WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12th, 2014.
Bode peered disbelievingly at the figure at the end of the room and convinced that he was not in some sort of trance, advanced menacingly at his target whose visage had turned ghostly on seeing him. The room suddenly became empty as he thought up a thousand ways to committing murder. As he got to number nine hundred and fifty five, he felt a hand roughly grasp his arm.
‘So you think this is your father’s house that you can just be parading majestically up and down, abi?’ An officer queried, stopping him in his tracks.
Bode eyeballed the officer, his face twisting in contempt at the sight of the officer’s hands on his well-tailored suit, here he was, about to add murder to the list on his charge and this filth of an officer was busy soiling his designer suits with his fingers.
‘Are you assaulting an officer with your eyes?’ A brash looking policeman wearing a faded jean trousers, a black t-shirt with an NPF crest and a rifle hanging loosely from its straps asked, tapping the back of his head. ‘Abi you think say rape na pekere offence?’
Bode looked angrily at the officer who had just tapped his head like he was a five year old and the officer who was not one to be intimidated returned the stare with bloodshot eyes.
‘Onos why dis guy still dey wear suit? Na boxers him suppose dey rock inside cell by now,’ the jean wearing officer continued, his smoke blackened lips and kolanut stained teeth combining to add an extra sting to his words.
The sound of the words ‘boxers’ and ‘cell’ jolted Bode back to the reality that in a police station, the police man was pretty a god.
The officer who had just been addressed as Onos and whose grasp had stopped him from getting to Julia tugged at his suit. ‘Come and write down your statement,’ he said, obviously empowered by his colleague’s support, curling his fingers around Bode’s arm in such a way as to roughen up the jacket a little bit more.
Bode followed grudgingly but without protest, turning back to steal a glance at Julia who had by this time picked up her fallen file and was watching the whole scenario play out. Being dragged along by a police officer was not the ideal image but he tried to assuage his battered ego by putting up a dignified walk, swaggering to the pull of the officer.
As he received the sheet and pen with which to write down his statement, he couldn’t help but wonder why Sesan was yet to arrive at the station. ‘Officer please can I confirm the location of my lawyer?’
The officer shrugged in consent, talking to a female colleague sitting behind the counter top.
Bode scrolled through his phone’s address book in search of Sesan’s number and after about three minutes of futile search decided to call Emeka. The number connected without much ado like the network was in full agreement with the call. ‘Hello,’ he replied, as soon as he heard Emeka’s voice on the other end. ‘Mr Salako told me that Barrister Sesan would be joining me at the police station, but it’s like an hour since I’ve been here and there’s still no sign of him,’ Bode said.
‘Joining you at the station?’ Emeka asked like he was surprised at that bit of information. ‘The Barrister is here in the office, he’s actually with the MD as we speak. Are you sure he’s supposed to meet you up there?’
‘Of course he is,’ Bode replied. ‘Mr Salako…’
‘Mr Bode, you have been charged for an offence that is not office related, why do you then think the office lawyer should be deployed to your aid?’ Emeka asked, interrupting him. ‘Besides the Barrister doesn’t work under Mr Salako, therefore I don’t think he’s in any position to determine the assignments of the Barrister.’
Bode smiled bitterly at Emeka’s statement, the finality of which wasn’t lost on him. He couldn’t believe Emeka would be so petty as to play up office politics in a time like this. ‘Thank you so very much Mr Emeka, I will get myself a lawyer.’ Bode said, ending the call without the usual ceremonies of goodbyes.
Bode wiped his face with his right palm, sighing deeply as he did so. He thought up names he could call up at the moment but his mind was as blank as a canvas before the first stroke of an artist. He had never needed the services of a lawyer before today and was clearly lost on how to go about getting one. The name of his friend Ugo popped up in his head but was quickly dismissed as Ugo, though a lawyer, was based in Abuja. His roving mind continued its search and stopped on a light complexioned face with some greys on his head – Barrister Ndukwe, his father’s lawyer. The choice didn’t look attractive as he would prefer his parents didn’t hear about him being in the police station but at the same time he could not risk the consequence the delay in getting a lawyer would cause him. After dilly dallying for close to a minute, he put a call through to his mum to get the Barrister’s number, pressured into his decision by the impatient shifting movements of the officer by his side. He wondered why the officer felt there was a need to stick to him like glue, it was not like he was a criminal or a danger of any sort. ‘Lazy fools,’ he cursed under his breath as the call connected.
