Africa is…different

At the weekend I was discussing Trump’s “shithole” remarks with a friend, and mentioned something a lot of people don’t get. The third world is not like the first world but with poorer people; the third world is an altogether different place (the ZMan remarks on this occasionally).

In order to illustrate the point that Africa is very, very different from anywhere else I showed my friend some news articles I’d posted on my blog back when I lived in Nigeria. One should understand that I didn’t go around specifically hunting for such stories to paint a slanted picture of the country in which I was living. Instead, I took them from a company’s internal intranet which featured a page of local news items that a Nigerian employee had assembled from various media outlets. I don’t believe any further comment is necessary to illustrate my point, so I’ll just post the stories as I found them.

Story 1:

A woman, Oluremi Bolaji, 32, held residents of Ijeshatedo, Surulere and its environs spell bound when she mysteriously appeared on the minaret of the Ijesha Central Mosque in Lagos.
Residents of the area had woken up to see the woman perched dangerously atop the minaret which is under construction as part of ongoing renovation works on the three-storey mosque.

The scene of the incident became a Mecca of sort as residents from the neigbouring communities gathered to witness the incident. Many of the onlookers expressed surprise at how Bolaji managed to climb the mosque tower even as they wondered how the mother of three would be rescued safely.

Meanwhile, there were different sides to the Bolaji saga. While some people claimed she was a witch on a failed mission, and reaping the fruits of her wickedness, others said she was mentally deranged, a claim corroborated by Bolaji’s father. According to Bolaji’s father who wept openly at his daughter’s risky situation, the victim was mentally ill and the family had been making plans to move her to a psychiatrist home for treatment before the incident.
Amid the confusion over how to rescue Bolaji safely from her precarious position, a commercial tricyclist, simply identified as Ikechukwu, offered to bring the lady down if his colleagues would compensate him with the sum of N1, 000. There was another angle to the Ikechukwu story, as another account said he had actually placed a bet with some other young men at the scene that he could bring down the woman. The wager was put at N1,000.00.

Ikechukwu, after getting the assurance that he would be given the money began to climb the minaret. Unaware that he was embarking on a dangerous mission, Ikechukwu never returned to claim the money he was promised. He was allegedly pushed down by Bolaji using one of the wooden beams the construction workers had placed in the minaret. He landed, hitting his head on the concrete floor. He died instantly. Following Ikechukwu’s fatal fall, Bolaji was said to have boasted that she would kill more people should they venture to bring her down.

However, the Imam in charge of the mosque, Ganiyu Oyebanjo, was said to have contacted the policemen and men of the State Fire Service. Daily Sun gathered that before the arrival of the crime fighters, a native doctor was said to have made a futile attempt to rescue Bolaji. The medicine man was said to have recited some incantations, cast spell but to no avail. He was reportedly chased away by the crowd. Men of the state fire service on their arrival splashed water on the victim hoping it would scare her, yet she remained adamant.

When Daily Sun arrived the scene Bolaji was seen entertaining her audience. Repeatedly, she would remove her clothes dance around while the malefolk applauded her. When it was obvious that the woman just had to be saved from possible death, able-bodied men comprising mainly of members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), took over the rescue mission.

They beckoned on her to come down, while she shouted in Yoruba language that they should leave her alone. She began throwing stones at the men who for safety had to wear helmet. Gradually the men climbed up the tower, distracted the lady while another with the aid of a plank pushed her from the minaret to the roof of the mosque. She was eventually brought down from the roof.

The mob attempted to lynch Bolaji but for the quick intervention of the police. She was whisked to Ijesha police station and later moved to a private hospital where she is receiving treatment. Her father lamented that things would not have degenerated to this if his daughter had not been turned back by Yaba Psychiatric hospital. According to him, the hospital had asked that the family should first treat the wounds Oluremi had inflicted on herself before bringing her for admission. The angry mob took to the street, protesting the death of Ikechukwu and calling for the heads of the woman and members of her entire family.

The mob barricaded Ijesha Lawanson Road, disrupting commercial activities and vehicular movements. Some hoodlums who hijacked the protest used the opportunity to snatch peoples mobile phones and handbags. The police eventually dispersed the protesters by firing tear gas canisters.
The Imam, Ganiyu Oyebanjo, expressed shock on how the woman managed to climb the minaret. “I think she was being controlled by a demonic force. She climbed the minaret at about midnight and was brought down around 11:00 am.”

