December 23, 2013

LamBAtells: Fineboy Agbero Ep6 [A Sombre Sunday Tale]

A Sombre Sunday Tale

(In honour, or dishonour, of Sunday, who brought dishonour to the agbero profession and died three days later in a police cell)

This is the lifecycle of a normal agbero.
He is a boy born into a poor family which usually lives in a face-to-face room. As a youth, he is burdened with the task of fending for himself because his dad has his younger ones to take care of. Of course, he attends secondary school, where he loves to sit at the back because he is tired of the wicked teachers and their intrusive ways. Then the teachers compound his problem by chasing him out of class for not possessing a needed textbook or for disturbing the class. He goes on to hang around with other boys like him, under the mango tree or in the abandoned classroom, or on the other side of the school fence, not so far from where a group of rough street urchins are smoking weed or selling it. They offer him a wrap for free and he takes the bait. Everyday, he smokes and talks large with them. But he still attends school because his mother is on his neck, pleading with him to finish his education and become somebody in life. Finally, he sits for the final exams and fails woefully because he hadn’t been going to class. Or he didn’t even write the exam because he had no money. Or he didn’t even write the exams because it was “chicken” to be seen in a school uniform with the “small-small” boys. While waiting for the GCE exams, he tries to supplement the family income by joining his weed-smoking friends at the park.
Initially, he is a bit cultured so he becomes a bus conductor. He does this for some nine months, and his gestation period is over. He moves, at the beckoning of his weed-smoking friends, unto a higher level by calling passengers for buses instead of being the conductor. This way he can get cuts from each driver instead of from one. Then one of the boys collecting the park levies disappears and he has to fill in. This job is higher than the two previous ones, so he relishes it. Within, a year and half, he has forgotten completely about school. Within this period, he has also changed his name into a more befitting one: Scorpion, Tiger, Lion, or any other animal; Razor, Dagger, Broken Bottle, or any other sharp instrument; or outright frightening names like Jangola, Eje, Mascara, Iku Baba Yeye, etc. And an agbero is born. He is a carnivore in the new jungle of life. He is a hyena and he goes forth to fatten himself. And his prey is the hapless bus driver.
As much as people detest us and our rough looks, they cannot but admit our usefulness. Indeed, the levies we collect are not all channeled into private pockets (and government coffers). Some funds are dedicated to improving the conditions of the parks and sometimes the roads. And besides, we only harass the drivers; we are helpful to other people, especially passengers. Several times, we have ordered drivers to reduce the bus fares they had just inflated because of the volume of people at the bus stop. And many times, we have helped stupid people like you find your way in the jungle of the meandering streets. And why do you think that the rate of armed robberies suddenly died down? Oh, you think the robbers stopped coming to knock at your door in the middle of the night because the wonderful police force is doing a wonderful job? Well, no. All the potential armed robbers are now agberos. And pray we remain so, else you might be visited every night and, sometimes, every morning.

Sunday did not remain so. He did not honour his calling. He, a sheep of not-so-white fleece, dined with the pigs. And he doing so, he caused the agbero community great problems.


When I got to the park the following day, after my dethroning in the police cell, I met people gathered in pockets speaking in hush tones. No one was doing anything; the drivers and conductors were driving past like free men, not paying a kobo to anyone.
Rashidi was standing in a corner with some other boys.
“Wetin dey happen? Why anybody no work?”
Rashidi shook his head as he answered, “Yawa don gas o. Police just leave here now-now. Dem carry Agbowo and anybody else wey dem see.”
“Dem dey craze? Why?”
“We no know o. But we dey hear something about Sunday sha.”
“Sunday ke? But the guy dey cell now.”
“Yes ke.”
It was all so baffling. Wetin concern Agbowo with Sunday? Were the police as crazy as they were called? Five minutes later, Scorpion’s V-Boot zoomed into the park. People dispersed and converged on the car. Scorpion alighted like a king.
“Baba o!” the chorus ran through the morning air.
Scorpion’s eyes were black behind the eye-glasses he wore. Black, not red. His lips were chapped: constant igbo.
“Eyin temi, how far?” he asked, his voice as thick as thunder.
“Baba, we no know o.”
“No shaking. I hear say ascari come here come carry Agbowo and my boys. No worry, na play dem dey play. Na play now. Abi no be play?”
When no one answered, he continued.
“If no be play, dem no go try am. Becos if dem serious, na ten-ten policemen go die for each of my boys wey dem arrest. For Agbowo sef, na fifty. Haha, dem no fit now. Dem fit? Dem fit pull devil for prick? Dem fit suck madman for breast? Iya won! Won o t’obe!”
Scorpion’s words were hard, and they pounded our hearts soft. Slowly, as he spoke, we began to believe that we were indeed the kings of the land. He spoke of great things: great things like burning down fifty police stations. Great things like stopping traffic for five hours of Ikorodu Road. Great things like having the governor lie flat on his chest to beg him. And we believed him. Why? Because he could do it. I swear by my forefathers! I swear by my mother’s life! I swear by my father’s kini: Scorpion could slap God in the face if he wanted to.
“TJ, Jaguda, Aja Dudu, Ekun! Follow me!”
I was startled when I heard my name. I didn’t even know that Scorpion knew I existed let alone know my name. And why would he call me, of all people, to follow him on a mission to the police station? Gazes of admiration tore my shirt as I staggered into the V-Boot. The four of us crammed ourselves into the back seat while Scorpion settled in front. Once the doors were shut, Scorpion’s driver screeched and tore off like a demon.

