Are we sometimes too trusting, or too negligent, or just plain stupid?
I ask myself this question when I hear certain stories. And whatever the answer I am terrified of what people have become, of what they probably always were, and of how careless we are to acknowledge the truth that there is an inexplicable evil in humans – some humans.
A little over a month ago a woman living in a small town was at home making garri. Frying it within her compound.
A friend… Let’s make that, a woman she thought of as a friend came to help her out.
If you know anything about the process of turning cassava into garri, you’ll know it’s a long and hard one. And help is always appreciated.
So, this “friend” came over and offered her help, and as she was there, this woman, who had a baby and another child (who’s somewhere around ten or a little older), decided to go back to the farm to get more cassava.
I guess she was thinking of how to make more money.
She left her baby, a few months old, sleeping in the bedroom, told her other child to keep watch and entrusted both to her “friend”, and went off.
Hours later she returned and her “friend” was gone. Her child was alone frying what was left of the garri, and she asked of her baby.
He’s inside still sleeping, she was told.
She went inside, but he was not there.
After questioning her child, she raised an alarm and the neighbourhood went on an uproar.
Frantic searches began.
They looked this way, and that way. They needed to find her “friend”, she had to be the one with the answer as to where her baby was.
They found her at a cassava processing mill. She was there with her eight-year-old child (gender is unclear to me).
Jungle justice is, as far as our people know, the answer to such terrifying nonsenses. And so they pounced on her.
They beat her to an inch of her life, threatening to finish her of if she didn’t confess.
She insisted she had nothing to confess. But her child could no longer take seeing her (or his) mother so mercilessly dealt with, so she (or he) spoke up.
Mama had come out with a baby in her arms and they had all climbed on an Okada. They being Mama, the baby and her (or him).
The okada took them far and stopped beside a bush path that led into what might as well be a forest. Mama got down and walked into the forest with the baby.
Some time past and she returned, but without the baby. And the child asked her:
“Mama, where is the baby?”
Mama shouted her down, asked her what baby, and told her there was no baby, and she was never to say otherwise.
And so they came back into town, and went to the cassava processing mill.
With the truth out, the “friend” had no choice but to make her confession.
She was earlier contacted to bring a baby of a few months old. She went to the other woman’s house solely for that purpose. Luck shined on her when the woman left to go back to the farm, so she took the sleeping baby, went to that forest, and sold him to Alhaji.
That was all she claimed to know about the man she sold the baby to, that he’s called Alhaji.
A different set of frantic searches began.
And in the forest, after long hours, they found the baby, without his head.
He was dead. Beheaded.
This is how much I know. What happened to the mother of the baby, to her family, or to the “friend” who stole her child and sold him to Alhaji, I am yet to find out.
But it’s heartbreaking. It’s horrifying. It scares the hell out of me that something so unthinkable, so inhuman, so terrifying can happen… That it does happen, and repeatedly, still we are still so unconscious. Still so “easy” with people we do not truly know.
Because when questioned, the mother of the child admitted she didn’t know her “friend” at all. No real knowledge of who she was, just a person she was friendly with.
That baby is gone, his life taken violently, his head gone from the body, and people are wondering if it would have been different if his mother had been less trusting, less negligent, and maybe, just maybe, less stupid as to leave her children and home in the care of someone she didn’t really know.
People wonder. They judge. They condemn.
I wonder too, to be honest.
But the crime was committed by the so-called friend, not the mother of the child.
We can’t change what has happened to her baby and to her, and her family. But maybe we can learn to be less trusting, less negligent, and maybe (if that’s the problem), less stupid.
This is life, and it can be wicked.