He alleged that worshippers had prevailed on the deceased, Ikechukwu, to wait for the arrival of policemen and the fire fighters but he was adamant, probably because of the N1, 000, allegedly promised him by his colleagues.

Lagos State police spokesman, Mr. Frank Mba, who confirmed the death of Ikechukwu, said the quick intervention of the police saved the lady from being stoned to death by the mob. He said both the police and fire fighters rushed the woman in an ambulance to the police before taking her to the hospital.
He said the body of Ikechukwu had been taken by his family for burial. Mba advised members of the public to always report such incidents to the police rather than resort to jungle justice.

Story 2:

The killing of a 45-year-old Akwa Ibom man, Mr. Mfon Edung, by people believed to be his relatives over allegation of witchcraft is generating concerns among the family of the slain man.

It was learnt that the father of three, who hailed from Mbokpu Eyoima in Urue Offong/Oruko Local Government Area of the state, was killed on his way to collect his church’s pulpit from Mr. Ini Edung on Friday.

An eyewitness, who preferred anonymity, said the deceased was riding on a motorcycle when he saw some men at Oyoku Ubighi, drinking andeating dog meat at a joint.

The eyewitness explained that the men jumped inside a vehicle immediately they sighted him and chased the deceased.

He said, “We saw Mfon riding on a motorcycle and almost all the men that were drinking left immediately to close him. They followed him and when they got to a desolate area, hit him with their vehicle.

“As he tried to get up and run, people around the area, who thought it was an accident, rushed to the scene to rescue him.

“But no fewer than five persons got out of the vehicle, with axes and cutlasses and hacked the deceased. They shot into the air sporadically to scare the crowd, and took the body away to an unknown destination.”

Also, a bicycle rider, who also craved anonymity, corroborated the eyewitness’ account.

He added that as he was running to the scene to rescue the deceased, he saw some men coming out of a white Volvo car with no number plate.

He said, “When I saw them, I was afraid and quickly retreated. In the process of killing Mfon, I heard one of them say, ‘You use your witchcraft power to kill my mother. I warned you if the woman died, you too would die. And let us see if your witchcraft will be able to save you.’

“I held my breath. When they finished cutting the deceased up, they took the body away, and nobody could trace them anymore.”

The wife of the deceased, Ikwo, said her husband was going to ask Etim how far he had gone with the aluminium pulpit he was making for the church.

She said from what she learnt, when her husband was returning home around 5pm at Mbokpu Oyoima, a vehicle was trailing him but he didn’t notice it.

She said she learnt her husband was killed at a desolate area, opposite a church at Oyoku Ibighi, in Urue Offong/Oruko LGA.

She said her husband had abandoned home to live with friends following repeated threat messages by his relations.

She said, “All along they had been sending threat messages to the extent that a Deacon in a church, summoned my husband and advised him to avoid some of his relations because of the threats.

“My husband had on two occasions been mercilessly beaten by his own people and some cult men in the village. When I reported the matter to the police who came to my husband’s rescue, his relations blamed me and fined me one she-goat and 10 bottles of locally-made gin for insulting them by calling the police.

“They blamed my husband for the sickness of her sister and said if the woman should die, my husband would also be killed. And so, they carried out their threat.”

Ikwo said when she reported the matter to the police in the area, they asked what she expected them to do after the man had been killed.

Story 3:

A police corporal, Olufemi Ajayi, was yesterday set ablaze in Ayete, Ibarapa North Local Government Area of Oyo State, by an irate mob, after he allegedly shot and killed a commercial driver at a checkpoint.

Ajayi, who is attached to Igboora Police Station, allegedly shot the victim, Mr. Emiola Kolade, after a minor argument.

Kolade died in a hospital in Igboora.

An eyewitness, Alhaji Salau Adele, said: “It all started at one of the many illegal checkpoints on Idere-Ayete road, when the corporal flagged down the driver and demanded a bribe. The driver gave him N100, but the policeman said the money was too small and refused to accept it.

“This led to an argument between the two. We heard a gunshot later and the driver was found injured on the ground. The policeman tried to escape, but he was caught.”

It was learnt that the policeman was beaten and set ablaze by the mob.

Story 4:

The renewed efforts of the Niger State police command to rid the state of criminal elements may have started yielding results, following the discovery of a severed head of a few months old baby girl in a polythene in possession of a young man suspected to be one of the arrow-heads of a syndicate that specialises in using human parts for ritual purposes in parts of the state.

The discovery of the strange object with the suspect (names withheld) occurred early last week, during a stop and search duty by a team of policemen on the highway at Erena, in Shiroro Local Government area of the state .

