On the 19th of April 2018, the unluckiest day of my life, the worst thing ever happened to me. Mother nature turned her kind face away from me and evil embraced me without hesitation. This is my story with SARS officials.
Around 8am I left Quilox and headed for home, I was with two friends — Yusuf and Doyin. We had all participated in a bit of turn up all through the night. As we were about to enter into the Uber ride that came to pick us up in front of the club, Yusuf pleaded with me one last time.
“Guy! Make we go my side now. You fit crash till later then you go dey go house”
“No jare. Make I reach Lere” I responded casually, not having a reason why I didn’t want to go to his side. Some unseen force just kept pulling me towards Surulere.
Around 10:30 I was woken by a phone call from my mother, which she was kindly reminding me about my journey to the house. I planned my day in my head, sexed a natural version of Kim Kardashian, visited Odin in his abode while simultaneously rolling in bed like a horny whale. Five minutes after I was out on the streets. My stomach yelled at me in hunger inspired rhythms and I had every intention to obey its request. My thoughts screamed ‘Amala’ and so I strolled toward the area where they sell Amala. On my way I met with two of my friends (one of whom I stay with and other one is a good friend of mine who, I’m certain, has lost all capabilities to be mentally sane). I stopped to say hello. Uncle Friday (he’s slightly older than I am) was occupied with a stick of marijuana. Beside him was Ebuka (the….crazy guy) trying to prepare his own parcel as well.
“Guy, them say SARS anti cultism just pass here some minutes ago” Ebuka said, laughing hysterically. I smiled calmly back at him and confidently told him we couldn’t ever be caught. The conversation steered towards somewhere else whereby I was completely an audience. Out of nowhere a yellow bus sped down the street, approaching us quickly. As the bus slowed down a charcoal-skinned Goliath in black uniform rushed out of the vehicle. My brain which seemed to have been on a break resumed suddenly and in that moment I made every effort to elude. Too late. The next stop was SARS Anti Cultism, Panti in Gbagada. Like criminals, we were lined out of the vehicle. Ebuka kept screaming ‘Blood Of Jesus’, saying repeatedly that he had never smoked nor partaken in any illicit activity before in his entire life. Caught alongside the three of us were some Transport union workers — who collected money from bus drivers at bus terminals. They had been arrested because they operated without their uniforms.
When in the station we were welcomed with a huge hit on the back with the use of a cutlass. The pain was much more than falling on the ground with my back from a skyscraper. I reacted in my head, pulling my clothes off and running erratically but was as calm as a pigeon on the outside. Everything we had on us was retrieved from us and we were taken to an office to give statements.
“Una be cultists abi. Tell me which one you dey?” The smallest sized SARS guy queried.
I looked him straight in the eye and told him assuredly that I had no idea what he was talking about. He pressed a bit more and some minutes later he was ranting about how well educated I seemed. He threatened me from time to time, magnifying the extent of our crime like we had been in the squad of folks that perpetrated 9/11.
After a few hours we were stuck in the office where we had given statements, making calls and deliberating how we were going to get out of the mess we found ourselves in. The transport workers already had their guys come bail them out. One of them was about 45 years old, claiming to be the deputy chairman of a particular association of road workers, angry at the fact that he was helpless. The thought of what they did for a living caused me to giggle intermittently in my head. I mean, these guys were ‘Agberos’ that somehow applied force to get money from bus drivers and here they are, drowning in utmost decency, redefining what it means to be civil. They couldn’t stop lamenting about all the money they were missing out on on the road.
Me? My crazy friend? Uncle Friday? We didn’t know our fate. I kept thinking about my sister, nephew and niece. Also my parents, I was hella scared they would hear about it from a random person or maybe after not hearing from me they would put out a ‘Missing Person’ post. I thought about the loml (one day I’ll unveil her to world). I wasn’t hopeless but something kept telling me I was in big trouble. For the first time in a very very long time I felt alone in the world. The officers wouldn’t stop taunting us with the judgement that would be passed when they charge us to court.
