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There are people who can bring action against their faces and recover full damages. I am one of them. If I could nerve up to institute a court action against my face on defamation , I sure would recover.
My face has been bearing false witness against me. It has been publishing and spreading the lie that I am a chain smoker. That was how I became a Jonah to the bus I boarded from Abuja to Enugu.
At the first checkpoint a burly and serious-faced officer imperiously waved our bus down. Without manifesting the faintest interest in the chaff into which our driver ingeniously tried to lure him, he methodically paced round the bus, inspecting it with dutiful and clinical seriousness. I knew that the hour would ultimately come, and that customarily I would be separated for thorough searching. I preserved a disaffected face to avoid betraying further implicating streaks of nervousness. Calmly getting to the back, the officer stared wide-eyed, in the character of a seeker suddenly overwrought by revealing flashes of eureka. He paused automatically, taking a longer and closer look, as if to flesh up his suspicion. He permitted no further ceremony. I was ordered down.
I obeyed choicelessly, stepping down with knowing and light-making suavity. He was firmly convinced that I had something to hide. His search was unsparing. He searched my pockets. He searched my bag. He sniffed at my hands for a whiff of the thing. He was dissatisfied when he was done and began again. If it was possible, he would have opened my head to check for traces of India hemp. As I made to leave after his unrewarded efforts, he doubtfully leered at me, not as a vindicated man but as an Artful Dodger escaping the law on technical grounds.
The driver took off again in a heedless road rage. After a few strikes of the cloack we halted before another Checkpoint. The officer here was fair-complexioned and eminently carried the mark of his tribe or family. There was no sterness in his manner. Unlike the mean and matter-of-fact officer of the first checkpoint, he was rather permissive and indulgent. That notwithstanding, he was arrested by my ever-implicating face. He left me for the time being and perfunctorily regarded other passengers. Having fulfilled all righteousness with my bus mates , he civily beckoned me down for frisking.
He was not contented after he searched and found nothing. Misgivings still amusingly lurked in his breast. ” where you keep am? “, he asked light-heartedly. Not allowing me to tell him where the thing was kept, he added coaxingly: ” we fit share am, I no go give you wahala”, he concluded with a comraderie wink that trustedly welcomed me into a conspiracy. Warm-heartedly too, I told him that I would have gladly shared it with him if I had any left, the problem being that I smoked the last wrap I had on me before boarding. He smacked my shoulder friendly and shouted: ” bad boy, you fit go now”.
A woman sat beside me and ate industriously. She was moderately chiselled and could even be called slim when weighed on the ponderous African scale. Her hairstyle was the strange thing. I had looked at it at first with a mingled feeling of contained alarm and mild dread. It was fantastically long and embowering. One thought that it was fashioned to sit on the head of an important masquerade. As I clambered in after that second frisking, half-mortified and grinning, she gave me a sidelong glance and imploringly looked the driver’s side as if to ask : ” When shall we throw this Jonah overboard? “. I caught her meaning. And amusedly wondered if a whale had been appointed to preserve me in the tranquility of its belly.
I was just wondering this morning why my face is ever visible to the security forces of this country and why this arms-loaded cattleman is as invisible to them as a needle in a haystack. Perhaps, my face is a greater threat to the nation.