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Fretting And Sweating On Eviction Day - The 1004 Flats Victoria Island Story
Author: NGEX | October 05, 2006



FRETTING AND SWEATING ON EVICTION DAY* BY ANWULI OJOGWU** The day had eyes. It was the gloom. The sun awoke, healthy, bright and radiated the message into our hearts “Everybody today is the last day; make una move O.” It was as if the sun, our friend since we moved into the Estate over 20years ago wanted to side with our oppressors. Its message hit me right on my bed by 9 am on a weekday, I was still in bed. It was common to every resident. Nobody went to work that March 31st when the Federal Government expiry date came. The Estate was quiet. The normal tirade of car horns and human banters were silenced. Everyone had their ears against the wind and their eyes into the open air, so intense, one would think they could see the wind. Cars drove by only in trickles. Even neighbours conversed in whispers. It felt like the hush of a successful coup d’etat – a time when everyone is trying to swallow the new event. As I woke up that morning, I got the message and responded to it: It is ‘Eviction day’. I followed the rays to my terrace and scanned the horizon. The beautiful mansions on Queens drive in Ikoyi, the rigid Falomo bridge, Ozumba Road with tiny cars like busy ants moving forth and back. I sucked-in great pulp of air. I looked precisely where the False Lady came like a thief in the night. My heart pounded for a few minutes. I also shared in an anxious corner of my mind the invisible fears of people lying on their beds, in their respective flats, harbouring my same thought. I picked up courage and decided to go about the day as if it were normal, but the act of courage is indeed, for the strong. My anatomy became sensitive. For every police siren I heard, I imagined a body of police officers heading to our homes to haul us out. The sound of the siren seemed longer and more intense, too close for comfort that it made me tremble slightly. I thought again, “what’s the worst that can happen?” A quick-fix act of bravery to give me a temporary sense of relief, I assured myself. I recalled the words of a friend and his description of the event. He said it would be monumental, never heard in the history of this country. That day, everyone smelt tension, it hung in the air like the stench of a rotten carcass. I tried to look closer, to see if I could discover anyone betraying our struggle in the form of moving trucks. The order from above was to stay put. The days before ‘Eviction Day’ had been hard for residents. There had been events within the anticipated event. Most predominant were the rallies. A mass of us gathered under the hot scorching sun pleading with higher authority to act with human kindness. Tears were shed, prayers were rained, solidarity affirmed. We usually held rallies where we discussed the way forward, but on this particular rally there were amazing revelations. The hospitals discovered a plague of high blood pressure among residents. Most shocking was the death of the widow, who died on receiving her eviction notice. It was a time when everyone shared their pathetic story. How could over 1000 families start looking for accommodation all over Lagos in a month? The residents protested at the intensity and disrespect of the “Abuja Mouth” and uttered in disbelief at the name tagged on them – “2nd class citizens.” How George Orwell’s Animal farm came to play at that moment: The battle of equal and unequal fingers. Everyone stood their ground. ‘Together we stand divided we fall’ became our mantra, “we must be settled properly” they argued. “We must be given proper homes”. Later arrived two policemen, dressed to their kill in their black uniforms and their weapons slung on their backs and arms akimbo, surveying the place with arrogance. Soon after, they drove away. I walked around myself, to survey the environment. On inspection, I bumped into a young lady with a bewitching smile which beheld shyness. She broke the ice by announcing confidently, “Aunty, I dey sell coke, noodles, soap. Anything you want I get am.” I nearly broke out in laughter, instead I gave her a smile, nodding in agreement. Her utterance warmed the chilly atmosphere. It bespoke hope “business must boom”, I thought. Again I saw defiance. Instead of preparing to leave, some others were daring, in fact somebody was making some general repairs to his house. The day was pregnant with expectation, creeping so fast towards evening and nothing had happened. Evening drew on, soon to be enveloped in darkness. “Tomorrow they will come” I thought. I already imagined our resistance. Blood would be shed. It was inevitable. They wanted to take away all the people had. I saw red. Quickly I curbed my thoughts and got locked in a light conversation. My heart was still heavy. “It’s happened,” someone screamed. My heart jumped into my mouth as I rushed to the scene, expecting to see tears. Rather I saw jubilation. “what?” I asked anxiously. “No more eviction,” was the curt reply. I got the gist immediately. Suddenly, I felt the still wind caress my face and the brick tied to my heart lifted. God did exist! More revelations spewed forth: the underground resistance: the barricading of the gates by an endless chain of young men willing to risk their lives to protect their homes: the truckload of soldiers coming from the Sahara to carry out the raid. It was shocking. The day had fully darkened now. As if to join in our celebration, a storm brewed. Thunder clapped and lightening flashed praises in unison with the bell rung and the chants sung among the jubilant, who had taken to the streets. Finally, the curtains fell and a heavy shower upon their heads in conclusion to a long continuous prayer. We thunderously screamed, “Amen” Article published in the Sunday Guardian of 17th April 2005 relating to the struggle of residents of the Federal Housing Estate to save their homes. ** Anwuli is a graduate of English from the University of Benin and an aspiring writer.

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