The Anti-Narcotics men arrived at the meeting point two hours before to lay the groundwork for the operation. When Peter and his associates arrived, they found a tree and hid the package then waited for their buyer to come, prepared to make a run for it if law-enforcement agents interfered with the deal. When the Sergeant showed up with his men, the distro and his men relaxed a little. After they were shown the money, Peter's Distro sent him to bring the product from under the tree. The undercover agents waited until Peter presented the drugs before they were all arrested. The Distro pulled his weapon, but at that moment, he looked around and realised that they were outnumbered.
The Distro and his men were handcuffed and soon transported to the police station where they were kept in small cells. Since his arrival, Peter had dealt with mostly foreigners with whom he spoke English. At the station, it dawned on him that virtually everyone there spoke Arabic and there were no English speakers except for the translator, who he could not be sure what he translated. As he was being processed in, the policeman would ask him a question which the translator would say in English and subsequently translate his answer back to Arabic. Judging from the length of time that the translator spoke each time he answered a question, he doubted that the translator was saying what he said.
That night, they slept in the cells. While discussing with his fellow inmates, Peter learned that his offence was likely to get him up to fifteen years in the UAE penitentiary. Peter counted the years. He was twenty-four at the time. Fifteen years meant that he would be almost forty by the time he is released from jail, and he would have missed the whole of his children's childhood. He had hoped that he would be home before his second child was born. Fifteen years in prison meant that the child would grow up not knowing his father. Suddenly, Peter realised that he would give up all the money he had made in Dubai just to have his freedom and return home.
When he had the opportunity to make a call, he called Agbor and informed him that he had been nabbed. He knew that once the law got you in Dubai, there was not much you could do. He knew that he had no rights. So he needed a miracle. Agbor once told him about some people who did magic that could get one out of any kind of situation. Peter was a Christian, and he did not believe in those things. But he could not get over how the money he had in Agbor's account was waste if he was locked up for fifteen years.
"Nwanne lee, please help your brother. I want you to take three million Naira, go anywhere, do anything to see if you can get me out of here," he begged in his dialect, almost at the point of tears.
"I got you, my brother. Find out how I can call you in case I need to reach you and let me know," he said.But there was no way Agbo could call Peter.
Peter did not know what he was asking for, but Agbor sounded like he knew what he needed to do. Peter was taken back the cell. There his cellmates were Pakistanis, Egyptians, Somalians, Afghans, Kuwaitis and others and most of them did not speak English. Peter was in the cell for two days before his name was called. He was to discover that he was going to see a prosecutor. He did not understand it because he had thought that there would be a lawyer or a judge to listen to his case. He was mistaken.
When Peter sat across a table from the prosecutor, the prosecutor shoved a piece of document into his face. Peter looked at the paper, and it was written in Arabic. He could not make sense of it as he looked at it. He would later have a laugh about it when he realised that he was trying to read a language without even knowing that it was meant to be read from right to left. After staring at the prosecutor flip through documents for a while, the man looked up and queried:
"You carry drug?"
That was it: no description of the kind of drug, so it might as well have been a trailer load of cocaine or just a bag of weed. As Peter had learned in the cell, it was better to answer "Yes" than to say "No" which was counterintuitive but the guy that told him to say yes was compelling. A "No" would have earned him another seven days of waiting to see a prosecutor. Somehow, the way the prosecutor called it drug made Peter feel the weight of his crime was a little less than it actually was.
"Yes," Peter answered. And that was it. Peter was taken to his cell.
Back in the cell, Peter met another Nigerian that stole a candy bar in a shop. Candyman, as Peter learned to call the man, had travelled to Dubai with hopes of finding semi-skilled work on construction site. Everything was not what he was promised. He went to a shop and stole a candy bar. The shop security called the police. And that was how Candyman ended up in the cell and he had been there for fifty-two days when Peter arrived.
"Fifty-two days?" Peter asked, incredulously. According to the man, the paper they showed him said he had stolen "something", in other words, he could have robbed a bank. Ironically, this generalisation of crime gave Peter hope, but that was the extent of his dream. After some days of waiting to be called to appear in front of a prosecutor, he heard some names being called by someone with a rather flat voice. He did not hear his own name, but he recognised some of the names as some people he shared cells with.
"What's the roll call for?" he asked Candyman. He seemed to be the inmate with the most experience in that cell.
"Oh, they are processing the people whose names are being called," he said, looking very bored.
"Processing them how?"
