Tuesday, 22 February 2011

ARMED ROBBERY - MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE PART 2

As I laid on the hard ground in the pitch darkness, I remember thinking to myself that it would be wise for me to begin recounting all my many sins. I needed to quickly beg God to forgive me so that I would be sure of a speedy passage to Heaven -my Father's throne...

Then, I felt the gang leader's sturdy, booted leg pierce my back, pinning me to the


unforgiving ground. The night was still, very quiet as if nature and the world were in massive conspiracy to give these violent men that had staged a blockade on a public road the right to plunder us silly. There were no birds singing, no frogs croaking, no cars driving by and no rescue police sirens. I thought about my younger sister's intoduction ceremony scheduled to start the following morning, and my heart thumped and ached because I thought I would never see her again anyway.

There was no way these wicked and violent men who had taken the princely liberty to beat me squarely would spare me to attend my sister's event. Anyway, as I laid face down on the dusty road, the other members of the robbery squad raced into the dark forest chanting harsh songs in mindless and rampant search for my fellow passengers who had the effrontery to flee to the 'safety' of the forest.

In the few seconds I could think, I scolded myself for being so squirmish, so fearful of the black, African jungle.

I asked my brain a few questions; Why for example didn't I join the fleeing passengers? Would the 'safety' of the forest not have been better than lying down spread eagled on the rock solid, dusty, black ground in the middle of Benin-Lagos express road? Would a snake bite not have been more tolerable than having a violent gunman shooting live bullets over my head, combined with his booted leg trapping me to the ground? Having a tiger wrestle with me in the bushes would surely have been a more friendly and sensible option, I berated myself further.

In truth I feared that anytime soon, the arrogant gun man would fling me up, tear my clothes away and get down to the serious business of rape... That, was my number one fear. Machete cuts, gruesome kicks, hard punches and crazy slaps I can live with, but rape by an armed robber? It has no remedy!

The gunman asked me in between his shooting spree if I was a student. I remember thinking to myself, if only I was a student, perhaps, he'll take it easy with me. But I'd left University six years earlier, so I couldn't claim to be a student. And, I'd been working in Cadbury Nigeria PLC for 3years. I therefore didn't qualify to be tagged a student. So I told him the truth. My voice quivered in fear as I told him I worked in Cadbury. There was silence from the aggressive gunman. And there was a stillness in the dark area that scared me so much.

We were the only two in the middle of nowhere at an unholy time of the night. I imagined he was preparing to hurt me yet again. The next thing I heard was the sound of light metal against the coal tarred road. The criminal had tossed my Cadbury employee identity card at me. He added his brittle comment, 'That is your ID'. I swiftly grabbed the square laminate before he changed his mind.

It occurred to me that at least, if I came out of the experience alive, it would save me a whole world of heartache not to have to go to the police to obtain a report that it had been stolen. His singular action offered a faint ray of hope. I whispered a silent prayer of thanks to God for the fact that I didn't lie that I was a student. Apparently, he had my patent rucksack bag with him, he'd ruffled through it and fished out my ID. For a split minute, I welcomed the thought that perhaps, the gunman wasn't that mean after all. So I offered him an olive branch.

After a couple of minutes of sanity, the gun tooting fellow released a few more live bullets. I was scared of being killed by stray bullets from this gun wielding man. He justified his shooting spree. 'Let the Policemen come and get us now...soon, you will see them parading the so called student armed robbers on TV. The Police will claim they caught them robbing..

Well, let them come and get us now. This is our operation. Where is the police?' he asked no on one in particular. Again, he fired a few more bullets into the air. The frequent gunshots were a warning to any wayward motorist attempting to drive by to stay away. Meanwhile, the robber's leg still weighed heavily on my back, pressing me to the unmoving floor.

When I was growing up, I quaked at any form of beating or punishment whether at home or at school. To avoid any form of repercussion therefore, I always followed the rules. My dad knows I can't tolerate being screamed at under any circumstance. As I was a daddy's girl, if he as much as raised his voice at me, I will not speak to him for hours or a whole day to teach him a lesson.

