Dec 20. Morning pages.
Bogobiri open mic last night with Victoria. When we leave to head back to the mainland from Ikoyi at 10:15pm, she mentions that the security guard down the road said she shouldn’t park in front of one certain house. She told him she was parking by the roadside, not the man’s personal property, slammed the door and stalked off–Victoria style, in four-inch wedge heels. So as we’re heading to the car she tells me she hopes the guy didn’t tow her away since he looked pretty upset. Thank God, the car was still there and seemingly intact when we got down the road.
We got inside and Victoria backed out of the spot, but in hearing much scraping of the wheels on the ground, she pulled back in and got out to find someone, likely the security guard, had deflated all four tires on her car. She’s angry, horrified, livid, and of course I’m subdued cos I just want to get home, hadn’t been in almost two days since I slept on the island night before after the Mandela concert.
We get our stuff and start heading down the road past Bogo to get a cab when Victoria sees one guy that had been giving her the eye inside. He asks what’s up, how far, she says someone let her tires. He grabs her arm and marches us back to the car to see what’s what, yeah, someone let all the tires out. Maybe one is a mistake, two a strange coincidence, but four effing tires? No way.
He knocks on the security gate of the man’s house, is gonna get to the bottom of it one way or another. An elder security in night clothes steps out of the gate door–not the guard who spoke to Victoria earlier, mind you, that one refuses to come outside. Baba says he did not let the tires, but if someone was not supposed to park in front of the house–owned by an amBASSador– they should not have put the car there.
Victoria points out that the whole road was full of cars when she parked hers. In fact, the very spot next to ours is still occupied by the same car that was there when she parked and its tires are perfectly in tact. If the policy is to let tires on cars in front of the house, why only hers? Baba maintains he did not let the tires and does not know who did, that the other security will not come out.
Victoria goes off on a tirade about colonial mentality of Nigerians, that if she should call the police and wake the Oga who owns said house he will not defend them, will allow police carry them go jail. I agree, yes, they will be sacked. Baba reiterates that Oga does not allow anyone park there. Vicky picks up on this, inquires whether the big man himself ordered the letting of tires. Whether to stop her badgering or to spite her, Baba says, yes, Oga himself.
He closes the gate door and Vicky’s boo who seemingly knows everyone on the street starts asking the other guards at other compounds whether they saw what happened to the car. Everyone denies it, say they just came on duty and so on. One old man wanders off to find a vulcanizer to pump the tires–there’s one at a busstop nearby, trekable, but a distance.
Boo starts punching numbers in his phone, calls one military guy who lives around the corner. As he’s waiting for the guy to materialize, he strategizes with Vicky that this kind nonsense happened to him one time. That he left his car in its place two weeks before the owner of the house finally settled out of court for a ridiculous sum. It’s vandalism, criminal mischief. If she’s willing to walk away now, maybe even leave a door or two open so someone can steal the stereo, maybe even claim there was money that went missing, she can very well buy another car. The security guard made a small problem into a big one; Oga will not be happy.
Vicky asks me what I think, I say just call the police, what are we waiting for? Ah, but it’s not the U.S., she says, nobody cares. There’s no law here. Finally the military guy appears and first seems to agree that she should not have parked there, that the only matter now is pumping the tires and getting the hell out of there. But he wants to get to the bottom of it, so he knocks the gate door again. Though the security guard in question still refuses to show his face, Baba emerges from the gate and still denies knowing what happened, though maintaining that the metal pole in one bit of cement that Oga put for gate means no parking. He licks what looks like soup off his fingers, one by one, and I wonder how he’s managed to conjure a plate of garri in the melee.
Military guy seems satisfied until Boo starts exploring the legal merits of said argument. Whether you be military, government, if you like, Goodluck himself cannot say you not supposed park for road. His property ends by the gate. But even if we were to accept that the property extends beyond the gate to the road, it’s still vandalism to let the tires. At worst, Oga must come out and pay for the vulcanizer to pump the tires–where is the guy anyway? It’s been 45 minutes already. Boo’s argument convinces Military guy, who now seems more worked up than Vicky. It’s illegal. Immoral. Oga is a Christian, he would not do that.
