before a now nervous Gbenga could answer “ Officer na nothing o. We de go our friend house for Ikoyi.”

The policeman didn’t look convinced, and as he cast his gaze inside the car, he saw an empty bottle of Chelsea Dry Gin.

The cop now sneered “Una de enjoy o. No be akpeteshi be that?”

Gbenga who was pissing his pants by now, tried to make a weak excuse “O.C, please…”

The policeman didn’t allow him finish, as his eyes suddenly brightened up at the sight of a wallet with a thick wad of crisp N200 notes sticking out of Gbenga’s shirt front pocket “ Make una do us Christmas.”

“Sure!” replied Gbenga enthusiastically.

We ended up giving the cop about N400 and a half empty bottle of Dark Sailor whiskey, and then they merrily sent us on our way. From our rear mirror as we drove off, we noticed the senior officer snatch the bottle of whisky from the constable, and swig from its contents, emptying it totally.

Gbenga was like a man reborn.

He put this head through the car sunroof and screamed “I fucking love Nigeria!! Anything goes in this country! I cannot believe that a policeman saw us driving under the influence, and we got away without a charge. Plus the policeman even asked us for a drink!”

I wasn’t thrilled though. Alcohol plus armed trigger happy police officer equals accidental discharge. I mean this cops were meant to be protecting the public and other commuters from drunken drivers. It reminded me of the time when the final officer at the immigration desk was begging me for the remaining naira I had on me, rather than concentrating on frisking my luggage properly for contraband or flammable substances.

So there you have it – in Nigeria, people get away with committing offences, and this breeds disrespect for the law and a breakdown of structures. Because the average person believes that an offender would get away with a crime, people are prone to disregard legal structures and take matters into their own hands.

It is no wonder why jungle justice is still prevalent in many parts of Nigeria. If you shoplift at Shop-rite, you are made to return the tin of sardine to the shelf, and are escorted off the premises or handed over the security agents. If you tried to nick a wrap of moi moi at Ghana High buka, you were taken backstage and beaten to a stupor so that you wouldn’t not hold up the line, then released almost half-dead with your purchase. If you tried to “fap” ube (African pear) at Onitsha market, you were lynched by an irate mob, revived, beaten again and introduced to a used car tyre, fuel and a lit match stick.

Going somewhere??!!

Once in Aba’s Ariaria market, a thief was set beaten to a stupor and set ablaze by a mob, after being caught trying to pick the pocket of a market-woman who was wearing Ankara so kept her money in her bra. Just after he was set on fire, he grabbed one of the members of the mob and hugged him, so they  perished together in the flames. I guess the thief wasn’t planning to go out like Joan of Arc.

Sadly, yes, jungle justice sometimes may punish the innocent too. But no system is perfect.

Yes the concept of Jungle Justice is cruel, but it is swifter than our court system. There are no opportunities of grounds for appeal, and the stolen item is usually returned to the victim of the theft, unlike under the court system. It is also convenient and does not cost a kobo. You cannot imagine someone calling 911 or Operation Sweep from a mobile phone wasting precious credit just because someone stole an agbalumo and was caught. Jungle justice also dispenses away with the hiring of lawyers, whom ordinary people detest and distrust anyway.

In Nigeria, people take matters into their hands because the police may not be bothered to do their job. Their greatest forensic or investigative procedure is asking the victim who they suspect. Heaven forbid if you and victim had a mini quarrel some days before the incident.

And in Nigeria, whoever reports to the police first about a matter is usually deemed the right party. Two men had a quarrel, and Peter smashed Paul on the head with a pestle. Bleeding from the head, Paul rushed to the police station to report, but unfortunately the okada he took broke down on the way. Peter meanwhile, took a bus and got to the station and reported that he had caught Paul trying to break into his house and had acted in self-defence. Paul is now “behind the counter” in a cell, surrounded by hardened criminals with names like “Tambolo”; he also has a big lump on his forehead.

The disadvantage of people handling matters instead of reporting the situation is that sometimes the punishment they mete out may not fit the crime. In fact, it usually surpasses the crime or misdemeanor by a huge margin.

lynching then hand-cuffing - a fair compromise?

Sometimes naija people get carried away when they are abroad. Sometime ago, there was this 30 something year old ,Nigerian Post-graduate student working as a security guard at a Virgin music store on Oxford Street in London. He got a call on his walkie talkie from the security cameraman that one oyibo teen had loaded his knapsack with CDs and DVDs and was approaching the exit door of the store.

The guard apprehended the oyibo and asked to search his bag. After a brief resistance, the guard yanked the bag, and while holding on to the oyibo’s belt buckle to prevent his escape, searched the bag. The bag contained stolen merchandise including CDs by Sporty Thieves, Rob Base and Take That, and DVDs like The Thomas Crown Affair and Ocean’s Eleven amongst others. The thief seemed to like Winona Ryder movies in particular.

At this point realizing his game was up, the oyibo tried to leg it, but was held firmly by the Nigerian guard, who started dishing him dirty slaps. People started stopping in front of the store and taking pictures with their camera-phones. The stunned oyibo guy’s face was now bleeding like he had been hit with a scud missile. He sat down on the side-walk too stunned and dizzy to even attempt running.

Then he saw a police car passing and flagged it down and turned himself in. The policemen into the car got down and started taking statements; they were quite angry with the guard and took him in. To cut the story short, the thief was handed over to the NHS for treatment and trauma victim counseling, while the security guard paid a short visit to Scotland Yard Police Head-quarters. I hear he was deported for attempted murder, and tells anyone in Nigeria who cares to listen that he relocated because of the economic “crunch.”

Back in the days of our parents, punishments were more balanced as people were fairer and more forgiving. There were fewer frustrations, and levels of aggression were less among the general populace.

Back then, if you stole a kobo, you were beaten up but allowed to live. If you snuck into your neighbor’s barn and stole a fowl, well the law of otumokpor (jazz) applied. The thief woke up the next morning, and found out that he had grown a chicken comb on top of his head. Panicking, he quickly turned himself in to the village baale.

Similarly, a chap stole a video, and was ejected from the community and exiled. A girl stole suya from a mallam’s tray…

As a nation, we have been policing ourselves for many years now. House-dwellers erect tall walls to help secure their properties and livings from dare-devil bandits, because policemen cannot be relied upon to tackle violent crime satisfactorily. From the 1980s, walls for residential homes just grew taller and taller, with first broken glass then spikes and electric fencing being added to keep out wall scalers. I know someone’s living room which has enough CCTVs installed to rival the number in Al Pacino’s bedroom in the movie “Scarface”

Unfortunately, in Nigeria NEPA must take light, and diesel scarcity is an annual event, and these CCTVs need power to operate. The armed robbers decided to strike during this brief window of opportunity. They were really pleased with the amount of “computers” they saw for the picking in the house.

 

In the underworld we take care of beef ourself/

And another thing yo, we police ourself/

Jay Z (Gangsta Shit, 1998)