The Nigerian Tribune further learnt that trouble began for the young man, when he was allegedly sighted by a policeman, holding a wet Bagco Super sack and attempting to board a commercial vehicle from the village (Erena) with the bag allegedly containing the fresh human head.

It was further gathered that, as the suspect was about to board the vehicle, the policeman allegedly observed that a liquid substance which was a mixture of blood and water was said to have been oozing from the bag.

A police source at the homicide section of the state Criminal Investigation Department(CID), Minna, the state capital, informed the Nigerian Tribune that, as a result of that, the policeman became suspicious and requested to know the content of the bag.

The source who craved for anonymity in a chat with the NT stated that the suspect allegedly told the Policeman that the bag contained some pieces of fresh Tomatoes , just as the policeman insisted that he must be allowed to see whether it was “Tomatoes” or not.

“It was however at the point of a very serious struggle between the suspect and the policeman, that some concerned on lookers who were either passing by of attempting to board commercial vehicles near the scene who assisted the policeman in apprehending the suspect. And when they forced the bag opened, they now saw the head of human being concealed in the sack” the source stated.

NT was further informed that no sooner that the strange object was discovered with the suspect that an irate mob gathered with the view to beating him into a pulp, but that the policeman was allegedly able to maneuver him to the nearby police outpost in the village where he was kept in the police cell as he was said to have confessed to the crime during investigation by the police.

“He now confessed that another person gave him the head and at the point of the police trying to track down the person he also escaped from the police’s cell that fateful night , while the police went to look for the person whom he said gave him the head . But after apprehending the man, fortunately for the police, the following morning, he was re-arrested and the two of them have been transferred to the state CID for further investigation” said the source.


26 thoughts on “Africa is…different

  1. I dare say that you have seen Kim Du Toit’s :Let Africa Sink”?

    Note the date that the article was written.

    One big problem is that people in the west think everyone is just like them as regards attitudes, thought processes and behaviour. They are not.

    Add into that the average IQ of Africans, you have to wonder why the west is importing them in wholesale lots.

  2. “Ikwo said when she reported the matter to the police in the area, they asked what she expected them to do after the man had been killed.”

    Well, there you go, there’s at least one similarity to good ol’ Blighty… 😀

  3. One big problem is that people in the west think everyone is just like them as regards attitudes, thought processes and behaviour. They are not.

    If anyone’s ever heard expats whinge and moan about their host country’s habits and predilictions, the presumption that other people are “like them” and that other places are more or less the same but with a different language and better weather extends down to a much finer level than just “the West” and “the 3rd world”…

  4. Strange bunch the Nigerians. I know a few here, all of them up to no good. I don’t think they consider the future at all. One, when asked if he was worried that when he gets caught he’s probably going to get the death penalty, simply replied “I don’t care”. It wasn’t some denial in a belief that he was too clever to get caught, he just simply didn’t care. I get that impression from all of them as they don’t seem to try to hide what they’re up to or keep any sort of low profile. Unless that’s just the ones I see of course.

    I spend a lot of time in the Philippines where people are poor but Africa just seems like a different animal.

  5. It wasn’t some denial in a belief that he was too clever to get caught, he just simply didn’t care

    Low time-preference, to the point that maybe getting killed at an indeterminate future moment isn’t even on the event horizon.

    Interestingly my sister-in-law was doing AIDS work in sub-saharan Africa, and part of the problem was getting people to understand that unprotected sex NOW can cause you to die of AIDS a couple of years down the line. Add in the whole “Inshallah” aspect (it was in Muslim Africa) on top of that, and it was impossible. She said that the people she was trying to educate just couldn’t grasp the principle of cause and effect over such a timeframe. In fact, they couldn’t understand it over anything other than a trivial time (put hand in fire = hand burned sort of level. I exaggerate only a little here).

  6. You slacker, where’s the one about the loaf of bread?

    You mean the one involving you and Bruce? Why, that’s here!

  7. DJ

    Some kind of deep-rooted fatalism maybe?

    Though interesting, even impressive, that someone with such a “que sera, sera” attitude would still have the get up and go to launch a venture in China.

  8. For most of Africa cause and effect operate differently to Western received wisdom:

    If someone dies in a taxi(commonest cause of road death in my parts) it is not because the driver overtook on a blind bed, that the vehicles brakes, shock absorbers and tyres would not pass saftey inspection or because the vehicle was hopelessly overloaded, travelling too fast in an area where cattle like to move onto road at night.

