To tell you the truth, I’m even tired of everything; of the London boy, of Rotimi, of school, of hustling, and of telling you everything that’s happened to me. Nobody should ever share everything about themselves, but it is what the likes of Facebook and twitter and BB status messages have taught us – to share every single thing that happens to us or that comes to our minds. But it shouldn’t be so, should be things that one keeps to herself. For this reason and with this realisation I have decided to make this the last of the revelations of my life to you.
So, how do I go about telling you what happened next after they took me to the Police Commissioner’s house? After we got there and met his convoy just about to leave his house. After the policewoman next to me radioed him and told him she had brought me. After I came down the car and I was introduced to him. After he embraced me like a father would do his daughter, and asked me if I was ok. I don’t know how to tell it because there is so much to tell and so much I’d rather keep to myself, but one thing happened that day at the commissioner’s house that I cannot but share.
The man himself was a gentle man by all appearances and words. He took me back into his house and we all sat down in his parlour. His wife was there as well, and he had told her about me. She also took me in her arms as if I was her daughter, and I saw that she wanted to cry when the policewoman told her boss how I’d fallen off the motorcycle.
Then when I was still trying to get a fix on what was going on and feeling very exposed because everyone around me knew my story and I didn’t know theirs, the commissioner’s phone rang and after answering it he told me someone wanted to talk to me.
It was Johnny!
“Omoge, I hear say you do them Rambo!” were the first words he spoke to me. “I dey come join you there now-now, tell Sunday not to leave his house until we get there!”
Sunday was the police commissioner.
True to the policewoman’s words, Johnny and his friends had been rescued and the kidnappers arrested. I was just so relieved that I started to cry and this made the commissioner’s wife to join me on my sofa and hold me in her arms and start crying as well.
The commissioner looked around and told the policewoman and the two men with her to sit down. He asked the female officer about Brutus and she said he was currently under detention. A policeman came into the parlour and saluted next to the commissioner.
“Yes, what is it?”
“Doctor is here sir,” the officer said.
“No sir, he is with one lady.”
“Let them come in.”
He got up from his sit and walked over to mine. He sat by my side so that I was between him and his wife.
“Amaka,” he said, “Your boyfriend is here. He has been calling me all night and even threatening me.”
I was confused, partly because I didn’t know what or who he meant by my boyfriend, and partly because he had sounded like he was making a joke, or at least trying to. Then I realised that the doctor who had arrived was my doctor. He had called the police after all.
The commissioner continued. “Early this morning he said he was bringing your lawyer. He said they have something to discuss with me about what happened to you.”
I realised he was questioning me. He was as lost as I was.
“Do you know anything about this?” he asked.
“The lady. I spoke to her; her name is Amaka, just like you. We know her. She causes a lot of trouble for us.”
His wife spoke. “Amaka is here?”
“Yes,” her husband replied.
“Good!” the woman said. I was even more lost at this point.
A dark, beautiful lady walked into the parlour as if she owned the place. She looked around and as her eyes settled on me, the commissioner’s wife struggled to her feet – she was fat – and danced over to hug her. They embraced and it was the only time the lady called Amaka smiled.
She walked up to me and shook hands with the commissioner. I was waiting for her to greet me when I saw Rotimi walk into the parlour. He looked tired. He was still wearing the same clothes he wore the night before when he dropped me at Johnny’s house. He smiled and I wanted to run to him. The lady turned to me.
“Amaka, my name is Amaka. I’m a lawyer. Rotimi asked me to represent you. You don’t have to say anything. In fact, I don’t want you to say anything, just nod if you agree that I should be your lawyer.”
I looked at Rotimi. He nodded and so did I.
The commissioner and Rotimi exchanged greetings, they knew each other. The commissioner’s wife sat with one buttock on the edge of the sofa, facing me as if she expected something explosive to happen and she was preparing herself not to miss it.
Amaka, the other Amaka, took a card out of her phone case and handed it to the commissioner.
“This is my card,” she said.
The commissioner took it and took his time inspecting it, he even turned it over, and then he handed it to a policeman standing close to him.
“My client is going to sue the Nigerian police force,” the lawyer said.
My jaw dropped.
The commissioner smiled as if he had expected it. “She’s safe and so are her friends,” he said.
“Yes, that may be so, but that’s not what we are suing for.”
I heard Johnny’s voice, making jokes with someone, so did the commissioner.
“Please, one moment,” the commissioner begged my lawyer. He got to his feet just as Johnny walked in with his son in tow.