“Who you go call to come bail you? Shay you get parents? You think say we dey play for here” the charcoal colored SARS officer warned. They called him Rosco. For some unknown reason it didn’t occur to me to call anybody. Maybe whoever comes to bail Uncle Friday would consider me too. If not then I would reach out to my friends or eventually my parents. I hated the thought of being a burden to anyone. People have their own lives to live. It is selfish to affect others with your own personal problems. Especially for something as trivial as this. It was practically impossible for me to consider such an issue with seriousness. It wasn’t like I had kidnapped midgets with an ominous intention to use them for money rituals. I mean…
Couple minutes before 7pm and Uncle Friday’s brothers were there. He had been calling repeatedly since we were granted bail and required someone trustworthy to come stand for us and most importantly, pay money to have us released. One of his brothers had come earlier to negotiate with the officers. At the time three of Friday’s brothers were talking to Rosco while we were being locked up in the cell. Whoa whoa I hadn’t imagined a scenario where we would be put in cells like bandits because man been dey smoke eegbo. And I wasn’t even doing anything of such. It was when we were taken into the cell that an infant (This is a boy of about 13 years old) slapped uncle Friday so hard he must have experienced a system reset and then he and his gang of rats took our money. In the cell they called him Martial. He was the presido of the cell, the administration, judiciary, government. He made all the regulations which every cell member duly abided by.
“Everybody say Martial” the second in command screamed — a skinny boy that I would break into several pieces even if I was blindfolded with my hands tied.
“Martial” everybody in the cell chanted like our very lives depended on it. Well, it did. If you proved to be stubborn or hard headed then you would go on a special trip to the torture room where you’d be beaten to a pulp by SARS officers. One minute in the cell felt like years in bondage. The night had grown dark when it dawned on me that I had not told anyone that I had been arrested except for Bolaji, who had gone to NYSC camp in Edo earlier that day. Uncle Friday was released and before it would take the second hand of a clock to move they had vanished — Uncle Friday and his brothers. Ebuka managed to connect with the realm of mentally balanced people. We both looked at each other miserably and sorrowfully accepted that we had just been slied.
In the cell we weren’t maltreated or harassed. Somto (I like to call him Sommie) already ensured VIP treatment, thanks to his elder brother who paid heavily for it. Somto was the first person amongst us to be webbed by these heartless people. He had gotten involved in some chaos the previous day that landed him in SARS police station. Sommie was the one that led them to the neighborhood because for some reason the CDA chairman reported that Sommie was the leader of a cult gang named ‘Oshozondi’.So the SARS officers threatened that Sommie had to show them the other members of the gang and we were unfortunate to be the scapegoats. But now Sommie was the one who didn’t allow us get beaten in the cell. Every other person the SARS officers brought inside the cell was harassed and stripped of all their money by Martial and his gang. There was a particular guy that Martial slapped so brutally that he dropped dramatically to the floor, pretending to have passed out. Martial attempted to slap him once more and this young man jumped up and started running in circles. At this moment I couldn’t predict how I felt. The world appeared a mystery. I, Ayomide Olaniyan, am in a cell.
The stench that oozed out of the open space we were in was worse than that of Catacombs. It was like someone bottled the fart of a deteriorating pig and released it after centuries. Some boys approached Ebuka and I and told us we had no reason to be desolate. They had been arrested because they got into a clash with a rival cult gang. They had badly treated injuries on their faces, legs, virtually every part of their bodies. They had even been charged to court and would have been released if they had a guarantor that would sign and pay their bail. They looked pitiable.
“Na my space be that. Abeg make I lie down, I don tire” a funny looking guy, seemingly older than most of the cellmates said in a stressed voice. Seun was his name. He had been arrested because he threatened to kill a lady via text message. Not only was he funny looking, but he was actually a funny person. He told me he didn’t buy his jeans ripped, that it was torture from the officers that tore his jeans to make them look ripped. I almost laughed my lungs out. I felt lucky. He assured that we would be fine, asking me from time to time if I would like to eat anything. I kept telling him no. The only appetite I had was for freedom.
Later at night almost everyone had slept in the most awkward positions ever. The cell was a large tin of sardine, with people almost lying on top of each other like souls in the underworld. I collected Gala from Sommie and ate it unenthusiastically. Ebuka tried to sleep, but he kept turning at intervals like he was in a virtual reality where giant spiders chased him ferociously.