    No, the deaths are due to either failure to reward the ancestors for their guardianship (via their middlemen the ngangas) or witchcraft (via their middlemen the witch doctors) instigated by jealous/vengeful men/women/children/infants/neighbours/whites/others.

    From this the fatalism, the nepotism, the hopelessness, the wars(Mugabe had a heap of spirit mediums to keep his side and villagers on side during the Rhodesian war and Zuma has commandeered their support for elections.)

  9. I spent some time in Nigeria (Lagos and Port Harcourt) and shit hole just about sums it up.

    Everybody but everybody was corrupt and life had no value. Road accident victims just left in the road and drivers manoeuvring around them…

    I also have a memory (it was some time ago, about 1982/3) that every single plate I ate off – even in hotels – was cracked.

    The flight from Gatwick to Lagos (British Caledonian) was terrifying – every passenger had huge holdalls (full of stuff they had bought in the UK to sell back home – the guy next to me had a millionteen zip fasteners) on their laps, in the isles, etc. we would never have got off in the event of an accident.

  10. Reading these it is easier to understand why most of the shootings in the USA involve black men; less easy to understand why “the powers that (unfortunately) be” insist on importing vast numbers of them to otherwise reasonably peaceful civilised countries.

  11. “the quick intervention of the police saved the lady from being stoned to death”

    That’s the sort of police you want, though I wonder how long in our own dear country before malcontents (and even mentally disturbed people like this minaret-climber) get to be stoned, too.

    Oh wait, we do it now… except that the things thrown today are unsubstantiated allegations, scurrilous rumours and downright lies that stick because they are retweeted eagerly. Mob rule be not far from us, methinks.

  12. Story 2: “It was learnt that the policeman was beaten and set ablaze by the mob.”

    No previous mention of “the” mob. Might – just – have been ok if it had been “a” mob, but “the” mob is a different matter to add as an apparent throwaway comment in the last line of an article…

  13. Might – just – have been ok if it had been “a” mob, but “the” mob is a different matter to add as an apparent throwaway comment in the last line of an article…

    In much of Africa, the presence of a mob forming around such an incident is assumed. I saw one form around me in Lagos once, fuck it’s frightening.

  14. There is nothing as interesting as some good old British Foreign Office intrigue when it comes to Africa.
    Interestingly, another Foreign Office official, Eric Le Tocq, conceded that ‘we are prepared to believe that the policies which he [Obote] is pushing through may well prove, in time, to be in the best interests of Ugandans’. Also recognised was the ‘inequity’ of the pre-nationalisation arrangements under the East African Community where many companies remitted their profits to Nairobi ‘instead of “reinvesting” them in the country in which they are earned’.

    Obote’s rule certainly had authoritarian aspects and he had earlier suspended the constitution and assumed control of the state. Yet it was not these negative features of Obote’s rule that primarily concerned British planners. At least the Obote regime had promoted several policies beneficial to Ugandans, notably the proclamation of the ‘Common Man’s Charter’ which echoed the call for African socialism by Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere. This provided the backdrop to the nationalisation measures, which, along with the possible Ugandan reaction to British arms sales to South Africa, were the major concerns of British planners.

    The coup by then Army Chief of Staff Amin took place while Obote was attending a Commonwealth conference in Singapore and involved the arrest or shooting of officers loyal to Obote, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people. The coup was immediately greatly welcomed by British officials. Britain was one of the first countries to formally recognise the new regime, along with the US and Israel, in contrast to some African states, such as Tanzania and Zambia, which refused to recognise the legitimacy of the new military regime. ‘Our interest in Uganda in terms of citizens, investment, trade and aid programme [sic] are best served in these circumstances by early recognition’, the Foreign Office noted.

  15. @PhilB

    I’ve gotta admit a soft spot for Alan Coren’s satire.

    I like Craig Brown too, who is fortunately still alive, but you have to venture over to the Mail website to read him and blergh, it’s all a bit much for me over there. Don’t think the audience appreciate him at that joint either – the comments section is full of scathing people who don’t think it’s funny, and confused people who are asking whether he is a serious reporter or not (a point muddied by his mixture of poetry, reviews, satire and upper-end-of-mid-life observations).

  16. The kind of middle class, college educated people who are all for black and minorities have only ever met the “good” blacks. The ones with enough money, social skills and intellect that they too can get into a college or a reasonable white collar job. They imagine that the rest of them are just the same, only poor.

Comments are closed.