The nation did not tremble because it all felt familiar. Everyone knows how corrupt the Nigerian police and prison system is, so when Fisayo Soyombo started to publish his three-part investigation into their sordid operations, it wasn’t an expose. Rather, it was an ordering, a kind of scientific modelling designed to illustrate the things we know in our heads, to animate the chilling experiences that live under our skins, the ones we struggle to push away at night as they bear down on us, their weight boundless, their energy relentless.
It is rare to find a Nigerian who hasn’t had a bad experience with the police or any of its law enforcement institutions. They are the bullies on the playground demanding for your lunchbox; they are mercenaries who follow the money; they do not seek the truth, but the loot. So to willingly surrender yourself to these agents of darkness for days, as Soyombo did during his investigation, is akin to walking into a pit teeming with serpents.
For years, Soyombo, in his capacity as an investigative journalist, has patrolled this country’s breadth, seeking and writing the stories that matter. Through his stories, we have been able to properly see our nation in its proper light, a reflection that should shame the most honourable among us. It is a system that maggot-breeds corruption, accommodates the power-drunk and justifies evil of kinds. Yet we continue to live, as if the times are normal and the seasons regular.
Soyombo’s experience and consequent narration of his time spent in a Nigerian police station and prison is another invaluable contribution to the ever-growing portfolio of evidence that Nigeria is not a place fit for human beings to live. This is not an exaggeration, a kind of sauteed hyperbole purposed to inflame the critical soul. No place where justice is sold, where power is wielded without checks, where the oppressed cannot become enraged, where nightmares are unable to mutate into joy, is fit for human life. Or how does one explain that after his recent three-part story began to be published, it came to light that Soyombo could be arrested for his journalism. Why should a man kick the doctor operating to save his life?
Unfortunately, there are no sunny lessons to be learned here. It’s all dark and grim and dampening and characteristic of a gory horror movie on Christmas Day. Nigeria needs saving but she assassinates those who volunteer. ✚
Jude is a Staff Writer at the Question Marker