Sergeant Ehizogie Osunbor was a tired policeman. At thirty-three years old, He was already an epitome of that disease that troubled the Nigerian civil service; corruption and poor work ethic. He would rather be with his friends at the bar behind the orange tree close to Ekete primary school. You know that place now; where they sell souring palmwine, fried meat, groundnuts and fresh fish pepper soup. That was where he got his peace of mind, every evening, before going home to his nagging twenty-four years old wife, Egbe.
Every day, for the past twelve years, he had ended his work day with two mugs of palmwine, a plate of pepper soup and a feel or two of Nkechi’s well rounded buttocks, which she rolled a little too freely anytime he was around. He made sure her father never saw them in their play; the bar owner, Pa Okosisi, was notorious for shooting his service pistol off at any little excuse. She had finally given him the cookie after many tries, but he always came back for more.
On that day though, he did not plan on going to his usual spot; he was going to the hospital straight after work. You see, his darling wife, Egbe, had finally given him a child; a bouncing baby boy. The nurse had said so when he called the hospital. His oga had congratulated him and immediately sent him back to his duty; he was escorting a bullion van to the bank. There was no other policeman available to do it.
He yawned and patted his round stomach, then bent to properly tuck in his uniform that had managed to come out of his trouser. The shirt was no longer a fit; his bulging stomach had taken every space. He sighed as he forced the shirt in and picked his gun from the side of the security post. He turned to watch the men load the van with money; money he would never touch or spend. He turned away; “there was no need to hunger for what one cannot have” he thought to himself.
The bullion van drove to the gate and he and his colleague got into their Hilux. He was the driver for this delivery, so he drove to the front and led the convoy out of the office premises. As soon as he entered the main road, he put on the siren and pressed the accelerator. His colleague placed his hand outside, with his gun pointed out, eyes alert. Robbers, these days, were not afraid to dare a daylight robbery, he knew. A colleague of theirs had died escorting a bullion van about two weeks ago. He had no intention of becoming another statistic; he had a child to get home to.
The school was perched on the edge of the junction; possibly a poor location for a primary school but when had there been consideration for the comfort and safety of customers when people do business in this country? The school gate opened into a four junction; a junction where four roads meet. It was one of the busiest parts of town. An old traffic light that permanently blinked red and a one-legged man that hopped about with crutches were the only traffic control in this place. It was a death trap and accidents were commonplace.
The school bell pealed in the early afternoon sun to end the school day and a rush of children, wards, maids, drivers, and harried parents poured out of the school, causing a hold up. The self-employed traffic warden hopped about, a slippery whistle in his lips. He blew on it, raising his hands to stop incoming vehicles as cars drove out of the school and joined the traffic.
Papa D held the boy’s hand tight; his rheumy eyes staring about worriedly. He did not like the noise and the speed of the cars. He could not understand why madam had sent him to pick the boy; it was usually the younger drivers that went on such errands. He wondered what his oga will say if he finds out. His oga had been kind enough to keep him around and still pay him his salary even though he could barely see. He watched the traffic man trying to control the traffic and shook his greying head.
“Dis one go soon die. All dis people no dey listen to am. I no know where dem dey hurry dey go sef.” He thought to himself. The boy tugged his hand, trying to get free of his tight grip. He turned to the boy
Papa D: “wetin?” he asked
Desmond: “I want to wee-wee.” He replied, his legs were closed together in an effort to hold the urine back.
Papa D sighed. He looked around; the school gate was full with people and cars. He had no intention of fighting through all that crowd and noise; his arthritis hurt enough as it is, there was no need to make it worse. He stared at his car parked across the road. If he had known better, he would have parked the car closer to the gate. He sighed again and walked away from the crushing press of the crowd. He saw a car packed close to an open gutter filled with green water, polybags, orange peels and other waste products that had managed to stop the water from flowing and caused a toxic odour to waft out into the atmosphere. Papa D looked at the gutter, then he turned to the boy and pointed.
Desmond frowned at the smell but he was desperate. He looked at Papa D, waiting. Papa looked at him, then rolling his eyes in irritation, he bent down, his bones creaking like a broken chair and pulled the zip of Desmond’s shorts down. The boy stepped forward and sprayed urine into the gutter, stirring the insects that perched on the water and raise the foul odour to new heights. When he was done, Papa bent again and zipped his shorts up then he grabbed his hand and they walked out from behind the car to the front. Then they crossed the road.
For the rest of his life, Sergeant Osunbor will swear that the boy was not there; he would claim that he never saw the old man and the boy as they cross the road; he would claim that the boy ran into the road; he would say that the old man pushed the boy into the road; He would change his story so many times but the truth will remain that at exactly 1:30pm, he drove his Hilux right into an old man clutching a three years old boy and tossed them like dolls against the windshield of another car before they fell to the tarred road. After which fear took over and his feet jammed on the accelerator until the Hilux ran into the bad traffic light, destroying it finally.
He and his colleague survived the accident but he lost a leg and his job. But that was not the biggest problem he faced as he laid in the hospital bed, listening to a police inspector explained the situation to him, several days after the accident. You see the little boy, Desmond, who he had tossed about that afternoon, was the only son of a retired Major Festus Olayinka, presently a businessman with influence both in the federal government and the military. He was on his way back to Nigeria and it had been heard that the man wanted blood. Ehizogie placed his two trembling hands on his head. “I am dead!” he thought to himself, as tears fell from his eyes.
The door to the ward opened and two soldiers entered, their eyes searching the room, obviously searching for someone. One of the soldiers’ gazes fell on Ehizogie’s bed and he nudged the other one. Both of them walked to the bed and stood on each side looming over him like grim mountains. He tried to swallow the lump stuck in his throat, then the door opened again, and he almost jumped out of his skin when a huge, dark skinned man walked into the room escorted by another soldier. The man took his time and every step he made on the hospital floor felt like the ticking of a clock that timed his death. The man got to his bed and stared at him silently
Major Festus: “sir, where is my son?” he asked, softly.
Question: If you were in Major Festus Olayinka’s shoes, what will you do to Sergeant Osunbor?
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