A Visit to the Freedom House

Onatola Abiodun

© Copyright 2018 by Onatola Abiodun

Photo of an abstract nude.

We are many from our mothers womb, we grew up to becoming a woman than the man we are.

Many a time we tried petrifying our faces with powder, any powder and there were numbless time we had robbed Dusting powder on our faces that is just learning the beautifulness of our mother beauty well written all over us.

I can drew a fine curved for my hairy eye lashes, for this course mother had been summon by our admirers to a court of no bar or the bench, demanding the secret that made her have a house of woman full of boys.

We don’t danced in church again for the pastor had said we had thrifted into a bundled thrift that had no contributor. Our dances was western like, we bent as we held unto our kneels for coordinated movement that made our buttocks rolled sensually.

Every child was not gifted in the identifications of numbers and the reading of words that were birth by the conjoining of alphabet into the innocent wombs of vowels for words birth.

We are the home of Five boys and two girls.

I was the third born of the family. A male and astute like, like the truth that never bent for untruthfulness.

The first two child of our family were boys.

The firstborn a civil engineer by training, Obafemi Awolowo University Alumnus and the Second a builder of world repute. He could not bribed his way so well into the University. The man who had promised to help him “runs” his admission was no mean man. He lacked the will to wit and greased hands too just like our father. But Mother was well refined in her thoughts and taught. She hated any arguments ensued. Everything worth doing is worth doing right.

And I have an arrays of Siblings and Younger one too that were more that the English count. For in Africa every children of both maternal and paternal family are my blood. There were most night that we had our food rationed in other to fed all of those who came to our house for visits and the could not leaves haven smell the aroma emanating from my mother pots.

I had done with secondary education some two years before I had my result made. I was the senior prefect of My School and there was never a quiz I represented my school and came back in hands emptied of prizes. My hands were always blessed with cash mostly from spectators who were just invited. The swiftness and my correct assertions of answers given were the Zenith than won their eyes to looking at me. I was of a frail body for my genius self.

I knew I made my O’ level results in my first attempt. Because most of the questions that was set were the very one I had mastered by heart. Except from that I had done a comparison of my answer with the very answer that were provided for the examiner. The teacher that was promoted to the position of the Vice-principal academics was a chief examiner in all of the region and continental exams. Been the very person he had chosen to be cleaning his offices, I have had the rare privileges of looking into the exams making guide.

I made my result in the third attempt. Though I knew what to wrote for every questions nevertheless, I paid for special center to proof read of my answers to questions asked were right this time. Answers that were majorly provided for every subjects I sat for. My answers booklets were taken to a woman whose computer works offices was overlooking our exams center for every one to copy.

I made a straight A in my WAEC GCE.

While I was in Secondary School mother had enrolled me to a Barbing Salon Stylist to learn the acts of haircuts. If I should numbers the time I was present in the Barber shops it wont add up to the exact count of the hours that made up a day. I became a barbing expert by intuition.

My graduation as an hairstylist apprentice was two month after secondary education. Mother opened a shop overflowing with Barbing accessories and many a customer that had their haircut for free or should I said customer who were always people I cannot charged a price. I did this for almost a year before I went with a friend to Lagos for his aunty birthday. That day he should have came for his haircut earlier. We left home for Lagos unprepared. We knew if we should stayed back a little longer we will be the prey in the hands of good unarmed robber that threw tyres at oncoming vehicles and dispossessed travelers of their valuables.

On getting to Lagos we went into the first Barber shop and the man we meet in the shop said his boss had ordered him not to allow anyone came Barbing in their shop for anyone. We checked into the second to almost the tenth hair stylist shop all of them had inexcusable excuses like the first one. We was at the friends family compound when someone lends us hair clipper and I had his hair finely cut. One of his older uncle who saw the hairstyle I barbed informed me that he had a shop he could hands in my care.

