Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The police is your friend.

May 4. Morning.

There’s bird shit on my windscreen. Usually means good luck but not this time. This time it’s different. The left side of my eye’s been twitching since I woke.

Bird shit and a twitching eye, more than enough reason to visit the mountain.

On the mountain, I’d be made to shake my head violently and declare my enemies dead.  The ones who sent the bird or became it. But I didn’t go. And bad luck came.

At a hotel. In Aguda.  Afternoon.

We’re filming at the bar. A pot bellied man is following one of my artists around. He wants to see her AGN ID card, he says. I step in and ask for his but he cannot produce it. He’s a member of the AGN task force. Everyone around there knows him.  Of course they would. The stench of alcohol oozing from him is enough identification. He calls for reinforcement. They threaten to disrupt my set, I threaten to sue them. Reason prevails.

3pm. Aguda. Another Location. 

‘I’m the landlord’s child, this is my father’s compound.’ A cracked voice bellows at us.  ‘But we’re not in your compound, we’re on the streets,’ I retort, attempting to reason with him.

‘Arrest the Production Manager and seize their equipment,’ He barks at the truck load of policemen he’s come with. The policemen look confused. We soon learn that the landlord’s child – this barking man - had a quarrel with our PM, his tenant, and this is open season for his vengeance.

The policemen regret that they made the trip but the order came from above. It had to be obeyed.  Naturally, they cannot return empty handed.

I shake my head, disillusioned. I remember when we called the police during a robbery. They had no free car, they told us, but here they are. Here to settle a squabble between neighbours, nay, here to settle their thirsty pockets.

8pm. Police station.            

The Location Manager has arranged a police station for us to film in. We arrive there, and Cally, the DCO, asks to see me. He wants to renegotiate, he says.  I do not have many options, not at 8pm. I agree to his terms. He’s not a bad man, he tells me.

And I believe him! 

The crew begin to set up. Cally, now brandishing a green bottle, stays with us, sharing jokes. They’re not funny but we laugh, feeling obligated to. Our laughter is poorly executed but then, we’re not actors. They would have better performed but they’re preparing for the scene we’re making ready to shoot.

When satisfied with the level of progress, I leave, and Cally leaves several minutes after me.


Barely five minutes after he’s gone, two police vans arrive from another unit, stopping the crew, saying they can’t shoot there. The crew call me but there’s nothing I can do from the phone. I ask them to pack up. My phone rings again. They want the crew to follow them  to a larger police station close to this one. I call Cally, who says he’ll make a U-turn.

There’s a high tempered officer in their midst. He fiercely cocks his gun and threatens to shoot if the crew don’t follow them to the station. His temper is the kind responsible for police murder of innocent civilians.

‘Who does the actress think she is? Her stardom ends on TV. Here, he I am king.’ His voice is now very high.

‘What’s my offence? Why am I being taken to another station?’ the actress is perplexed. Perhaps this is her crime, for daring to question an officer.

He cocks his gun again but he can’t shoot. Too many spectators. And when spectators become witnesses, that cannot be good for him. He deflates her tyres instead. All four of them. Still, he wants more. It’s become a battle of the sexes.  An ego has been enlarged. The crew decide to follow him and his unit to the other station before his ego explodes, taking them down with it.


Cally proves his worth. He arrives at the station. He insists that he gave the permission to the crew to shoot but still, Divil won’t let his captives go. No one had yet been charged. No officer seems to know what to charge them with or hadn’t decided which they would create.

We make frantic calls. But it’s midnight and not many phones are still switched on.

Divil has now disappeared. Probably gone home to boast to his wife. ‘I locked Awele up’. I can imagine him using the pertinent Nigerian question, ‘Does she not know who I am?’

5th may. 8am.

I arrive the station with a lawyer. A representative of AMP(Association of movie producers) is also here. The DPO arrived early. Cally and Divil are both present.  All I want to know is our offence.

Unlawful use of police premises to film.  There’s a new law that stipulates one must get a permit from the Commissioner of Police after our script has been vetted. We’ve shown the police in bad light for too long and this must stop, the DPO lectures.

But Cally let us in, admitted to letting us in, why hold us?  He tells me Cally has been queried and will face disciplinary committee. I’m still not satisfied. Is this why my crew were held overnight? 

If one of them came home to find us filming in his house and his wife says she let us in, will he punish us or punish the wife?

I don’t get an answer.

The AMP representative calls for a truce.  The Ghanaian among us is apologised to. The Nigerians, we don’t deserve any. We’re lucky to be alive.

Our hotel is in Ajah. Eight rooms paid for. Not slept in. The day is gone. Wasted.

In a country where there are no jobs, where sixty seven million youths are reportedly unemployed, we struggle to create ours and are prevented from working by the same people who swore to protect and serve us.

There’s a poster on the wall, someone has handwritten a word in the middle.

The police is not your friend.

PS. Names are not real names.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Now that we are off the streets

It was a long walk to freedom. For five days thousands of Lagosians walked several kilometres to and fro freedom park, Ojota to protest against the sudden removal of fuel subsidy by the Nigerian government.  A journey that has been long overdue.  A walk that we should have taken years ago, when Nigeria was still pregnant with corruption.  Perhaps, it could have been delivered still born. Unfortunately, the baby was carried to term and delivered as a bouncy baby boy. It now walks tall threatening to destroy our land.

Thankfully, it’s better late than never. Nigerians finally took the streets, protesting, not just the subsidy removal but against the corruption that has eaten so deep into our nation. A country where the office of the president budgets 1billion for feeding in a year while the average Nigerian lives on $2 per day. Where the senate president reportedly earns 40million per month and civil servants are fighting to be paid a minimum wage of 18,000 per month.  You wonder when we became like this or have we always been this way?

On Friday, as we walked back from the protest sight, a car lost control and skidded off the roads, nearly knocking down several pedestrians. The men among us rushed to the scene to offer assistance.  Close by were stationed some policemen. They remained unmoved, unconcerned. One puffed out his cigarette at us when we questioned their indifference. There seems to be such a disconnect between the government and the people.  The protests have been a huge step in the right direction and though we have left the streets now, we must go on to occupy the lives of these corrupt leaders.

We must stop celebrating them. Our religious organizations must cease to harbour them. If the polity refuse to prosecute them, then we the people will ensure that they become outcasts in the society. When thieving politicians are booed in public, allowed to sit only at the back seat of churches if allowed in at all, their children snubbed for their undeserved wealth, then would we truly have occupied. As long as we celebrate them and allow them to reign as kings among us, then all our efforts in the past week would have been in vain.

The road to freedom park might have been long but it has brought freedom a few steps closer.