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Murderous children and cannibalistic parents

Some days ago in the Rimin Kebbe Quarters of Kano, a conversation between a 50-year-old woman and her 22-year-old son ended in tragedy when the…

Some days ago in the Rimin Kebbe Quarters of Kano, a conversation between a 50-year-old woman and her 22-year-old son ended in tragedy when the son stabbed her to death. The details are still very sketchy but the man, whose name is Ibrahim Musa, is apparently known to be a drug user and dealer.

For the woman, Hajara Muhammad, there will be no telling of her side of the story so one can only imagine the shock she must have experienced when her son stabbed her and she was on the floor bleeding out. Did she ponder how she had raised that man from when he was a fragile baby to the delicate adult that he became? Delicate because even as a grown man, Ibrahim is still skinny and earned the nickname, Kwarangwal–skeleton. Whether this monicker is a reference to this fragility or something menacing in his character, the reality is that the two possibilities have merged into one. Just like the twinning of parental adoration and parental loathing that has seen more than a fair share of children do unimaginable harm to their parents. And vice versa.

For instance, on a rainy evening in 2019, Paul Ihuaka, 45, of Mbaise, Imo State, got into a mood, carried a local pistol and pointed it at his mother.

Faced with death, she submitted and the man raped his own mother. The next morning, she got out of the house and reported the deed to the neighbourhood youths so they could help her apprehend her rapist son.

You see, that was the second time that had happened. The first time, I imagine the woman must have been overcome by the shame. How would she report a crime like that? That an abomination had happened in her household? After the second time, she must have realised that Paul could often turn to her when the urge came upon him.

What exactly came over Paul to do such a thing, one wonders. Well, he was drunk, he said, when he was arrested. There was no witchcraft involved, no diabolical machinations or juju potions. He was just a drunk 45-year-old living with his mother, too broke to marry and armed with sexual urges and a gun and therefore considered his mother fair game.

This was bad enough. But Shekari David of Kaduna did one better, or worse, actually. Shekari was 32 and married. Like Paul, he too had a drinking problem and once he gets drunk, his craving for older women becomes “uncontrollable”. So, one festival night in 2018, drunk as a skunk, he searched for an older woman to rape but found only his 62-year-old mother sleeping. He pounced on her and violated her while she screamed and fought until neighbours came to her rescue. Damage done.

Shekari was beaten silly by the rescuers and his shocked wife could not believe what had happened. She left him and later married another man. Did Shekari stop there? No. He went to another festival, got drunk and wandered into his former mother-in-law’s bedroom. Before the woman’s screams drew rescuers, Shekari had violated her as well. This time, the people had the sense to invite the police to arrest him.

There is, as people are wont to say, nothing new under the sun. There are far worse cases out there and such transgressions have been going on from the age of myth to our recent past. The Odewale curse in Ola Rotimi’s play, The Gods are not to Blame, in which a man was destined to kill his father and marry his mother comes to mind. This story was an adaptation of the classical play Oedipus Rex by the great Greek, Sophocles, which was first staged in 429 BC. See, nothing new. That far back people have grappled with dysfunctional child-parent relationships which today we may categorise under fancy names like the Oedipus or Electra complexes.

Yet every time news of such happenings occurring reaches us, we are shocked about it. In the recent past, the people of Mbaise, for instance, would have had to perform a ritual cleansing of the entire land following the misdeed of Paul because that transgression is not only a violation of one child against his mother but a desecration of the whole, the earth, the community and everyone in it.

This is so because of all the relationships in the world, the most defining has to be the one between parents and their children. These are relationships that mould the persons who mould society, relationships that are guided by ancient codes and beliefs—religious and cultural, a relationship that gives context if not justification for some crimes.

For instance, once the fourth most powerful man in Nigeria, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, alongside his wife and doctor friend, has just been sentenced to spend the next 10 years in a British prison. What was his crime? Human trafficking and attempted organ harvest. The reason? To save his daughter’s life.

Does it justify his crimes? Not at all. But it gives it context. For instance, when Sylvia Ekweremadu, for whom her parents engaged in this international criminality, came out to speak after their conviction, I think many people sympathized with her. They could relate when she said that she understood her parents’ conviction but as their daughter, she would always stand by them. People could relate to that because they understood the sanctity of the relationship between parents and their children. It provides context for the Ekweremadu crime. A context so huge that it threatens to block out the other significant contexts in this saga—the fact that Ekweremadu has been in power for two decades and under his watch, as one of the men closest to power, Nigeria continued to deteriorate, that the average Nigerian did not have access to any decent public health while he and his children could fly abroad for treatment.

It also threatens to overshadow the fact that he attempted to have someone else’s child gutted to save his. If he cared about the poor state of health in the country, I don’t think he and his colleagues did enough to change the dynamics.

The other context is that if this crime had been committed in Nigeria, Ekweremadu would have got away with it, no questions asked and the person they had trafficked for the crime would have been languishing in jail. One had to look at the character witness submitted on behalf of Ekweremadu, including from such senior public figures as the attorney general of the federation. The federal government even offered him lawyers when he can perfectly afford as many as he wanted.

What does this remind you of? A loving parent-child relationship perhaps?

Every parent-child relationship is different and unique. Nigeria as a country is a parent to us all. Yet like a parent, it exhibits a different relationship to each of us. For some, it treats lovingly with velvet gloves and chocolate boxes, like it did to the Ekweremadus despite the obvious crimes they committed. For others, the relationship is less savoury, such as the one Josef Fritzl had with his daughter who he imprisoned in his basement for 24 years and put seven children in her womb. Yet for others, the relationship is like that of Cronos, the Greek god of time and his children. He eats them.

I suppose each of us will have to understand the kind of relationship we have with our motherland and our motherland will have to examine the relationship she has with us. Some tragedies can be avoided and in the case of us and Nigeria, a lot has to be changed.

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