Like every other morning, I got out of bed, careful not to wake my wife, Amina. But the floor creaked beneath my worn-out shoes, a testament to my years of service as a policeman. I didn’t mind; I slipped into my uniform. Its faded blue fabric felt scratchy, but it was the only one I had.
Amina finally stirred, her clumsy voice slicing through the silence. “Leaving early again, right?” She sat up. “Haba, at least drop some money for us to eat nau.”
Her words hung heavy in the air, a constant reminder of the choices I must make each day. I knew she was struggling, trying to make ends meet for our children. It tore at my heart, but there was not so much I could do with my meager salary.
I turned to face her. There was desperation in her eyes, but then frustration boiled over. She flared from the bed, lunging at me and grabbing my uniform shirt into a tight fist “I can’t go on like this, Friday. I am tired.”
I gently freed myself from her grasp, my voice softened as I tried to explain, “Amina, you know how it is. My salary barely covers our basic needs. I can’t promise you more.”
She looked away, tears glistening in her eyes. I knew she understood, but it didn’t make the situation any easier. She had been my rock and my anchor, supporting me through the trials of being a Nigerian policeman.
As I stepped out into the narrow passageway, I was greeted by the familiar sights and sounds of our local community. Children playing in the streets, the aroma of food stalls wafting through the air, and the hustle and bustle of daily life—It was a place I had called home for years, but then it felt like a labyrinth of debts and unfulfilled promises.
I walked briskly, avoiding certain corners and passages, my heart heavy with the burden of unpaid debts. The vendors, once friendly faces, now bore looks of resentment when they saw me coming. I owed them too much, and I could barely afford to feed my own family, let alone repay them. I found myself taking longer routes to work, avoiding the streets that reminded me of my growing list of creditors.
Still on my way to the police station, I reflected on the path that led me here. A path filled with good intentions. I aspired to uphold the balance of justice, but then it was also a struggle to provide for my family. I took a deep breath. This was a path I had chosen, and no matter how difficult, would continue to walk it for the sake of my family and the hope of a brighter future.
Minutes later, I arrived the police station and was in a dimly lit room. The thud of footsteps carried into my ears, and when I looked up, the door opened to Officer Kunle. He looked tired, lines in his forehead, creases on his shirt, evidence of another long day on the job.
“Friday, wetin happen? Why your face come be like this, like person wey never chop?”
“Because I never chop,” I glanced up at him with a sigh, eyes reflecting the weariness of our shared struggles.
“Chai!” Officer Kunle let out a sympathetic grunt. He extended his hand towards me, his invitation clear. “Make we go Iya Ruka side, go find something chop abeg. Oya, oya.”
I hesitated for a moment, torn between my hunger and the dread of facing Iya Ruka. I had been dodging her for weeks, and I knew that today I couldn’t avoid settling my debt any longer. I didn’t want to explain to Officer Kunle about my debts, didn’t want to see that look of pity in his face.
I trundled my way behind him to Iya Ruka’s side as though my worries had morphed into a large hold-all, hung heavily on my shoulder. Sitting there, I lowered my gaze, my fingers idly tracing the rough texture of the table.
“Ah. Oga Friday, we see you today. Long time, no see,” Iya Ruka greeted me sarcastically.
I couldn’t help but smirk. “I don miss your food, na why.”
Officer Kunle, on the other hand, understood the situation. He settled my previous debts with Iya Ruka with a few bills, and her stern expression softened into reluctant gratitude. Then, he ordered plates of fufu and efo and meat for each of us. My head bent more in embarrassment.
We started to devour the delicious meal and I couldn’t help but steer the conversation. “But Kay, you suppose show me way o.”
Officer Kunle swallowed a portion of his fufu and said, “Way dey ground dey look you, na you wey no wan follow na.”
I was aware Officer Kunle was one of the officers that billed the civilians at several checkpoints, but I was only bringing up the topic now because I was getting interested in it. I mean, if it could help me to pay for my food often, then it was a good step to take. Although it had always been against my personal code of conduct to take illegal money from civilians we were meant to protect, it seemed I had no way forward.
While I wrestled with my thoughts, Officer Kunle signaled Iya Ruka for more meat, oblivious to the inner conflict that was raging within me.
“Friday, way dey. E full ground. Na you dey dull na, you dey form pastor,” he said, a mischievous grin playing on his lips.
I heaved a sigh, realizing he was right. “Show me this way abeg, I don ready. I no longer want to continue like this. If you know how many people I owe for my street, I am not even fit to give my children money to go to school.”
Officer Kunle eyed me skeptically, then used the last piece of meat on his plate to scoop up the remaining efo. He was deep in thought. “You sure say you done ready?” he finally asked, chewing thoughtfully.
“Kay, I don ready,” I said, voice thick with determination.
Later in the evening, he took us to Eti-osa, where we set up a roadblock, our rifles hanging across our bellies. I asked him about the workings of this operation and my role in it, but his response was simple: “Just watch and learn.”
I observed his tactics closely. He targeted mostly fancy cars, striking up friendly conversations with their drivers, all the while uttering, “Bros, drop something for the boys.” His demeanor shifted with some drivers, his voice turning firm as he instructed them to pull over until they complied, slipping some change into his waiting palm.
Honestly, I felt a tinge of embarrassment as I participated in this alongside him. Perhaps it was because it was my first time, but I couldn’t deny that it appeared to be the most viable path for me at the time.