I saw that as a good avenue to made money for the JAMB I had in mind to seat. In the shop there was good customers and many a bad one who are the one that if in my own view they should be the nicest. They was the ‘have it all’ people of the society. They are the people that at every corrections were insulting words as though one does not exit.

The very one that made me craved a better Shop for my hairstylist was a man whose garages were full of the most exotic of automobiles. He had came for his haircut with the highest of our country denominations. I told him that I would need get the money changed of which he obliged. When I returned he was out of sight. I planned to hand him his change when next he came for haircuts.

I was unaware that he had taken a clipper and showed the shop owner. He told the shop owner that I was too careless a person to be in charge of the man big Saloon. The man came in the night of that very day and started with all the abusively outrageous words you could think of. He collected the Salon key from me and he never paid me the six month salary he owes me as an hairstylist in his salon.

I lend money from someone to traveled myself to Ajah in Lagos to see a cousin whom I heard had became one of the Lagos Big Boys who made cool cash while working home away from home.

I was waiting for him at a Bar he had ordered the bartender to served me whatsoever I will like to eat on his long listed bill. The bartender a girl very beautiful demanded if I could do her a favor of given her my cousin contact. She promised to be given me a percentage from any outing they went together.

A minibus parked at the Bar entrance and lanky men wielding guns told all of us to hand our hands up.

They worked us to the bus and carried us to their station in Charlie Boy Lagos. They said we should gives them the contacts of anyone we are sure could paid them well. I called my cousins phone hundred of time, he never answers. I am sure he was told the Police came to arrest us.

Some of us were bailed by their family who could paid the huge money demanded,

#200,000 per bail.

There was a guy whom before we was arrested we became friend over bottles of beers. I ordered every bottles he drank. He paid for the #600 pepper soup we drank.

I had expected him to convinced his older sister who came to facilitated his bail to bail me too. When I called his name as an officer gave him what was collected from him he yelled that never in my life should I called him. I was a criminal after all and him a free citizen.

The next morning I called my older brother and he came to Charlie Boy.

The first police officer he saw gestured him into the force officer.

All men on black, alcohol fumed from their unsmiling faces.

Good Morning Oga. I am here to see…”. He was not allowed to talked before they told him.

Where is your phone”. He brought out his phone.

The Police officers haven saw that his phone should be expensive retorted that,” How can we be sure you are not a criminal like your arrested brother.

Anyways, you will pay us the sum of fifty thousand naira for registration to see your brother. After which you will gives all those officers at the counter five thousand naira each for soft drinks”.

He handed them the fifty thousand cash he had on him for bail. He was about to transfer thirty thousand to the account of one of the six officers at the counter when he saw me handcuffed with other arrested and we was pushed into a bus of which they forced the bus owner to either take them to the court or had his bus seized and there is nothing he can do about it even if any of his family member was the President of the country.

I called the attention of the Investigative Police Officer in charge of Our arrest that that’s my brother and he was here to facilitates my bail. The Investigative Police Officer refuted with by banging the bottom of the gun on my head.

There was one police officer who took pity on us especially myself.

Ever since the night we was drove to their Charlie boy police station he had been a nice man.

He made sure we slept in a conducive environment. He bought and lighten mosquito repellant in their mosquito infected cells.

He got us a bag of cold pure water and ten pieces of Gala. He promised to resumed the next morning earlier than his scheduled duty.

He said I and other arrested needs no panicking that if not because of the gridlock on his way to the police station that very morning. He would have stopped us from writing our names on the booklet that was passed to us. The booklet of which we thought was just for mere record purposes we never knew there was a hidden secrets to it. A list of criminal to be tried was it.

The officer told my brother in an assuring voice that he should take a bike and meet us now at the Magistrate court in Berger.

The trial waiting room was an animal house, the air that blew through the window opening stench.

And the floor perforated, dried human excreta filled the hole.

I had turned my white wool jeans and the top too had sagged on my head due to the dragged of me by the Investigative Police Officer.

