By Maijama’a AdamuT
years after I covered the last public execution of condemned criminals in Yola, adamawa state, I still live with the deeply hunting and disquieting emotions that arose from my conversation with one of the executed criminals as he awaited the rain of bullets that stamped finality to his temporary sojourn on earth.
I asked him of the fate that befell him after a life of criminality. He momentarily transfixed his gaze at me, then bent his neck downwards to look at the circles of rope that tied him to his dead pole, and then looked up to me and asked with calculated calmness, “is this not death?”
I replied him in the affirmative. He further asked, “can I be set free if I tell you any lies?” No I said.
He thus said he had no reason to tell me any lies. He concluded by telling me that he didn’t commit the offense for which he was to be executed.
“Sharri aka min”, meaning, “I was framed up”.
Knowing fully well the reality of our military era law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, I intuitively saw a magnified picture of his innocence in my mind’s eyes.
Next to him a fellow condemned criminal had confessed to committing armed robbery. He was singing before I approached him, he continued singing after I interviewed him. I still remember that song twenty five years after. It went thus:
“Menene zan ba yesu masoyi na?
Bani da komi sai dai rai na.”
Meaning, what do I give my lover Jesus? I have nothing except my soul.
We tarried aside as the executioners matched foward, took position and emptied the contents of their magazines unto the chests of their targets. The rest is history.
I was twenty four then. I lived with the trauma of that execution for a prolonged time. I now question the judgement of the editor that assigned a young novice that I was to cover dead.
Twenty-five years after, I’m beset with yet another moment of grave cognitive dissonance arising from different kind of assignment I have been asked to cover.
I thought I was unto one bizarre, isolated, one off thing that I was to cover, report and I’m done. It’s turning out to a trigger that will let bare a floodgate of upsetting emotions for me as an adult and a father of girls.
It started with a court case I was sent to cover, a case of a woman alleging that her ex husband has sexually molested their two daughters, his own blood daughters, one three years, the other six.
There are twists and complications in the matter. I heard a trending audio of an imam who the woman first contacted for intervention, who sponsored medical examination of the girls where it was confirmed that the girls were indeed penetrated both infront and in the back.
The case lingers in the court, occasioned with allegations of crude miscarriage of justice.
While awaiting unfolding developments, we were confronted with another case at the Kaduna State High Court, of an adult that allegedly sexually assaulted a six year old girl. The girl was in court with other parties. The sitting was not held in open court as a mark of sensibility to the sanctity of the little girl’s already battered future.
Just a day after that I was assigned to cover in the same High Court yet a more disturbing case of rape involving an adult and a little deaf and dumb girl. I found out that the case has been adjourned to a later date.
While tracing the court the case was billed to feature, I ran into a different court with a judge on session. I saw an elderly man in a dock, while parties were agreeing on a date for adjournment. My enquiries revealed that the case has been concluded and the next adjourned date is judgement day when the elderly man will know his fate for raping yet a little girl.
The lady lawyer that briefed me further told she has an up coming case in the High Court in the next two days of rape case in which two boys alledgely forced their way together through the front and back of a toddler.
Before I left I received information about another court sitting where a judge revoked a bail he granted another rape suspect for failing to appear in court for the continuation of his case.
At this point I was scared. All three female lawyers I engaged in the discussion emphasized that countless such cases littered all courts across the state. The numbers are by far outnumbered by unreported cases that are suppressed for fear of stigmatization or threats by suspects.
We are indeed under siege of predators, pedophiles and beasts.
Lord have mercy!.