‘Mumsie,’ Bode said immediately he noticed that the call was active. ‘Oh! Sorry aunty, I thought it was my mum on the line,’ He gushed. He tried to mask his impatience as he listened to his uncle’s wife, Dunni’s mum, taunt him about his reluctance to getting married. And then finally, she released the phone to his mum whom she said had gone to the kitchen.
‘I need Barrister Ndukwe’s number mum, I’m at the Ojodu police station,’ Bode said. ‘This is not a time for many questions mum, please do send it immediately, I’ll explain everything when I get home,’ Bode continued impatiently, interrupting his mum who had started to roll out questions. He ended the call after he was sure he had passed enough information. He couldn’t bear the thought of sleeping in this station while his bed, which by the way was not so far away lay empty. As these thoughts criss-crossed his mind, he scanned the mini chaos in the station for Julia and Funmi but there was no sign of either of them. ‘Julia…Funmi…me…in one room?’ He muttered to himself. This was turning out to be a pot full of drama.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Mrs Funmi George looked in front of her, deep into the suspicious eyes of Mrs Badejo and then slowly but steadily shifted her gaze into the steely angry stare of Mr Badejo whom she learnt had just arrived on a flight from Abuja. He seemed to be more intent on seeing his daughter than wasting his time listening to the to and fro chatter she was presently engaged in with his wife.
‘I thought you said we’ll meet Funmi here?’ Dare asked his wife, his voice heavy with impatience.
‘I thought so too, I’m surprised that the centre in all its wisdom has decided to take the case to the police station without the consent of the parents,’ Mrs Badejo answered, clearly disgusted at the decision to take the case to a police station.
‘We had to act fast madam and besides, the victim here is an adult. You know, rape cases like most criminal cases strive on the strength of the evidence and how fast…’
‘If it was your child, would you be so fast to give her up to the public?’ Mrs Badejo interrupted, her eyes burning with anger.
‘So please where is my daughter now madam?’ Dare said, hoping to kill the rising tension. He was more concerned with seeing Funmi right now than in engaging in fruitless arguments.
‘She’s at the police station and our lawyer is with her,’ Mrs George said with a cool that was more a result of her skill with people than her nature. ‘They should be back here in the next thirty minutes.’
‘We’ll meet her up at the station madam,’ Dare said rising up to his feet. ‘I want to thank you so much for your help, I really do appreciate it but right now, seeing my daughter is my number one priority, I hope you do understand that?’
‘Sure Mr Badejo,’ Mrs George replied with a smile. ‘Funmi will be fine, we are here to make sure she is. We are on her side.’
Mrs Badejo took her bag that was sitting comfortably on top of the desk and rose up with her husband. She ignored the flash of smile that Mrs George had served her. She didn’t want any smile, she just wanted this situation to disappear like a bad dream.
Mrs George rose up from her chair in courtesy as the couple exited her office. Their reaction was the classic rape case scenario. Everybody dreaded the stigma of rape and preferred to keep it hush-hush, accounting for the very low rate of prosecution when compared to the rather high incidents of rape.
As she settled back into her chair, the vibrations of her phone on the desk made a clattering sound that filled the room. She picked up the phone and her face eased into a smile on seeing the caller, it was Mrs Aina Sekibo, the MD/CEO of SEKS Oil & Gas, a company that has been a consistent partner of the centre for the past five years. ‘Her parents just left my office,’ Mrs George replied, ‘of course like many parents, they look reluctant to chase a case but I’m hoping we can count on the resolve of Funmi. I actually do believe that we can make Bode pay for this. We have video evidence of the incident and I’m really confident we can close this one up. The only thing that can stop us is if Funmi decides not to go through with the case.’
‘I hope she doesn’t because I’m interested in this case and if it means getting a senior advocate for this, please don’t hesitate to contact me, its high time women begin to help women. It’s the only way we stand a chance as it regards violence against us,’ Her voice across the phone was thin but she talked with a lot of firmness and authority.
Mrs George felt a new wave of confidence sweep through her being as she listened to the passion with which Mrs Sekibo talked about the case. It was certainly a great decision to have called her up yesterday and intimate her about the case. She was definitely an excellent head in the team. The idea had struck her yesterday during her discussion with Funmi and as the words curled out of her mouth, ‘he works in SEKS Oil & Gas in Ikoyi…’ They leapt at her, SEKS – Oil – Gas. She couldn’t have missed it even if she wanted to, the company was one of the few companies that had religiously partnered with the centre for the past five years and she had called them severally to say thank you, even having the privilege of speaking with the MD/CEO, Mrs Aina Sekibo on two occasions. Mrs Sekibo had given her, her direct line the last time they spoke but she never had a cause to use the number, until Funmi came along.