But when these gangsters beat the living nightlight out of me, screamed, shoved, punched and used cutlass to cut me on my shoulder, every fear that I've ever known or heard off, flew out of me for good. Now, I can even joke that Mr. Fear is indebted to me. Those armed robbers taught me a thorough lesson. NEVER FEAR! The one scriptural consolation I had was the biblical verse that encouraged you not to fear those who could only destroy your mortal bodies, but you should only fear God who can both destroy your body and your soul. So, as I lay beneath the heavy, booted foot of my captor and tormentor, I told myself that the worst that would happen is that he will kill me and I would join my Saviour. That didn't sound like a bad alternative at that time.

When I thought the gang leader was a bit calmer, I told him in a frightened tone that I had Bournvita (beverage) in my lugggage in the bus and that they could have it (I thought I was being kind!). Oh my! Did I say the wrong thing? The gunman's leg thudded against my back with a horrendous shout of, 'Shut up! Did I tell you we are hungry?' I quaked on the cold road apologizing profusely. He barked harder at me to, 'Shut up!' And so, I did. I never uttered another word.

After what seemed like eternity, which was maybe only four hours, his gang members successfully raided my fellow passengers hiding in the bushes. They came charging out of the heart curdling forest, shooting and yelling. Their shouts rang out and I'm sure it could be heard as far away as the North pole.

Of course, they must have been high on God knows what drug or alchohol or a mixture of both. My panic started all over again. None of the other robbers came out of the forest with any passenger with a gun to their heads. I was the only unfortunate victim still lying underneath the boot of their ring leader. I wondered if this was the moment where they would just release a single bullet to end my torture. I couldn't for the life of me imagine they would spare me.

However, in the midst of the violent men, there was one soft hearted soul - the one
God touched his heart to show me mercy (the gang leader who had me trapped under his foot for endless hours!). Before I could say 'JACK', I was picked up from the ground like an insect. The gang leader wouldn't let any of the others who were approaching nosily touch me.

The others were shouting and screaming. From their noise I could make out that they were running out of time. In the over four hours they robbed us blind, there wasn't a single vehicle or car coming along in both directions of the express road. AMAZING INDEED! While the other robbers were clutching their loot, screaming, shooting into the air, my captor pointed his gun to my back. My legs were like melting jelly. I told myself to quickly say the final prayer because I have seen several films where the robbers aim the gun at their captive and pull the trigger.

The gang members screamed at their leader to get rid of me quickly, but he didn't listen. He simply urged me forward with the gun behind my back and one hand on my shoulder. My eyes were tightly shut in the dark! This must have been well past midnight into the early hours of the morning. Still, they urged him to end the job quickly, that is, the job of 'getting rid' of me.

He told them to be calm. He ordered me to 'run into the forest'. I stumbled because my eyes were firmly shut and I had no idea where I was going. He screamed at me. 'I say run into the bushes quickly. Your fellow passengers are over there! Go and join them.' My brain was very slow, unable to process this vital information it was receiving. I couldn't understand why the gunman would want to spare me. Surely, he wants to kill me by asking me to run my brain reasoned? And for the third time, he yelled, this time, using the gun to push me away from him. 'Now run, this way...' my eyes flew open as my head finally reigstered that I was being set free.

Freedom has never been so sweet or so expensive!

Suddenly, my eyes that had remained closed for the duration of the raid flew open, speedily acclamatizing to the pitch dark, bushy surroundings. My heart jumped all over the place in fright and sheer joy, it raced faster than the clock. Energy, fresh and clean flowed through my limbs and I surged forward. One part of my brain expected the gun to go off at any minute, but miraculously, it didn't!

Interestingly, my initial fear of the jungle was deftly pushed back as I climbed the steep mountain dotted with stumps, trees and foliage. I rushed forward into it's
natural 'safety'. When I got to the flat top, I pinched myself to confirm that I was still alive. I said a silent thank you to God who delivered me from the valley of the shadow of death. And today, I still pray that God would spare the gang leader of his sins because he didn't shoot me that night.

In spite of the panic, shootings, beatings, physical and mental torture, I didn't feel the physical pain at that time. It felt as if the beatings were happening to my body somewhere else, but the mental torture was what I can say was more devastating...

To all gunmen, armed robbers and thieves Jesus says, 'Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Matthew 4:17. Follow Christ and He will make you fishers of men, not killers of men.

Keep reading as I go into another type of torture in the forest - both natural and manmade in Part 3.


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