"You are so green, man. A goat would eat you if care is not taken," Candyman said, looking slightly more awake. "You see those uniforms with red stripes, it is for those that are going in for a long, long time. Some of them won't be out until up to twenty-five years' time. The ones that have yellow stripes will probably do between five and ten years. The uniforms with blue stripes are given to those that are awaiting release," he concluded, feeling very satisfied with himself. Peter guessed that the explanation he had just offered may be the highest achievement the man had done within the past week, so he decided to ask more of him.
"So, by your reckoning, which stripes am I getting?" Peter asked.
"Well, it depends on what you did. What did you do?"
"Streets, you know. Cocaine. Possession with intent to distribute," Peter said.
"Hahahahaha. You sound like an American cop. Here, they just say you were caught with drugs. Did you have a weapon?"
"Yes," Peter answered.
"Well, you should be expecting a red stripe. I think the minimum is twenty-five," he explained dispassionately.
Peter could not eat for the whole of that day. His heart was beating like a drum against his suddenly frail chest, and food could not pass his throat. He let Candyman have his meal for the day. From starvation, Peter started fasting and prayers. By this time, he was eating once daily, at the end of each day.
One week after his last visit to see the prosecutor, he still had no way of contacting Agbor to find out if he had figured out a way to get him out of prison. One night he slept and had a dream. A fat, middle-aged woman whose face was decorated with what seemed like paint, tying a kind of ashoke fabric across her chest and wearing red beads in her hair, neck and wrists. She was carrying a calabash in one hand and a rod that looked like a walking stick with a pointed end. She was standing at the edge of a vast gulley that was completely covered with green shrubs. She dug a picture out of the calabash and threw it into the gulley. Peter noticed movement at the bottom of the gulley. The rustle of leaves soon turned out to be a huge crocodile walking out of the hole. It climbed out of the gulley with Peter's picture is in its mouth. The woman retrieved it and returned it to her calabash.
"I am Ezenwanyi who stands between the spirits and the physical. I have come to bring you home. When you go now, you will remember a word you have never heard before. Say it in combination with the name of your village, repeat it every minute you are awake until you are safely home," she said and turned around.
When Peter woke up, he remembered the word as Ezenwanyi said. When he tried to narrate the experience to his cellmates, they told him about their own dreams of seeing a woman that fit his description dragging away him from the correctional officers.
A few days later, the correctional officers arrived with the prison uniforms and Peter's name was among the names they called. He walked out of his open cell and was led to a room where his biometrics would be taken. His fingerprints, pictures and retina scans were captured. When Peter asked if he could use the phone, he was surprised that the man allowed him. He called Agbor.
"Nwanne, these people are severe. I don't think that whatever you have been doing is working."
"Oh, it is working. Have you not seen Ezenwanyi?"
Peter was quiet because he did not know whether seeing someone in a dream counted as seeing someone. Besides, he needed to be sure that Agbor was referring to the same Ezenwanyi. Agbor seemed to understand his hesitation.
"Well, I am with her right now, and she says you're coming home against all the odds. I have made all the necessary sacrifices. You only have to keep chanting the words she told you."
"My brother, they are using machines to scan my eyes and take pictures, and I don't see how I am going to make it out of here," he complained.
"The machines are of no consequence. Relax and watch her do it," he said.
Peter was so tired that he needed to rest before he could rest, and he did not think it was possible for him to relax even if he was sedated. His heart beat like a drum every waking hour. After he returned, the officers called Peter to collect his uniform. It had a blue stripe. The people with whom Peter was arrested watched in amazement as he wore the costume, but they did not say a word, hoping that they would also receive a uniform with blue stripes. They were not that lucky. There were some murmurs after some of them received red and others, yellow lines.
Peter did not know any reason why he would be given a uniform with blue stripes, so he just continued chanting the words Ezenwanyi had told him in his dream. He said it without a break as the correctional officer directed him to a waiting place.
"Yalla," the man said. Peter had never been so happy to obey instructions before in his life. Even though he did not understand Arabic, he was sure the word meant "Come" or "Come along". He followed the man as his heart continued to drum in his chest.
He looked at the man that guided him to the waiting area. He had a certain comical look about him that made Peter wonder if he was a real correctional officer or if he was impersonating someone. He was not short, but he was lanky with very thin hair on his head. In sharp contrast with his slim body was his pot of a belly which sat on him like a foreign object. He had dreamy eyes that were suggestive that he had been using the drugs for which Peter was arrested, but he seemed to know what he was doing. He showed Peter where to go, and he returned to the cells.
