I came alive with this throbbing piercing pain on my shoulders, I cried out and opened my eyes. Everywhere was blurry at first, and then I could see light. I sneezed severally before I noticed the person standing by my bed. Even sneezing was painful.
“Sorry. Relax! Relax!” He said as he touched my body and checked my vital signs. He opened my eyelids and pointed some luminous instrument into my eyes, and he felt for my pulse as some other person joined him.
“Is he back?”
“Yes! He pulled through!”
“Wow! Thank God o! After five months in coma!”
“God still has use of him”
“God or Satan?”
“Well, it is God that gives life!”
“Let’s hope he will change for good”
“We don’t know him yet!”
“What else do you need to know other than he must be an escaped criminal? A fugitive! Let us call the Police now that he is conscious!”
“The Police? Have you forgotten this is a naval base? ”
“Ehen? Is it not the police’s job to handle such matters?”
“Then, it is not your responsibility to call the police! The Commandant is interested in this matter! The United nation’s attaché that brought him here is interested in him also so please hold your peace!”
“No, please! No police!” I interrupted their discussion. “The Police will kill me!”
“Why?” One of them asked.
“They did this to me!” I wailed.
“What? The Police did this to you?”
“Yes!” I managed to say before I fell into another long sleep.
I spent a total of six months at Owerrinta naval training school hospital. The Naval patrol had picked my body up from the popular “Boro Pit” along Aba-Port Harcourt express road. Some scavengers picking items for recycling from the refuse dump had seen that I was still breathing, and then they alerted the patrol that happened to drive by at that time. It was about 3.00AM. The Navy had put me in their van and taken me to the emergency ward of their hospital. They said I was naked and battered like a thief who escaped being mauled by a group of frantic and angry community youths. There was a bullet wound on my stomach.
The police that arrested me had driven my body all the way from Owerri to Aba and dumped into the Boro pit to rot,
I told the commandant of the base the story of my life, from my birth to my death, and then he told me my story from my death to my resurrection.
He said I was taken to the ICU immediately they brought me to the hospital that morning around 3.40AM. My intestine was popping out from my stomach, and I was a complete mess. No normal hospital would have accepted to treat me but for a military facility or a teaching hospital. They had cleaned and patched me up. My joints were broken, and my shoulders pulled from the sockets with torn ligaments, my penis was like a ball of grape, it was swollen and scorched. My buttocks and thighs were swollen with deep razor blade cuts and scorched with an electric iron. My back and stomach were not spared of the same treatment. I was better left for dead! There were sores all over my body, and they cleaned me up every day, I was put on oxygen life support when I developed a fever and became very ill while I was still unconscious in the bed.
Commodore Aboderin told me that I was actually saved by a UN attaché, who was working with the Patrol team that night. The attaché was in Nigeria, Aba to be precise, to monitor the activities of the Bakassi boys at curbing crime in Abia State. It was the foreigner that insisted that I was brought to the naval hospital for treatment even though the naval officers in the van had told her that I was a criminal caught and tried by the Bakassi Boys. She had told them that my case was not similar to the way Bakassi Boys treated thieves. The Bakassi boys would tie up the thief, cut him or her into pieces, and then burn off the body. She said that I was a victim of jungle justice.
The commandant said I was very fortunate because many people have died innocently in the hands of some unscrupulous members of the Nigerian Police.
I poured out my concerns to the commandant. What would have happened to me if the Scavengers had not discovered my body that morning? What if it had rained heavily that night while I was lying in refuse dump dying? What if the pigs and dogs that roam at the refuse dump had gotten there before the scavengers? With my intestines popping out of my stomach? What if the Vultures had gotten to my body first? It was even possible for head hunters for ritual purposes or any of their suppliers to have gotten to the dump that morning and found my body. It was by the mercies of God that I had come out of the police brutality alive.
I could not really place how everything happened because it happened so fast simultaneously. I was not given a chance to defend myself; the police station was a torture zone for the fact that they have such a room at the station that was soundproof. The Police Officers had tortured to kill me, and they eventually shot me in the stomach and disposed of my body. In my presence, I saw the dangling body of another of their victim tortured to death. They would also dispose of such body! Does it mean no one ask them questions? My case was peculiar because no one would have asked for me. Mr Adegoke would be waiting forever to hear from me, and if he did not hear from me after several years, he would assume I have abandoned him to be on my own. My Yemisi would assume that was the way of men and their sweet talk. I would simply have disappeared just as many others must have been made to disappear by the police. This was jungle justice.
It was the third quarter of 1987; I was twenty-eight years old, and my mates were already into the NYSC programme. This was not the situation I had expected to find myself in life. I knew my call up letter must have gone back to Abuja. My friends and well-wishers would have expected to know where I was posted to for the service year. My so-called friends at the hotel had betrayed me. I was not given a fair hearing as their minds had been poisoned against me even before I returned from home.
