A while ago, I had a family emergency and I was the only one available to attend to it. So that cool Sunday morning, I took a bike (abeg, do we board okada? just asking) to the hospital but made a quick stop at the bank to withdraw some money. Now as you know, bikes are not allowed to park in front of banks so the bike rider dropped me off and proceeded to park at the end of the bank. I spend less than 5 minutes at the ATM and when I get outside there’s a scene! There’s a police van with about 4 armed policemen and they are trying to put the bike at the back of the van.
My bike man is pleading for mercy and I join in, telling them it’s my fault. I have an emergency; I had to stop at the ATM, blah, blah…but all that fell on deaf ears. A small crowd had gathered and we all pleaded with the policemen but they refused. At this point, the bike man (a Hausa) began to resist them. He dragged his bike with them refusing to let them put it in the back of the van. Now this is a very bad combination – a Hausa man and policemen that have been resisted. Hausas are very easy going and trust worthy but they are also very stubborn and will fight with all it takes when they feel they are being treated unjustly. I once heard the story of a Hausa bike man whose bike was going to be carried away by policemen for some reason, this guy cursed them and set the bike ablaze saying he would rather have no bike than have the police take his bike again, apparently it had happened before. On the other hand, Nigerian policemen require the slightest resistance to employ the most force.
Anyway, at this point I can hear alarm bells in my head saying that things were going to get ugly really soon and they did. The policemen wrestled the bike man and destroyed his bike. They removed the seat, deflated the tires and a key part of the engine leaving petrol and engine oil spilled on the floor, what was left was metal and wires. I was going to cry, I was so angry. I screamed at them saying the man had every right to fight because his means of livelihood was being taken from him, what kind of man would not fight back? I told them they could do this because they outnumbered him and had weapons. I asked them whether they could face him one on one or try this at a bike park. I was so angry, I called them cowards (well not literally) not that they were smart enough to deduce it anyway. They responded that thieves used bike men to rob banks so they were doing their job. I asked them whether I was a thief. I kept hearing “wisdom is profitable to direct” so I calmed myself down and let them go, at least they didn’t insist on taking the bike man and I to the police station.
I was angry at the policemen for being bullies, at the small crowd for being scared – they reprimanded the bike man for fighting for his bike, at myself for being helpless! I wished I were the daughter of the president or I had some special powers to punish them on the spot until they apologized to the bike man. As helpless as I felt, I could still do something. I asked him what was most important to buy back and how much it cost, I didn’t have all the money so I gave him about half of it. Something happened in that instant – the bike man didn’t expect that gesture neither did the small crowd. Suddenly, everyone was willing to help. We were stripped of tribe, status, and all that normally divides us; we were just brothers and sisters trying to help another brother in distress.
I thought to myself, what makes a super hero? Is it their fancy outfit and “super powers”? No, villains possess same. It’s the courage to do what is right and compassion for others. It’s the ability to put others first once in a while. It’s the ability to instill hope and keep hope alive. It’s being humane and seeing a life not colour, race, tribe, status when you look at a person. We are capable of these things; there is a hero in every one of us.
P.s Happy birthday Greg, thanks for being one of my heroes.