Adeola Tawakaltu, a mechanical engineer, is the subject of this interview. In this interview, she shares her story about two separate times when SARS operatives detained and harassed her and her colleagues when attempting to calm down a crowd of protesters. Adeola narrates her story in two parts with a certain amount of excitement. Plus, she’s a likeable person. We had this conversation on Twitter.
N:B The content of this conversation you’re about to read is based on the direct words and expressions of the interviewee. Plus, it is also a mixture of English, Yorùbá, and Pidgin. If you don’t understand any sentence, don’t hesitate to use Google translate.
How did your first experience happen?
My first experience with the Nigerian police happened in 2013 when I wrote JAMB and the slips were not released. I went to their office to get my slip, then I saw people protesting and demanding that their slips must be released. The protesters had already broken a window before I got there.
Not too long, Police came and started dispersing the group of demonstrators by flogging them randomly and shooting upwards. Then the group will run and come back again. So we heard that the Army had been called and they would join us soon, so I tried stopping the group of protesters who were already throwing stones at the police men to stop as it will only worsen the situation.
Then we all assembled on a lane of the road and kept protesting. The military men came and everyone took off. They arrested me, put me in their car. Five or six others were arrested too. While waiting as they arrested others, a policeman came to the window, stretched his hands and slapped me severally, calling me names and all.
When a fellow protester who I had saved from being bullied by an officer was brought into the car, he blocked most of the slaps even before they got to me as he told the officer in Hausa “Mai tayi ma” what did she do to you? Well, I was arrested that day and they named me a terrorist leader. The officers who testified in the station said I was directing the movement and gave orders as to when or who the protesters should attack. I slept in the cell that day. I wasn’t released until the next day with the rest of the guys.
This is really sad… Did you and the guys finally get your jamb slips?
Yep, after some time we did. The protest was almost nationwide if I remember clearly. But I continued with my studies even before they released the slips because I was already in the polytechnic, I only wanted to apply into the NDA.
How were you released, did someone come for you and the guys or you were asked to call your families?
My family came that night but I was denied release as they claimed that the senior officer in the station was not available. It was in C division Jos, plateau state.
The next day they came and I was asked to write some undertakings, even not protesting ever again included, which I had to sign since all my fams cared about was my release. My folks helped some of the other guys too and I learnt the fams of others came for them. Only a bus conductor who was arrested that day as a protester. But he was only a curious bus conductor who had stopped to pick up passengers before the whole chaos broke out and the bus driver drove off without him. He narrated in the station later.
You were already in the polytechnic before you wrote JAMB right?
Yep, I was a student of the federal polytechnic Bauchi. I was in my diploma 2. We had gone for strike before so I wrote JAMB again to apply for NDA while I waited for the strike to be called off. So I don’t know how it ended with the bus conductor.
Since the incident happened how have you always felt about that experience?
It has only made me fearless of the Nigeria police cos I know how desperate they are to crucify. Ever since, I stand my ground and make sure I am found with no fault.
Now that you’ve gotten over that experience, do you think this current #EndSARS movement will bring real change to Nigeria?
I want it to. I want it to bring change to this nation. I will be a part of the movement until my last day. For in the Yoruba religion, death is only the beginning of life.
Can you please explain what you mean by “death is the only beginning of life”?
Only by dying on earth will you elevate to the higher realm until you become an orisha like our ancestors. Lol It’s my belief though. I believe in the ifa religion.
So how did the second experience go?
Okay, the other time. I had just passed out from NYSC, so my friend and I decided to go over to his place and have a smoke for the last time. A couple of SARS officers came and arrested us even before we could light up.
They took us to their station. Claimed we were the school cult boys they had been looking for and I am the one who they sent as a prey to tame the other guys.
Told them I was an ex-corp member who just passed out and my where they picked us up is where we live. They demanded 200k which none of us had and even if we did, we will never pay such an amount just because we were caught smoking. At last sha, they locked us up till morning, we gave them what we had on us and they let us go. But they held on to my pipe and other things too. Even called me olosho and all but it was all my fault. Ain’t it?
You can’t blame yourself for what happened. It wasn’t your fault. How did you feel when you got home that day?
We were released the next morning before the Officer in charge came. As early as 5-6 a.m. We walked to a joint and rolled one. Lol. I was hurt by their Insults but I was hurt the most cos they took my pipe and money.
Can you describe what they looked like?
They looked like armed robbers, smokers like me, and Illiterate as f*ck. One even saw a pain-relief in my bag and thought it was tramadol.
What would you advise anyone to do when they spot SARS operatives?
Make sure you’re never caught with exhibit. I advise to not move with it if you can. They sell smoke everywhere.
So at this stage, do you have a formula for dealing with SARS operatives when you have an encounter with them?
I don’t run from fight. I stand my ground gidigba. Make sure you are not found with fault. If you are not at fault, you can defend yourself anyhow. Always make sure you attract the attention of others around when you are faced by police. Speak grammar, they are intimidated by it. A rule I just added is that no SARS or police officer will ever brutalize me again. It will be the officer’s end.
If you have any sentence or toxic words to tell the SARS officials that harassed you, what would it be?
I don’t curse people. Aren’t we all cursed already with death?