JANUARY 1997; I met a very complicated situation on my return to Owerri. Strange things had happened while I was away.
I entered the Hotel premises at 4.00PM with my luggage strapped on my back. I was expecting a warm welcome from my colleagues and a subtle reprimand from Oga Dan for staying away longer than I was permitted. Instead, I met people looking moody as they went about their duties. No one paid me any attention rather they were staring at me as if I was a stranger.
I walked to the bar and brought out a chilled bottle of Gulder from the Gulder branded chiller to calm me down after a long journey. The DJ cubicle was closed. It was unusual for Slam’s office to be closed at such an hour when the business of the day was gearing up. He normally played blues or roots reggae at such hour. Emeka walked into the bar to collect some drinks, so I greeted him and asked after DJ Slam, but he pretended not to hear my question.
“Emeka! Is it not you that I am talking to?” I asked.
“I should be asking you!” He snapped.
“Asking me? As how?” I asked.
“You no know?” He asked.
“Know wetin?” I asked.
“Okay! Dey there dey pretend, when Police come carry you go, you go confess!” He said and walked out to attend to Customers.
Something was amiss. So, I gulped down the content of my beer and carried my luggage to my room upstairs, I entered the reception and asked the receptionist for the key to my room.
“Go and ask Oga Dan!” The receptionist told me.
“Oga Dan? Why?” I asked.
“He has to authorise the release of the key to you!” She snapped.
“Haba! Chinwe! It is me o! Bolaji! Am I a stranger here?” I asked.
“Please go and ask Oga Dan nah! I am busy please!” She snapped and started tapping the keyboard of her desktop computer all of a sudden.
I dropped my luggage behind the door and made to go up to Oga Dan’s office.
“Hey, Oga!” Chinwe called out.
I looked back at her, not sure who she was referring to. She pointed at my bag
“Carry am go I beg!” She said.
“You mean my luggage?” I asked.
“You heard me!” She snapped.
I quietly walked back and carried my bag. I knocked and entered Oga Dan’s Office; he was surprised to see me.
“Omo!” He called out.
“Oga Sir! I remain loyal sir!” I saluted him.
“Where the hell have you been to all this while? I expected you to be back after one week, but you have been away for three months or thereabout!”
“I am very sorry, sir! I had a lot of family issues to sort out sir! And since my NYSC programme is still far away, I decided to take out time and sort certain things out. I explained”
“You are welcome! But there are problems here o! I don’t think you are welcomed here any longer o”, he told me as calmly as he could.
“What happened, sir? No wonder everyone I have met had been somehow cold towards me”, I said.
“Excuse me for a minute!” He said and left the office to return after five minutes.
“Yes BJ! Welcome back!” He said with an enthusiasm that was not there a few minutes ago. Are you a member of a secret cult?”.
“Ha! What? Me? No o! How can?” I was confused.
“Are you sure?” He asked suspiciously.
“Haba! Oga Dan! You no trust me?” I asked him.
“Hmm, trust you? I used to trust you, but from what I have heard about you so far, I don’t know if I can trust you anymore”.
“Oga Dan, please talk to me! What is all this about? And where is Slam? At least he will tell me what happened if none of you wants to tell me. His office is closed at this hour, and I asked Emeka about Slam, but he said I should know better, me that have been away for some time now! Biko dede, ogini n’aeme ebe a?” I asked in Igbo language.
“You and Slam disappeared about the same time last year; he said he was going for political runs while you said you were going for a family visit. Is that not so?” He asked
“You are right, sir!” I replied.
“Slam has been dead and buried! His headless body was dropped outside our gate. This happened the second day you left, and since then you have not come back here! What have you come back here to do now when you are a wanted criminal?”
“Jesu Christi! Jesu Christi! Headless corpse?” I asked.
“Yes! That was what his people buried”, he said.
“Oh my God! Slam is dead?” Goosebumps came all over me, and I began to cry.
There was a loud knock at the door of the office as I asked him. “So what are the Police doing about it?”
“Oh! The Police?” He asked. Then, he turned towards the door and shouted, “come inside, please!”
The door opened, and three armed uniformed Policemen entered the office.
“Good day, Officers! Oga Dan stood up: this is the man we have all been looking for; he is one of the suspected cultists!”
My bladder gave out its content immediately, and a feverish feeling overcame me. I was feeling a burning sensation from inside me as I felt the cold hands of raw fear. I looked from Oga Dan to the Police. I felt like a dog whose owner was selling out to a Calabar or Ondo man.
“Are you Mr Bolaji?” The one with the pistol asked. I nodded.