My brother arrived the court in no later time. He asks if I was okay, I replied him in the affirmative.

I am very okay Egbon Just that we needed food”. He bought beans and bread which he knew would be enough for us”.

My brother saw myself and other arrested dragged the food with one another. He almost wept while I assured him to be a man.

The Investigative Police officer walked near us and warned whosoever got us the food to never does something of such with him. Threatening that had it been that he was aware, he would not mind to have shot the person dead. To him that very person was the one who aided our crime.

Not long enough the court seated. The first case been that a rich woman and her driver.

The Woman argued the man stole gold and her car too.

The counsel of the accused called the woman cook as witness

The cook said,” I think Madam like Oga Jonah. I had saw her many time she seduced the driver. The Driver never gives in to madam demands.

And Our madam planned to implicated him.

Our Madam didn’t loosed any gold or ‘motor’. The gold is in her wardrobes and the car she dey talk about na the car wey dey outside”.

The Judge from her actions was not surprised. The female judge told the woman to published a written apology in every newspaper and offers the accused driver a monetary damages that his equivalent to his hundred years salary.

Next was ours. The Investigate Police Officer in charge of Us told the court that we are cult member and the very group who had been robbing The Ajah axis for a long time.

The Magistrate was a woman of books faces and i had expected a stiffer punishment because I had watched mostly a movie where people were roped and the judge never gave them the privilege of defense.

The Judge asked, “Appearances please”.

There was no bar member who could stands for our course. My brother who came had told me beforehand that all the lawyer he spoke with said they would collect an amount not lesser than fourth thousand naira and that ours was a criminal case. If nothing was done we may be convicted. He told me he would need sold his phone and the hands he dipped into his pocket came out with nothing. He had loosed his phone and I suspect it was the last woman who stood beside him that took his phone. His girlfriend I supposed she was. He offered to sold his shoe or better still the wristwatches in his hands. Every buyer feared they might be stolen items.

I and other arrested were given opportunities of self defense. We informed the magistrate that we was not a criminal. “Ma. I am but a surgeon for hair. I came to people rescue whom most people taught was mad and I bring alive their fine looks by my good styling act”.

The magistrate retorted that,” while its not possible to tell the extent of one culpability for a crime. Criminals are never known by mere looking at faces.

I know and very sure that you should had better made more meaning out of life if you could go to School.

While I would want the investigation of this matter to be committed into the hand of another officer other than the one who arrested them. I give everyone of them the opportunity of bail and they should be coming to answer to their cases from home.

And if peradventure some of them might be defaulted in bail,they should be remanded in the prison pending the completion and fulfilment of their bail condition. I rise.

Next case please”.

The next case is between…the magistrate was not done with the pronouncement of the next case to be heard after ours when a man ran out of the court and reported that someone (a passenger) I supposed did not paid him the fare and he had been waiting for the person for almost six hours. He thought he was lucky when he saw someone who resembled the passenger he carried. He held on to the person and his head fell off.

The street children had gathered round him to throw tyre on his neck before he was able to summoned courage and outrun the people that congregated around him.

I did not know the outcome of the case. I read it from the news that the person whose head fell off was one of the dead that wandered the streets of Lagos in the afternoon. Lagos is too much a populace, inward of it the living keeps living and the dead too came for reliving.

The people who was in court came for different reasons. Some are court inclined Business being,they had every documents that were demanded for bail. Tax clearance,working ID card,State Identity, Pay slips, money that was enough an assurance of surety etcetera etcetera. A woman whose Brother was arraigned alongside myself had before spoken to one of those being as regard his being a surety. The money demanded she complained was too exorbitant. She was left with no choice other than to pay a reasonable percentage of the money the man chewed her. Even if she wished to get her brother bailed that day she wouldn’t be able to get all of those documents requested. The offices created for that purpose were manned by capable hands which needed a monetary push from anyone who so made a request for effectiveness. One little lady who was dressed in blacks skirt and white shirts convinced her to let the said woman stands as their surety, she promised her the assurance of her corporation.

