The Back of the Van


“Oga, what have I done?” Gbenro says as the officer holds his belt and walks him to the back of the police van.

He finds it amusing that all this officer says with eloquence is “Move, move”, that and “settle” makes up much of the police corpus. He would have laughed if not that he is the one in the situation.

“What is funny?” the police asks “Oya, move my friend.”

He hops on the back of the van as he is joined by two officers. The seat is bare wood with the plate end of the nails that used to hold the leather and foam sticking out like they still had a job to do. The officer holding his belt let go. Both officers with their oversized trousers and eyes like boiled egg yolk with blood veins sit on the other side from him- in better circumstances he would have thought it cute sitting back to back with the officers.

“Sir, please sir. Help me sir” he says, with eyes like garri about hitting equilibrium with cold water. “Sir, I dinot do anything sir.”

He’s not sure they heard him. The vehicle is in motion. He wonders if he’ll see someone he knows and what good that will be. Then he remembers the police attack in America. What if they run into some gang that shoots at them?

He wonders how life is for the officers in the back of the van. One looking out while the other is messaging on WhatsApp.

“Dele say dem don come bail that small boy”

“Which one be that? That yesterday one?”

“No o, the one for this morning wey dey snap on top bridge for Ojuelegba.”

“Please sir, ejoor sir.” He’s voice almost breaking into a song.

“You fit speak Yoruba and you con dey speak English before. Is oga that you will beg.” And faces his phone.

“na you dey follow am talk.” the other officer says. Not taking his face off the road all the while.

He hands clasped together with his gun between his legs. The gun nozzle just by the side of his jaw. This frail officer was the one that held him by the belt. Wicked soul. Gbenro thought. He wondered where he’s strength came from because the man looks like he was in a constant battle with the breeze.

He hears a static radio sound inside the van. The officer in the van was talking over the walkie talkie. He hears no Charlie or Alpha just a bunch of numbers and punchy drawn out words. “We. Will. Be. There. Over.”

“Say that again.”

“I repeat. We. Will. Be. There. Over.”

The officer knocks on the wire mesh. Speaking through it to the officers with Gbenro.

“Small wahala dey Oshodi. Dispatch say they need backup.”

“Let’s go.”

Gbenro remembers stories he heard of innocent people lumped with criminals and he’s sure he would experience it first-hand.

“Please sir, please” he breaks into a song with a staccato when he hit the last please note, tears rolling like waves. “Please. I beg you in the name of God.”

“Ah, that one still dey there? the senior office asks. “Abeg park make e comot.”

The van parks on the side of the road.

“Oya, come down,” the officer says.

His backpack is handed to him.

“Thank you sir”. Wiping his face with his sleeve.

Gbenro watches as both officers at the back of the van smiled. And from a distance, he sees one of them climb out and stand on the bumper.

There are buses right across the road. He could just cross like every other person and get a ride home. But not after what happened. Although far ahead, he heads towards the pedestrian bridge.

This piece first appeared here. And it’s reproduced with the permission of its author.

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