weekend, I was faced with the hard decision of bribing a police officer or
paying a hefty fine that would require surgical removal of my kidneys for
auction. I seem to have a high affinity towards police officers. Last year, I
missed my Spanish DELE exam because the matatu I was in was stopped by traffic
officers. I was arraigned in court because the rickety van had no seat belts
and missed an exam that is as infrequent as hair on a baby’s chin. This year my
interaction with the police has revolved around my driving. I’m a good driver
(at least I like to believe so) but somehow the boys in blue seem to smell me
from a mile far. There were hundreds of cars on the road in all times but somehow
they chose to stop me. Maybe I should tone down the colour of Raul (our car) to
a subtler one that will blend in with the masses. Raul has gold coloured rims
and a silver body. The contrast is magnificent.
this wasn’t the case.
was dark, you see. There was no chance of spotting Raul’s contrast. I saw the
white beam of the torch dance in the Ngong’ road darkness beckoning me to come
to a halt. My wife was seated on the co-driver’s side. Brad, Ken and Vivian,
our lovely friends were in the back with unfastened seatbelts. We had come from
folding origami in preparation for the Art and Beer Fest display. The cop
beckoned to lower the co-driver’s window. I obeyed gratefully. He checked my
wife’s seat and checked mine too. He checked the rear and sighted the anomaly.
No buckled straps in the back was a no-no!
haven’t these ones in the back buckled up,” he asked in Kiswahili.
Our silence proved our culpability. “I’m
going to need to see your driving license,” he said. I produced it. Valid.
Police 1. Raul 1.
out and open the boot,” he said. I did. He hardly inspected the boot. “Close
it,” he said. It was a decoy to lure me to the back. The stage was set and I
walked right into it.
today’s tea?” He asked is Kiswahili. He was asking for a bribe. The
conversation proceeded in Kiswahili.
sorry I can’t do that,” I responded.
then I guess you have an offense committed.”
was cognizant of the new traffic rules. The financial damage would probably come
to a hundred thousand. I didn’t have that kind of money at my disposal. I was
tempted to bribe him and settle it but my conscience wasn’t seared.
I only have a few coins with me. I was dropping my friends to town. Even if I
carried any money with me…”
ask your friends in the car to contribute and we’ll forget this whole mess.”
can’t ask them that sir,” I responded, hoping he wouldn’t confuse my conviction’s
stance with arrogance. He was beginning to get unnerved by my responses. Why
wasn’t I playing along? I prayed in my heart. Lord give me the words to speak.
why is that?”
a Christian sir.”
man chuckled. He had heard that excuse before. He wasn’t going to buy it.
everyone is a Christian.”
I’m a practising Christian.”
what does that mean?”
I can’t ask my friends for money to bribe you. It will kill my testimony before
them. If I must pay for the offense, so be it.”
thought I was crazy to be saying what was coming from my mouth. I imagined
being taken to a police cell for the night. I was angry at myself for a moment
for doing the right thing but I was at peace.
do you go to church?”
Valley Road,” I responded, “Not far from here.” I decided to do a little asking
too. “What about you?”
Catholic.I go to the Holy Family Basilica
in the CBD.” However at times, I attend the Catholic monastery not far from
here. So are you paying up or not?”
thought the church conversation would break his stance. This was it, I said to
myself. You’re going to either bribe him or face the ramifications.
can’t do that sir. I will offend Jesus Christ in doing so.”
laughed lightly. He was going to enjoy tackling this one.
man. Everyone has sinned. We are all full of flaws. Refusing to pay a bribe
will not make you cleaner.”
true. But it will honour Jesus at this moment.”
Africans are religious but we have a very long way to get to God. There is no
point in trying. We are all unclean aren’t we?”
that’s true,” I responded, “all humanity is unclean and that’s why we need
Jesus. He takes our dirt. Even the best of us is terrible. Isaiah 64:6 says all
our righteous deeds are but filthy rags before God.”
I quoted the verse he took a keen interest. He softened his pose and countered
we are all filthy, then paying a bribe will not change anything.”
will. It will change my conviction. It will change my stance on right and wrong
and it will dishonour God. I have been forgiven for my sins. I can’t continue
to sin intentionally expecting God’s forgiveness. That is abusing The Almighty.
I’m sorry but I can’t bribe you sir.”
the way this country is young man.”
you and I must change this country. Bribing…”
with the bribing,” he interrupted. “I’m talking about all kinds of evil. Why
are you always referring to the bribe?”
I believe that is the predicament that stands between you and me here on this
went silent. He moved his rifle from under his arm and spread it across his
torso. Then he spoke, not as a police officer, but as a fellow human being.
life is hard. I stand here in the cold on this highway trying to do my job and
earn a fair wage while our leaders steal millions. How do I make up for that?”
paused at what he said. Ken, who was seated at the back stepped out of the car.
I beckoned him to return. He listened. I thought hard on what he said and when
I believed I knew what to tell him, I responded.
honestly don’t know. But I know this; our political leaders did not start by
stealing millions. They began by offering small bribes. If someone like me ever
got there, I need to be different and I will have to start now officer. I can’t
offer you a bribe.”
handed me back my license.
hear what you’re saying but we Africans have a long way to go. Go on, be on
your way and drive safely.”
rejoiced silently within me and it exuded in a smile.
listen,” I told him, “I’m glad we talked and I feel we need to talk some more.
You have many questions and I feel I may have some answers especially
concerning God.” I gave him my card.
call me,” I said, “coffee next week and it’s on me.”
see you’re an artist and a writer.”
a good night young man.”
night to you sir!”
this, I returned to the car to find a concerned wife and three sombre faces in
the back buckled to the seat. I shared with them the story as I prayed in my
heart that the man would give me a call the following week. Who knows? A coffee
date may just encourage a discouraged member of the Police force.