Sunday Dec 04, 2022

Independence Day

I wrote this article two years ago, on 1st October. Just my thoughts on Independence day. I’d like to think I’m a better writer now than then, but it’s cool to look at where I’m coming from 🙂

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Today makes it a week since Independence Day… (For those who are conversant with Nigeria History.
Today makes it a week since I saw for myself the reality of the Nigerian Society.
Today makes it a week that I saw the effect of power in the hands of an idiot.
Today Makes it a week that I realised that some people are truly EVIL.
Today Makes it a week that I almost died
Independence day was supposed to be fun. As you all know, I love Nigeria to the point of apparent stupidity. I chose to get my first degree in Nigeria…most of my High School classmates are in Canada, Malaysia, UK, the United States, Ukraine, South Africa, France and so on…but I chose this country to nurture me in the Law…what do I get in return? Strikes.  Assignments with Unbeatable deadlines.  Nasty Lecturers.  Small Classrooms.  Unbearable heat. Annoying security men who ask for IDcards like they were expecting Osama Bin laden Himself!
In my Patriotic Spirit, I bought commemorative T-shirts…hats…P-caps…and wristbands…Just so that I could feel Nigerian. I skipped choir rehearsals in order to get to Eagle Square (for the Independence day celebrations). I waited for over two hours before I could get into the venue. And how did I get in?
At 10am the whole square was filled to overflowing. Maybe because there are people who are as excited about this country as I am. But the crowd outside was so thick that you couldn’t possibly get through. I expected some sort of crowd-control unit or marshals…or even ushers to be present. But what did i see? POLICEMEN and SOLDIERS… flogging people and telling them to go back. I love the crowd’s response. “Go back to where?” they shouted.  Suddenly a policeman lashed out with his belt (which, from my Nigerian Navy background, I can tell you contains bits of metal on the buckle). He ended up striking a young man’s cheek. Instantly there was a laceration so deep that blood began pouring from inside his mouth AND outside. He tried to stop the flow, but it was just too much…The blood was bright…bright, shocking red. And did they offer any apologies? NO! They coldly told him to go get some first aid!
Okay. So the normal entrances were blocked. I decided to try the tower (for those of you who know eagle square). Blocked also. Then I realised that some people were going in. I squeezed into the crowd. Pushing when pushed from behind and retreating when pushed from the front. There were policemen at the entrance of the tower. They asked me, plainly, “Who are you?” I gladly flashed my IDcard and said, “I’m a student!”. You know what they said?
They said… “Go back”. And from the twitching vein the policeman’s neck…I knew that was a command, not a request. So, naturally I start backing off…just that by now I’m like 7 steps up the spiral staircase, the crowd pushing and heaving like a swarm of…I don’t know…a swarm of….whatever!
Then they radioed for dogs. My God, I’ve NEVER seen dogs as big as them in my life, not even on animal planet or discovery…dogs as long as I’m tall. Dogs so big that they have to be controlled with TWO sets of chains…Dogs that never barked once throughout their presence.
People scrambled for their lives, tripping over their own feet and trampling each other just to get away from those mean dogs…in fact, one dog bit into a guy’s face. As at when I was leaving, the possibility if that eye ever being useful again was in serious doubt.  I’m not joking.
Then I saw the strangest thing ever. Anybody with white skin was allowed to enter. In fact, escorted by police! I mean even Lebanese and Chinese people who we don’t really consider “white”! It was most embarrassing, I tell you. And to make it worse, WE were getting shoved aside to make way where there seemed to be no way before. And then some shameless Nigerians literally BEGGED the white men to take them along. Only one was successful…God forbid that I have to stoop so low…reduced to a refugee in my own father’s house!
They were telling us that there was no space!!! But if you looked expensively dressed (and you had another expensively dressed woman and child by your side, you could get in!)
I left that section out of annoyance…at the money I’d wasted to get there and at the reality that I’d probably never even see what was going on. At least I could’ve watched it on TV if stayed at home…Fine. You think that’s no biggie…after all, who wants to go see a bunch of zombies marching or juveniles exciting themselves over something they know nothing about?
I went for the air show. The air force pilots were to have a display and then a rappelling exercise… a.k.a parachute drop-off. And then we were supposed to see (and possibly get a taste of) the world’s biggest cake…which cost us at least 45 million naira. I certainly couldn’t afford to lose all that!
I went outside…to get a taxi and go home…then i saw the most humiliating sight ever…people were crawling under the fence of eagle square to get in… far from the intimidating presence of policemen…policemen who were more interested in keeping people out than in protecting the lives of those present. Can you imagine- there was absolutely no form of security check! I walked into eagle square with a slightly bulging backpack and nobody stopped me…no security checks…no metal detectors…no x-ray…no pat-downs…how cool is that?
I’m annoyed…but also i’m learning. What did I learn?
1.       Money matters. So does social/professional placement.
2.       When going for an open-air event, NEVER wear the uniform. Or else, the security people will assume you’re some hungry beggar who has nothing to do with his time.
3.       NEVER try to reason with junior policemen. It makes them feel important enough to oppress their fellow Nigerians.
4.       Make sure you look important enough to be a VIP.
5.       Don’t even bother going for things like that except you have a written invitation from the organisers.
Below is a video of me attempting to be a citizen journalist. Sucks actually (i accidentally said “chain link fence” instead of “barbed wire” 🙂
when I have more time (and patience) i’ll continue with more photos 

Peter

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