There is nothing unique, special or unusual about what happened. This happens every day, in broad daylight, at night, on main roads and on little alleyways, all across Nigeria, even if it has never happened to you.
I can’t remember the year it happened; I was about 15, on holiday from boarding school. I was bored so I decided to go for a walk, to the posh patisserie ‘Frenchies’, where more expats than I cared to see hung out, eating overpriced cakes, sipping on Lipton Tea. I loved the cakes at ‘Frenchies’, for my unenlightened taste buds it was just the best; moist, succulent, creamy, and displayed in perfectly measured angles – in beautiful glass cases. Each bite was escapism from my holiday idleness and loneliness.
I remember what I was wearing on the day it happened; an exaggerated grey A-line maxi skirt, it swept the floor as I walked, in the same manner I still like to wear my skirts today. I have tried to remember the blouse I wore, I can’t. It is the only detail of that night I cannot recollect.
Back then in 1994 or 1995 I felt safe, as I still do, safe enough to embark on the 5 minutes’ walk from my colonial style house, on my colonial named street, past the Hausa Mayguard, across the road to ‘Frenchies’. And just as I always did, I grabbed my flip-flops and slipped out through the side gate, flashing the guard a familiar smile. The night was oppressively dark, but the sounds and smells of big generators from big neighbouring houses comforted me; these were the times before we developed the sophistication to bemoan pollution. I crossed the road, and as I turned right onto the main road with its bright lights and zooming cars, I saw him. He wore a reddish suit, except it wasn’t really a suit and it wasn’t really red; the trousers were not quite long enough, it was a bit shorter than Michael Jackson’s trousers, his suit jacket was more like a blazer, it fitted too snuggly. The reddish colour of the wannabe suit was faded, it could have been any colour in it’s early life, but it looked red, dirty red. Some buttons were missing from that snug suit jacket so that I could see his chest, his toned chest. I knew, just like you would know, if you know or knew Lagos, that he worked with his hands, probably a bricklayer, a driver, or a Mayguard – in Lagos, the poor are easily identifiable.
He smiled as he walked towards me, his teeth were evenly yellow, and even at 14 or 15 I Knew there was something not quite right about his smile, it was mischievous, in that way a kid smiles just before he or she is about to do something naughty, something wrong. I didn’t smile back, in Lagos you know not to smile back at strange men. The smiling man was just about to walk past me when he reached out his hand, grabbed my right breast and gave it a squeeze, he was still smiling.
It is just what happens in Lagos, Ibadan, Asaba, Kanu everywhere in Nigeria, assault on girls. I didn’t stop walking; I walked straight into ‘Frenchies’, past the expats sipping their tea, eating their cakes. I walked straight to the counter, brought my cake, walked slowly back home and ate my cake. There was no feeling of escapism that evening, I ate in anger, slept in fury and woke up still angry. I was angry for many months to follow. There is nothing unique about anger.