When anger comes,it’s a rush of emotions you want to dissipate but in the process things you don’t anticipate could end up at your gate. The brawl ensued,anger vented and culprits captured. It’s a barrack,no fisticuff of any kind can be condoned. So with the consequences of your actions and/or reactions you live!
As we walked down the muddy road to this correctional facility,I didn’t know what to expect in it but there was no iota of trepidation. My mind was keyed in on taking the punishment,no form of remorse perused my being for even a second. So as I saw the signpost of what is known as the guardroom of this military cantonment,my belly tightened with unrepentance and the gusto of a street kid. “Artillery White House” was boldy inscribed on it and I thought what an irony. Formalities done with,to the enclave we marched-the four culprits.
As the gate of this “White House” was opened,the stench of a mixture of urine and faeces slapped my nostrils while I glanced at the other six existing inmates. This room was about 30 feet wide and 14 feet in length,8 ridiculously small windows spattered about,floor as sandy as a beach(exaggeration) but with rougher sand and then darkness lit up the room. Check-in time was 2000Hours and I just established in my mind that the night would be spent here;a true case of of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. Mentally,I prepared for 13-14 hours but fate took its course.
Straight to the back of the room I went,leaned against the wall,sat with my shorts & bathroom slippers on and t-shirt flung on my knees. The warden happened to be an elderly man who the older inmates addressed as “Papa”. Meanwhile,2 of my colleagues kept standing and were feeling elitist in the dungeon. They toyed with reality. The other sat beside me and we gisted away. He was tipsy though and if not for his singular act of breaking a liquor bottle in the course of the brawl,we probably would have been in our rooms and not the “Artillery White House”!
Papa came to count us and we numbered ten. Minutes later we became 8,one had been released & the other allowed to eat outside the walls of the confinement. The latter’s name was Louis. Tipsy co-culprit held on to that name & harassed the hell out of him,I looked on and laughed hard! Some soldiers came on routine inspection & stripped us of our clothes and belts;they said those were not allowed in the guardroom because inmates could use them to attempt suicide. At this point,my “elitist” colleaues realised we were seen as equal offenders,degree or no degree.
A truth about this confinement is you do not have an idea of the time all through,you can only guess. Phones & jewellery had been taken on our arrival because no personal item is allowed in(though mysteriously I had my bracelet and ring on all through)and so you could only know the time by asking the warden(s). I asked one of the wardens what the time was later in the night and he told me it was a minute to midnight. In the space of 30 minutes before I asked that question,he had brought in 4 more inmates whose crimes were being outside late supposedly. They were brought in in 2 batches:one first & then the other three,minutes later. The first happened to be a known destitute presumably yet he was unknown to this particular warden who only cared about him spending the night in that room of special-breed mosquitoes. He ranted and then lamented,minutes later he was lying on the sandy floor snorting away,disturbing our eardrums. The other 3 were just a bunch of clowns(still chuckling as I type this). They were 2 igbo men & a hausa man. I suspect they are artisans. They made us laugh the whole night before they slept off. A particular one kept saying “je fe neme this man” in referring to the warden that got him locked up(guess I murdered the igbo language right there,LOL). He was plain distraught but eventually slept off too,snorting at will.
I grimaced as I still sat against the wall,then nature came calling but could not sleep in that position,so I laid on that same dusty sandy floor too. The mosquitoes serenaded,I fought them a little,got a nap and was up again. The lying and sitting continued until it was morning. We got our discharge by 0700Hours and I was happy I had gotten my “street-savvy cv” bolstered by the experience of the last 11 hours. And as I walked into the lodge,some colleagues chanted “Mandela” and I smiled,thinking “what a name acquired AFTER 11 HOURS!”