POLICE CHECKPOINT, BENIN CITY
It was in 1980, in Nigeria, when this police encounter occurred.
I will start by swearing
that this event, strange
as it sounds, actually happened
in the middle of the night.
They say when you want an African to tell the truth, make the African swear to an indigenous divinity—not to the Bible or the Quran. Those two books are just books. The real book that they believe and consider real is not written. It is oral, and tied to the indigenous divinities.
therefore, is my
witness that this
narrative actually happened.
We were returning home from a nightclub in Benin City. The time was around 3 am. I was driving my battered Volkswagen Beetle, and my friend, Rufus Orisayomi, was seated next to me. Rufus held an open bottle of beer, and from time to time, would tip back his head and gurgled it down his throat. You could hear the sloshing sounds as he slam-dunked the beer direct from the bottle.
In 1980, Benin City was not safe at night. Armed robbers had found a sanctuary in the city and they robbed with impunity. There were police checkpoints mounted throughout the city, day and night.
We were near the Ekenwan Campus of the University of Benin, when we ran into a police checkpoint. The police officer, his huge rifle slung on his back, waved down our Beetle.
Rufus said, “Don’t stop, Moyo, keep going.”
But it was too late. I already stopped. And a police officer was standing in front of the beetle, as the other peeped through the window from my side.
“From where to where?” He asked me.
“Nightclub to home.”
“The nightclub nor get name? Which nightclub? There is no nightclub I don’t know in this city,” be bragged.
I looked at Rufus who was taking a beer swig. I asked him, “What’s the name of the nightclub?”
Before Rufus could down the beer and respond, the officer looked at him and said, “Osanobua! Only you enjoying this beer o.”
Rufus reached down under his seat and pulled out another bottle.
The police officer asked:
“He cold at all? (Is it cold?).”
He reached across me for the bottle of beer. He grabbed it from Rufus, touched the bottom, and said, “Not bad.”
He didn’t ask for an opener. He used his teeth to open the bottle, and took a long swig.
“Come and see criminals o…” said the second police officers standing in front of my beetle. He joined us.
Rufus reached under the seat, and produced another bottle, and handed it to him. As he was opening the bottle, an art student at the University of Benin—a really talented sculptor—arrived with his car at the police checkpoint. He honked. He recognized my car, and parked behind me. He got out of his car and joined us.
We exchanged greetings. He said, “I have a carton of Odeku (big stout) in the booth. Moyo, you want a bottle?”
One of the two police officers said, “Go and bring the carton, my friend.” The cop had drained his bottle of beer totally. The art student went and brought the carton. “All chilled,” the art student announced. He had a bottle opener.
He placed the carton on the floor, handed the cop a bottle, handed me another, and opened one for himself.
Rufus reached over, removed the cap from the head of the cop, and placed it on his own head.
“Perfect fit,” the officer said.
Two vehicles approached the police checkpoint and stopped at the drums placed in the middle of the road. Rufus jumped out of the Beetle and staggered to the drum, with the police cap on his head, and his street clothes below.
“Wettin you carry? (What’s in your vehicle?” Rufus asked the driver in the car at the checkpoint.
“Proceed,” said Rufus. He did the same with the next vehicle.
Rufus, a bottle of beer in one hand, and cop cap on his head, began to control the traffic as cars arrived: “Wettin you carry? Proceed….”
We kept on partying in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night.
After some time, Rufus said, “I no look like true police officer. Give me your gun.”
The policeman without a cap, handed it over to him, saying:
“This gun that you see,
pray say you are not
the one carrying it.
That gun is for killing only people.
If I kill antelope with it, they will sack me.
But if I kill people, they promote me!
Is that a good life?
Please give me another Odeku…!”
And I’m not making up any of this.
Lots more. Ògún gbọ́