I counted Fourteen!
It was democracy day in Nigeria and the Federal government of Nigeria had declared a public holiday. I thanked God that I would not have to take leave days to be able to attend a relative’s burial. I only needed an additional day. That’s how I got talking with my boss on the trip to my village. “Is it safe to travel?” he asked. Do you have any worries?”. I smiled and told him there was nothing much to worry about except for the high number of check points on the road. Luckily there was a map of Nigeria in his office, so I got the map to give him a feel for the location of my village relating to Port Harcourt in Rivers State. It is here! I pointed as I searched for the nearest marker town to demonstrate the distance we were talking about. I didn’t expect to see my village on that map and was only hoping to see the closest big town to show him. You could feel the excitement in me as I giggled seeing “Isuofia” right there on the map of Nigeria. It’s here! It’s here! I exclaimed as I made gesticulation like a baby that just won a candy gift. It’s about three hours drive from here I said, when asked of the duration of the journey. And you can expect to see at least twenty police check points on the road to my village, I told him.
I had totally forgotten about the conversation when we reached Elele which was almost half the trip from Port Harcourt to Owerri, the Imo state capital. All the same I decided to start the counting at that point just to confirm the estimate I had given my boss. One, two, two, two ,two, two, three, three three, four….. That was how I continued with my numbering rhyme until I got to fourteen by the time we got to the boundary between Rivers State and Imo State. For completeness, I counted four more from that boundary until we got into Owerri proper.
For some reason, it’s always a relief when one leaves the Rivers state boundary into Imo state, and I keep asking myself why the siege on Rivers State. On narrating to my guys, they asked that I may have to choose either the siege of the police check points or that of kidnappers. Your choice is as good as mine, though I still believe the choice of police checkpoints can be better.
In most of the countless check points, one is not parked, but in some you may be parked for some checks. Luckily, I was only parked once on the outward trip but the experience was as usual, not one to be happy about. I handed in my papers and I was told my vehicle number allocation paper was not the proper one. When I enquired which sample was the proper one, I was asked to wait so that they could flag down another vehicle and show me. After a while, the one that appeared to be the supervisor asked that the accusing officer release me after doing the needful. On my return trip again, there was no issue until another one, this time Highway Patrol stopped me. I normally do a profiling and can tell which check points will stop and ask for papers, or water. My assessment was that these were the “big boys” that don’t mess around. They normally don’t have time and are so professional, they will simply look into the car and ask you to continue safely. How wrong I was as this one stopped me, asked for papers and on reviewing same, declared that my papers are carrying three different colours of the car. It was blue on the vehicle licence on the screen, silver blue on the number allocation paper and “custom” on the proof of ownership. When I said that it was not an issue, he tried to let me know it was a very big offence and that we have to go to the office. When I begged him that I was running late and did not want to be on that road till evening because it was a dangerous one, he said I should not worry that they are many on the road and so it is safe, or that he will escort me home eventually. He then advised that I go and swear affidavit to cover for the discrepancy when I get to Port Harcourt which I said yes while still begging. In the meanwhile, I continued to use emotional intelligence on the guy pleading that since he had pointed out the remedy, it meant he understood the intent of the check and hence should not spoil his good works by adding any more punitive measures to the sanctions. This fell on deaf ears and cost us about twenty minutes before we continued our journey. Please don’t ask me the details “biko”.
I guess next time I may need a forensic lawyer to check my papers before I set out on a trip on that route again. The payment for that check will include a clause that the lawyer will make a refund if any fault is found in the papers. Meanwhile, let me go and give my boss the count before I forget.
Obidike Peter wrote from www.peterobidike.com and email@example.com
Friday 14th June 2019
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