Oga Dan had gone to call the Police when he excused himself for five minutes during our discussion in his office. Oga Dan could have told me that I was wanted by the police so that I could run away or find a way to go and explain myself at the station. I would have called Mr. Goke via any of the NITEL payphone centres springing up in the country and explain the situation of things to him. He would have advised me or come down to follow me to the station. I just kept ranting and repeating myself until the commander asked me a simple question.
“Would you like to join the military?” He asked.
I was surprised because I was not talking in that direction. I was tongue-tied at first.
“Would you?” He asked again
“Sir! I am a graduate of Electrical and electronics engineering. I would love to practice my profession, sir! I have never in my life thought of the military as a career!”
“I am also a mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Ife, and I am practising my profession in the Navy! In fact, there is no better place to practice your profession than the military. Be you a Doctor, a Lawyer, a musician, a tailor or bricklayer. There is a place for everyone in the military. We do our things ourselves here by using our professionals”.
“Sir! I heard it is a very tough and rigorous process to join the military”, I asked.
“You have been through tougher experience lately! Look! I like you and would love to help you; the present GOC of the 82nd Division is a very good friend and colleague of mine. He has given me one slot to present a candidate on his behalf at the next Officer Cadet short service commission next month”.
“Ha! Sir, I am yet to go for my youth service! Won’t the certificate be necessary?” I asked
“By then, you will be serving as a Soldier and will apply for an exception from the NYSC”, he said.
“Ha! Sir, I don’t know how to thank you o!” I got up and prostrated before him. “God will bless you, sir! May your children meet with divine favour where ever they may be sir!”
“Amen! Stand up please!” He said.
“I don’t know what next to do sir, but one thing for certain is that I need to go to the hotel and retrieve my belongings then I need to go to school for my clearance and my result. I will also need to rent a temporal apartment as I sort myself together! I need some time to think about my new life! The twist in my life is so sudden that I still feel like I am in a dream world”.
“No problem, Bolaji. Take everything step by step. You can use a room at my BQ while you tie up loose ends in your life. I have no doubt about your integrity because from all the information our intelligence unit gathered about you, you have been set up!”
“Oh! You investigated me?” I asked
“We are not stupid! We are the navy!” He said
“Wow! Did you find out about the girls in my life?” I asked shyly.
“Chioma, Katherine, and Theresa? Even the Amara that is dying for you!” he said
“Ha! Jesu Christi o! You people have exposed me o!”
“We think Chioma set you up! Her boyfriend or do I say the former boyfriend was killed along with your friend DJ Slam. It is complicated sha! But we are still working on certain links and the less you know the better. I am offering to help you as an act of service to God and man! If a foreigner could help to save your life as a black man, then I should do more for you as a black brother and fellow Yoruba. I will assign one of my boys to follow you to the hospital for a check-up, then he will drive you to Owerri, he will be with you until you go to NDA next month”.
I prostrated again. “Ese pupo! Sir! Thank you so much, sir!”
The hotel was quiet when we got there at 10:00 AM, I had been wearing the same clothes for over a week, and I don’t even know who bought the dress for me. I needed access to my clothes. The Orderly assigned to me parked the Toyota Avensis 2.2 at the parking lot, and together we went upstairs to Oga Dan’s office. The Orderly kicked the door with his boot as I was about knocking and the door flung inwards startling Oga Dan and the lady sitting on his laps with her breast over his face. It was Chioma sitting on Oga Dan’s laps with her blouse unbuttoned. She jumped out of her skin as she saw me.
“Ghost o! Ghost o! You are dead! You are dead!” She screamed, pointing at me and cowering beside the refrigerator in the office
“How can? Oga Dan asked. “But you were dead! I saw the picture of your battered corpse!”
“Is that why you are putting on my clothes?” I asked. “You are wearing a dead man’s clothes!”
He hurriedly pulled off everything he wore save for his boxers.
“Please take your clothes if it is what you have come for! I have no hand in your death!” He said, throwing my clothes towards me.
“Put my clothes in my bag and give me the keys to where ever you kept my belongings, I have come to pack my things!”
“Em em, your things are no longer in the hotel! We shared everything amongst ourselves when the police said you were dead!”
“What? The Orderly shouted. “You mean that you people shared his property without his family’s consent? Is that what he wrote in his will?”
“No sir!” Oga Dan said. “But please is this man dead or not?”
“I am not dead, Oga Dan! Your plans failed! God came to my rescue for I am more than a conqueror!”
