In this tragic prose work, Chima had travelled to Lagos to try to rescue his younger brother, Dimkpa, who was detained at the Special Armed Robbery Squad, SARS, Lagos. Dimkpa had been driven by unemployment into the Advance Fee Fraud called 419. Near SARS, Chima met Chukwuma, another graduate of Economics who became a labourer due to unemployment. Chukwuma was violently shot dead by policemen mistaken for an armed robber.
From The Rejected Stone by Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
The next day, Chima headed towards Lagos, a strange land to him. Before he left Umuogu, he had had a dream. In that dream, he had seen his dead father so clearly. His father had asked him to bring Dimkpa’s file from his brief case. Chima interpreted that dream as a message from his father telling him what to do when he gets to Lagos – go after Dimkpa’s case file.
Incidentally, it was in the middle of a great political disturbance in the country. Those who saw Chima at the bus park advised him to go back, that people were rather running away from Lagos back to the village. Chima also heard that people in detention were being brought out and executed without trial in anticipation of break-up of the country.
‘I cannot leave my brother there to die. Someone has to go for him. I am sure he too would do same for any of us.’
But he didn’t know Lagos. He didn’t have in mind any specific place to stay. But he had an address.
Lagos was actually in crises. There was petrol scarcity which had taken all vehicles off the road. Oil workers were on strike. And truly, people were running away from Lagos. Before midnight that day, Chima managed to locate the house in the address he had with him. From that night, Chima began to have a participant observation of a new level of human suffering. He had thought he was suffering until he came to Lagos.
Most people lived in one squalid room accommodation and they hardly had something to eat. The toilets and the bathrooms Chima saw and used in Lagos frightened him. The bathrooms were so small that one hardly could turn without one’s body touching the wall, the four walls carrying the dirt of several decades, turned into a jelly mass resembling a hundred years of piled up human phlegm released from coughs.
Chima knew he had a mission to accomplish, an important mission involving life or death of his younger brother. Luckily for him, the owner of the house where he was staying – an Umuogu man – had no intention of running away from Lagos. The following day, Chima began to look for his brother, Dikmpa.
The Umuogu lady who had brought the bad news of Dimkpa to them at home took Chima to the high court in Ikeja where Dimkpa’s case was coming up. They said nobody was allowed to see him where he was detained. It was said that Dimkpa had stolen some money belonging to a rich man and the rich man had vowed to send him to the grave.
Chima was outside the court premises when a bus arrived with armed policemen. He did not recognise his brother, Dimkpa, when he saw him bound with handcuffs and chains.
The policemen did not allow him to speak to Dimkpa until he gave them some money. As the two brothers stood face to face with each other, tears flowed towards their eyes. ‘What put you in this type of condition, Dimkpa?’ Chima cried.
‘There is a man that has vowed to kill me. He owed me, so I took his money. I have even returned the money to him, yet, he is bent on killing me. There is nothing we have not done to pacify this man. Everything has failed. That is why I sent the message. Chima, the place they are keeping me is not a place one can survive after few days. But I’ve been there now for four months. As you are looking at me, you can see that I can die at any moment. I wish Papa was still alive, Chima. But I am glad you are here. We all hated you because you are an achiever. Something tells me you can let me off this hook. I don’t know how you are going to do it. But it’s something you have to do for me, Chima. I would do the same thing for you, you know?’
Chima nodded his head in agreement. ‘Who is the IPO of your case among those policemen?’ he asked Dimkpa and he showed him the one. Chima made a mental note of the policeman’s face.
‘Please, Chima, I am very hungry. I have not eaten anything for a very long time. Could you buy something for me to eat?’ Dimkpa said.
Chima bit his lips. More tears dropped from his eyes. He ran down to a roadside food seller and bought plenty of food for his brother.
His case was adjourned to another date. Dimkpa was dumped back into the police van, ready to be taken back to detention cell. Courageously, Chima walked down to the IPO as he was about to enter into the front seat of the police van.
‘I am Chima Duru, sir. Dimkpa is my younger brother. I would like to speak with you, but not here or now.’
