My friend is looking for the killer who murdered her friend. Last year, he was a bubbly man with a beautiful family of 5. Today, he is a mixture of wood and deep-brown soil, ants and maggots perhaps feasting on his carcass. My friend is a mess; the simplicity of his death unnerves her, the inconsequentiality of his life weighs heavy in her heart.
In the last two weeks, I have heard about death more than I would love to. Death is not a strange concept but it can never stop being strange to us when it hits close to home. One of my friend’s father died and when I ask how she’s holding up, she says, “I’m still processing this.”
When I dreamed that my friend was chasing a killer and in the process lied against, accused of killing the victim, and arrested, I woke up at 6 AM, panting. Then I called and she said, “D, I can’t let it go. I’m depressed. I want to find the killer.” The victim was a police officer she had begged to help her pick up a friend and lodge him in a hotel. On his way back, he was killed. My friend feels responsible for his death; if only she hadn’t begged him to help her, if only he hadn’t accepted to help her, if only… if only…
Through the years, I have seen how fickle human life is. One minute, you are laughing with someone and the next minute, they are gone. The human life is a balloon. In one moment, it is full and robust. In the next, it is deflated, crunched, and dead – a shadow of itself. We cannot just come to terms with death and it leaves us with too many questions.
For two years after a friend of mine died, I kept replaying his voice in my head, over and over again. It seemed unimaginable, that this guy who was so lively and funny would succumb to sickness and have his light put off. Just like that. Sometimes I’m in that space where I’m still processing it. Where I hear his voice in my head and wonder how he could just die.
It is the same when I read about Oke and David‘s death on Twitter. How could these young men, so promising and so full of life just die? But that is what death does to us, it makes us ask too many questions knowing full well that we will never find answers to them.
While death is painful, the littleness with which the lives of our loved ones are treated hurts more. It cuts deeply. It churns our bellies and makes us toss on the bed at night – filled with rage and the thirst for vengeance.
The death of the police officer hurts my friend, but it is how easily his case can be discarded – like his life didn’t matter – that drills a hole in her heart. That is what fuels her desire to get justice. “The killer was arrested and swiftly released because he’s the son of a big man. He’s related to a former vice-president’s wife.”
How do you fight such a person? I wondered, petrified. As though she read my mind, she said, “I’ll find him spiritually and then physically.” I’m all for justice, but this scares me. In a country where human lives are like dry leaves that can easily be cut off trees and swept away, I am scared for my friend’s life.
When the news of the death of David made it to Twitter, it was the randomness of it that enraged Nigerians. The fact that he had a chance at life but he was deprived of it. We are deprived of so many things, but for our dysfunctional system to eat away our souls and watch us bleed to death is bottom-barrel. A gutter, shit-hole behaviour that leaves citizens disgruntled, disgusted with the country and everything in it, and thirsty for revenge. Perhaps if the policemen had not stood and watched him bleed, as alleged, he’d still be alive.
Death, in Nigeria, is so casual, and the citizen’s lives are so unacknowledged: you’re walking on a street and a stray bullet hits you, robbers stab you and policemen hold your bleeding body as evidence, government representatives then visit your family to tell them sorry. No one is made to pay for it, no one is brought to book, no system is placed to ensure that there’s no reoccurrence of such incidence. So casual. So normal.
Here, there’s zero insulation from the randomness of death. A human’s life is a balloon, just a tiny little needle and poof, it’s gone.
Like my friend, death is something I’m still processing. But the anyhowness that leads to death in Nigeria is something I cannot even begin to process. It’s been three months but I see Oke’s smiling face, then I see the hole in his neck and I still cannot reconcile the two. It is the same when I watched a video of David singing on Twitter, or think about how we moved from warning Lekki protesters to stop having too much fun to seeing their bodies dripping with blood.
I feel many people’s rage on social media and I know, I know why my friend is single-handedly searching for her friend’s killer. Still, the question that does not leave me is when she finds him, what next?