In the bus traveling to Abuja, Ghenero could not relax the way she used to do on her usual trips. Her aunt had been alarmed at catching her with the white powdery substance. She had said.’ So you are now as big as this, so you are now a coke dealer. You will be solely responsible for whatever will be coming your way.’
She had simply packed the stuff and the cornflakes back in the pack. She had sealed it again and walked out on her aunt leaving her stunned.
‘Your mother must hear this.’ She had shouted after her. ‘She should come and carry you now that you have grown bigger than me. So that you do not sell me off one day.’
But what was coke? What was it about coke that her aunt had been so alarmed at? And what was it about coke that has made Stanley so rich? She could not tell. But she could not deny the miasma of anxiety that hung up there in her mind now.
Before now it had been very easy to just travel to deliver these packs of cornflakes. But now that she knew it was beyond just cornflakes. She had become no longer at ease. She was now conscious of the numerous stops and checks by the police on the way. She would do her best to avoid the police. She tried to imagine the police finding her out and asking questions. She was just seventeen and had not done any shady business before. She wasn’t ready for this. Her heart was thumping. Sweat was beginning to form on her brow.
The driver began to slow down as he approached the next police check point.
Ghenero’s heart thumped all the more. She felt sweat dripping down her back. She was scared.
The bus came to a stop.
The voice of a police officer jolted her.
‘Come down everyone with your luggage. Driver come open your boot fast,’ came the command from one of the policemen.
The driver rushed down to open the boot.
‘Whose luggage is this?’ The policeman inquired pointing to a bag.
‘You come this way.’ Another officer directed a passenger. ‘Open your bag quick.’
The passenger obeyed without any hesitation.
One after the other, the passengers opened their bags to show the police officers what they were carrying.
Ghenero was afraid.
When it got to her turn, the officers were rather soft with her. They even mistook her fright for naivety.
‘What are you scared of?’ Asked a dark tall officer, obviously joking.
‘Nothing.’ replied Ghenero shrugging.
‘So where are you going to?’ The officer continued.
The other passengers were beginning to re-enter the bus.
‘We are all going to Abuja.’ She replied.
‘We? How many of you?’
‘I am on my own, by we, I meant everyone in the bus.’
‘Are you everyone? Answer for yourself alone, young woman, everybody is on their own in life.’ The tall officer advised jokingly.
‘Who is the owner of this paper bag?’ Shouted one of the policemen who had continued to inspect the bus from the other end.
Ghenero looked to see that the officer was referring to her paper bag. She could not respond. She rather concentrated on the tall dark policeman who had started joking with her.
‘So you want to know where I am going?’
‘Yes, it’s my duty to know.’
‘I said whose paper bag is this?’ The other policeman became apprehensive when no response was coming.
Other passengers began to wonder how come no one seemed to own it. One of the passengers, the one sitting next to Ghenero pointed at her.
The policeman who had been asking walked over to her. She was the only one left outside the bus now.
‘Young lady, are you the owner of that paper bag?’
She nodded yes.
‘Open your mouth and answer me instead of nodding like an Agama lizard.’ He barked.
‘I said yes,’ she responded.
‘Why did you ignore me initially?’
‘How many persons can answer at a time? I was engaged by your colleague.’
‘Oho you are engaged to him already.’
The other passengers laughed in spite of their annoyance at the delay.
‘So where are you going?’ The tall officer asked again smiling.
‘To Abuja’ replied Ghenero.
‘To do what?’
‘I don’t think that is really any business of yours.’
‘Young lady don’t get smart with me. Tell me who you are going to visit.’
‘I’m not getting smart but am I the only passenger in this bus that you are asking me that?’
‘Oh I see,’ exclaimed the officer. I’ll teach you today that every mallam should carry his kettle and mat. Bring me your paper bag. I want to check it.’
‘There is nothing in it sir.’
‘I said let me have it for checking.’
Ghenero went into the bus to get the paper bag. She was already trembling.
It made the policeman more apprehensive. He collected it from her
‘Why are you trembling? What is inside?’
‘No, cornflakes… Cornflakes.’
‘But cornflakes can’t be this heavy.’
The officer was shaking one pack of cornflakes close to his ears. Ghenero was already sweating. She wished the ground could open up and swallow her up.
The officer held out one of the packs carefully tearing it open at the top and upturning it. Two lumps fell out of the pack. One contained cornflakes and the other was having a white powdery substance in it. The officer picked it up, brought it to his nose and removed it suddenly from his nose like he had been bitten by the substance.
‘Coke!’ shouted the policeman.
The passengers all gasped. They began to dismount the bus again, staring unbelievably at Ghenero.
‘I don’t know about that, explained Ghenero. I was only asked to deliver the cornflakes to someone at Abuja.
The policemen had all gathered. They had opened the two other packs and discovered the additional content of cocaine.
‘Officer please I am innocent.’
‘Shut up. Innocent my foot.’ Shouted a policeman at her.
Ghenero cupped her mouth with both hands she was trembling, crying and muttering something like, I was deceived.
‘How old are you?’ Asked the most senior officer among the policemen.
‘Seventeen,’ she replied still crying
‘Wipe your tears girl. Tell me where you live.’
‘I live in Warri.’
The checkpoint was somewhere near Benin City.
‘You will be taken to our station in Benin to put down your statement. Afterwards, you will be taken back to Warri to be handed over to the police there. Understand?’
‘Please forgive me sir. I was deceived please.’
‘You may write that down in your statement or tell that to police in Warri. Meanwhile, the rest of you in then bus will have to write down your names, address and phone numbers for us please.’
He ordered around a sheet of paper for the passengers to write their details. They all hurriedly wrote down their names, addresses and phone numbers.
‘You are all free to go now except for the suspect whom we have to take to our station in Benin City.’
They remounted the bus with a mixture of shock and pity for Ghenero.