Opinion

Hoodlums at TVC News: My personal experience

I was still in bed when my phone rang. I picked immediately because it was my Director of News

“Hi Tunde, are you in the office”, she asked?

“No ma, but I’ll be there in 15 minutes”, I replied.

“Ok, you saw what happened at the Lekki toll gate yesterday? We need quality guests today. Get Security Experts, Rights Activists, Lawyers, get the #EndSars Convener and protesters. We must be on top of our game. Get on it immediately, I want them at 10am.”

“Ok ma!”, I responded.

I immediately jumped out of bed and started dressing up.

My wife wasn’t pleased.

“You’ve been working for the past 5 days, isn’t today supposed to be your day off”, she asked.

“Babe, that was my director. Duty calls”, I responded.

In five minutes, I was ready and sauntered out of my home. My office was a 7- minute walking distance so I trekked down.

I had not walked over a hundred metres before I suddenly became aware that the environment was kind of tensed. What could be happening?

I was going to work during the Covid-19 lockdown as an essential service provider, so I was used to the empty road, but this curfew was different. There was an eerie feeling that came with it. I intentionally slowed my pace so as to match the environmental tempo. All doesn’t seem right.

By the time I got to the company’s Aladelola’s gate. I wasn’t feeling comfortable again. I felt like I was a centre of attraction, with eyes piercing through me like ‘Where is this one going to sef’?

Any sense of relief I was looking forward to when I entered the compound vapourized when I saw that the security guards as well as the Rapid Response Squad deployed in the premises were in panic mode!

‘I don tell you, no dey open that gate anyhow”, an officer barked at one of the security guards who opened for me.

Finally got to the main building but I couldn’t go in at the reception. I met some colleagues outside and it was at that point I realized they had a premonition of being attacked any moment.

Before you could say Jack Robinson, we suddenly heard a mob hitting the gates and trying to forcefully find their way in. The police officers were the first to enter their vans and drove off towards the other exit on CMD road. In few minutes, young guys numbering close to a hundred with various kinds of weapons found their way in.

Everyone scampered for safety, some rushed back into the complex. In a split second, I felt that won’t be a good idea, so I also took off towards the CMD gate.

Out of the 1st gate and before some of my colleagues and I who were running towards the CMD gate could get there, we looked up and saw that the hoodlums were also at the other end, already trying to bring down the gates. They had us all boxed in.

“See them, na them be that”, I overheard the hoodlums. Panic set in!

We had to start running back. We were stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. The only option was to run into a gated estate on our right……but all their gates were locked. God, I’m in trouble!

I didn’t think twice before I ran to the nearest gate, made a first attempt and in few seconds, I had scaled it into a private residence.

I made straight for the backyard and found a small store, where I huddled in and tried to regain my breathe. Phew! That was close!

In few minutes, I saw three of my colleagues too came in, two guys and a lady. They had scaled the fence after me. One of them said some of us were still out there but they couldn’t climb the walls nor fences…..there was nothing we could do, but to pray for their safety.

The four of us were there in that ‘hole’ for at least 2 hours , waiting and keeping tabs on our WhatsApp thread to know what was happening outside.

We heard noises, gunshots, and explosions from the burning complex nearby. We were all saying prayers, the lady among us was praying in Arabic while I was alternating between Psalms 23 and 91. (Thanks to my mum who made me recite those verses off head when I was still young.) They really came handy because I was so scared to pray.

In the midst of it all, one of us was so disturbed. I think it was his phone battery or sim that had a problem. He was looking so terrified and confused. Jeez! I pitied him even in my own confusion. He couldn’t call out or be reached. I imagined not being able to reach out to my wife who was already calling and also panicking. I told her all was well and I was fine! I lied to make her feel cool! I shed a tear too.

After a while, we called and some colleagues said there was a police team already on ground and they were safely on CMD road, although, the environment is still tensed. That was when we could crawl out of our hiding places.

On our way out, we decided to knock on the door of our ‘host’ to at least, let them know that we had been keeping refuge in their compound all these while, incase we will have to run back if it still not safe out there. They were shocked…lol.

It was at that point it first crossed my mind that what if these guys had Rottweilers or other fierce dogs in their compund? Phew! I broke another sweat. I looked again at the gate we jumped over and wondered how I did!

I then had to move swiftly and carefully following backways until I got back home.

It was when I got home that I started trembling. It was officially the worst day I’ve ever experienced. I have never seen such at close calls, talkless of being a victim of a raging mob! It was indeed, a red letter day!

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