I and other arrested was whisk into a waiting van which was built in form of a mini waiting room for the yet to be convicted. There was many booing and jeering from everyone who was in the court room and the court environment. Hauling courses on the I.P.O who arrested us. I could heard plainly from many speaking mouth that that was the way the I.P.O who arrested us works. He was found of arresting people who were not criminal and labelled them one. They added that there was a time he arrested one of the Executive of The National Union of Road Transport Worker, the Nigerian transport worker union. The I.P.O put an AK 47 rifle in front of him and maintained he was an armed robber who was dreaded for robbery attack on the travelers in the Lagos Ibadan expressway. The man was lucky enough to have gotten a competent lawyer who proved his innocence and he was discharged and acquitted after the twenty time hearing of his case.

One of the people who knew the I.P.O so well said he implicated the man on purpose because of a day he boarded the man taxi and the man demanded a fare from him.

Another of the witness added that the I.P.O dastardly continued that the man too had one time walked up to a rich man whose son was arrested for stabbing an hotel attendance because the attendant refused every of the Love advances he made towards her. The rich man son never saw the four wall of the court room fro trial nor did he saw the fences of a Police Station. On the scene of the crime the I.P.O called a court magistrate for an acquittal certificate and it was rapidly provided on the spot.

I managed to said a words of curse, I couldn’t it was uncontrollable tears that ran races on my chin.

When the driver ignited the engine of the van that was conveying us to Ikoyi Prison,the engine did not came up at instant ad some of us seized the opportunity to urinate and got some money from their family. I was made to understand that we shall need to bribed the warder to get us food that’s better the nourishing beans weevils-filled. To get ourselves sponge and soap for bathing. To recharge the phone of the warder before we could be able to put a call through our relatives and received calls from them and that we can also paid for an allocation into cells that was a bit conducive. The very single window cells that housed an hundred inmates. And that if we was lucky enough we might escaped the welcome beating of inmates who had been in the cells for a longer time and there fore were the very one that made themselves the cell master or capon.

Our drives out of court to the cells was a good teaching for an heart unwilling to learn. The Van stopped more than three times. The warders argued with one another and one of them who was truthful enough said it was the money they should have used to fueled the van that they shared among themselves. Each of the mechanic that attended to the van was coerced and some scoped to believed the lie they told them on the altar of truthfulness. One said plainly that has other forgotten that they sent their senior warder girlfriend fifty thousand naira for come over. The girlfriend who had informed their senior warder that she needed some money to get herself twenty handouts for a single course. The senior officers made her known that there wasn’t a free gift anymore, since he was the one who had been sponsoring her education to the University and he had read from the girl emotions that she may dropped him in the long run as other girlfriend of his fellow senior warders a experienced from their educated girlfriends. The girlfriends at the first instance of their rejections of them had complained that those warder looked more unless a prisoner just that they don’t wear the Blue uniforms of the prisoner. Some prisoners were even better off of them in their humanity disposition to fellow prisoners.

The sound complains almost degenerated to a fight. A warder whose clothes looked a trained militia had unwillingly let loosed the padlock that was used to locked the compartment of the van where we was.

He alighted from the Van to separated other warder who locked hands on one another necks.

I thought of overpowering him with an heavy punches and then ran so fast to the expressway that linked the court where we was been ordered to be remanded and the Ikoyi prison way.

A man who called their truce to a peaceful accord was a passerby who showed them his phone that he would put a call through to the controller general of the prison service. The dabbles amidst a bold front that was a shared fear and tried to cowered the man boldness. One of them brought out an handcuffed while he threatened to locked the man with us and verry him to the prison.

Ikoyi was the abode of the well to do. The road indifferences to prisoners plights ad the trees that lined was as though a stationed officers to shot on sight at anyone of us who may tried a jailbreak.

