A Birthday To Remember

by Felix-Abrahams Obi

Another guy steps in to join the feeble-minded fellow with a pistol in his hands. We then realized that the music has changed its tempo, ‘egwu adaghariala’! Now the threats were real and the commands dished out without a trace of unseriousness:

“Lie down or I blow up your head.”
“Bring out your money and mobile phones now.”
“Oh, you’re looking at my face?”
“Where is that big man. where is the big man?”

An eerie quietness set in, save for the hushed breath sounds and mumbled cries from the customers and waiters who lay prostate in forced worship and obeisance to this expression of evil. The fidgety guy picked up as many phone sets as he could, and the money we had removed from our pockets.

“Search them very well” the other guy bellowed. The one that had a pistol

Not satisfied that we’ve been frisked thoroughly by his fidgety partner in crime, he stomps around, hitting us in a frenzy of anger and threatened to blow up anyone who looked up. Like obedient lamb, we lay prostrate in humiliation and subdued anger. Save for the gun, they would have become mince meat in our hands and it was wiser to have quenched that rush of adrenaline that sends men to unsolicited heroism. I could have landed some blows on them since I had broad shoulders and have watched not a few ‘wrestlemania’ matches, or rather shows! I have also worked with Taekwando and Judo guys and could try some kicks and punches to save my pride. But common sense made me beat a retreat so I could swallow this dehumanization. This rape of my human dignity and affront on my right as a creation of God.

How my male ego was deflated as a fellow man, much like a weakling frisked my bulging pockets and took away my phone, hard earned cash, and wallet containing my Zenith Bank’s ATM card among other important items. He took all without a fight or flicker of opposition from all of us. Ikem’s phone and cash were taken under duress. Ogene’s expensive Nokia phone was gone, and his wallet containing some dollar bills, credit cards to his South African bank account were gone with the wind in addition to some thousands of Naira in his pocket. Nna’s phone and cash were gone, and the villains had landed some blows on him in addition. Nne was in utter shock as her phone was gone, and her cute dress was smeared with soup that appeared like sludge when the hoodlums broke plates and overturned tables in search of valuables.

The madness and confusion didn’t last long as the miscreants finished in a matter of minutes. When we heard no more threats, we quietly raised our heads. They had gone with the wind! In silence we rise up from our humbled posture with our ego bruised. As we reached for the door, another stampede ensued. We run back into the restaurant and many got injured as they rammed into each other. Alas, it was a false alarm raised by a terrified girl who had a false apparition because she thought the robbers had come back upon sighting a guy that resembled one of them! We held Nne’s who was visibly shaken as we walked back to the Mercedes 190 that ferried us to Calabar Kitchen. The patrol van of a team of mobile policemen had arrived, but long after the robbers were gone. Many recount their losses but we’re too beaten to talk to anyone. So we headed back to Wuye without the gaiety that normally marked our assembly and party time at Millennium Park.

When we got back home at about 9pm and Ikem’s jokes tour through our gloom. His only ‘regret’ was that we had left the juicy pack of catfish and pieces of goat meat at Calabar Kitchen. We had lost much but no one could take away the joy of living we’d shared. We lost a lot but not everything. Ikem’s laptop was left in the booth after a last minute change of mind for in our previous visit to Calabar Kitchen in May 2007, we took it in, fearing someone may burgle the booth and steal it. Not all was lost for the birthday gift we’d jointly bought for Nne safely reclined in the booth of the car as well.

How do we recover all the important contacts and business links in our phones? How do we prevent the hoodlums from not using the smart bank cards in our stolen wallets? How do we console Nne and numb the harrowing experience so it doesn’t get etched in her psyche. Would anyone be glad to have a perfectly splendid birthday evening marred by the whims and mischief of robbers who spoke good English? We’d better report early enough to the Wuye Police station since my official ID card was in my wallet and could become an un-defendable exhibit that could be found at some crime scene tomorrow. So making hay while the sun is blazing and shining forth, made sense.