The car zoomed into the Area G police station as if the president were in it. Policemen scattered out of the path of the angry vehicle. Scorpion jumped down and we quickly followed suit. No one attempted to stop us or ask questions. They just stared. They stared and waited. Their gazes pushed at us as we stormed into the police station.
The desk-sergeant on duty scrambled away from his seat and dashed up the stairs when he saw Scorpion. I chuckled. Scorpion kept a straight face. He was probably used to that kind of treatment. The sergeant didn’t come back. It was the DPO that came down the stairs instead.
“Scorpy, Scorpy!”
“No Scorpy me o! No Scorpy me at all at all.”
“Ahn-ahn, Scorpy, cool down now. No be fight now.”
“No be fight? You lock up my men and you talk say no be fight?”
“Scorpy, you no trust me? I no go lock up your men now. Na just small interrogation we invite dem for.”
Scorpion was done with the drama. He beckoned to me and the other guys.
“Oya, go and bring Agbowo and the remaining!”
We dashed inside amidst the feeble protests of the DPO. A constable was waiting for us at the cell gate already. He opened the gate without a word. Agbowo stood up from a corner in equal silence and three boys followed him. They were mere collectors like me, but their shoulders were hunched high into heaven at the honour of being incarcerated with Agbowo. Agbowo patted my back and grinned at me.
Scorpion led us all out. The DPO was standing in the middle of the room, saying nothing. The only words Scorpion finally uttered were: “We go settle this for meeting.”
Which meeting? What was all this about? I had heard of Scorpion’s immense power, but I had imagined nothing like this. A direct face-off with the DPO, right in the police station? Right in Area G! Lai-lai! As unbelievable as it was, it had just happened under my very nose.

Later in the evening, when everything had died down and Agbowo was in a lighter mood, he told me what had gone down with Sunday.
Apparently, Sunday had been doing shady runs for quite some time. But his end was to come on the day of his last robbery. He was allegedly a member of a four-man gang which specialized in home robberies. Though most of the details was still fuzzy, Sunday and his gang had attempted to rob the house of a commissioner’s son. Their target had just returned from the club with his friends, when Sunday and his boys drove in behind them. They laid siege to the house and ordered the boys inside. Unfortunately, their victim had a security detailed assigned to him by his father: a former Biafran soldier who was as skilled with his gun as other people were skilled with shitting. The rest was history. Sunday and his gang stood no chance against a man who had fought tactically in the jungle. Two of the gang members died while Sunday and another were seriously wounded. The police arrived much later to claim their prize.
But according to Agbowo, Sunday was transferred to Panti early the next morning I had seen him at the cell. But before he was, the police had tortured him. In a bid to ease the wahala on his head, Sunday had given the police the names of people he claimed were their “baba isale.” No, he didn’t mention Agbowo’s name, though he gave the names of other high-ups in the Agbero ranks. The police had only been rash in rounding up Agbowo and others.
“But wetin come dey concern us so much na whether those people wey Sunday mention dey rob true-true.”
“Ah, dat one no go good o…”
“E dey worse than no-good o. Agbero no fit dey associated with robbery. E go just destroy our name and our work. Make I no lie you, whenever we discover say any agbero dey into robbery, na we ourself dey kill dem. Otherwise, dem o just spoil our name.”
Agbowo’s words chilled me. Ehn? Kill dem ke? Men, the matter don pass serious o.
“You know why Scorpy brought you to the station?”
“Baba, no o.”
“Be happy o. Dat na sign say he gbadun you. But be careful sha: very soon, you go get promotion.”
The events of the past few days were quite disturbing. But amidst it all, here was Agbowo telling me that Scorpy, the head of all the agberos for Lagos, found some use for me. Kai! I should have been happy, but my joy was diluted. With fear.

My fear turned into respect and back to fear when news was broken the next morning at the park.
Sunday had died at Panti.
They said he was tortured to death in a bid to extract information from him. But I knew that the bastards at Panti, though wicked, knew how to keep a man alive.
My innermost fear told me that Sunday had been murdered. Was he murdered to keep him silent, or was he killed as a vendetta for disgracing the agbero clan? The happiness of Agbowo throughout the day was a clue that offered nothing. Instead, it took my mind off Sunday, into the giant invisible room that loomed with a million and one secrets…

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