(First published as “Too Busy To Live” on the Pulse Nigeria blog in October 2017)
A woman’s loud scream is the last notable sound you hear before the voices in this crowded space dissolve into hushed tones. The blood on the floor looks too new, enough to deduce that the murder was probably carried out less than two hours ago.
At least some decency is preserved by covering the head of the deceased, and for the rest of the body, rigor mortis is nowhere close to setting in. The body lies in front of a shop, and not many feet away lies a volatile automated teller machine. The motive and circumstances are unclear – maybe a robbery gone awry, maybe an argument gone violent – but you are sure that the man who conducts business there won’t be allowed to display his wares without having some explaining to do.
Bikers are calling out their most frequently plied routes, and fabric sellers are waving second-hand jeans trousers in the faces of passers-by. There is something too casual about the movements here, like the body on the ground wasn’t once in motion like they presently are, and you hate to borrow trending phrases, but you cannot deny the fact that you are shook. Two people whip out their phones, and you take a quick look around; you expect to see a similar scenery on Linda Ikeji’s Blog or Instablog9ja in a few hours.
You mull over what he must have been up to, days or even hours before his demise; maybe a few grimaces over a ruined Nairabet ticket, or a few prayers to make enough cash to facilitate the uploading of “soft” photos on Instagram, or maybe even a pidgin-salted intense phone call to a love interest.
There are no yellow tapes, and know that you there will be no investigators cordoning off the area any time soon. There are too many footprints everywhere, the murder weapon must have either been hidden or tampered with by too many hands, and the country’s data collation is nearly non-existent anyway. This one will not even make it to the level of a mere statistic, he is just a halted breath in a sea of moments.
These four men are standing beneath a shed, each drawing in the smoke expertly like they were born with stubs between their lips. In any case, you no longer find the smell offensive. Marijuana and prescribed antidepressants work exactly the same way, and to similar effect, but only one of them is outlawed – not like you have any real power when it comes to legislations, this is not California.
There is something too “conspirational” about the way they huddle around. For all you know, they could be discussing about a certain world leader’s “watery” U.N speech, but the men in black are not given to much explanation, especially when there are competence points to prove following an unsolved crime. You would know; you have once been bundled into a police van simply for returning late from work by 1am.
“Mumu, you nor dey look where you dey go?”
You are too lost in thought to pay much attention to the road, but something urges to to swing to the left, and you notice how one of those big red buses misses you by a few inches. The verbal jabs are laced with rich vernacular, but quite frankly, you could not be bothered. You are pondering on how humans got here, how death came to be regarded with significant indifference.
“Obalende, Obalende, 150 with change o.”
You look up, and you see people jostle for seats in a bus which probably gets kickstarted into life by wires rather than keys. A lady in a light green top and a black skirt barely gracing her knees tries to jump in, oblivious of the forays into her handbag. It’s funny how valuables are put at risk for cheaper rides to work, but you tell yourself that she’ll be fine. There will be other phones for her to buy, afterall, she breathes at the very least.