The first time was years back, as a child I followed my favourite neighbor to visit a friend & run some errands. We were caught in traffic when we suddenly hear gunshot up ahead, very loud & close. From the cab window I see people jumping out of their cars & running away. There’s a beer joint to the right & I see some pot- bellied men knocking their drinks over in their rush to get away, sprinting like they were at the Olympics. I try to jump out of the cab to join the sprinters but my neighbor grabs me & orders me to sit still, the cab driver manages to manoeuvre the cab around & we speed off to safety with my neighbor wondering out loud what she would have told my mum if anything had happened to me. My childish mind couldn’t understand what was wrong with Sprinting to safety as opposed to being a sitting duck in a cab that might or might not get away, when I had two good legs to carry me to safety like the beer-bellied sprinters. The thought of stray bullets never occurred to me.
The next was when I went to the very busy Balogun market with my mum & sister. Mum had warned me to watch my bag, (I had this leather knapsack I used to carry everywhere) but I was more interested in looking this way & that. I went to open my bag to pay for something I wanted & noticed the zipper was halfway open but thought nothing of it. Back at home I searched for my phone but it was just gone. I would sit & daydream about turning my head in the nick of time to catch the thieving scoundrel reaching into my bag, I would then proceed to grab his arm & deliver a karate chop that would break his wrist before marching him off to the closest policeman. There was an empty space in my heart for weeks especially as I knew I would have to wait a while for a replacement seeing as phones were considered a luxury for girls my age back then.
The next encounter was when, list-in-hand I trudged off to the market with my younger brother, we are waiting to board a bus to the market when we hear a volley of gunfire, there’s a mad dash for cover & we take cover in a building close by till the thieves drive past. The big news delivered by those brave enough to poke out their necks to catch a glimpse of the thieves is their ‘ringleader’ who fired most of the shots is a woman, a woman? Our eyes were round with wonder.
The final & most frightening episode was when one time back in school, my roommate & I were heading out of our building hoping to take a bus to campus, we are about to step through the gate when we suddenly hear voices thundering “lie down, lie down, I will burst your head” repeatedly right by our building. We hide by the gate & poking our necks out see three young men with guns kicking a man on the ground by a fine car. Apparently the unfortunate man had come to see a friend in the building across the road & the thieves lay in wait for him, probably having tailed him there, when he emerges & makes to get in the car they rush him & tackle him to the floor hitting his legs very hard & repeatedly with the butt of their guns obviously wanting to break them. One points his gun at the man’s head & keeps threatening to “burst his head”. Two of them then jump into his car after grabbing his keys while the third drives off in the getaway car they came in.
Most shocking of all was when the man crawled to his car broken legs & all & threw himself on the bonnet of his car as the thieves were attempting to turn it around, one thundered “you wan die abi? We waited for them to crush him but they only swung a little to the side to throw him off & sped off. My neighbor who seemed to know half the town later told us the man was a bank manager & this was the second car he had lost to thieves in the space of one year, which explained his suicidal move of throwing himself on the car.
We still made it to school but probably spent more time recounting the shocking drama than getting any studying done.