The Van halted at the garages where van of numerous sizes and different compartments. Someone said the heights of one crime determined the van that would be taken out of the garage to transport the criminal to and fro the prison. There were some sick prisoners who were never administered in the cell clinic. They were taken to some high van built with the heaviest of metal. The medical officers who attended to them stood outside of the van while they gave them drugs and injections on them.

We stripped ourselves naked in the very eyes of the female warder who took the register of us. Naked for hours before we was ordered into a room which was stockpiled with warders wears many of the wears was a tattered rags unfit for the neck of a long time mad man.

We was walked through the corridors by a warders as prisoners shouted and shared us to welcome. I and other arrested with him was put in w different cells and the truthfulness of life had heavy punches of the very mouth of utterances. The chief prisoner in my cells told me to come. I stood nonplussed at the horror that stared before my eyes. Not sure if I should prostrated or lied down. Another prisoner gave me a heavy blow on my shoulder, I did not what transpired next. That very hour I was sure I heard my body banged the floor and silence was the noise that I could heard. When I opened my eyes I heard, “welcome back to life. God safe you that you came back alive. Looked there”. I looked towards that direction and I saw the earth dug in my size. “ We would have buried You there”.

An aged man whose looks was more healthy than the other prisoners was the one who saved my life for more days. He had the most honorable treatment. A mater size bed with duvet and blanket that was as thick as a log of timber. He had a nice changes of fine clothes brought to him by his wife every week. His food was ordered from a reputable meal ventures. He had his bathes first at the head of the prison apartment. Whenever he felt like haven a nice time the warder head brought call girl to his apartment on the behalf of the man and he had his freezer stock with the choicest of wine.

I was saddled with the responsibilities of carrying his urination every morning and emptied it in the semi-dug pits in front of our cells then I laid his beds.

He begged other prisoner that was with us to gave me the freedom of sleeping besides him on the bed. He would gave me spoon to eat the other portion of the food he ordered, two portion each day when he knew that all of the prisoner were deep asleep.

We woke every morning by 3am. Everyone of us rushing to be the first person to have access to the toilet and bathrooms before it became messed up.

The water used by all of us were emptied from the pits that holds the water by the youngest prisoner among us or in very rear cases any prisoners whom the warfare found uncontrollable.

On Friday the next day after which I was brought to the prison. An Imam came for prayers alongside the Muslim faithful. He came in full entourages of Alfa who accompanied on either sideways. Two Alfas held the helms of his clothes at the back. Other had their hands filled with Quran and long Tesba.

The sermon for the Friday was a soul touching one. The Imam with self pity, he gave the sad eyes of all of us prisoners joy. I wished I could be chanced to have some words with him and compliments him.

Every Muslim faithful who attended the prayer were of a pity countenances. Remorseful and repentant too.

I was excluded from warders routine work too by the cheer privilege of been the favorite of the aged prisoner . The aged prisoner was a man, a good man of valor. He owes the edges of swords to killed anyone against his political party to which he was personally inclined. He had any fitful punches hurled on a fellow party man, once a die hard. The party man got a broader view of political of all political party in the State. And the very gripped of one political party of the seats of power. The party man wishes other political party could be more bold and broader in their visions of capturing the seat of power from hid very party.

The aged prisoner as he told me had the gift of telling your mind even while you dispossed an open gaze where as betrayal lied in your heart. They was in the meeting of the elder of their political party in his constituency (Lagos island) when the peaceful gathering broke into truce and he thrust his peaceful hands into that very man and divulged his throat never to breathe in air. The party man convulsed, hid legs darting of the pavement and he got his very own neck slit opened by the bottle from which they drank alcoholic wine.

The attention of the Divisional Police Officer of the station nearest to the party secretariat, the avenue of the political meeting. The Divisional Police Officer was confused of the actions to be taken after he had rang the phone of the Local Government Chairman phone and no reply at the Chairman end.

