BY: JACOB N.B. PARLEY
On February 10, 2013, I was making my way from where I was initially living (Jamaica Road vicinity), to join my colleagues in the Free Port area, where we were told to assemble as Executive Mansion Reporters to be conveyed to the Roberts International Air Port. We were due to await the arrival of Her Excellency, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, who was due in from London where she had gone to take part in the launching ceremonies of the Chief Olusogon Obasanjo Foundation.
During the period under review, I was covering the Liberian Presidency as ELBC’s Executive Mansion Correspondent.
I left my residence at 5:15 AM and headed for Free Port where, as I initially said we were asked to meet by 6:00Am.
Upon approaching the Slaughter House community,(popularly known as Cow Factory), five muscular and clumsy looking persons emerged from behind some container trucks parked in the area and quickly surrounded me while I was on the line with my colleague, Abbas Dorlleh of the New Democrat. Abbas and I had earlier communicated to meet around CEMENCO to join our other colleagues who received calls from the Mansion on the eve of the President’s arrival day to be part of the coverage at RIA.
Within no time, I was encircled by a group of young men whose characteristics proved to me that they were criminals.
“Who are you and where you going time like this walking ‘fast fast’ just like you come from stealing soon(early) this morning?”
“What thing in the bag (meaning the bag containing my equipment), including other essential items.
But again when they realized that no valuables could be found, including plenty money, it was like what is referred to in Liberian setting as adding ‘insult to injury’ as their faces grew anger more than ever before. In fact, upon realizing that they did not or could not actually see what they expected, they threatened to harm me, as a teenager landed one slap on my shoulder.
“My man you’re wasting time with the man (reference to me).
“I say let put pain in his body (inflict some pain on me) so he will confess ‘quick quick,”( say something to us), said the same teenager who was carrying a travelling bag on his back with undisclosed content. I sensed that the bag was containing valuables; they might have stolen from somewhere.
But life is such that people who apparently came from robbing peaceful citizens were deciding my fate through unfair judgment, either due to complete ignorance concerning my job as a journalist or relying on their might, apparently derived from the quantity of drugs taken.
But as we were tussling, my fear started to go away as soon as a started hearing several voices closing in on where I was placed on the “witness’ stand” by the criminals.
The increasing sound I was hearing was apparently coming from market women and other petty traders who set out on the road during the early morning hours for respective destinations to make ends meet.
Again when I realized that my colleague Abbas was still far away from me, I designed a strategy that helped drive the criminals away. With this, the heavy load of unnecessary harassment, interrogation and intimidation by the group of hardened criminals was removed from my head by the help of God.
I took a deep sigh and raised my hands to heaven to say thanks to Almighty God for delivering me from the hands of the maladroit looking criminals.
As soon as the self-styled investigators escaped, I managed to reach near CEMENCO, where Abbas joined me before we got to Freeport where Julius Jeh, formerly of Truth FM also met us before being picked up by the press car from the Executive Mansion to go to the Roberts International Airport, in Harbel, Lower Margibi County.
When I shared the story with Abbas as we were sitting at TOTAL Gas Station in Freeport, we laughed uncontrollably because we said to ourselves; it was unusual for a journalist to be interviewed by criminals on whom we (journalists) have been reporting stories from time to time.
As a man of family values, especially a Christian, I wish to admit that nothing valuable was taken away from me, except that I was pulled from one end to the other by the criminals and made to respond to some of their questions such as “Are you a security man?”
“Are you from stealing soon (early) this morning or you come from doing ‘gboyo’ (ritualistic killer) business?”
But actually I got more frightened when they demanded to see my ID car and again as God would have it, they did not recognize the press ID card that was hanging on me.
Another point is that I also did not realize that I even had my ID card displayed or perhaps they could not read and write.
It is also possible that it was God who made them not to see my ID card. I am told by preachers that there are times God makes our enemies not to see us. It this way, He causes blindness to hit them, either temporally or perpetually.
Indeed instead of me interrogating the criminals in my capacity as a journalist as to what were they doing between and among the old container trucks under questionable circumstances, it was like placing on the “witness’s stand” to respond to a few questions from them against my will.
However, thanks to God for helping me to get out of the human barricade created by the criminals without being Harmed. But I want these hard-boiled criminals to take due note of a famous Liberian adage that says: “Many days for rogue, one day for master.”
This article was initially published in the Focus Newspaper on Thursday, February 14, 2013, and is being re-run based on popular demand.
The author is reachable through: firstname.lastname@example.org/886560455/0777604576