- The Storried Platform
CHILDREN OF NOWADAYS – By Chinasa Attamah
If you were going past Orbaroad in Nsukka two years ago and saw a crowd gathered at the junction, you’d think there was a fight going on between two men over a woman or two women over a man. But it was just the police stopping motorists and okada riders and extorting money from them.
Some months ago, Papa was driving me to town so I’d take a bus to Enugu for my job interview. When we got to the Orbaroad junction, two police officers waved us down. There were cyclists and motorists the police had already stopped, apparently, to collect money from them.
When the officers got to us and Papa wanted to bring out money to give them, I told him to wait. I got out of the car to meet them. I wasn’t happy with how they were harassing people for money. I felt there should be a change. The extortion must end.
Immediately I confronted them, they shouted at me to get out of their sight.
I didn’t know whether it was the excitement of my invitation to the job interview that motivated me to confront them, but when I left them, I went to the officer sitting in the backseat of their Hilux, with his feet on the ground. I told him what his boys were doing was wrong, believing he was the officer in charge.
‘Who are you? A lawyer?’ he asked.
I noticed the other officers, including the cyclists and motorists, were watching.
I shook my head, no.
‘You are an idiot! Get lost!’
‘I’m not an idiot, officer. I’m your fellow citizen. And I’m saying what you people are doing is wrong―’
I was still speaking when he clutched me by the collar of my interview suit. The other officers and the small crowd that had gathered began to laugh.
At that point, I knew how embarrassed Papa would be. I remembered when, as a young boy, Papa, a cab driver at the time, wouldn’t give the police any kobo, and so they asked us to park well. I thought maybe Papa didn’t have money to give them so when I asked him why he didn’t give them, he said it was wrong to do so. And so we were parked there until the officers asked us to move, hitting Papa’s cab with their ‘talk-true’ and calling him all sorts of names.
The officer pulled me close to himself and told me he could just shoot me and nothing would happen.
‘You know that?!’ he shouted, his saliva dotting my lips.
My phone began to vibrate in my pocket. I knew it was Papa calling. Some people in the crowd started begging him; others started telling me off.
‘Children of nowadays! No respect at all!’
‘Common twenty naira… you won’t give them,’ an old woman sitting on the bus in front of me said. ‘What is twenty naira?’
‘Small boy like you, what do you even know about life? You never see life o! And you already want to change the world,’ another said.
Later, the officer pushed me away.
I’d never been more humiliated my entire life.
In the car, Papa said this wouldn’t have happened if I’d stayed back.
‘You know, you could have just let me give them little money so they won’t keep us waiting,’ he added.
I looked at him. I saw in him a defeated man I never wanted to become.
By Chinasa Attamah
If you were going past Orbaroad in Nsukka two years ago and saw a crowd gathered at the junction, you’d think