When I say fear, I mean morbid paralysis. Fear similar to a firm grip (Like someone giving you a tight hug from behind). I was trying to register what was going on all at once but it was happening so fast. One minute, I and my sister had walked into a store at Ikeja to get work shoes and the next minute we were standing with guns to our faces and horrific looking men shouting at us to surrender our valuables.
Our Saturday had started like every other lazy Saturday. We all woke up late in my house and cheerfully, I decided to make breakfast for the family. I prepared boiled yam and fried eggs and as usual my mum complained about the width of the yam slices. “Atinuke” she had said, “When will you learn to cut yam right. Ehn. This is too thin, if someone will eat yam, let us know we are eating yam and not yam chips. These pieces are too thin” then she hissed and continued eating her food. We will always have that fight to eternity because I like my boiled yam thinly sliced. It made the yam softer and more interesting to eat. Anyway, breakfast (or brunch) was finally over shortly after 1pm and my sister decided it was the perfect day to go out to buy work shoes (she had over 5 pairs of shoes for that purpose already ooo). I decided to tag along as I had nothing urgent to attend to at home.
My sister said she knew a store we could get affordable shoes on Awolowo Way, Ikeja so, off to Awolowo Way we headed. On getting there, my sister stopped at Access Bank so she could get some cash at the ATM. She withdrew N60,000, I was happy as I knew that meant we were going to make a stop at the best ice cream place in the world after we bought her shoes. I couldn’t wait to indulge; “That’s How I Roll” was already beckoning unto me. We left the ATM and turned to the opposite side of the street so we could kick-off the shopping session. 1hour and 3 stores later, my sister had not found any shoe she liked. I was beginning to get angry at her, “This one is nice” I will say bringing up a shoe for her to see, “The heel is too high, the top is too curved, it’s not glossy, it’s too low, it’s not my size”. She had excuses on all the options. My sister ehn!
Finally, we got to another store, our final stop for the day. Activities outside the store looked perfectly normal. There was a woman selling boli (Roasted Plantain) by the entrance to the store who said we must buy from her on our way out. My sister just smiled, in my mind I thought “boli kor, banana ni”. I got to the entrance of the store before my sister and opened the door for us to go in. Someone lay on the floor; I got angry that someone could be sleeping on duty, such nonsense. “This is unacceptable” I thought as I stepped into the store, sleeping on duty? Nah Nah Nah. The young man sitting by the door quickly got up to assist us shut the door. My eyes were still fixed on the fellow sleeping on the bare floor when I heard a voice behind me. “Very good, you are welcome”. I turned to see who was talking when another voice in front of me shouted “Kneel down”, “Where is your phone”. I turned to see who was talking in front of me and there it was. A silver pistol. Realization dawned on me. He didn’t have to say kneel down again. I was already on my knees. They all started talking at once. “Lie down”, “Where is your phone”, “Where is your bag”. Luckily I had only my phone on me as I had left my bag in the car. Instantly, the phone became worthless to me as I slid the phone to them and lay on the floor with my face to the ground. They took the phone and turned attention to my sister. As I lay on the floor I remembered the staff I thought was asleep, now I knew why he was lying there. I laid on the floor listening to their commands and ruthlessness. There were ruffles and the sound of a zip as they opened my sister’s bag. I thought about the money she just withdrew from the ATM. “What else do you have on you” one of them bellowed. “Nothing” my sister replied. “Both of you get up” the same voice said, we complied like dutiful servants, following him to the back of the room at that point, alarm bells started going off in my head. I couldn’t look back to see if anyone was following us, I couldn’t afford to get a slap. If those men were as ruthless as they looked, if I turned back and they slapped me, I could be permanently deaf. I couldn’t risk it. We got to the front of a door and he opened it, “Get inside” he commanded. We obeyed not knowing what awaited us. In the room were other people who had previously been robbed. They were over 15 of them cramped in the small space. We got in and he closed the door. It was so uncomfortable but no one dared complained. We all stayed there silent, each one to their thoughts.
The door to the tiny room was finally opened by the staff I saw lying down earlier. His face was bruised. “They have gone” he said. Everyone scrambled outside. Bodies and egos had been bruised. Everyone started talking at once. Everyone was narrating their experiences. I looked around trying to find my sister; she stood by door just watching everyone. She stepped forward when she saw me. Her eyes opened up suddenly like a light bulb just came on. “Where is my bag”, “Where is my bag” she kept saying, “My car keys, go and check for the car”, she knelt to pick her bag and look at the content left behind for her car keys. I walked to the end of the store and looked outside through the window; her car was as we parked it. Your car is outside, I said as I came back to her. She had started moving to the door of the store, “Let’s leave this place” she said. “Hold on” I replied, “Everyone is still trying to calm down”. At that point my sister lost her cool and poured all the pent up anger on my innocent soul. “I said let’s get out of here. Do you want to wait till they come back” I wanted to burst into laughter so bad at that point but I dared not. How could they come back? Come back to do what? “Okay let’s go” I said. The room was too noisy and none cared that we were leaving. We got outside and everything seemed normal and calm. No one even had a clue a robbery had just taken place in the store. I believe the men had come in like normal customers; they may have given themselves intervals to walk in so no suspicion was raised by the people outside. Others in the store came outside and started shouting, “We’ve been robbed! Help us”! A crowd began to gather. We got into the car and drove off. My sister was not interested in being helped by the crowd already gathered outside the store.
The ride to Ikeja City Mall was a very long and quiet one as we did not say a word to each other. The next step was to retrieve our SIM cards and make arrangements for new phones. No ice cream for me again today I thought sadly as we drove farther away from Toyin Street.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Sdeva