‘I instructed the company’s lawyer to return to the office after I heard that he was headed to the police station to assist him. As a company, we are not obligated to defending personal lawsuits, especially when that lawsuit is rape. I used to think Bode was responsible and a gentleman, I guess his dedication at work fooled me but I can assure you Mrs George, that by the time this is over, Bode will wish he never met Funmi, even worse, he would wish he didn’t have that thing dangling between his legs.’
Her voice was cold, her message was clear and her delivery was calculated. She sounded every bit like an assassin. Mrs George could imagine those words translated to a business transaction – it was a sure hit. No wonder SEKS Oil & Gas was a multi million dollar company and for the first time since the day Funmi walked into her office, she began to feel sorry for Bode. He had bitten way more than he could chew this time around and it would take a tremendous dose of good fortune for him not to lose his set of teeth in the process.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The beep beep sound from his car gave Dare an assurance of safety that just parking in a police station didn’t give. In Nigeria nothing was impossible, not even the theft of a car from a police station, he mused.
He slipped the keys into his pocket and retrieved his phone in the same move, quickening his steps to catch up with his wife who was in front of him.
‘Is that not mummy Dunni?’ Mrs Badejo asked her husband who was busy fiddling with his phone.
Dare stopped what he was doing, letting his eyes trace the direction of his wife’s gaze. ‘Of course it’s her,’ he said, his eyes stopping on two ladies but more particularly on the one that was making a call.
As the lady on the phone saw the Badejos, her eyes lighted up in smiles as she curtsied in respect.
Dare smiled, acknowledging the greetings from both women. ‘Mummy Dunni, what brings you here and how is my friend Kunle?’
‘Ah! Daddy, it’s our son Bode, he was arrested in the office this morning,’ she replied. ‘I’m sure you know Lekan’s wife?’ Dunni’s mother asked, touching the lady by her side, who wore a very worried look. She seemed rather disinterested in the whole re-union gist.
‘Is she Lekan’s wife?’ Dare asked, his eyes brightening with interest.
At the mention of Lekan, the lady became very aware, curtsying even lower to Dare for another round of greeting.
‘Yes she is,’ Dunni’s mum answered. ‘She was home with me when her son Bode called about his arrest in the office and that he was being brought down to this division. Luckily for us, your friend knows the DPO here and I have called him and he’s presently waiting to see us. You should come with us to see him too’ Dunni’s mum offered. ‘I’m sure he can be of help to you no matter what the case is, at-least they say the police station belongs to the DPO.’
Dare smiled looking at his wife for affirmation which she gave with a slight twitch of her lips.
The entourage of four filed towards the DPO’s office being led by Dunni’s mum who navigated the area like she knew her way around very well.
The DPO a slim built, dark complexioned man with ‘R. UMAR’ emblazoned on his uniform welcomed them to his office. He was very surprised to see the number of people in the entourage. ‘Good afternoon Sir,’ he greeted Dare, standing up to shake him firmly. ‘So Madam, my friend has refused to come and say hello to me?’ He said, his every word accentuated with a thick dose of accent.
Dunni’s mum in her usual very skillful manner laughed off the accusation before going ahead to introduce everyone in the group, making sure that she linked the person she was introducing to a direct relationship with her husband. ‘Dare is your friend’s brother. I actually met him in the car park heading for the waiting room before I asked him to come with me,’ she said, eyes directly at the DPO who listened as attentively as he could.
‘Have you been able to speak with your son yet, Mrs Johnson?’ The DPO asked Bode’s mum who had been very quiet.
‘No,’ the lady replied. ‘We actually came straight to your office.’
‘I thought it better if we come straight to you first Sir,’ Dunni’s mum added.
‘That’s not a problem at all,’ the DPO mused, picking up the interphone. He tapped some four digits on the interphone and almost immediately spoke into the receiver, requesting the files for both parties. ‘Please can you bring to my office right now the file of Bode Johnson and eerm…’ He stuttered, beckoning on the group to help him out with the name.
‘Funmi Badejo,’ Dare offered. Being the quickest to understand the DPO’s need.
‘Funmi Badejo,’ the DPO repeated, hanging up the call. ‘What can I offer you?’ The DPO asked.
Mrs Badejo’s eyes opened in disbelief at the offer and her show of surprise was not lost on the DPO who gave out a little chuckle.
