The copper metal that fastened my upper limbs together behind my back was hurting me but I dared not complain. Unceasing slaps landed on my face and neck, these were terrible slaps by trained hands. Preye and Gbenga were not spared either.
‘Oga abeg’ were the only things we could say. Our constant pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears and like fuel added to fire, it seemed as if our pleas did nothing but ignite their burning anger toward us.
We were made to sit with our backs against the wall as our stomachs received kicks as hard as rocks. I felt a rib break and I screamed in pain. Instant death would have been a better option than going through this ordeal. Preye’s face had swollen and looked almost unrecognizable, save for the birthmark on his left cheek. Gbenga on the other hand was bleeding from cuts inflicted on his body.
‘Oya stand up!’ one of the men barked.
We could barely move, our hands had been handcuffed, bones broken, and faces battered. I silently prayed for death.
‘Una no dey hear say make una stand up abi?’ another officer bellowed.
‘Oga please’ Preye managed to mutter.
‘So una sabi beg’ the third officer who had been facing the wall since with the acronym SARS boldly written on his black polo said. He seemed to be the leader of the team. His grotesque face was enough to instill fear in people’s hearts. His arms were huge and muscular with unkept beards adding to the horribleness of his face.
‘When una dey scam people, una no know abi? Una own don finish be that’ he said.
There was no point in pleading with them, their hearts were as cold as a stony ice. It was obvious that we were doomed.
‘Ah! I am finished’ Preye shouted with tears streaming down his face.
‘No, you are not finished, in fact you haven’t even started’ the officer with tinted hairs answers sarcastically with the others bursting into hysterical laughter.
‘Iku (death), Ijaya (intimidation), Akeke (scorpion), drag these things into the vehicle’ the leader ordered.
If those were truly their sobriquets, then we were truly doomed.
‘One day, monkey go go market and e no go come back’ was a saying I heard all my life but never had I thought that it would be applied to me, not even on the day I started my career as a Gee – boy, a fraudster.
Growing up wasn’t really a smooth ride, although we started out as a modest family, everything went topsy-turvy after dad’s death when I was 12 and so the onus was on mom to raise me and my younger siblings all by herself.
We hawked all kinds of goods and did all sorts of menial jobs just to get by but could only eat from hand to mouth, sometimes having to scoop away the mucour on the leftover eba to eat. At the age of 20 and being the first born, I was determined to change our story and make mama smile.
I had the dream of being a musician and making it big like Wizkid, Davido and P-Square but my idol was 9ice. For one thing, his music resonated with me, his deep Yoruba lyrics full of idiots and proverbs was something I could relate with. I started to enjoy his music from Gongo Aso Street Credibility and every other ones he put out, I even prayed on many occasion that his dream of winning a Grammy be actualized.
However, he went silent for a couple of years without making music, then out of the blues he came out with a banger titled ‘Living Things’. The song gained massive airplays and it became my ringtone. I played the song whenever I wake and listen to it before going to bed. I paid special attention to the lyrics amongst which were:
“Awon temi sa’se (my guys are scamming)
Won sa’se loru moju (they’re scamming till daybreak)
Lai f’oju kan’run (while losing sleep)
Kin sa ti lowo (the most important thing is to get the money)
Ole je come and marry…”
The message was clear: The goal is to make money by any means while damning the consequences. The song even listed ways of making money through fraudulent activities like Wire Wire (Advanced fee fraud), Money Order Scam, Come and Marry (Romance Scam) and others. This new thought overpowered any moral left in me and I became ready to take the bull by the horn.
Gbenga was my classmate in secondary school who comes last in every examination but now living large, spending money and buying cars. I discussed with him and he promised to help me. I got to know that he was a ‘Yahoo boy’ but I no longer cared, as a living thing I was determined to be wealthy through whatever means possible.
I bade mama farewell and moved in with Gbenga in his rented two bedroom flat in the city, there I met Preye who was also with him. I quickly mastered differenr methods of knline fraudulent activities. Our life was a cycle: anyone who cashed out would be in charge of ordering food for the rest, when money isn’t forthcoming, we sell our cars and valuables while expecting a new client and so the cycle continues.
I was just starting to find my feet in the game when on a bright Saturday morning we heard knocks on our door. Gbenga opened the door only to be hit on his face with gun, we had been busted!
As we were being dragged to the vehicles, I could imagine mama shaking her head sideways with tears streaming down her face in disappointment as to what had become of her son. I had not even assisted her as I thought I would even though I didn’t tell her what sort of work I was into. I cursed myself for being influenced by that song.
The stories I had heard about the inhumane treatment meted out to fraudsters in police cells sent shivers down my spine. A last attempt to wriggle myself free proved abortive, a slap landed on my face and I passed out.
Humble Ogbonna, a Diction and Phonetics Instructor with a passion for writing sent in this entry from email@example.com