I managed to sleep a bit then I was awoken by the sound of moving vehicles, and also the intensity of the cold breeze that blew. I felt so filthy as though I was drowning in the vomit of a raptor. I reminisced about different times, and it occured to me how I had taken freedom for granted. It was a surprise to me how human beings could adapt to situations so quickly no matter how horrible or dire. Most of the cellmates I met inside the cell lived as if it were pretty normal to be there. No anxiety, nervousness nor depression. They interacted, ate together, shared experiences and laughed at almost everything. Most of the experiences they shared were criminal acts that they had engaged in.
“Me I be Jagaban for my street. You know how many babes wey be say if dem hear my names their yansh dey comot cascade? I be confirm weed dealer o. Na for where I dey package my goods na him dem catch me sef. I even hear say my popularity don increase since dem lock me up. Ay, imagine that kind thing” Seun said, moving his slender limbs overdramatically. What a weird creature he was.
I could tell that it was morning although it was still kinda dark. The voice of a man from a distance called muslims to adhan. Most likely 5am, I reasoned. It was at this moment that the funniest and strangest thing happened: A man came in so violently, screaming zealously that every cellmate should get up immediately. Apparently, it was only the new cellmates like myself that were startled. It was tradition, after all. He told us to begin praying passionately for our lives. Th4 prayer session was such an aggressive one. The man was a Mountain Of Fire member so yeah, fire was a major element in conquering our problems and demons.
Prayer point: Any person that seeks to control my destiny shall die by fire. PRAY!!! DIE BY FIRE!!!
Okay sir, but I’d prefer wildfire.
While others prayed fervently, I was still pondering if this man was the same SARS officer that arrested some boys earlier simply because they drew tattoos on their bodies, and requested for a huge sum of money for their bail. He kept giving different prayer points and the cellmates would call out to God in a loud voice. Sommie was the one who shocked me the most. At a point he began to shed actual tears — wailing and shouting God’s name, pleading sorrowfully for God’s forgiveness. Ebuka knelt and faced the wall, with his hands on his head. Humans are easily the ficklest creatures God ever created. Then the pastor read the bible and one of the cellmates translated to Yoruba. I felt like I was in a Tv series that revealed the way prisoners lived. I quickly erased such a sick and drastic thought. By the time I joined in on the ongoing activity I became more appalled. The pastor now asked that every cellmate should stretch both hands toward him and pray for his safety. That took about 30 minutes.
Around 9am, I was talking with the guys that arrested us earlier. There was Rosco, who somehow appeared like someone who would reason with you and probably be considerate, but would drift off into a world of his own as you negotiated for your freedom. He was a habitual drinker. I cannot remember their names, really. But the one I harbored the most dislike for was the officer with the least muscles. He had a strictness to him that verged on wickedness. He claimed to have lived his youthful life as a “thug” and that seemed to be the fuel for his meanness.
“You will be charged to court if no one comes to bail you today. You think say we dey play for here. I pity you” he said for the umpteenth time, shaking his head in a pathetic manner. Ebuka disturbed every officer that he could see. There was a window through which the cellmates could see and interact with the officers. The old cellmates warned that he would land himself and every other person in trouble, saying repeatedly that the officers are not as approachable as he believed. Few hours passed and Sommie’s brother was at the station for the third day consecutively. His own case was more serious than ours because he had been reported to being a cultist and thus his own bail was much more.
Dede, Sommie’s brother, successfully ensured the release of his brother. Ebuka’s brother was at the station as well. Together with Dede, he negotiated relentlessly with Rosco. Rosco remained adamant until Dede employed the influence of their boss who was also part of the raiding party. The boss convinced Rosco to take the amount we were begging with — N40,000. Finally, we were out of the shithole and were summoned to the boss’s office. We signed some documents and retrieved our stuff from her office. She insisted on the terror that was our hairdo and instructed that we cut our hair immediately we arrived home. As we left her office the cellmates screamed to us; some begged for money, some of them requested for my phone so that they would call their people again to remind them that they were slowly rotting in there. I could not thank Dede enough. The crazy thing is Dede barely knew me. He was only familiar with Ebuka and of course, his brother, but not me. I thanked him religiously.
Making our exit, Rosco used a scissors to cut some of the beautifully made dreads that adorned Ebuka’s head, rendering the hair condemned. It was an horror to watch. These people had no compassion. One could hardly refer to them as humans, as a matter of fact.
As I walked out of the station I said a silent prayer that I would never have a reason to come back here even if it was a pathway to paradise.