The buzzer on the door leading to the execution chambers sounds, breaking an uneasy silence and snapping the Warden back to reality. There was something about this case that unnerved him. In his 24 years of service, he has never felt this conflicted – so wrong in ‘serving’ justice.
This was a self-confessed murderer of the nicest man he has ever met, a very powerful man. So it was no surprise that The Court’s ruling was swift and sure (in accordance with Section 319 of the criminal code).
So what was it?
Just then, the metal slabs swings open and The Prisoner is led into the room by two heavily armed guards, he raised his head, looks the Warden in the eye and nods. What was meant to be a calm affirmation felt like a threat to the Warden. It was easy to see why – those eyes were cold and distant and dead.
Make no mistake, this was a killer.
So what the hell was it!
Why was he almost so sure that this man – this murderer, was somehow innocent?
” As-Salaam-Alaikum! You are all gathered today to witness the dying of a man… “
The prisoner’s voice was vibrant and echoed in the room but you could almost feel the tremor underneath. He paused, looked around his sparse audience, sighed deeply and continued. He had the room now. Maybe it was his voice, it simply demanded to be heard.
” … but I died a long time ago and every single day after that.
These are the last words of Mr Abdulsaheed Mohammed.
I will not beg for sympathy. I will not ask to be grieved. I only wish to be heard – and even then you are not obliged to understand.
On 2 Rabi Al Awwal, 1444*. I kidnapped, tortured, killed and mutilated one Mohammed Abdulkadhir. Until the time of his death, he was a Lieutenant of The Nigerian army – and my father. But we are not gathered today to talk about the death of The Father, it made all the news. I will tell you rather, of the ‘dyings’ of the son.
I was eight, but somehow, I knew it was wrong. The places in my body he was touching…the things he wanted me to do to him. That was the first night in his subsequent series of late visits to my room.
But somehow, the animal who belted my body at the slightest provocation in the light was nothing compared to the man who abused me in the dark. And Ummi knew, I could see it in her eyes when she washed me up in the morning for school. But she was fighting her own battles, I could see it behind the makeup and the veil. We didn’t dare speak though. Who would hear the words of a woman and a child against that of a powerful man.
You didn’t hear the woman when her body was found at the bottom of the staircase after a ‘domestic accident’.
You didn’t hear the child when his eyes all but screamed for help at his mother’s funeral.
But you heard the man. And his lies.
Something in you dies when you realize the man who should protect you from the evils of the world is that evil you need protecting from. It is that helplessness, the hopelessness that kills you. That night I knew I was dead when I stopped crying, there was no pain, no sadness, no hurt… Just a black Nothing.
That was the night I stopped being ‘eight’. “
Time stood still – Silent. Heavy. Waiting. And in those few seconds that lasted forever, you saw the eight-year-old boy, maybe for the first time.
But that was enough, and that was his peace.