In the last week of January 1976, my father died mysteriously, leaving behind his wife and eight children. I was just nineteen but matured enough to realise that I had a big responsibility lying on my shoulders, as the eldest son of my parents.
Shortly after completing my secondary school, the desire to continue my education wasn’t there any longer. Instead, I chose to travel and work, hoping that could help the welfare of my family. I travelled extensively, experiencing bullies, corruption, beatings and lockup.
In West Africa, I covered Republic of Togo, Republic of Benin, Nigeria, Republic of Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone. Some of these countries I visited had its own sad story and bitter experience. After kidnap, beatings and incarceration, I made it to Barcelona, Spain, to meet another hostile life challenges.
My story is just not a story about me, but also about the bad attitude, vicious character, mercilessness, and wickedness of other people I encountered on the road of agony. I count myself to be one of the luckiest person living in this world today, fortunate enough to unfold this true story.
Obanko told Monk that he wanted to take Babatunde to the Pakistan restaurant for some food because he didn’t have much money on him. Babatunde excused Monk and he left the bar with Obanko to the restaurant. They were eating when the police burst into the restaurant with machine guns. It was the most frightening scene Babatunde had ever seen in his life.
Everyone was asked to put their hands on their heads and they conducted a very thorough search on everybody in the restaurant. Nothing suspicious was found on anyone. However, there was one African who didn’t want to cooperate with the police. He refused to do whatever he was told to do. Due to that, he was manhandled by one of the police officers.
From his speech and behaviour, it was obvious that the police had tormented him for a very long time and that he thought he has had enough of it. That, probably, was the reason he acted that way.He was dragged from the restaurant and pinned against a wall. His mouth was forcefully opened when he refused the order to do so.
With anger, he stretched his neck close to the face of the policeman and opened his mouth with screaming and the policeman gave him a dirty slap across the face. But at the end, nothing suspicious was found in his mouth, so he was set free.
As soon as the police left the scene, Babatunde bombarded Obanko with a series of questions. He asked him about the reason for that operation. Obanko told him that when the police suspect something or acting on a tip off, they always acted like that. The police came to the restaurant because many drug pushers use that place for business transactions.
The police told someone to jump thrice with open legs. The reason they did that was that if drug was hidden in his anus, it would fall on the ground.
“How did the police know that some drug pushers put stuffs in their anus?” asked Babatunde.
“Do you know how many times they have done that to me? I can’t tell you because it’s too numerous to count. Even though they get nothing from me any time they subjected me to this kind of punishment, yet they have caught many pushers in that way. This is Barcelona. Welcome to Barcelona,” said Obanko. He paused for a while and began again.
“Some of the friends we eat and drink with are informants to the police. In Spain, we called such people ‘Chibato.’ Just imagine, how can the police know that something is hidden at that part of the body? It is because of the ‘Chibatoes’.”
“The police are not stupid. They are specially trained for that,” said Babatunde.
“What I mean is before they knew that stuffs could be hidden there, one of the ‘Chibatoes’ informed the police about that. Anyway, let’s go to the Piazza to have a drink,” said Obanko.
“Wait a minute, do you still feel like drinking again despite wobbling on the way to the restaurant?” asked Babatunde.
“For your sake, I’m not taking ‘vino’ (wine) today. We shall take just beer, which has less percentage of alcohol.” At the Piazza, he ordered for two bottles of beer. While waiting for the waitress, he began telling Babatunde his experience in Barcelona.
“I came here four years ago; now, this is what I looked like. I never thought I would ever sell drugs for a living. I don’t want to lie to you. This is Barcelona. Welcome to Barcelona.”
He took a lighter from his breast pocket and lit a cigarette. Babatunde saw a long scar at the lower part of his chin and he asked him how he got it. “It’s a long story but if you want to know, I will tell you. “A junkie bought some ‘sand’ from me. I hope you know what I mean by ‘sand’? It’s cocaine. To avoid calling that name openly in the public, we call it ‘sand’.
Everyone knows about this. The junkie had no money on him. He knew that if he told me the truth, I was not going to give the ‘sand’ to him. “He put his hand in his pocket pretending to pay me; then, he slashed me with a sharp pen knife and escaped. As I lay bleeding, a tenant saw me through his window and called the police to the scene. An ambulance came for me to the hospital. I received a dozen of stitches and I was discharged the same day.”
“What did you tell the police when they questioned you?” asked Babatunde.
“I didn’t tell them the truth. I told them that I was robbed and beaten. I’m not sure if they believe me or not. However, that is a common thing in Barcelona. Everyday, minute, and second, thieves snatch away tourist bags and cameras. Sometimes when they want to save their belongings, they pay the price for it. Some are badly hurt,” said Obanko.
Joel Savage is a second child of eight children. He was born in Cape Coast, in the central region of Ghana, on January 19, 1957. Following the footsteps of his father, a veteran journalist, Joel starts writing at a very tender age. Growing up in an environment he sees hard living and the struggling of people, in their normal daily lives, gingers his flair to choose writing on events of reality.
Joel studied at both Ebenezer Secondary School and Accra High School in Accra, Ghana, and later studied at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. Freelancing, he wrote for the Daily Graphic, Ghanaian Times and The Weekly Spectator in Accra, Ghana.
Joel calls his sorrowful, brutal, inhuman and lucid account of surviving a kidnap by armed robbers, as the ‘Road Of Agony.’ The author lives in Belgium with his wife and three children.