By ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor
My arms were firmly in the air to show that I was submissive to the authority of the mob.
As I alighted from the Kombi bus that conveyed me and about eight others from Ajegunle, Ikorodu, I heard gunshot sounds loud and clear. I beheld a group of boys and men, all looking very mean and unfriendly, ordering people to raise their hands as we all made to pass the road in front of the BRT terminus under the deserted Mile 12 Bridge.
An explanation by a woman with a bag of onions on her head that the shots were fired by boys around Kosofe Bus Stop heightened my fear as I was headed in that particular direction.
“Oga, find us something. We are not fighting anybody. We are begging you. Boys are hungry, Baba,” one dirty looking youth, whose intonation gave him out as most likely from the northern part of the country, addressed me.
He was soon joined by three others, all urging me to part with some money in exchange for my safety.
“Na you people dey chop Naija money. See your belle,” another added jokingly, pointing at me.
A third person interjected with a threat: “Oga, boys are not playing here o. Give us N1K and go,” he thundered. I quickly dropped N500 into his open palm.
Getting to Ajegunle from Ikorodu had been easier than I had thought when I was setting out from my house earlier.
I had planned to drive all the way to Fatai Atere, in Mushin, where my office is located. But by the time I journeyed from Maya in the heart of Ikorodu to Majidun, on the outskirts of Ikorodu enroute Lagos, and having parted with N2,500 already to settle hoodlums manning various road blocks along the road, I realised I had to reconsider my decision to drive to the office.
A man, driving from Lagos into Ikorodu, met me at the Majidun NNPC Petrol Station and advised that I should turn back if I didn’t have up to N10,000 on me. That was it. I decided to park my car there and then.
After waiting on the highway for almost an hour with some other hopeful commuters, we finally got a private car that agreed to convey us to Ajegunle for N500. Between Majidun and Ajegunle, the driver had to ‘settle’ at no fewer than 10 civilian roadblocks manned by fierce looking youths.
From my calculation, he must have expended all the N2,000 he collected from us for the ride. All along the road, not a single policeman or soldier was sighted. The ‘boys’ were obviously in charge. The mob remained the constituted authority out there.
From Ajegunle, we joined the Kombi bus mentioned earlier for another fee of N500 to Mile 12, in continuation of our journey. That was when the real nightmare began.
We had barely moved when some boys descended on the bus, ordering all of us to alight. The driver was instructed to turn back as there was no road for him to pass. Despite pleas by the driver and his offer of N500, which was promptly collected and pocketed by one of the boys, the hoodlums insisted we must come down from the bus.
For about 30 minutes, we stood there waiting and begging.
Then, one of the boys demanded that we all ‘drop something’ if we wanted to continue on our way. Of course, we did. Sums ranging from N100 to N500 changed hands.
We encountered no fewer than six other roadblocks like that, with the driver paying his way through, and we, the passengers, harassed into parting with money twice or thrice before we got to Mile 12 where we were welcomed by sounds of gunshots.
After waiting a while and looking around to see if a bus or car would come to my rescue, I saw a bike man headed in the direction of Ikorodu. I hailed him and pleaded that he should take me towards Lagos.
After haggling for a while, he agreed to take me to Maryland for N1,500 and off we went. It was a ride that saw both rider and passenger parting with money as we advanced.
From Maryland, I joined another motorcycle to Oshodi through Town Planning Road. We managed to get to Oshodi in one piece after a frightening encounter with Area Boys at Anthony.
Tired of giving out money, my bike man had begged that he should be allowed to go, promising to settle the hoodlums on his return journey. Hardly had he finished talking before a weird looking man gave him a blow in the face. In no time, his right eye was red and swollen. I started begging and offered to pay the boys. With N500 in their kitty, we were soon allowed to go.
I ended up trekking from Oshodi to Fatai Atere. And all along the way, hoodlums were in charge. Simply put, security operatives left the city of Lagos unprotected while criminals took over, tormenting anybody who dared leave the comfort of his or her home. And for those of us who must venture out as a result of what we do for a living, it was time to submit to mob-o-cracy, the government of the mob for the people by the mob.