Many years ago, when I was in school, I lived with a friend in one room self-contained in an area in Abuja where basic social amenities were not as fantastic as it was in the city center. We bought water, provided our own security and whatnot.
To store water, we had two big plastic drums; one could contain 100 liters of water, i.e. four 25 liters gallons (drum A) and the other drum could contain 150 liters of water, i.e. six 25 liters gallons (drum B). That is to say, drum B is bigger than drum A.
In that area, we had repeated cases of robberies; some armed while others were petty. There was a case where 4 big guys forced themselves into a house with knives and axes, they beat and intimidated the family and made away with all their valuables. Another incident involved shooting in a robbery that left all members of a family alive buy terribly shaken. Shops were constantly looted and vehicle parts were stolen where they are parked on the streets.
The robberies become so incessant, there was an immediate need for security guards in the area since police have not done anything about the security situation after the report of each case of robbery witnessed in the area. The community had a meeting with landlords and tenants and it was agreed that some security guards should be employs. A certain amount was to be paid by each compound so the vigilantes could be paid.
You know humans, some people vehemently refused to pay while others did and even gave more. Somehow, the security guards started work and we started having a semblance of peace and started sleeping with both eyes closed in the area. As time went on, more and more people reneged on their commitment and the security guards were reduced from 6 to 4. Eventually, they were reduced to just 2 guards guarding the area. Well, we still slept fine but also alert.
One night, my sleep was greatly disturbed by a very loud thud on the roof of our house. It startled me out of sleep; you know how you suddenly wake and looking like a tired and unpaid ugly clown in a kid’s party, that was how I was. Thankfully, NEPA was magnanimous to us that night with low current, so I was able to see as we left the lights on. My friend didn’t hear it, she was still sleeping peacefully. I was sure I hear a sound but my mind was telling me maybe I was having a bad dream because you can’t live in that kind of area and not be visited by ojuju in your dream. I sat up and waited for a while, listening for any unusual sound, nothing, so I laid down back. Just as I was about to doze off, there was a louder bang on the roof again, this time, my friend woke up and jumped out of bed, I followed immediately. Without waiting to know what it was, we went into action.
We had talked about this several times over; whenever there is imminent robbery, the first thing we would do is to wear clothes, you know how women sleep when there is no male in a room, that was how we slept that day, it was April and heat was unforgiving. With lightning speed, I unzipped my bag of jeans trousers and pulled some out, my friend was already wearing hers, I wore mine fast and wore a sweater on top. Then I saw what my friend was doing, she was wearing a second pair of jeans. Fear na bad thing. I followed suit and struggled into my second pair of jeans while she was on her third pair. That girl was not smiling at all, haba! Within 5-10 minutes, she had 5 jeans and 7 shirts on and I had 4 jeans and 11 shirts on including jackets and sweaters and a cap (head warmer). My 5th jeans refused to enter. I was finding it difficult to breathe and so was she because we were scared, we worked fast and most notably, the cloths were suffocating us; me especially. There is no way you will wear 11 tops, shirts, sweaters, a jacket and a head warmer and breathe normally. No way. In the end, we both looked like 2 worried elephants; I am bigger than her and wore more shirts than her, so I looked like a bigger worried elephant.
We believed robbers were in the area but if they succeed and gain entrance into our room and decide to rape us, we had to make sure it took them two years and 8 months to remove our clothes.
We heard our neighbors talking so we knew they too heard the sound on the roof. The sound was even too loud to be missed. We sat and stared at each other, our minds pretty occupied with different unpleasant possibilities. Then we heard another bang, omo see fear and speed, my friend jumped up and went straight for more jeans and shirts, I sat there looking at her and envying her. I wanted to wear more clothes but Ada Joe Ikwueme already had 11 tops and 4 pairs of jeans and I was unable to breathe properly. If I had attempted any other cloth on, na die be that oooo. So I decided to wear shoes, please don’t ask me why, my friend was fortifying herself some more, I needed to do something extra too. Movement was difficult, the clothes were weighing me down and the weather was very very hot. I wobbled towards my sneakers and stood there looking at it, I knew instantly it was going to be a stressful and cumbersome exercise because I couldn’t bend down, too many clothes on, i tried and succeeded in wearing only one leg of the sneakers. I saw the two wrappers we used to cover ourselves while sleeping, I tied those around my waist. My friend managed to wear one more pair of jeans and 3 more tops. Come and see mighty elephants.
