The 18-seater Toyota Hiace bus screeched to a halt. stopping just a few inches before the gun-wielding police officer.
The burning smell of a burnt clutch hit the air as the driver switched gears and wiped the sweat off his brow.
The deep creases on the face of the burly officer and his flared nostrils made even more sinister by the pointing gun barrel was all the warning the driver needed to be cooperative.
Some passengers hissed and slapped their palms together. A baby let out a wail, he had been suckling happily before the abrupt stop had forced his mother to withdraw her breast.
“Officer, wetin happen na?” The driver asked in a thick Ijaw accent.
“Where you from dey come?”
“Auchi, we dey go Lagos.”
By now, another officer had begun circling the bus as though he was looking to discover something.
“Come and open this door!” The one whose name tag bore “Boniface” barked.
The driver jumped down, shaking his head as he made his way to slide open the rusty metal door.
“Oga, na so so settle I dey settle since morning, na im nor let me get any money for hand again.” The driver said in response to something the first police officer said to him.
“You, Come down!” it was fair and gangly Boniface again. He looked like he could do with a good meal.
“No, me. Come down, ma fren!”
Every head turned to the young man he was addressing as he shuffled through legs and the tight seating arrangement to alight from the bus.
He was of average build, wore his hair in plaits and had a stud on his left ear.
“What do you do?” Boniface asked.
“I am a student and an artiste,” the young man replied as he made to produce his Identity card.
“Who asked you for your ID? Submit your bag for search.”
He unzipped his backpack.
“I have my laptop, books and other personal effects in it.”
“Is he proving stubborn there?” His colleague who had now come over enquired.
“Don’t mind him, speaking English as if I cannot see for myself,” Boniface said. His hands were already deep in the bag turning up items and opening inner compartments. His hands were still for a moment as they felt something in the bag.
“What is this?” He asked as he revealed what turned out to be some American dollars just enough to balance the art between shielding the discovery from the wider audience and displaying it to his colleague.
“Where did you get this?” It was the officer who wore the name tag E. Jeremy.
“Officers, what is delaying us please?” A bearded middleaged man asked.
“Driver, you can go.”
“Oga, can I have my stuff now?” The young man asked.
“No, sir, You’ll have to come with us to explain how you came about this sum of money?”
“I don’t think that would be necessary, sir. I can explain right now. I am a Forex trader, these are some of the earnings I and some of my investors made.”
“Ah, Yahoo boy!” The gangly officer sprinted forward.
“I am not a Yahoo boy, I just told you how I came about the money.”
“Keep quiet! Don’t let us use force on you, young man,” E. Jeremy said.
“Move this bus now except you are ready to go to the station too,” Boniface turned to the driver again.
Several hours later, Sergeant Jeremy changed his clothes and left for home.
It had been a good day, far better than any he had had for a long time. He couldn’t believe his luck.
He would see Alhaji Musa, his Bureau de Change plug first thing tomorrow morning. December was fast approaching, he’d be able to get presents for his in-laws. He was tired of the way they always looked at him with pity.
Everyone knew police officers were not well paid, and his mother-in-law had only reluctantly agreed to let her daughter marry him.
He walked into his threadbare apartment whistling.
“Baby, looks like we are going to start our Christmas shopping early this year.”
His wife’s silence stopped him in his tracks as he made to take a seat.
“Baby, what is the matter?”
He moved closer and patted her back, urging her to tell him what was wrong.
Just then, their only child, Mary bounded into the room. She had been playing with the neighbour’s child.
“Daddy, mummy said she can’t find her nephew.”
“Nephew, what nephew?” He looked to his wife again for answers.
“Remember, Aunty Buchi?”
“Her son should have been here by now.”
“I don’t understand, the Aunty Buchi I know has only daughters…”
“Yes, for Uncle Tony. She has a son, the first child she had when she was in school,” she continued, “she called me this morning and mentioned that he would be making a stop here to meet us before going to Badagry tomorrow.”
“Eh ehn, so where is he?”
“Esosa, that’s exactly what I don’t know. His bus left Auchi since morning and should have been in Lagos many hours ago but I can’t seem to reach him. No one has been able to, and Aunty Buchi is worried sick. Chido should have called by now,” she said.
“Wait, what’s his name again?”
Esosa Jeremy could feel the sweat run through the small of his back.
“Chido Onyemuchi, he is a student in Auchi Polytechnic, see his picture, just incase…”
Sergeant Jeremy wasn’t listening anymore.
PS: This story is dedicated to the memory of the young men and women who were profiled wrongly and lost their lives to police brutality in Nigeria. #EndSARS