‘Ah Ah! Madam, look at the surprise in your eyes like you have heard a forbidden thing,’ the DPO said sending the group into reels of laughter. ‘The Johnson’s are like a family to me and our relationship goes beyond police – citizen relationship,’ he said looking at Dunni’s mum for affirmation which he got with a slight nod of the head. ‘So what brings you here?’
‘Our daughter was assaulted,’ Mrs Badejo replied. She had rehearsed that response for over a thousand times already and was relieved to have finally used it.
Dare watched as the DPO stared back, trying to properly situate what his wife had just said. ‘She was raped,’ he added. His voice low and sad.
‘Oh!’ The DPO exclaimed. ‘I’m very sorry about that.’
The Johnsons couldn’t hide their shock as Dunni’s mum’s mouth hung open, ‘but Dunni didn’t tell me anything,’ she said to no one in particular, her facial expression distorted with worry. Her daughter’s roommate was raped and she didn’t hear?
‘Does she know the person that raped her Sir?’ The DPO asked the Badejo’s who had become the objects of attention in the room. ‘If she does, I promise you that he will be thoroughly dealt with.’
‘We really are not interested in making a very public show of this,’ Mrs Badejo said, offering her opinion as the opinion of the family. She knew she had to make use of Dare’s present indecision to kill this case as she was not ready to throw her daughter out into the open to be stigmatized.
The DPO could understand the worry of the woman speaking in front of him. He had being a police officer a long time enough to know that victims of rape usually did not want the case charged to court and would rather settle out of court to avoid the publicity that usually stigmatised the victims. ‘Madam, you don’t have to worry about a court case if you don’t want one, I assure you that by the time my boys are through with whoever did this, he will wish he was never born.’ As a father of four girls, R. Umar could imagine the torture he would be in, if any of his treasures as he usually referred to his daughters were raped. He shuddered as the thoughts ran through his mind.
‘He deserves to be castrated, whoever did this,’ Bode’s mum joined the fray. She had become more active and visibly agitated since Mrs Badejo spoke.
Dare was silent as everyone around him buzzed with invectives for the rapist. The only thought in his mind was his daughter – he wanted to see her.
A smartly dressed officer stepped into the officer with a file in hand which he handed to the DPO before doing the customary salute officers usually accorded their bosses.
‘I asked Femi for two files,’ the DPO said as the officer turned to leave.
‘He gave me one sir,’ the officer replied stopping in his tracks.
‘Tell him to give you the other one,’ the DPO said, trying to peer into the contents of the case file to see whose file he had in his hand. ‘I think this is for Funmi Badejo,’ he said, his fingers running a thread on the paper he was reading. ‘Tell him to give you the Bode Johnson file.’
The officer saluted his boss again and left the room.
‘Haba…Haba…Haba…Haba,’ the DPO repeated to himself, every word a groan as his accent amplified the depth of his amazement at whatever he was reading from the files.
Everyone in the office sat up in their chairs, with Dare tempted to go over the other side of the table to see what was written in the file. At that moment the interphone rang.
The DPO picked the call, without looking up from file. ‘Yes…Yes, I have seen it. Yes…thank you,’ he said as he dropped the receiver back on the box.
‘I hope there’s no problem Sir,’ Dare asked unable to hold himself any longer.
‘We are all here for the same reason,’ the DPO said. Not too sure how he was supposed to break the news.
The group stared blankly at the DPO who looked and sounded dazed. ‘I don’t understand sir,’ Dunni’s mum said, resuming her role as the lead of the group.
‘We are all here for rape,’ the DPO said leaving the group more confused. His ability to communicate properly in english seemed to have escaped with whatever he had been reading in the file as he had uttered so many words in hausa since he opened the file.
‘My son was raped too?’ Bode’s mum asked, her voice strained with anxiety.
SP Rabiu Umar, the DPO of the Ojodu police station looked at the lady asking the question. He was not a man to make jest of a serious situation but he instantly felt a strong urge to let out a chuckle which he did well to stifle. The worry in her eyes was genuine and the confusion in the eyes of the others did not permit a chuckle. Sitting up in his chair and very conscious that the gaze of everyone in the room was on him chose his words as carefully as he could with his eyes firmly locked on Bode’s mum. ‘Your son Bode has not been raped. He is the person that raped Funmi Badejo,’ he said, careful not to look in the direction of the Badejos.
A blanket of silence immediately fell on everyone in the room and like the lens of a ’3D’ camera, the DPO turned his eyes slowly but in time to catch an assortment of shock expressions riddled across the faces of everyone in front of him. As his eyes landed on Mrs Badejo, the voice of Bode’s mum interrupted the silence in the room. It was a voice drained and full of anguish.
Bode ti pa mi.