The police officer projected his bloodshot eyes on Chima, assessing him, probing him. Perhaps, sensing no danger in Chima, the IPO said: ‘Mohammed. SARS,GID.’ And the van screeched out of the court premises, taking Dimkpa along with them to a place unknown to Chima.
There was no petrol, and therefore not many vehicles on the road. However, the next day, after much struggle and inquiry, Chima got to the General Investigation Department in Ikeja. But visitors were not allowed to enter into SARS department in connection with any detainee. ‘Whom do you want to see there?’ the tough-looking riot policemen at the gate asked Chima.
‘Mohammed,’ Chima answered.
‘Why do you want to see him?’
‘I am a university student, sir. He had asked me to come and take some money when I am going back to school,’ Chima said, feeling as uncomfortable as he had never felt in his whole life.
‘Where is your school ID card?’
Chima produced his school ID card. The mobile policeman perused the ID card. Then he searched Chima and lifted the wooden bar at the counter. Chima entered and walked down towards SARS, unsure of his footsteps.
He walked into an office and asked a man about Mohammed ‘Do you have a matter here?’ the plain clothes policeman asked Chima.
Reluctant to continue the lie, Chima said: ‘Yes.’ Swift as lightening, the policeman kicked Chima’s two legs off the ground. Another hefty man joined him. Together, they flung Chima up into the air. As he was landing on the floor, they kicked him simultaneously with jackboots, forcing him to crash with his right hand. The hand dislocated from the wrist.
Several other policemen joined them. They carried Chima, opened a cell, and dumped him on top of many naked wounded criminals. The inmates made way for Chima on the scarce floor space. ‘Oh, why should they beat this man like this now?’ an inmate said as Dimkpa rushed to hold his brother, Chima. They had been watching the beating through the perforated blocks of the cell.
‘Dimkpa, is this where you are?’ Chima said, trying to struggle up. But his right ankle had been injured also.
‘I am sorry, Chima. I am the cause. But you are strong.’
‘You are not supposed to be here, Dimkpa. Papa had great plans for you, for all of us.’ Chima sniffed.
‘Don’t worry, Chima. The important thing for now is how to get you out. Two of us can’t be inside this place at the same time. If that happens, that means we are finished.’
‘They took everything I had with me, including my school ID card. I think they will release me as soon as they see the ID card,’ Chima said softly.
‘Chima Duru!! Who is Chima Duru!!’ a plain clothes officer shouted, clanging open the iron gate of the cell.
Chima limped out. The policeman helped him, telling him sorry. They entered another office and he saw Mohammed.
‘You did not sustain the strategy that brought you so far. Otherwise you would have safely gotten to me without anybody beating you like that. This place is strictly out of bound to members of the public. However, I am very sorry. They saw your school ID card. You are from OAU.’
‘It’s good you are here, because when we bring suspects here and nobody comes looking for them, that’s how we know they are actually bad people. A lot of suspects have been summarily executed here for such reasons. Nobody will ask any question. The suspect escaped from custody and got shot in the process, full stop. Your brother is still alive today because I think he has no business being here. He looks different from the rest that come here.’
‘His father was the Director of Public Prosecution in my state. He died a few months ago,’ Chima said.
The IPO shook his head sympathetically. ‘I am sorry about your father. Again, it’s a good thing you are here. I couldn’t have been able to guarantee his safety after now if no one had still come for him, especially with the looming political crises in the country.’
‘Where is his case file?’ Chima asked carefully, remembering the dream he had in Umuogu in which he had seen his father talking about case file.
‘Are you a law student?’
‘Well, you sounded like one. The file is with me. What do you intend to do with it?’
‘Sir, I grew up watching my father save many innocent persons from execution through their case files.’
‘In that case, you have to see the DPP at the Ministry of Justice, Alausa. But he cannot help you if I don’t send a copy of the case file to his office requesting for his advice.’
‘Will you send the file?’
‘Yes, if you want me to. But it will cost you fifty thousand naira.’
Chima was jolted up from the chair. ‘Sir, I came to Lagos with only six thousand naira. And the whole money left with me now is not up to three thousand.’
Mohammed stood up and left the office. He entered an unmarked police pick-up van outside and drove away.
To be continued…