But before we left Nne’s apartment, Ikem sort of took the podium and urged me to offer a prayer of thanks despite my excuses. Without much struggle, five of us raised our voices to heaven as I led the prayer session after we sang;

Thanks, oh thanks, we give You thanks
For all You’v done on our lives
We’re so blessed, our souls have found rest
Oh Lord, we give you thanks.

We took our eyes off the things we had lost and focused them on God who had spared our lives. What if they had shot indiscriminately and killed anyone of us? The robbers could have fractured someone’s skull with butt of their gun? Moreover, they couldn’t take away the sweet taste of the ofe egusi, ofe oha, ofe nsala, and edikaikong that soothed our taste buds and throats!

At Wuye Police Station, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) had been radioed about the incident and offered kind and consoling words to us. He gives order to one of his subordinates to take us to Garki Police Station to make our statement which we arrived at about 11Pm. Life seemed normal in the Garki area as night life seemed unpunctuated by any threat whatsoever. Calls girls and sex workers in skimpy attires strolled leisurely along Lagos Crescent, while music blared from road side restaurants and bars that dot Abuja‘s landscape.

The tables at the station were worn out from overuse. The entire office area lacked any aesthetic appeal. On the wall behind the Investigating Police Office (IPO) is a poster with the inscription, “We don’t accept Bribe in this Station’. IPO gestures to us to sit down while he continues to write the statement being given by the driver of a brand new Golf saloon car which was snatched at gun point by a group of robbers he had ostensibly chauffeur them to a convenient place before they blindfolded, beaten and dumped him, in a bush after collecting the car from him. They had ‘hired’ him from Lugbe Housing Estate on the pretence that they were going to Apo Legislative quarters. The IPO later gives each of a ruled paper upon which we’re to record our statements individually and then makes a demand;

“We no get file to put your statement, so make una bring N200”

We argue that our monies have all been stolen but he remained unruffled by our plight. We search our pockets to no avail until Nna luckily finds some Naira in his breast pocket which he handed over to the IPO. An empathic and friendly female officer later guided us as we scribbled down our statements urging us not to leave any spaces in between the sentences. While we made the statements, we joined the medley of popular Christian praise and worship songs that emanated from suspects under detention. Their husky voices added soul to the songs that they sang which made this police post take on the air of a Pentecostal church. But another Police Officer whom we exchanged banters with

as we scribbled our statements warned us not to be misled by the songs from the cells.

“These boys who sing like angels are devils.
“They hate us so much that they easily target to kill us at any crime scene
“They should not be pitied.

We’re done by midnight. The IPO asked us to report the following morning to collect the police extract which we can use to obtain an affidavit to replace the stolen bank smart cards and Identity Cards…but not the lost cash and phones, that is! As we drove back to Wuye, the accompanying Police Officer regaled us with stories about the rising crime rate in Abuja. We dropped him off at the Wuye Police Station, thanking him effusively for his help, and sent our regards to his kind-hearted DPO.

We gathered again at Nne’s apartment to drink the remaining fruit juice that we had chilled. In my impatience I drank mine while we walked to Wuye Police Station. Now I had to sit back and watch as Ikem, Ogene, Nna and Nne sipped the sweet juice. What an agonizing time for me which my ‘long-throat’ tendencies had elicited. But Nne was kind enough to let me have a sip againt Ikem’s remonstrations. He had wanted justice to fairness in that I drank mine earlier, and had shortened the chief celebrant’s portion. Nne tears through the birthday gifts we had bought her. With smile, she reveals the gifts we had given her: A cool wrist watch and a set of necklace and earrings to match; two novels from award-winning author, Francine Rivers to tease her feminine senses! The part that made her smile was the inscription:

“Happy birthday to our dearly beloved sister, Nne,
“From the “Committee of Bobos”, Ikem, Ogene, Nna and I”

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Teejay July 21, 2007 - 11:48 am

A remarkable piece. You are guys are lucky so just take your material loss stoically u still have ur lives intact and thank God for that……

Owena July 20, 2007 - 9:31 am

Ah pele o! Thank God you all came out of that situation with both your arms and legs attached in the right place. The cards can be cancelled so they can not be used again and money can be earned again as long as you are able-bodied and strong. The nerve of those policemen asking for 'folder' money sha… my people o!


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