It was a cold, hot, misty, hazy, harmattan afternoon. I had completely misjudged the weather! The morning had been so cold I had no choice but to throw on a sweater over my clothes. Now, it was 1:23 PM, (I know, I glanced at my watch every 3 minutes!) and the sun had grown into a merciless fashion police, metting out sweltering incarcerations on all those who had committed the offense of thinking he wouldn’t show up for duty. And it was like we had been read our Miranda’s rights, we all suffered in silence.
But all that heat was nothing compared to the heat I felt emanating from the army of eyes focused on me, expectantly, skeptically, hopefully.
My mum gripped her collar of shirt unconsciously, I could hear the pandemonium of her racing heart, or was it mine?
I urged myself to speak, to say something! Anything! But my tongue suddenly felt dry and stuck glumly to the roof of my parched mouth.
It was 1:26 pm on a cold, hot, misty, hazy, harmattan afternoon in Abakaliki and I still hadn’t a uttered a word. I had frozen. And it wasn’t beautiful like the cartoon. It was terrible. Horrifying. Those three minutes seemed like three lifetimes and still they stared at me; quizzically, pitifully, disappointedly.
I prayed a policeman would appear from anywhere and arrest me, just so I could hear those reassuring words…
“You have a right to remain silent…”
Days. Days sail past, some are memorable some are… I can’t remember. But the memorable days are memorable for particular reasons. And most times its the painful, regrettable memories that are most memorable. Of those memorable days, I remember one day. It was a downright dreary day in Daura. I had found myself smack dab under the hurtful and unrelenting gaze of the sun, which seemed to derive satisfaction contemplating which way to snatch my future, heat stroke or meningitis. The annoyance that had begun simmering within me over 3 hours before, had covertly morphed into full blown rage, which was now worsened by the fact that the market was much more busy than it normally was, probably because the demand for meat had gone up and concurrently our community economy was booming.
I was late for my date with my girlfriend Khadija, and my kunu seller Bartholomew had informed that he was already sold out for the day. I was flabbergasted beyond all comprehension, I was drenched in slimy liquid emanating from my pores, and my relationship with my wife to be was in danger. None of this would have happened if I had left my house at 10am like I always do. I had stupidly relied on the misinformation of the 8 year old watch which had been given to me by my Aunt Ummulkhusum just before she had passed away. I loved and respected her, in fact, It was her love for society and altruism that had driven me to study law at the Usman Danfodio University where the likes of Alhaji Orezi SAN had instilled the practical tenets of the Law within me.
That’s when it happened, I saw a mob mercilessly lynching a suspected kifi thief, so I hurried over, armed with the knowledge of Human Rights and Constitutional Law, knowledge is power I thought, yes I was going to save this man’s life. I jumped on a table and screamed violently so that everyone would cease what they were doing and listen to my words of wisdom. The stage was effectively set, the message was clear, the logic was sound, all it needed was to be told.
I don’t know what I said, but I know my mouth was open for about 90 seconds, I know I didn’t inspire a single soul, I know that the eyes upon me were painted with disgust, disappointment, disillusion or confusion. They didn’t “feel” me, I didn’t “touch” them, I had effectively made the situation worse and after they were done with him, they descended upon his sympathizers, which by virtue of the terrible speech I had just given included me. If only I had the prowess of oratory legends, I would not just have saved the man or saved myself, but I would have even become a popular hero.
Alas, upon the arrest of the mob by the sergeant, the only words I picked out, which still haunt me till this is very day, :-
“… Anything you say, can and will be used against you”
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