You wouldn’t know he had just been released from kidnappers. He looked healthy and cheerful. He looked like Johnny!
“Ol’ boy, you for leave me with those bastards make I teach them sense,” he said to the commissioner. “Me I was already planning my escape, you know I’ve watched plenty film.”
It was just like Johnny to go through such an ordeal and still be able to make jokes. He looked at me and spread out his arms. I walked into them, tears in my eyes.
“Amaka maka. I’m so sorry you got involved in all this mess.”
John junior shook hands with everybody, including the officers who were obviously guards. When he shook Rotimi, he took both his hands in his.
“Baby,” Johnny said, “They said you did Rambo for one of them.”
He was referring to the officer on the bike. The commissioner asked everyone to settle down then he told the woman to explain what had transpired.
“Shoo? So the man Amaka beat was a policeman?” Johnny asked.
“Yes, sir,” the policewoman said.
The lawyer lady introduced herself to Johnny.
“I’m glad you’re fine,” she said. “We were in the middle of discussing something just before you came. We will continue now, if it’s ok with you.”
The commissioner asked her if it couldn’t wait and she said no.
“Like I was saying my client is suing the police force for what happened to her while in custody with the police. She shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place, so she shouldn’t even have been there, then she was raped by a police officer.”
“What!” That was Johnny.
“Yes, raped. And the officer even had the time to record video evidence of his crime on his phone.”
“What!” That was the police commissioner.
The commissioner’s wife squeezed my palms. She had been holding them in hers all along. I was confused. I didn’t remember the man filming me, but then again I didn’t remember a lot. There were even times when I didn’t remember him doing anything to me. I wasn’t even sure he did.
“Amaka, I want to show you a video on my phone. Just watch it and tell me if you are the one on the video and if you recognize the other person in the video and if he is the officer that violated you.”
My heart was about to explode. He had recorded it and it was being passed around like all those other videos that boys share with each other on campus.
“Let me see,” the commissioner said.
Amaka looked at him as if he had asked her to take off her clothes. “Let you see? You mean you haven’t seen the video? The one your officer made and shared with his colleagues? Of my client being brutally violated and humiliated?”
“I wasn’t told about any video.” He turned to the lady officer. “Did you know about this?”
“No sir. This is the first time I’m hearing of it sir.”
Amaka was standing in the middle of the room with her phone in her hand.
“Well, if my client gives her permission for you to see it then I’ll let you see it, she has already been humiliated enough. Your lawyer will get a copy anyway, but be assured that if the video gets out we will come down hard on you.”
She beckoned for me to come to her.
“This is not going to be pleasant,” she said. “I’ll turn down the volume and I’ll show you just a little bit of it then I’ll ask you to identify the people in it. Is that ok?”
“No one else will see this video unless you want them to. Do you understand?”
“I’m really sorry to have to show it to you, but it’s important for our case. They must pay for what happened to you. Do you understand?”
“Are you ready?”
She cupped her fingers over the screen so that only I could see it.
“Do you recognize the people in the video?”
“Are you in the video?”
“Do you recognize the man?”
“Is he your friend?”
“Who is he?”
“What is he doing to you?”
I looked at her. She put her phone back into its cover.
“What was he doing to you?”
“He was raping me.”
Rotimi, Johnny, and the commissioner’s wife all came to me. Rotimi and Johnny stepped back and allowed the commissioner’s wife to take me back to the sofa.
Amaka wasn’t done.
“Imagine what it would do to the police force if this video were to find its way onto Linda Ikeji’s blog? But enough damage has already been done to my client so we would ask that this case be handled with the strictest confidentiality, or else we would seek even greater damages.”
“How much?” the commissioner asked.
“How much for what?”
“To settle out of court.”
“And what makes you think we are willing to settle out of court?”
“Amaka, I know you. This is not the first time you are getting us. How much?”
“I’ll have to talk to my client.”
Later that day we were all at Johnny’s house. I’d never seen so many Lebanese people in the same place at the same time. Rotimi was there as well, and his friend my lawyer, Amaka.
John junior had been avoiding me all day. I found an opportunity to corner him in the kitchen when he went to take a call away from the noise in the parlour. As soon as he saw me coming he ended his call. I asked him how he was at the same time as he was asking me the same thing.
“Thanks, Amaka,” he said.
“For being there for my dad.”
“He’s like a father to me.”
“I guess that makes me like a brother to you?”
We both smiled, following an awkward moment, then we hugged.
“Thanks,” I whispered into his ear.