As Peter walked towards the gate, where the bus that would convey them to immigration office was parked, he was filled with trepidation because up in front, he could see the vehicle of the team that arrested him. It was parked just beside the security building. He chanted the words of Ezenwanyi repeatedly as he walked towards the security check. He could not ascertain the efficacy of the words but it was his only defence, and he felt naked, utterly vulnerable without them.
He had almost passed the security post when someone called out to him. He was a correctional officer, but Peter felt he must be a low-ranking officer because after Peter came to him, he went inside the office and called the attention of his superior. Peter had no idea what they were saying, but he suspected that the man must have complained that he, Peter was not supposed to be processed out. Peter did not say a word to him but instead continued his chanting almost inaudibly. The senior officer seemed to have been involved in an argument with some other senior officers in the room, so the junior officer asked Peter to wait.
While Peter waited, another officer who seemed to be in charge of transporting the inmates to the immigration office came out with a writing pad in which there was something written in the form of a list.
He looked at Peter. "Yalla," he said, motioning Peter to come with him. That word again, Peter thought, I am going to name my second daughter that if I ever get free.
Peter walked to a van waiting outside the security checkpoint. With each step he took, he expected to hear the other junior officer stop him, but the man watched him walk away as Peter continued to chant. There was another roll-call at the van, admitting them in it. Waiting for all the inmates to board the van was one of the most extended five minutes Peter ever spent. He thought it was over when they were all in, and the doors were shut, but he was wrong. The officer that took him to the bus called his name again.
"Peter Ndukuba," the man called.
Peter was sure that the officer had realised his mistake and was about to correct it. Well, you aren't receiving any help from me, Peter thought and refused to answer. The man repeated the name, and Peter still did not respond. He called the second name, and the person responded. Peter realised it was just another confirmation that they were all there. Peter's name was called again, and this time, he replied. After the roll call, Peter felt the driver engage the gear, and for the first time in the past half hour, Peter breathed. However, he knew that he was a long way from home. The government still had his passport and travel documents. The bus drove to the airport where they were assigned an Emirates airline that would take them back to their various countries. It was nine pm, and Peter's flight was scheduled to leave by one am.
Peter was anxious to get out of the country, but there was nothing he could do but wait for his flight. But he knew that the mistake of letting him go could be found out at any time, and they would come for him at the airport. He decided that he would not wait around to be picked up again, so he went to sit in the toilet. Peter sat in the bathroom until it was thirty minutes past midnight. He wished he had something to cover his face a little, but he had nothing. He walked with his head lowered to the attendant who checked him into his flight.
Peter continued his chant as he walked to his plane and took his seat. But he had much longer to wait because the aircraft did not leave until an hour later. His eyes did not move from the entrance as he kept expecting someone to walk in and say there had been a mistake. Perhaps, he thought, that is why the flight has been delayed. But no one came. The trip began some minutes past two am. As the plane took off, he did not remember his initial fear of flying. Like the Egyptians when the Israelites left Egypt, he was happy just to be out of there.
Peter thought that he would be in Lagos by the time the plane landed, but it fell in Ethiopia. It was an Emirate airline so the government could still ask for Peter to be returned to Dubai. Peter was tempted to escape into Ethiopia, but he knew that he would probably not be able to get past airport security and immigration. He continued his chant and hoped for the best. He later discovered that the plane was waiting to carry other passengers heading to Nigeria.
When the plane landed in the Murtala Muhammed International Airport Lagos, Peter could not contain himself. He had never been happier to be in Nigeria than he was that day. As he walked out of the airport, he saw a reflection of himself and realised that he did not look much different from the junior officer that took him out of prison except for the pot belly. He knew that he could not return home to his family, looking like a shadow of himself. Kosi would worry herself to death if she saw him that way. He found a hotel where he stayed for three weeks, recovering from all that he went through.
A year after his return to Nigeria, Peter received a call from Candyman.
"Hey, Candyman. How is it going?" They both laughed.
"I am doing very well. Thank you. How are you?"
"Couldn't be better, man. Been in Nigeria for about a year now. Things are not rosy, but I am never going back to Dubai," he said.
"Well, you better not because all the people instrumental in haveing you released you are now serving a two-year sentence each," he said.
Peter never saw Bone again. Some of his associates told him that Bone was last spotted somewhere in Europe. Peter did not hold anything against his friend because Bone naturally assumed, considering his situation that there was nothing he would not do to improve his finances. And he was not wrong, however, after his return, the next time, he saw someone driving a big car, he did not want it. He was content with the business he and his wife set up and managed together.
Authored by: @churchboy
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