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"You have not recovered yet?"

Yesterday, I was out late with a few friends. I got edgy as time passed and kept reiterating the need to go. I was told to calm down because the curfew was midnight and it was just 11pm. For context, my house was a 15-20 minute drive from my location.

I got even jumpier. My siblings were there too. All three of us couldn't be out so late. What if something happened?

"What are you afraid of?" A friend asked.

"Police." I missed a beat and continued. "Since that #ENDSARs time, I have actually not stayed out late. Once it is 7pm, I am in my house or I sleep wherever I find myself."

"Ah. You have not recovered yet? Since that time?"

"No. I have not oh." Recover? What does that even mean?

My sibling later mapped out the drive home. It is just 16 minutes. There is no need to speed. There is no traffic. I was bewildered. Shocked. Do you think I'm speeding to avoid traffic?

Thinking about it now, I was also afraid of being robbed. But the police?

I fell ill sometime during the lockdown and my heartbeat got so slow my sibling had to take me to the hospital. I refused to finish the bag attached to my arm because it was so late. And so? Police. The doctor gave me a letter stating my reason for being out so late. I was still dizzy but I chose to drive because of the speed demon I needed to be. But yeah, we met them. Police. I showed him the letter. And he started to yell. Why you dey show me paper? Wetin paper wan do for me? He kept yelling. The alcohol on his breath bathed me. My sister's voice shook as she explained. The pounding in my heart did not stop till I slept that night.

I have had some run-ins with the police. One time they searched my car and found my photography equipment in my boot. They asked for receipts for 3-year old equipment to be sure that I didn't steal it. I was only let go because I was from the same state as one of the police officers. I had to give him something too. Another time, I was in traffic and an officer shined his torch in my car. I had this habit of removing my bra whenever I'm tired and in traffic. It was the first thing he saw. He laughed, pointed his torch to my breasts, and called another officer to come and see. How do I recover from that?

In all fairness, I was clinically diagnosed with a panic disorder in 2019. Tense situations are instinctively exagerrated. My senses are overstimulated so it is either I fly or fight. When I fight, I fight dirty. And when I fly, I leave nothing in my wake. So yes, I have a problem. Last night, my friend went on to tell me that bad news sells. That there are many people who are thriving here. And in many words, that those who get caught in the net and have stories are the exception to the rule. He asked if I had had an experience of my own. I didn't answer.

I thought of Pelumi Onifade. His body has still not been released on the orders of the current governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu. His photograph is clear in my head. I thought of Tina Ezekwe. Her body has not been released too. She was murdered by a drunk policeman. Stray bullet. Kemi Falodun summarizes my feelings about the phenomena of stray bullets. The Lagos State government offered her parents N500,000 as compensation. They refused it. I thought of Kolade Johnson. Another stray bullet. While watching football. Jimoh Isiaq. Yet another one. My friend Yinka tweets for all of us about him. At random times, I remember Ifeoma Abugu who was arrested in place of someone else (nope, not a mistake), raped and murdered by the police. They claim she died of a cocaine overdose. Cocaine? Really? Her family still has no access to her body and an autopsy is being stalled for (un)known reasons. I make a mental note to remember to part with everything I have than be taken to a police station. Have you heard the story of Chijoke? I wept hearing his sister describe their father swim through a river of corpses, trying to identify his son. How they were told - I have wasted your son! I can go on and on. But I'm exhausted. And no, I have not recovered.

How can I? When the governor sent the army to kill #ENDSARs protesters? There is a live video. The army catered bodies away. That night is etched in my head. Where do we go from here? The judiciary panels set up to look into cases of police brutality aren't punitive nor do they hold any reformatory powers. By the way, courts now on strike. How does one recover? Justice? What does justice look like? Defunding the police? Reforming? Punishments for the officers? Compensation for victims? Last I checked, there are no takebacks with death. A policeman at a random checkpoint could very well be the end of me. And the first mistake is thinking you are the exception to the rule.

You can read more about SARS, its history, stories of victims of police brutality, see the list of even more victims, videos of torture tactics employed by the police, witness accounts of the October 2020 shooting and the governor lying like he usually does.


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