When I returned to the parlour Johnny was standing up gesticulating as he narrated his fantastic take on his abduction.
His friends, the Americans, had immediately left the country, probably never to return, and with them his investment dreams, but he was beaming and boasting and totally loving being the centre of attraction.
“And this one,” he said to his audience, “When my son called her to come and put her life in danger to rescue me, she just said Oya now!”
I was just so happy he was back.
I excused myself to go take a shower. The truth was I wanted to be alone to say a thank you prayer to God and to cry out whatever tears remained in me.
Somehow, one terrible thing on Falomo Bridge had planted something in my heart that was to change me forever. It had started with the London boy and it had come full circle back to him, or at least to his brother.
If not for the stupid boy I wouldn’t have become so afraid of life as usual. I wouldn’t have started questioning my choices, and Kike’s boyfriend calling her and ashewo like that wouldn’t have had such an impact on me.
Am I a prostitute? I’ve never thought of myself as one. Yes I do runs, but only to survive. I don’t buy GUCCI belts and LV bags. I don’t wear Brazilian hair. I don’t stand on the street prostituting myself. But I need money, to pay for my school and to help my mother. Does that make me a prostitute? What is a runs girl anyway, if not a prostitute in denial? An ashewo like that: Yes, I am what I was. WAS, being the operative word.
And if Johnny hadn’t been kidnapped, I wouldn’t have been arrested and the Nigerian police force wouldn’t be paying me five million naira not to sue them. And I wouldn’t have met Rotimi.
Oh, by the way. I can imagine Brutus swearing by all the gods of his ancestors that he never filmed anything, and he would have been telling the truth. Amaka never had a video, there was no video. What she showed me on her phone at the police commissioner’s house was a text message that simply read “There is no video but if they think there is one they will pay you not to sue them.”
Amaka, it turns out, works for a charity called The Street Samaritans and one of what they do is sue the police on behalf of people who can’t sue by themselves, people like me.
I came downstairs and found Johnny, John junior, Amaka and Rotimi talking like old friends.
“Omoge, where have you been? We thought they had kidnapped you too,” Johnny said.
“Me? You think I’m butter like you?”
I joined them and discovered that they were talking about politics and not me, what a relief. Amaka was making a point that there were not enough female politicians in the country, and according to her this was the reason Nigeria is the way it is. She asked how half the population – men – can determine the fates of the whole nation. Johnny asked her if she was a feminist and I cringed because up till then I thought the term referred to something bad, or at least something not socially acceptable.
“Yes,” she answered in a matter of fact manner.
“So am I,” Johnny declared in his jovial and loud manner.
After that it was all about feminism and liberal feminism and third-wave feminism and… I was lost, at least then.
Rotimi had been very quiet. At some point he took my hand and we just held hands over the armrests separating us.
“You,” Johnny said to him, “What plans do you have for my sister?”
It was the best day of my life. I was surrounded by the people I loved; friends who had become family, and I was at peace with who I was and grateful for where I was.
Amaka came in her own car. We all saw her off. Before she left she reminded me never to talk about the video to anyone.
Rotimi decided to leave as well and for some reason I just assumed I was going with him, or that he wanted me to. He looked confused when I hugged Johnny and said goodbye.
“Just like that, doctor, you are taking my sister from me?”
“Johnny,” I said, about to explain something to him that even I hadn’t thought of or found the words for. But I can always count on Johnny to be there for me. He held the door open for me then as he closed it he tapped on the window. Rotimi pressed a button to roll it down.
“Doctor, if you hurt her, you’ll answer to me,” he said.
Everybody waved and kept on waving till we had driven out of the gates and down the road.
I was looking at him. He looked at me a couple of times till a self-conscious smile started to form across his face.
“What?” he asked.
I just smiled; a smile that had formed from the deepest part of my heart. He took my hand in his and I rested our entwined fingers on my lap. I kept looking at him as he drove. I didn’t know where we were going, but I knew I would be happy when we got there.
“What?” he asked again when he looked at me and I was still looking at him.
“Every single thing I’ve ever done, every mistake I’ve ever made, every misfortune I’ve ever had, has brought me to you.”
“Prostitution in and of itself is an abuse of a woman’s body. Those of us who say this are accused of being simple-minded. But prostitution is very simple. (…) In prostitution, no woman stays whole. It is impossible to use a human body in the way women’s bodies are used in prostitution and to have a whole human being at the end of it, or in the middle of it, or close to the beginning of it. It’s impossible. And no woman gets whole again later, after.”
– Andrea Dworkin