“You are under arrest for involvement in cult activities which has led to the death of one Nnana Ogbuike popularly called DJ Slam, Onyekachi Chukwuma popularly called Major and Onyema Iloh popularly called Lusaka! You have the right to remain silent as anything you do or say here shall be used against you in the court of law”.
Nigerian Police don’t read you your rights before arresting you! For these people to read me my rights means they meant business and were not the everyday Nigerian Police.
“Oga Dan!” I called out.
“Please, follow them! Murderer! Your parents sent you to school, but you came here and turned to a daredevil! Wolf in sheep’s clothing! Onye oshi!” Oga Dan said.
“Oga Dan!” I called again as my hands were cuffed, and I was whisked out of his office.
A small crowd had gathered downstairs as the Police escorted me into the Peugeot 504 station wagon they came with. I was crying as the Policemen were hitting my joints with their batons even though I offered no resistance at my arrest.
We got to the Police station at a quarter past six o’clock as indicated on the wall clock at the police counter. The DPO was not on seat when the inspector that led the team asked the constable at the counter.
I was given a sheet of paper to write my statement. I asked the Corporal in the team to tell me how to write the statement as I had never had any reason to write a statement in a Police station before. The corporal relayed my request to the inspector, who then called the sergeant that came with him to arrest me to take charge of my case.
The sergeant said I should write everything I know about the death of DJ Slam and other dead Cultists and about my involvement in the secret cult.
I told him that I know nothing of both. This annoyed the Police officer when all efforts to make me indict myself failed.
By 9.45PM, they dragged me to a room inside the station. The stench from the room was awful, the door was closed, and the room was soundproof. They told me to pull off all my clothes, and then my hands were cuffed.
On a wooden table close to the wall were pressing Irons, needled syringe, pliers, hammer, koboko, cable wire, a pack of Tiger head razor blade, and some other strange instruments of torture.
I was lifted up and hung on the ceiling fan anchor. The handcuffs bit into my wrist, and I screamed. My legs were tied together with a hard wire. In two minutes, it felt like my hands would pull off my body. Words cannot describe what these men did to me. I went to hell.
The Police flogged me with cable wires and koboko for over forty minutes. They flogged every part of my body with emphasis on my private part. At a time, one of them grabbed my legs to prevent me from struggling while another inserted a long and thin iron into my penis to and fro causing me the most painful agony man could endure. They plugged the electric Iron into the socket, and when it smelled hot, they unplugged it and pressed it on my buttocks and my thighs. The room smelled of burnt flesh, my flesh. I screamed and screamed, I begged them and told them the story of my life, but it fell on deaf ears as they were threatening to kill me unless I tell them the truth.
They also used the razor blade to cut randomly on my buttocks and my legs. Then, they rubbed a substance which I think was dried pepper. I screamed, the pliers on their table was used on my toes. My bones were cracked. My ankles and my knees were knocked out with a hammer. That was when I stopped feeling any more pain.
“Are you ready to cooperate now?” I heard the question from afar.
“Pour am more water!” I heard someone else said.
I woke up with a pounding pain in my head as water was poured on me. I was on the floor of the torture room; I was lying on a slimy substance on the floor that smelled like death.
“Get up, criminal!” Someone snarled.
I tried to sit up, but I could not. I could not feel my hands as they just lay limp by my side.
“You no dey hear word?” Someone barked. “I say get up!”
“I can’t!” I said. “I can’t feel my hands”.
“You never see anything yet!” He said. “Look up! I say turn your back and look up!”
I turned to lie on my back. Every movement sent excruciating pains all over me.
“You see this guy wey hang there so?” The voice asked me.
I looked up to where I was hung and saw the lifeless body of a young man dangling from the ceiling with blood dripping from his body.
“He don die! The voice said to me. Na the same treatment wey we give to you we give am, but he no survive am! For you to survive am mean say you be hardened criminal! A confirmed cultist! But what we did to you is just step one! By the time you still refuse to cooperate with us, we shall proceed to step two! You hear me?”
“Yes, sir! But wetin una want me to do nah? I asked. Make I lie upon myself? Una no even bother to investigate wetin I tell una, the very day wey I leave this town, I was at Ibadan! I..”
“Sharrap! Someone shouted and kicked me in the groin. I saw flashes of light as I screamed my guts out.
“I will cooperate! Anything you want I will do it!” I said as I cried. I could not bear to take any more of the torture.
“Oya, sign this statement! He dropped an already written statement on the table and pulled me onto a chair. He dropped a pen by the paper and told me to sign the paper. I tried to move my hands, but I could not. I was reading the content when the man shouted, “Oh! You dey read am abi!”
There was an explosion, something tore through me. I felt myself falling.