Make the Corpse Walk, Zanna! By Jaafar Jaafar

Jafaar Jafaar

The deputy governor should also explain whether ‘sleeping’ on the road under the baking sun of Maiduguri is the culture of his people or not.


I chiseled the title of this piece out of a 1946 novel authored by no less a novelist than René Lodge Brabazon Raymond, better known by a pen name, James Hadley Chase. Because of our devotion to the Chase collection at the young age, characters like Tom Lepsky, Frank Terrel, Al Barney, Helga Rolfe, Murdoch, Poke Toholo, Teeky Edris, Don Miclem, Vito Ferrari, Mark Girland, Malik, Nick English, Rollo, among others always ignite the memories of the good old days.

‘Make the Corpse Walk’ is an intriguing novel from the Chase collection in which maverick millionaire Kester Weidmann hired night-club owner and con artist with a monicker Rollo to bring back to life his dead brother through voodoo process. The millionaire is a proponent of oft-disparaged maxim that “money can buy everything” – even life and death. But as someone with a notoriety of “doing everything”, Rollo accepted Weidmann’s offer, at least to pull the wool over his eyes. Obviously Rollo’s girlfriend Celie and his night club bouncer Butch knew their boss’ dragnet had caught a prey, and so they poised for the spoil.

When I started reading Chase, I concluded that he was the best writer on this planet, until I later discovered that my fantasy was borne out of puerile literary parochialism. I can still recall the enthusiasm and passion we exuded whenever a book, which we usually read in a relay fashion (and Usain Boltan speed), landed into the ghetto.

But it’s dismaying to note that we’ve all become lax and helpless, watching the reading culture erode. The books I devoured during my tender age far outnumbered the books I read in the later days of my adulthood.

Now look at how Tweeter, Facebook, MySpace and X-Box game phased out about 130 novels in the Pacesetters’ series from the landscape. Look at how we religiously devoted our time to English Premier League, La Liga, etc than our religious books. Look at how run-of-the-mill vernacular romance novels sent Mills and Boon to oblivion. Where has the reading culture gone? To borrow the title of Helen Ovbiagele’s novel, Who Really Cares?

Like reading culture, sense of reasoning is fast eroding in the society. Your ability to whitewash the truth, dribble the public, deceitfully parry questions, be duplicitous are the traits that make a politician stand out today.

Last week, the deputy governor of Borno State Zanna Mustapha offended our sensibilities when he denied that 30 civilians were killed in reprisal attacks by men of the Joint Task Force (JTF), explaining that the bodies seen by eyewitnesses were only sleeping in the street.

Hear the goofing deputy governor while trying to justify the extra-judicial killing of civilians on BBC: “Absolutely it is not true (that they were dead). We went there, we saw some people lying down on the ground, they were sleeping. I saw all of them lying down and I saw some of them sitting down.”

And you refused to ask them why they were sleeping in the scorching sun of Maiduguri! Why didn’t you wake them up and provide shelter for them since you fail to provide security for them?

The deputy governor reiterated further that people wrongly mistook the “sleeping” bodies as corpses. “I went there with about 25 journalists and they also saw the people. The residents may have thought all the people were corpses, I also thought they were corpses,” Mustapha said.

Seriously, something is wrong with this man.

But it’s not only the deputy governor that seems insensitive to the plight of his people. When President Goodluck Jonathan addressed the nation early this week, most of us thought that the Maiduguri 30, Mubi 25 and Aluu four worth at least a passing mention in the president’s broadcast. But he didn’t mention them, perhaps because Reuben Abati or Oronto Douglas had doubt about the reliability of these “notorious facts”.

According to Premium Times, the JTF on Tuesday said through its spokesperson Lt. Colonel Sagir Musa, that there has been no “established or recorded case of extra judicial killing, torture, arson or arbitrary arrest by the JTF in Borno state”, saying their men could not engage in extra-judicial killings.

Reports say that JTF had killed over 30 civilians and burnt over 50 houses following the detonation of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) by the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram along Lagos Street of the troubled city of Maiduguri. According to reports, the blast killed two army officers when the bomb exploded on their route.

Despite the fact that both local and international media have chorused in unison the story of dozens of civilian casualties in the wake of the attack, the deputy governor held different viewpoint.

As someone who had attended press briefings of the military, I know how the military always beat their chests whenever they carried out a successful operation without civilian casualty. But in this case, the JTF failed to admit they either intentionally or unintentionally recorded civilian casualties. They also did not beat their chest for carrying out their job with finesse and marksmanship.

The latest Human Rights Watch report released today gives detail of the extrajudicial killing of civilians. Titled ‘Spiraling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria’, the report implicated security agencies of rights violation. “Government security forces, comprising military, police, and intelligence personnel, known as the Joint Military Task Force (JTF), have been implicated in serious human rights violations. The authorities have also brushed aside due process rights of detainees in the name of ending the group’s threat to Nigeria’s citizens,” said the authoritative report.

The hard-hitting report explained further: “During raids in communities, often in the aftermath of Boko Haram attacks, members of the security forces have executed men in front of their families; arbitrarily arrested or beaten members of the community; burned houses, shops, and cars; stolen money while searching homes; and, in at least one case documented by Human Rights Watch, raped a woman. Government security agencies routinely hold suspects incommunicado without charge or trial in secret detention facilities and have subjected detainees to torture or other physical abuse.”

Now what the deputy governor needs to do is to hire a consultant who will employ the service of a voodoo expert to awaken the ‘sleeping’ bodies, that is if he does not have power to make the corpse walk. Alternatively, voodoo experts from Togo, Benin or West Indies country of Haiti can be awarded contract to raise them from slumber.

The deputy governor should also explain whether ‘sleeping’ on the road under the baking sun of Maiduguri is the culture of his people or not.

Sometimes this crass stupidity makes me wish I could slap somebody’s flabby cheek!

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