I am a good Muslim; I observe my five daily prayers, I give alms, I respect people and help as much as I can.
I am a normal young Nigerian. At 28, I still live with my older brother because after school, three years ago, despite several job opportunities, I just never managed to make enough money to rent an apartment for myself and when I did twice, my landlords kicked me out because I couldn’t continue paying. I tried to share with a few friends at one time, too but they didn’t bring their share of rent after a few months and I eventually had to move out.
My older brother invited me to stay in his house; he lives in a duplex so it was a win- win of sorts and this solved my accommodation problems.
Like any young man my age, I have a girlfriend, her name is Hajara and being with her regularly is difficult. If I had my own house now, we would be together all the time but because I live with my elder brother, I often sneak her into my room, especially when my brother is around. And my brother, being a strict Muslim, hates me bringing girls to his house, so you understand why I had to sneak her into my room that night again.
At about 10.30-11pm, every night, my brother usually retires to his room upstairs, that was when I snuck out to bring my girl into the house. Since my room is downstairs and I have a back door, it was easy, my brother would never know. Yeah, I know it’s embarrassing that a grown man like me has to sneak in his girl. Well, that is life.
That day, Hajara and I were meant to leave the house as early as 6.30am, shortly before my brother woke up to go to the nearby mosque to perform his early morning prayers.
I had set my phone alarm to 5.30am, enough time to get up, take a bath and be out of the house.
It wasn’t the phone that woke me up at about 3.45am, it was when I turned in my sleep and felt something cold and stiff. My head wasn’t working well because of sleep, I thought I had increased the AC, so it must have made my girlfriend cold, so I tried to wrap my arms around her to give her some warmth.
No response, my brain began to work immediately, something was wrong!
I opened my eyes, put on the light, there on the bed, still like a log, lay my girlfriend with her mouth slightly open and eyes rolled back!
I shook her, I called her name, I …I didn’t know what to think or do.
She was stiff, her hands, her face, strange colour. She looked dead. I had never seen a dead body before then but I knew she was dead.
I knew I was also dead.
How do I explain this? How did she die? Why did she die? In my brother’s for that matter?
She wasn’t sick and I didn’t hear her gasp or anything in the night.
All ham dullilahi! This is death for me!
I couldn’t shout, my brother would give me hell, so I called my friend, that one didn’t pick his calls, it was almost 4am. No body picks calls at 4am.
I tried to revive her, water, blanket…nothing.
I didn’t know when I ran upstairs to alert my brother; better he kills me than…what is this!
Astagarfu rulahi! Allah forbid bad thing
My brother was confused when he opened his door, because he said I was talking nonsense, he didn’t even understand what I was saying. When he came down to my room and saw my dead girlfriend, he just slapped me and walked away, he said he had warned me several times, now I should sort it out.
That’s when I began to cry.
Why did Hajara die? She wasn’t sick, she didn’t complain of anything. We both ate from the same plate at the bukka before we came to the house. I went in first while she stayed with the security guard until brother went to bed and I let her in.
I felt sad, I felt alone, I was so confused.
A few minutes later, my brother came downstairs, he asked me if we quarreled or if it was sex; funny enough, we didn’t even have sex that night. We were just talking till we both fell asleep. So I told him, nothing like that, no sex, no fight, no drugs or drink…nothing. And she was just 24years old.
Well, my brother was angry, he was screaming at me. He said I would be the one to carry the trouble alone on my head. He then called a doctor friend; that one came in at about 5.30, the doctor, after examining Hajara, said she died soon after she fell asleep, which would have been a little past midnight.
We had to report to the police and I had to find a way of telling her aunty, the woman she lived with.
As God would have it, her aunty came to the police station and attested to the fact that Hajara and I have always been good together, and that Hajara called her yesterday night to say she was safe.
Still police said they would keep me until they got a doctor to check that there was no foul play. That’s how I found myself here.
Where will I start?
The police cell full of putrid odour?
The constant demand for money by inmates who rule the cell?
Lack of food, water…space to lean back and close my eyes a bit?
Will I be charged for murder, despite the fact that there seems to be no evidence of foul play? Come, what if they found something in her system that I have no knowledge of?
But the torture is not the cell or the smell or the lack of food in the last five days…My torture is, why did Hajara die? What happened? How can a young woman just die like that? Will i ever be same again?
What will I do now?
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)