I didn’t even believe I could use that biblical phrase, though it suited the situation at hand. It was at this point that Chioma came under the attack of an epileptic seizure; she started to shake and contort as she fell to the ground.
“Help me! Help me help her!” Oga Dan shouted.
“Leave her! I said. “Just get a metal spoon and put between her teeth then hold her in position until she calms down”.
“Is that all? Will that do?” Oga Dan asked nervously as he got a spoon from inside the refrigerator and forced it between Chioma’s clenched teeth. He held onto her as she convulsed for fifteen minutes before she was relieved.
By this time, some of the staff of the hotel had come into the office. Oga Dan was half-naked wearing only his boxers while Chioma was in his arms with her blouse opened, exposing her breast. I looked up at the cabinet in Oga Dan’s office and saw my travelling bag there, the one I returned from home with on the day of my arrest. I brought it down. My documents were intact.
Chioma got hold of herself and started to dress up shamefully.
“Oga Dan and Chioma!” I called.” How on earth did the two of you start to date each other? My two good friends! I can’t understand!”
“It is Chioma o! BJ, believe me it was Chioma that told me that you were a cultist and was involved in the death of DJ Slam. She also testified to the Police that you were on the run. Even when you died, it was Chioma that that told me that you have no relations that would come for your property; that was why I shared it”, Oga Dan confessed.
“Chioma! Is it true?” I asked. “Am I a cultist? Did Slam himself not tell you that I was a Jew man? What did I do to you to set me up even unto my death? And now you are sleeping with my boss? Chioma!”
“You were sleeping with my friends!” She snapped.
“Oh! Is that it? The truth is that all of you are the same! You and your friends are a rotten lot! Your friends came after me when you left me because I refused to buy the car for you! I begged you severally to no avail so you have no right to be jealous that I was sleeping with your friends! So, is that why you set me up? To the extent that I was killed by the police and it does not bother you? Let me show you something”.
I unbuttoned my shirt and pulled off my singlet, everyone in the office screamed. I pulled off my shoes and pulled down my trousers then I pulled my boxers up to reveal the scars on my thighs.
This is what the police did to me! I turned around for everyone to see. Someone pushed her way to the front of the small crowd in the office. It was Amara. She screamed when she saw me, she closed her mouth with her hands when she saw my battered body and sank to the floor.
I continued. “I was arrested for no just cause! I was cuffed and hung from the ceiling naked. I was flogged continuously for one hour! I was burnt all over with pressing iron! My ankles and my knees were dislocated with a hammer! I was slashed with razor blades, and the wounds stashed with red hot paper for no just cause! They used pliers to break the small bones on my feet. I cried, I screamed! I begged, but no help came! My shoulder was pulled from my body! Then I was shot in the stomach! My intestines came out! Then I was carried all the way to Boro pit in Aba to die!”
“Who did this to you? Who did this to you, BJ? Amara rose and came over to me, crying.
“They said you were dead! They said you were a cultist! They said you killed Slam, but I did not believe them! I did not know where to find you, but I did not believe them! Then, I heard you were arrested and have been killed too! I was confused! Oh my God so you are alive! Who did you offend?” She wailed.
“Your brother and his girlfriend set me up, Amara!”
“What?” She was shocked. “My brother? And his girlfriend? Which of his girlfriends?”
“Look at them standing together!” I said.
“What? This girl? Your former girlfriend?”
“Yes!” I said
“How? Brother why?” Amara asked
“It is the girl that deceived me, Amara! She had a hidden agenda and scores to settle with BJ. So, she used me!”
“And at your age you allowed this common prostitute to use you? I have not liked this girl from day one! I knew she was dangerous, but I could not tell you, BJ. I told Slam, but I could not tell you!” Amara said.
“DJ Slam told me! In fact, he told me everything you wanted to tell me, but I was a fool not to be able to read between the lines”.
“Ha! Human beings are wicked o!” Amara faced her brother and Chioma. “Look at somebody’s child! Look! Look! What you people did to him! Look at scars on a human being’s body? Can these scars ever wipe off for life? Look at the bullet wound on his stomach! And you people have the temerity to sleep with each other after killing him? God! Human beings! And brother, why are you naked? What is wrong with you?”
“He was wearing my clothes!” I said. “Everything he wore was mine except for the boxers. He thought I was a ghost when I entered his office, so he pulled off my clothes as if it was what I had come back for!”
“Nonsense!” Amara exclaimed as she packed the clothes her brother pulled and put them back in my bag. “Put on your clothes BJ and let’s get out of here! God will judge these people! Let’s leave them for God!”
“Leave who for God? The Orderly who has been quiet all the while shouted. Oya two of you, forward March to the base! When we reach base, then una go sabi the difference between the Police and the navy!