|Fela land man in trouble|
IT was a typical day in Lagos, a city where anything can happen. But for a first time visitor; all the hustle and bustle will all look abysmal.
At the far end of the lush green roundabout, which has recently been landscaped by the state government, hawkers’ croaky chants were drowned by loud music coming from irritating loudspeakers. In one corner of the chaotic roundabout, a row of itinerant audio CD sellers form a long line beside wheel barrows full of pirated Compact Discs.
Away from the bedlam was a small group of soldiers who were controversially deployed to Lagos in the wake of the fuel subsidy protest that rocked the country two weeks ago.
The soldiers, all grim looking sat in their truck, looking disinterestedly at the disorder some few meters away. One of the soldiers with a sculptured face that looked carved out of stone was smoking what looked like Indian hemp. Two others were engrossed in a card game. Everything seemed normal in the midst of the chaos until an itinerant cart pusher rolled past the soldiers playing a defiant and mocking track from Fela Anipulapo-Kuti’s Zombie.
Then all hell was let loose. Why this itinerant DJ would choose that hot blazing Lagos afternoon to play the derisive Zombie track that ridiculed the officers of Nigerian army as a bunch of robots would surprise anyone who is familiar with the hate and violent-filled relationship that existed between Fela and the overzealous and power-drunk Nigerian Army. Fela, who had many brushes with the Nigerian Army, would even marvel at the boldness of this Lagos hustler. Perhaps this young man was still too young to know the history of Zombie and the Army Arrangement tracks that came immediately after it, as he stopped directly in front of the army truck to answer a prospective customer.
What happened next was like the proverbial walking into a Tiger’s Den. One of the soldiers seemed to nudge his colleague to the music. He pointed in the direction where the wheelbarrow was parked. Then in a flash, one of the soldiers emerged from the back of the truck. He unclasped his AK47, which hitherto was slung on his shoulders. He beckoned on the man to come closer to the truck.
Innocently and without suspecting anything untoward, he wheeled the barrow closer to the truck. “Oga, you wan buy. Nah original CD o. I get fine, fine Fela music for here” he said. There was a long silence. More officers, clutching AK 47 rifles had gathered round the man. Then a slap, which sounded like thunder clap, was delivered into his lean cheek .
The man was dazed, almost confused. He attempted an escape but was hemmed in by stern looking soldiers who had formed a ring round him. There was silence in the midst of the chaos nearby. A crowd had gathered in the distance, ready to do a Usain Bolt if the situation turns uglier.
“Quench that yeye music. Who send you come here. Why you dey p(flay) Fela music for here? God don punish you today. Another blow was delivered into his jaw. The man crumbled on the dusty road. He was helped up by one of the soldiers. Another wheeled the barrow, which has now gone silent to the back of the truck. I saw him picked up a music video, examined it and tucked it inside his rucksack.
“So, they send you make you come use Fela music cause wahala for here. Ok, so na we be Zombie abi? Oya begin do frog jump.” The man, now looking dazed and frightened quickly assumed the position of a frog; jumping up and down like a frightened amphibian.
As he did, fiery horsewhip lashes landed on his back. He let out a loud yell as the horsewhip tore through his back. The punishment went on for several minutes until one of the soldiers who looked like their superior told the man to “remove himself from here”. The man bolted away but was stopped by the sudden shout of “halt” which stopped him dead in his tracks. He had forgotten his wheelbarrow. He came back and wheeled it into the crowded bus stop. He disappeared into the massive throng of Lagosians that had gathered to witness the scene.
As the man disappeared, the soldiers turn their gaze to the crowd. One of them pointed his AK47 at the crowd, mimicking an attempt to spray them with bullets. People ran in different directions and the soldiers went back to their truck.
The incident mirrored the ugly past of the military years when soldiers acted with impunity by visiting inhuman and degrading treatment on hapless Nigerians. It was impunity like this that made Lagos kicked against the provocative manner in which armed troops was deployed to Lagos by the Jonathan administration, a government.