I pity the boys that have been arrested by the police; you often see that by the time they parade them in front of the press or public, they have swollen eyes, swollen lips, they have visible fresh wounds on their bodies; they have been dealt with.
I know because I was once there.
I was a bookstore manager for one big oga that owned a chain of bookstores all over Nigeria. That was in the days when people actually went to bookshops to buy books. We sold the best books, the latest editions and they were not pirated copies!
We sold law books, medical books, name it, all kinds of professional books that many bookshops didn’t stock. Back in the day, books were more popular because there was little or no knowledge about the internet, so universities and secondary schools, big institutions depended on us to bring in books from abroad. That’s how we operated then.
Ok, so you know, being about the only chain of bookstores that sold exclusive books, we were hot in the market; bookshop owners from the east and western parts of Nigeria would often bribe some of my colleagues to keep certain stock of books for them when we got new shipment/consignment. Many of my colleagues were doing under G business with the books; they would cart away volumes of books.
A time came, when I began to notice large volumes of books go missing. I was the storekeeper at that time and whenever I attended to requisitions from the shop floors, I would notice that at the end of each week, there was no correspondence between quantity on shelf and quantity they claimed to have sold.
I would ask my colleagues to give account of the books on their floors and many times I realised some people were stealing huge volumes. I was very particular about a male colleague named Lukas; a few others also attested to the fact that they suspected him of pilfering books. So I called my boss to report my findings.
But maybe I should have kept quiet; because my boss wouldn’t even have found out about the thefts for a long time. I just felt I should let him know.
My boss came around and we went through the books; the records and shelves in all the three floors and indeed, there were more books stolen than I had even reported. This angered my boss and he went straight to the police station!
Humn, the police came and arrested me and a number of my colleagues. Though I was the one who reported the theft, I was still arrested alongside my colleagues.
At the police station, after we had written our statements, they said we should remove the valuables on us and strip to our boxers. We were later taken into one room and asked to be in a single file. There we were interrogated by officers; they asked us our names, asked us to tell them what our duties were and you know generally give them an idea of the kinds of jobs we did.
I was the third in line!
I had received several slaps even when I responded to their questions; they asked me why I didn’t notify our boss on time; even though I told them I had as soon as I noticed huge volumes missing. I told them I did but not immediately because I wanted to be sure the books were truly missing. I explained that sometimes due to errors on our records, we find that some books were categorized wrongly.
Anyway, they swept me aside and began to interrogate my colleague; this guy was the least anyone even suspected would be responsible for the thefts; he had just joined us in the company about two months prior, and the thefts had been happening before he joined. I never for once suspected him, apart from the fact that he was just a small boy, fresh from university, he was waiting for his call up letter; the guy didn’t know jack about book business but he was the one the officers singled out to start interrogating first.
The one we all suspected was responsible for the thefts was next in line to him; he was the one some of us at the office had long suspected was doing shady deals with the books but had no proof.
So the officers started with this small boy fresh from school…they beat this guy with bulala for a very long time but he kept saying he had nothing to do with it. Then they told him they knew what to do to him to make him confess…ask me what they did?
They put a broom stick inside his penis and broke it! I fainted at the sight of it! The boy screamed, to date, I can still hear him till today, the boy was mad in crushing pain, he was begging, he was bloodied, he was telling them he stole the books, he called several names…I knew this boy didn’t steal any books because he was calling names of books we didn’t even have in the bookshop. I was the storekeeper, I knew all our books, the volumes we had, the numbers of many of them when we got them from the printers abroad…it was my job!
At this point, they just left the boy writhing in pain, they told him to remove the broomstick or he would swell up and die!
When I came to, I saw the boy’s penis had begun to get swollen like a big balloon. I was crying and begging them, if they could do this to this boy, then I was a dead man…I was begging the officers that we didn’t know anything about the thefts. They screamed at me to shut my mouth, then they brought Lukas forward, he was the very one we had long suspected.
As soon as Lukas, who had also been crying and begging for mercy, too, stepped forward, they dragged down his boxers and asked him to lean towards a table; before then, like the rest of us, they had been slapping Lukas and asking him where he stored the stolen books. Of course, Lukas was begging, o. At first, he was denying it, the next thing I knew, they put Lukas penis on the table and hit it with a baton!
I fainted again!
It was Lukas’s penis they slammed, I was the one who fainted again!
I heard Lukas as if they were choking him, you know that gurgling sound; Loooooddd! I was the one feeling the pain for these guys; because I also knew it would be my turn soon.
Well, when Lukas was revived because you see, those people don’t have time for fainters, Lukas was confessing like a witch.
From what he was saying, even the police knew they had got their man. When they asked him if the rest of us knew anything about it, as in if we were accomplices to the thefts, thankfully, Lukas said no because if he had just said we were accomplices, just to get us into trouble, we would have been tortured for nothing!
So, it was later when they poured water on me and kicked me awake, I think they even pissed on me. I woke up to see Lukas in one corner! still confessing…
Three days later, they released us; they said Lukas had confessed and had shown them who he had been selling the books to; turned out Lukas had opened a bookshop for himself as well and was stealing books by the cartons!
He was caught!
What I tell young people these days, never get into trouble because if police catch you, you go hear weh!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)