SARS, Dreadlocks And The Nigerian Youth

SARS, Dreadlocks And The Nigerian Youth

SARS, dreadlocks and the Nigerian youth | By John Chizoba Vincents

I have read a lot of articles on dreadlocks. I have asked some people questions about their thoughts on dreadlocks and the answers I got were really amazing. I have carried out a few days research in some local libraries and I did not find anything connecting dreadlocks and hoodlumism, hooliganism or criminals.
I only read where the term “dreadlocks” was associated with spiritual personae, spiritualism and some beliefs of some set of people. One account stated that dreadlocks have been worn by the monks of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Nazarites of Judaism, Qalandri’s Sufi’s, the Sadhu’s of Hinduism, and the Dervishes of Islam, and many more!
Even Samson of old was on dreadlocks. Then, why do we see those that wear dreadlocks in Nigeria as hoodlums and Yahoo boys? Why do we see dreadlocks as evil or those wearing dreadlocks as armed robbers or fraudsters or swindlers?
Arguably, I never read where dread was associated with crimes neither did I read where it was said to be a crime to wear dread. Dreads was never associated with armed robbery, kidnapping, fraudsters, hoodlums, gangsters and other crimes.
Dreads were never associated with corruption or fraudulent activities such as we have nowadays where SARS officials hunt down people on dread as YAHOO BOYS. Dreads are art and fashion on its own.
It is a statue representative of an individual appearance, looks and religious beliefs or how such an incredible individual wants to be seen. It is a fashion that dated back as far as man existence and creation.
A fashion that sprung up when a man was consumed by worries and anxieties of his own inner mind forgetting that his hair has to be combed or cut. It is a very beginning of styling and profiling one’s hair to his or her desired taste. So, therefore, those on dreadlocks shouldn’t be seen as nuisance and hooligans or misfits.
These days, the story is no longer what it seems to be. A common Nigerian on dreadlocks is a threat to the Nigerian SARS. They are out there to hunt every single soul on dreads down. Now, my question is: Does these people on dreadlocks have anything to do with crimes in Nigeria? Why are some of them seen as armed robbers, miscreants or rascals? Is dread no longer part of fashion?
If everyone seen in the street with dread is a thief, then, those spiritualists in our worship places are thieves also because they are on dreads too. If every youth seen in the streets of Nigeria with dreads is a Yahoo Boy, then every bishop, reverend, Rastafarian, spiritualists who is on dreadlocks is into Yahoo and should be harassed too. All dreadlocks are the same and the attribute of one should be the same as another.
I am not on dreadlocks but there is this mentality that haunts me sometimes when I see a common man on dread being harassed and abused at the same time in the street of Nigeria. This is the part of us; our police that always got me thinking.
I think we should know better than hurting people’s feelings because of the kind of hair they choose to wear. Some of us know what it means when you hurt someone’s esteem when you embarrassed and harrassed them in public because they decided to live life the society in one way or the other condemned. It hurts to see a common Nigerian who wears dreadlocks being humiliated as a fraudster.
There was a day I was returning home from Yaba. When I got to Iyana Ipaja, I saw this crowd of people at the bus stop. They were all talking to no one in particular. Some were angry talking in pairs while some were stretching their neck to have a glimpse of what was happening.
This actually caused traffic on that side of the road.  I moved closer to the crowd then peeped through space and saw a boy being harassed by the Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS). He was on dreadlocks.
According to a woman I met there explaining to another woman, she said the boy could not provide a means of identification to them. He said he forgot his identity card at home. And there was no way he could convince them that he was not a YAHOO BOY.
His dressing was quite expensive anyway when I saw him on the ground. His chains, wristwatch were gold and his shoes and clothes were Gucci; original Gucci. Everything on him was money. I don’t know him but from afar, I knew he was not a Yahoo Boy. He might just an ordinary hustler like me who wanted to go and ball out that evening before he was arrested.
At first, he was on his feet defending himself against the allegation levied against him by the SARS but one of them hit him hard on his shoulder with the head of his gun because he refused to hand over his phone to them, he fell on the dirty ground with his white trouser.
He pleaded that he was not a Yahoo Boy to no avail. One collected his phone and asked him to open it which he did. He scrolled through but didn’t see anything. Two of the SARS guys left the spot leaving one person behind.
They moved to the other side of the bus and whispered to themselves in an unknown tune. Afterwards, they came back and dragged the boy into their bus and zoomed off. Then, the crowd disappeared. Nobody said anything to them. The truth here is that nobody knows what the fate of that boy would be after they zoomed off from that spot.
Sometimes ago, we were shooting one of our artistes around Ojuelegba area of Lagos when SARS  invaded in our location and took away the featured Artiste. They said they saw “weed” with him and they demanded why he was on dreadlocks. We spent almost the whole day pleading with them because what they did actually destabilized everybody on set including the artiste.
The more we plead with them, the more adamant they were to us. We ended up paying them so that we could continue with our work. This is the case, a case of “weed” and dreadlocks. And these set of people smoke more than anyone else, then, why do they arrest smokers if they too, smoke? Why do they pretend to be working when they commit the same offence committed by their victims?
What happens to those youths on dreadlocks that are not Yahoo Boys? What happens to those that are not criminals? What happens to those youths that were arrested and accused of being armed robbers because they were on dreadlocks? Do we have a designated way the youth of this country are meant to dress? Are the laws guiding our dress sense here in Nigeria? If there are, who made these laws?
Being on dreadlocks is not a crime. Many have reasons why they dread their hair. Sometimes you don’t need to know these reasons. Some are personal to some people while others are not or perhaps, it might not be the kind of stories you may love to hear.
Dreadlocks have nothing to do with Yahoo, Yahoo. Dreadlocks have nothing to do with touts, hoodlums, kidnappers, gangsters, and miscreants. Dreadlocks have nothing to do with fraudulent activities. Dreads are a fashion designed by those who understand it. Dreads are fashion which not associated with evil especially fraudulent activity or something like that.
When next you see someone on dreadlocks, go close to him and know why he chose to be on dreadlocks, don’t judge him because of the hairstyle he is carrying. Don’t point accusation finger at him and call him a gangster or an armed robber because he is on dreadlocks.
Learn to respect people’s dressing or how they decide to appear in public. Some are comfortable with the way they have chosen to appear and your judgement does not make any difference to that.  I have seen a man told a lady that her shoes did not match with her attire and she became angry.
I have seen a woman told a guy that his dressing was not up to date and the guy was pissed off by that comment. He decided to go back home from the event centre. Mind what you say to people based on how they are dressed, fashion sometimes is in the mind not on the body of those wearing it.
The level at which some people condemn those on dreadlocks makes one wonder if being on dread has become one of the issues we have to solve in Nigeria. What I came to realise is, there are trends with every generation and these trends stay longer with that generation before another generation comes.
In the next century, other trends will take over from where the last trends stopped. So, the issue of dreadlocks and SARS in the country will soon pass away and another thing would definitely take over.
My argument here is that not everyone who is on dread is a hoodlum, hooligan, miscreant, armed Robber, Yahoo boy or has anything to do with fraudulent activities and so, it is not one of the duties of SARS to keep harassing or to arrest anyone who they see on the street with dreadlocks.
©John Chizoba Vincents

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