One of the Police officer who just graduated from the Police college and was deployed to the Lagos Island division of the Police force was the person who went to the party secretariat and arrested the aged prisoner unheeding to the Divisional Police Officer directives that no Police Officer should ever attended to the case. The Officer in conjunction with a secondary school mates who was now an Human Right just called to the Bar. The officer got the aged prisoner arrested and together with his Lawyer friend worked hands in hands and make sure that Justice was served the man.

The next day after the Friday was Saturday. The warders informed all of us prisoner that the Minister of interior would be coming for a courtesy visit to all prison in Lagos. Earlier in the week we heard in the news we listened to in our cell from the Radio of that aged prisoner. The Nigeria prison services had been rebirth like a still born and rechristened The Nigeria Correctional Center.

We was given a good ration of food. Our Beans was no longer weevil filled. Rice served was well cooked and the stew tasted so nice like the very once atop the rice the aged prisoner once ordered. We were addressed with respect and the warder became unimaginably nice to us.

The evening of that Saturday we was taken outside of the now correctional center and some uniform officers came to disinfect our cells. Every of the building was repainted. For the first time, the correctional center came alive, a dwelling place that the good sense of a sane man would rejected.

Many a prisoners was repentant, some sworn that they shall became a self appointed Evangelist who shall preached the gospel of peaceful existence to anyone they was privileged to meet. Some lamented about the huge amount they would had made should they not had got caught in their illicit drug dealing. Most importantly, the high crime convicts were never repentant, rather they had became more sophisticated and made a very good contact with criminal gangs that were more dangerous to them. Mayhem was an understatement, war was what they planned to unleash on the Society upon the served of their jailed terms.

The Saturday of visitation, the Minister of Interior came in Motorcades. That time the Sun saw through its unmerciful eyes. The head of the warder was instructed by the Minister of Interior to left us all in our cells. The planned of many who had made up their mind to told the Minister of Interior about the deteriorated conditions of the correctional centers. The strange humane treatment meted on us in the eleventh hour of his visit was just a good dream one wished and never became a reality.

The Interior Minister we was informed has the President directives that all inmates remanded should be let go with immediate effect. Should I had an opportunity to bribed a prisoner with money and I was learned a phone to called, My brother would came for me that very Saturday. I spent an additional two days in the prison. A Prisoner who had his family came visiting to facilitated his released summarily changed his mind because he heard the prison cook told him that the prison had gotten a new roster of food which was more nutritious. That at night we would be served a cup of tea and a thin of milk with sandwiches.

Our Correctional Service Minister came at a time rather too early on Sunday Morning. We was served a copy each of the Sunday Service outline. The very topic of my last Sunday in the correctional center was forgiveness.

Never find it too hard to forgive anyone. Not minding how grievous or cruel the wrong dine to you. Never take revenge. Revenged is of God only Him can served the very person who wronged you right”.

The Minister led us in closing prayer and when he told us to pray for our enemy and the very enemy of the country we all went silence as the graveyard. He shared us all into the saving hands of God.

While was leaving the cathedral the Minister son stepped on his toe which had a bruise and he promised to meted on him his well deserved punishment when they shall arrived their home.

I couldn’t slept the night, I was awoke counting the time in my head.  In the Morning I did my morning chores of laying bed for the aged prisoner. I asked him to please let me used his self apportioned toilet to bathe and I rubbed his cream on my body while I awaited the arrival of my brother.

I left the correctional center immediately he was done signing my released document. The World outside the wall of the correctional center had changed. I feared the sight of every Police officer which manned the various check point on our way home. I lowered my eyes at every gazed at them.

When I arrived home I took my mother phone and logged on to my 2go account. All users were offline, I wondered what went wrong. My Brother said,” The World had revolved away from 2go and now static on the new found social media which everyone luxuriate”.

Facebook was the new Social media. I created account and when I uploaded my pictures I had many comments even the earth asked where have I been.

Onatola Abiodun is a Nigerian.  He lives and writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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