We stood and stared at each other feeling somewhat safe but sweating like mad in the clothes. Then there was another bang. Ewo! My friend ran to the kitchen, towards the water drum. It was Friday and the drums were almost empty, we had used up the water. Drum B (bigger) was in the kitchen and drum A (smaller) was in the bathroom. I watched my friend quickly remove the lid of drum B, climbed into it with difficulty and covered herself inside. Ha! The girl was really serious in this business of fear ooo. I think sey I dey fear but the girl na master.
I stood there and felt so alone. I had never felt that alone before; like I was the only one in the world. I thought of the smaller drum in the bathroom and wondered how the hell I was going to climb into it. Well, the bangs become more frequent and my friend was safely covered in the bigger drum. I ran the best the weight of the cloths could allow me to the bathroom and stopped short, there was no way I could fit into the drum. I ran back to the kitchen and knock on the drum my friend was inside, this girl refused to answer. “Tina, Tina, Tina”, I whispered. For where na, Tina kpenji inside the drum. I lifted the lid slightly, she was uncomfortably bent inside the drum like a heap of clothes and was covering her ears with both hands. “Tina”, I whispered again and touched her, she looked up, saw it was me and quickly brought out her sweaty head outside the drum to take in air, she had not been breathing inside the drum. I didn’t care if there was no air in the drum, I wanted the safety it provided.
“Tina please can you go to the drum in the bathroom, that one is smaller and I can’t fit inside it” I whispered as sweat poured down my face and I was soaked with sweat. She looked at me as if I was mad. Truth be told, going by what I was wearing that night, I was not looking like I was not mad though. She removed my hand from the lid and covered herself back inside the drum. With tears in my eye, I went back to the bathroom, took a second look at the drum and waved my head sorrowfully; even if I could fit in, how would I climb in. I locked myself inside and sat on the toilet seat. It was safer in the bathroom but somehow, I felt Tina was safer.
The banging on the roof started at about 2 am. We remained in our positions till the next morning even when the banging stopped and no robber entered the house. Tina said she was bringing out her head from time to time to take in air, she didn’t sleep. I slept off on the tiles of the bathroom. The many clothes I wore served as a mattress.
The next morning, my friend woke me up with a knock on the bathroom door, she was pressed and needed to urinate although she had urinated twice inside the drum during the night of horror.
By then I realized the robbery scare was over and there was an urgent need to undress. I was wearing 4 pairs of jeans, 11 shirts, two wrappers, a cap and one leg of sneakers. Kanburouba! Kai! You needed to see me. (If you want to see a picture, come to my inbox let’s negotiate.) I don’t know how she managed to remove all the clothes she wore, she had on just a short and a top.
I tried to remove the clothes myself, for where nah, I was breathless. I asked Tina to help me while she was having a time of her life laughing at me. That morning, I almost lost my head, she pulled and pulled and yanked and dragged me all over the floor, laughing while I was crying and sweating. Tina is a wicked hanty. By the time she was done with me, I needed a neck brace.
We found out from our neighbors that it was the stupid vigilantes that were responsible for the horror everyone in the compound experienced that night. It happened that some persons had not paid their money for the guarding of the community, the vigilante guys found out the compound where the persons lived and decided to deal with them. Some of our neighbours had not paid so we all paid for their sins.
That was the last time my friend and I paid for that shit.
Nonsense and ndi vigilante.
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