Decapitation: An Academic in Africa

I’d like to share a story with you.  It comes from an online newspaper here.

Suspected ritualists on Tuesday in Lagos beheaded an unidentified man and chopped off his manhood. Residents of Ajegunle, a Lagos suburb were shocked when they woke up to see a headless body on Aroworade Street.

So, there we have the nub.  A cracker of an opening paragraph.  Decapitated, castrated, dumped – residents shocked.  Unsurprisingly.  Except….

“Residents trooped to the scene to catch a glimpse of the victim who was bound hands and feet. He was stripped naked. Nobody was able to identify the dark-complexioned man who was brutally murdered by the ritualists.”

…not so shocked that they didn’t all queue up to have a good gander.  “Catch a glimpse” is plain old ogling, surely.  I love the word “trooped” here as well, plus the fact that it mentions he was dark-complexioned and that he was “murdered by the ritualists”.  Are ritualists so common, or active?  Is the definite article necessary?  Does this imply some sort of knowledge of the people responsible? Because if so, someone should help the police as they clearly don’t have a clue.  They’re not going to get much help from the residents either:

“A woman who resided in that street and identified herself simply as Mama Bose told Daily Sun that she heard the scream of a man at about 2am after which the environment remained quiet again.
Mama Bose said she never envisaged that the man was in danger.”

she heard someone scream but never even considered there might be a problem

I love this paragraph in every way.  The woman who “identified herself simply as Mama Bose” is just brilliant, and the fact that she heard someone scream but never even considered there might be a problem is great.  Especially with all those ritualists around.

“The woman said she felt that one of the destitute, who walked the streets in the area must have screamed unnecessarily and she went back to sleep. Residents in the area were said to have moved round the houses in the street to ascertain if any man was missing or did not come back from work. Another resident, one Mr. Wale, said the man might be a visitor returning from a far journey and did not reach his destination on time because of traffic gridlock along Ore – Benin Road. He said probably the visitor was coming for an emergency mission and could not reach his host on phone.”

within spitting distance of a mutilated corpse I’d imagine you could find just about any narrative you wanted

Investigative reporting at its best.  First of all, Mama Bose’s explanation involving unnecessarily screaming vagrants is wonderful, as is the fact that you can almost picture the conversations the guy writing this has had whilst researching the article. 

Nigeria is a wonderful place for stories at the best of times, but within spitting distance of a mutilated corpse I’d imagine you could find just about any narrative you wanted.  Up to and including possession, transformation, political espionage and/or the direct intervention of God.  But instead we have an unproductive house-to-house (conducted by residents, not police, you’ll note), and random speculation.  Although I’d love to know what the “emergency mission” might have been.

possession, transformation, political espionage and/or the direct intervention of God

“Meanwhile, the Divisional Police Officer in charge of Layeni Division, Mr. Chijioke Ndu, a Chief Superintendent of Police [note the titles, and the fact they’re all included], led a team of policemen to the scene to ascertain the situation. A policeman at the station told Daily Sun that Ndu had told all the policemen in the division to be alert to observe suspicious movements so that the hoodlums could be apprehended in the area. The divisional police officer also reintroduced the strategy, which was used to track down and arrest two men in possession of human skulls two years back.”

Again, this conjures up many images of what this visit to “ascertain the situation” might have looked like.  “Do we know he is?” “Nobody recognises him sir, he hasn’t got a head. What’s the plan?” “Be alert! Observe suspicious movements!  We will apprehend these hoodlums.” Smacking fist into palm.

Personally, for me, people that tie up, mutilate and decapitate other people are a bit further down the pejorative name-calling list than “hoodlum”, which suggests nothing worse than excessive boisterousness in the presence of a Victorian aunt.  I think I’d go for “psychopath”, or even just plain old “killer”. 

But then we do always have the alternative strategy.  Go and track down the two guys that own human skulls.  Of course.  I also like the fact that this strategy is being “reintroduced”  – which suggests that they either haven’t found them yet, or they just looked them up last time and then let them go.

Honestly, it’s just like The Wire.

you can’t exercise yourself over every nocturnal shriek in Nigeria

Although having said all that, and having mocked Mama Bose for the “unnecessary” scream, I can imagine she has got a point – ie. that you can’t exercise yourself over every nocturnal shriek in Nigeria or you’d never sleep.

For example, the other night, George got woken by a guy ostensibly being beaten to death by a sadistic Catholic priest.  At 2am.

a regular counterpoint – the sound of a whip or leather belt

Now, further investigation has revealed that apparently it’s just one man, and he is in fact praying.  But I’ve heard the recording that George made from his room and it sounds like a cross between something out of The Blair Witch Project and The Exorcist.  Screaming, shouting, mumbling all interspersed with a regular counterpoint – the sound of a whip or leather belt.  For an hour and a half.

Definitely not the perfect lullaby.  Fortunately it’s on the other side of the building to me.

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