Students in Nigerian universities have stories to tell, but hardly anyone to tell them to. For our new weekly series, Aluta and Chill, we are putting the spotlight on these students and their various campus experiences.
Talk to any UNIBEN student about what it’s like studying at the university and chances are that you will hear stories about Ekosodin, Osasogie, and strongmen. The subjects for this week’s Aluta and Chill definitely have something to say about them, and they are not stories that warm the heart.
Ifeoluwa — Was friends with a strongman
I had just gotten into school as a direct entry student and I became friends with this guy in Year 5. It didn’t take long before I suspected that he was a “strongman” — which is colloquial for cultists in UNIBEN. First, a classmate had warned me about him. Also, he never told me his real name. Eventually, I was convinced that he was a strongman and I knew I had to get out of whatever I had with him, and that was the tricky part because he didn’t say what he wanted with me. He was constantly seeking me out — in my hostel, in classes. This guy had a way of showing up wherever I was. I couldn’t tell him off because there was no way of knowing how he would react to it and I was scared of what he might do if I riled him up.
On this day, he came to see me after class. I don’t know what happened, but he seemed to be having a bad day. We were talking as usual when he asked me what was wrong with me. I told him that I was fine. Then he blurted something rude and asked me to leave. I was shocked but I did what he wanted. That was the last time he spoke to me. My mind still goes back to this, thinking about all the different ways it could have turned out. It was a miracle to me, but I still shiver when I think about how I lived in fear until he decided to leave me alone.
Tammy — Followed by two guys at night
I like to take evening walks with my friend. This was what we set out to do one evening when we noticed two strange guys at the hostel gate. We ignored them and went our way. But they followed and started cat-calling us. When we decided to stop to hear what they wanted, We realised immediately that we had made a mistake. It had rained earlier and there was power, so the streets were empty. They caught up with us and rudely asked for our names. We calmly told them and continued on our way, hoping that would be all.
We got to a spot where students usually hang out and decided to stop there. We sat down and these guys came over again. We asked them to excuse us but we both knew that wasn’t going to happen. After minutes of small, uncomfortable talk, they asked for our phone numbers and we refused them. That was all they needed to hear to get heated. It looked as though they were going to get violent, lay hands or worse, so yeah, my friend and I were wondering why we had to go out in the evening.
After what seemed like hours, some groups of boys passed by. We saw the opportunity and raised our voices, hoping to call the attention of the group. It worked. The boys stood close by, watching what was going on. We had company now — the guys recognised that too and went back to wherever they came from.
Faith — Had a major fright at Ekosodin
I live in Ekosodin and went to visit a friend at Osasogie — these two neighbourhoods are known for their notoriety. I lost track of time and spent more time with her than I should have. The safest option was to sleepover at her place, but I couldn’t. About 10:30 PM, I ordered an Uber and he dropped me at Ekosodin gate. I had to continue the rest of the journey on foot. I switched off my phone and dumped it inside my underwear. A lot of dreary thoughts were on my mind but I knew I had to get home.
It seemed like I was going to get home without any funny business until I reached a juncture and ran into three guys. As I got closer, I saw that they were armed with guns. I maintained my composure, ignored them and continued on my way. I looked back and saw that they were following me. I was going to risk everything and trust my legs when one of them asked me to stop. They asked me a few questions and I explained everything to them. It turned out that they were one of the vigilante groups guarding the area. In the end, they let me go. But the night wasn’t over.
I ran into another group of guys in a shed about 10 minutes away from my house. These ones were the real strongmen. I instinctively turned back, hoping to run back to the vigilante group I met earlier. Two of them ran after me and I burst into tears when caught up with me. They asked for my phone and any other valuable I had on me.
The rest of the group joined us and I didn’t believe what happened next. I knew one of the guys. I had no idea that he was a strongman, but there he was. And he would be my saviour that night. He told that they couldn’t collect my stuff and dismissed them. After that, he walked me home. It was quite a rough night. I learned my lesson though — there was a reason the streets become empty by 8 PM and that was the last time I tried to push my luck.
Ebube — Was harassed by suspected strongmen
One of the first things I learned at Uniben was that Ekosodin is the “Den of Lions” and a phrase you shouldn’t hear from anyone is “dey with me.” because they are probably strongmen and there is hardly any way to get out of that situation without losing your stuff. The other option is to run the race of your life and hope you don’t get caught. I knew that like the back of my hand, but it wasn’t enough.
So, I was going to church in the morning. It was around 6 AM, and I thought I was safe enough to go out. Then these guys I’d never met huddled close to me and said the dreaded words “Hey guy, dey with me.” I had to think fast and decide on an option in the 2-second window I had before they grabbed me. I chose the second one and ran for my life. I fell down a couple of times, but I wasn’t too sure if they were following me, so I picked myself up and picked up my pace. I looked like a mess when I was certain that I was safe. I found my way into the school hostel and stayed with a friend until the day got brighter. Church had to wait till another day.
Can’t get enough Aluta and Chill? Check back every Thursday at 9 AM for a new episode. Find other stories in the series here.