Meanwhile the entirety of the street has begun accumulating around the car. All the other security guards come to see what happened, cars from down the street start slowing down, one very drunk homeless guy drifts by mumbling about joblessness. We try to ignore him. Before long the Bogobiri folks start coming. One is Vicky’s friend, another organizes the open mic, still others who attended tonight’s show. They all want to know why someone let the air out of the tires. It’s lawlessness. Depravity. Someone must answer for the crime and/or pay for the vulcanizer.
Vicky’s friend, an artist, says we should leave the car and come in the morning to settle the matter. We can sleep at his house nearby. I’m groaning inside because I’m tired as hell, slept on the island last night and had meetings all day and if I don’t see my bed we’re going to have a problem. Someone should call the police, he says. That’s what I said, I think. Vulcanizer appears and says he wants to collect 6000 Naira to pump the tires. Wetin? Boo says, take 400 Naira. He’s looking for Christmas dash.
Vulcanizer starts unpacking equipment when Artist says, But this is not justice, if he pumps the tires and nobody answers for it, then what have we achieved? Someone must own up to it. I am stunned by the earnestness of the plea, as is everyone else. The pumping that has commenced is now halted indefinitely while Vulcanizer makes like he wan carry machine go house. He’s halfway down the street before we stop him.
Someone has apparently called the police, since two appear on bike with Military guy, rifles and all. I realize the matter has just escalated and I will not be going home anytime soon. By now it’s already getting to 11:30, a late hour to begin driving to the mainland. The police knock on the gate–loudly, but Baba seems to suddenly be sleeping. He won’t come to the gate. Oya, don’t waste our time we don’t have much of it, the more authoritative one says. He wears a beret. Knock louder, Boo says, and wake the Ambassador. He will have to settle the matter.
So they knock louder until Oga and his wife appear and start inquiring, through the tiny opening in the gate door, what is the problem and why are we all standing there?
Beret explains that the tires on a car by the gate have all been deflated. All four. Can Oga please explain who did this and why?
Did someone not tell him he should not park there? Then why did he park there? Oga says, voice rising. This is my property!
The wife says it is too late for all of this. She does not give a shit. Everyone with no business at all gathers at the gate to try and reason with Oga. When that fails, they argue. The police are not being heard. Nobody’s in charge. Vicky’s had enough. She starts shouting, so he supports the vandalism of my car, let him come and pay! Boo quiets her down, orders all the stragglers away from the gate door so the police can do their work.
Beret inquires why the tires were let out, can the person who did so please produce him or herself? Oga says it’s too late, that he will not send anyone outside. If they would like to pursue the matter they will have to do so in the morning. He closes the opening in the gate door, conversation over.
Beret reports back to the rather large group of us gathered there that it is criminal mischief, that Oga’s property in fact ends within the gate and does not extend to the street. Whosoever let the tires, whether it is the security or another person, can be arrested if we pursue the case. The only matter is to take pictures of the tires as evidence of the damage, pump them, and be on our way.
Victoria starts taking pictures, but in the dark even with flash they aren’t coming out so great. Artist reiterates that we can sleep at his place tonight and come back early in the morning, that he would not drive the car away until justice is served, it is not right. But since he’s a photographer, Vicky enlists his help in taking better photos of the car. He crouches low to the ground at an angle, moves around to all four tires. A proper job.
Vulcanizer, who is still hanging around, unpacks the equipment and begins pumping all the tires. We do not even know how the security let the tires, Vicky says, whether he slashed them and the air will not hold, but she lets him pump anyway. The Organizer says he is heading to Ikeja, that if we like he will follow behind us over the bridge in case anything goes wrong. Victoria asks what I think, I say it is a good idea, that I would be more comfortable that way.
Deep down, I wish I got a cab an hour ago. This is too much drama for me. The kind that makes me think, I don tire for Nigeria. Thank God I am leaving in a few days. With the tires all pumped, we enter the car and start to pull off when a security vehicle pulls up, lights flashing and all. A stern gentleman steps down announcing himself as in charge of the security company that manages the gatekeepers at house in question. Boo attempts another retelling of the evening’s drama.
By now it is past midnight and I’m starting to wonder whether I’ll ever get home. Blessedly, Vicky says we have to be going, leaves half the block standing there. I don’t get home to Isolo until 1:00AM. By then the gate is closed and the taxi I have hired from Vicky’s house in Ajao estate will not enter even after I have opened it by force. When I pay him, he complains that I should add more, but I ignore him.
Slamming the door, I walk home, grateful for silence at last. –AL.