Things took a different turn when a Lexus car approached the checkpoint. A passenger had swiftly dropped from the car just before the driver reached our spot, I noticed. As usual, Officer Kunle, always the one with a quick joke to make a driver part with his money, decided to give it a try, but the young driver, with dreadlocks, seemed impervious to Officer Kunle’s charm.
“Officer, there is nothing. Please, let me just go,” the young driver said firmly, his frustration palpable.
“Who this one dey open eyes for?” Officer Kunle’s tone shifted. “Park abeg! Park there!”
The young boy complied, parking his car by the side of the road, his irritation growing. “Officer, what now?” he inquired, his voice tinged with annoyance.
“Let me have your phone.”
“My phone? Why? You don’t have the right to go through anything on my phone.”
“I won’t ask again; give me your phone now!”
“I’m sorry, sir. I can’t release my phone to you.”
Officer Kunle, clearly agitated, made a move to snatch the young boy’s shirt through the car window, his demeanor turning aggressive. “I know what you are. A yahoo boy, that’s what you are, and I go show you.”
The boy attempted to speak, but Officer Kunle silenced him with a sharp slap. “In fact, I’m taking you to the station. You are in soup today.” He turned to me. “Officer Friday!”
“Sir!” I responded promptly.
“Get in the car; we are taking this boy to the station.”
I couldn’t help but feel that this was unnecessary. In my view, we had already made enough money for the night from other drivers. If this young boy claimed he had nothing to offer, there was no need to harass and intimidate him further.
Officer Kunle sat with the boy in front, directing him as he drove. I sat alone in the backseat, a sense of unease settling in as we strayed farther from the police station. Questions raced through my mind: where were we heading, and was all this commotion worth the mere hundred naira the boy had refused to hand us?
Eventually, we arrived at a desolate, dimly lit turn leading to a secluded, bushy area. It was quiet and devoid of witnesses. Officer Kunle instructed the boy to park and get down, but he vehemently refused, sensing that something was not right. He said this wasn’t a police station.
With escalating aggression, Officer Kunle flung the car door open and yanked the boy from his seat, his voice a menacing growl. “I said you should come down. Are you mad? You want me to shoot you?”
He slapped the boy brutally, sending him sprawling to the ground, and continued to unleash a torrent of blows, his heavy boots landing with merciless force. Then, with relentless brutality, he dragged the helpless boy deeper into the bush. I followed reluctantly, my heart pounding with dread. This had gone too far, but I couldn’t stop him.
In the heart of the eerie bush, Officer Kunle forced the boy onto his knees, brandishing his rifle menacingly. “Will you open the phone now, or do you still want to be stubborn?”
The boy, his face now bruised and swollen, trembling with terror, unlocked his phone for Officer Kunle. I stood there, scanning the dark bushes, my fear intensifying despite having a gun. My thoughts strayed to the boy and how scared he must be, left alone with two armed men in this quiet place.
“E be like say money dey your hand well. No be bitcoin I dey see so?” Officer Kunle taunted as he went through the boy’s phone.
Suddenly, the boy attempted to snatch the phone and make a run for it, but it was a futile effort. In an instant, it all spiraled out of control. As the boy struggled with Officer Kunle, a deafening shot rang out, and the boy crumpled lifelessly to the ground, the bullet piercing his chest. His wide-open eyes stared blankly at the dark sky.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl as I watched the life drain from the boy’s body. I stood there, paralyzed, the frigid air closing in around me, my thoughts a chaotic jumble of fear and disbelief.
A rustle in the nearby bushes jolted me back to reality; a silent witness to the gruesome scene. Someone had been there, hidden in the shadows, and had seen everything. Panic gripped Officer Kunle, and he screamed at me to shoot. Without thinking (or maybe I thought of the fear of being caught), I fired two shots in the direction of the fleeing shadow. But we never went behind the bush to check if I hit the target.
Leaving the lifeless boy behind, Officer Kunle and I fled the grim scene, our hearts pounding with terror. We navigated our way out of the secluded area, leaving behind an unspeakable horror that will forever haunt our conscience.
My conscience, distorted and filled with fear, kept me away from home until the next morning. As I approached our face-to-face apartment building, a large crowd had gathered at the entrance. Panic surged through me. Had I been caught? My initial instinct was to flee, but curiosity got the better of me as I drew nearer to the commotion, and the distant cries of people became more distinct.
“What happened, what happened?” I urgently inquired, weaving my way through the crowd, attempting to reach the front.
Most of them remained engrossed in their grief, ignoring my presence. However, a woman from the neighborhood whom I barely recognized said, “It’s your son; they brought him from Eti-osa this morning. They said he was shot by some robbers.”
My son? Eti-osa? Shot? The words struck a chord of familiarity.
With determination, I pushed through the dense crowd, finally reaching the heart of the gathering. My wife and four other children were on the ground, encircling the lifeless body of my son. His shirt was drenched in red, and his body lay still and cold. He was truly dead.
Balogun Oladimeji is currently a final-year student pursuing a degree in Electronic/Electrical Engineering at Obafemi Awolowo University. From a young age, he exhibited a natural talent for crafting captivating narratives, character development, and the creation of immersive worlds that captivate readers. As an aspiring writer of unpublished short stories, he envisions putting Africa and Nigeria on the global stage through his unique and thrilling storytelling.