The Story of Pains – Part 1
Pain is a part of life. Sometimes it’s a big part, and sometimes it isn’t, but either way, it’s a part of the big puzzle, the deep music, the great game. Pain does two things: It teaches you, tells you that you’re alive. Then it passes away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser, sometimes. Sometimes it leaves you stronger. Either way, pain leaves its mark, and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another.” ― Jim Butcher
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Ago Palace Way
Two young boys strolled out of home one hot afternoon in search of cold drinks and walked into trouble. Danger was looming nearby but they were unaware of it. The weather was harsh and electric power outage made home uncomfortable. The unbearable heat drove them out to refresh.
As they stepped out, the scorching sun hit them in the face. “My God, it is even hotter outside,” cried Jordan as he cupped his left hand over his eyes to shield it from sun rays. “Most shops in this neighborhood have not had power supply in the last two days. Sure we can get cold drinks around here?” he asked his junior brother walking beside him.
“We just have to search well,” said Jethro. “It’s bad enough to roast under this heat and you can’t chill.”
They checked all the shops in a side street for anything cold but drew blank. No cold drink.
“Let’s go home,” Jordan said weakly, wiping sweat from his forehead. I’m dehydrated and losing strength.”
“You give up easily,” Jethro replied. “Quitters don’t win. Let’s check the other street. I think some shops there chill drinks with ice blocks.”
“Am not going there,” Jordan protested. “That place is a slum infested with junkies and street urchins.”
“Let’s go,” Jethro persisted pulling his senior brother along. “We may just get what we want there. If not we check my friend who lives there. He may surprise us with something cold.”
Jordan walked languidly behind him as they sauntered into an adjoining street, their skins burning under the scorching sun. The area was dotted by junk and refuse heaps that let out pungent smell. Shanties there were crammed with poor people while blocked gutters by the roadside with stagnant water bred mosquitoes. Naked children with protruding tummies at play shrieked as they ran up and down the street.
The sight of the place stunned the boys who reacted to the stench by closing their noses with handkerchiefs. They were feeling hot and dry, pushed by heat and thirst to discover squalor amidst plenty. But they got what they wanted.
They bought cold soft drinks, looked for a shade to relax, spotted an uncompleted bungalow that provided shelter, walked in there and sat down to chill. At last they got something to cool off with though they were burning from another heat, this time not from weather.
As university students, they were forced to stay at home for six months at a stretch by the on-going university teachers strike. There was no end to this siege by the dons and students had become frustrated and bored. They were wearied of staying idle when they should be in school. The two brothers sipped their drinks as they conversed in low tones about their stress and travails out of school.
But danger loomed. Unknown to them, the spot where they sat is a notorious den of hoodlums who attack residents and rape girls at night. They got a hint when a child who passed by alerted them to leave the dangerous place immediately. They were yet to interpret the message when three rough looking men swooped on them menacingly. The young boys fled and attempted to jump over a wall.
“Don’t run,” the intruders cautioned. “We are the local vigilante group who maintain security in this area. We want to know who you are.”
Jordan and Jethro returned to their drinks looking suspiciously at the men.
“We are university students living nearby,” they explained. “We just came here to cool off. The heat is too much.”
The vigilante pounced on the boys. A crushing blow hit Jordan’s jaw knocking him down instantly. A molar tooth fell off as his gum started bleeding. Jethro raised alarm but no one intervened. Three rapid slaps on his cheeks by rough hands shut his mouth.
The men beat the boys up, whipped them into submission with leather canes, and accused them of robbery in the area. They bundled the boys onto two motorbikes and sped off to the area police station. Getting there, they handed them over to cops as robbers terrorizing their area. They dropped a bag of marijuana with the officer on duty as evidence of breach of law.
The cops quickly put the boys behind the counter and forced them to write a statement and admit ownership of the hard drug popularly called weed in Nigeria. Another opportunity had come for them to make quick money. They were obviously pleased with the new catch but masked their excitement with stern faces. The battered boys were stupefied.
“Jet, call Daddy,” Jordan instructed his brother as he wiped off blood dripping from his mouth.
The call came through just as Ozoemena rushed into his office. He was in a hurry to knock out a press release for his client about to launch a new food product. His job as media consultant demanded quick roll out of releases he distributes to media houses same day. He was under pressure to deliver this day for the news to appear following day in newspapers.
But the Tip Sheet about the yoghurt drink did not show its vitamin content. As he reached for his mobile phone to call his client, it rang. Jethro was on the line.
“What’s it Jet? I can hear your heavy breathing.”
“Dad, me and Jordan are detained at the 2nd Container Police station,” he said in a cool voice.
“What on earth for?” Ozo asked forgetting the press release.
“We went to Babylon Street to take cold drinks. The weather was harsh; no power at home. After buying, we saw an uncompleted building nearby, walked in there and sat down to drink. In a jiffy, some rough guys parading as local vigilante called us robbers, beat us up, planted hard drugs on us and took us to the police station. Jordan is bleeding. They knocked off a tooth.”
“Take it easy boys. I’m coming there now,” Ozo said and hung up.
The news threw him off balance but he tried to control his grating nerves. He gritted his teeth as he pumped his left palm with his right fist. ‘My JJs are robbers and hard drug smokers? Not possible. They may smoke weed but are certainly not robbers,’ he said to himself. He delegated the PR writing to his manager and made frantic calls to his wife and junior brother. The alarm was out. The two rushed to the police station.
“Why this pain now?” He swore as he sped off to the station. “This is one of the fall outs of students staying at home instead of school.”
Ozo had heard of the police-vigilante collabo in the city to check crime. But it’s been turned into an extortion racket run by greedy vigilante bosses. They collude with police chiefs to sustain inflow of steady cash they spend on alcohol and drugs. They do it this way: Vigilante men on patrol pounce on suspect boys accuse them of petty crimes and robbery, rough-handle them, arrest and hand them over to cops with a demand for their share of cash-for-freedom.
The cops raise the stakes at the station and amplify the supposed offence. They create tension to force anxious parents to part with money for release of their bruised children. Racket members share the booty and search for a new set of victims. It’s a vicious cycle that yields cool cash no questions asked. Extortion rings torment people unchecked Ozo reasoned in pains. He will be forced to pay no doubt about it. He managed to meander through the Lagos traffic jam and thirty minutes later, arrived at the police station, 5pm.
“Who is this vigilante and what right do they have to beat up and arrest my children,” he thundered on arrival.
He could not reach his sons who looked forlorn as they sat behind the police counter. But the police hawks there told him to cool it because the evidence is real. They would charge the boys to court next day. A cop advised him to take it easy as the racket is very active. They bring victims to the station every other day and get returns. It’s a vicious cycle laden with pains for victims and families.
“Go and explain to the Police Chief. He may listen to you,” he told Ozo. That was not to be. …
(4 May 2016)
Eric Okeke is a CSR specialist and strategist in brand marketing and mobilizing support for corporate and social issues. He is the brand storyteller, writer, speaker, author and media consultant, with training in chemistry, marketing and business journalism. As a business writer and speaker, he has recorded a good career in media consulting and journalism which he started at The Guardian, Lagos.
Eric’s communications niche is storytelling which he is now using to empower professionals and improve business returns in Nigeria. Email him at, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Tel +234 803 301 4609; +234 817 301 4609.