What happens when a man falls from the 7th floor of 1004?
I wonder what he saw as he fell. Did he see the sky? Did he remember the things he loved in the world? Did he only see the pavement, the tarred road and the parked cars? Was he scared as he hurtled to the ground? Was he relieved? Did he expect to live? Was he determined to die there that day? Did he think he would fly when he jumped? A man is not a bird. He cannot be lifted by harmattan dust and air.
I don’t know who he was, even now, 5 days later. But, he was someone; someone’s friend, a lover’s love, a parent’s son… someone. He may not have been a great man. He may not have been the finest character that ever lived, but he shouldn’t be allowed to go like any old fly. Attention. Attention must be paid. He was a man. He was not a banana peel.
On the 4th of February 2021 a man died after he jumped from the seventh floor of Block D 5, one of the many apartment complexes in 1004, an upmarket housing estate in Victoria Island, Lagos. They say he was fleeing a raid by Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). They were busting a ring of internet fraudsters.
A police spokesman said in a statement, “He wasn’t even the target of the EFCC when he jumped from the 7th floor. We were told that he was not a resident but a guest. He was taken to the hospital after he had sustained fractures and was placed on oxygen but he gave up the ghost. We are trying to ascertain his identity. Once that is done, we will contact his family.”
What the police spokesman didn’t say was that the man’s body was carted away on the back of a pick up truck, like manure, like sand, like broken furniture, like cement; like he was nothing. In some countries, they give the name John Doe to their anonymous male dead. Here we don’t really do the same. Some times we can’t even be bothered to call them John Doe, which is a nothing name. It’s a name given to deceased addicts and drowners, the misbegotten and the woebegone. The man was loved, if not by men, then definitely by God. I’ll call him Ifeoluwa. The man had parents. Even if they do not claim him, God was his parent. He was God’s own. I’ll call him Toluwani.
It is the least and the best I can do.
I have friends that live in 1004. When I heard what happened I called them, to hear in their own words the events that transpired. The first was to Kemi.
“Did you hear about what happened?” I asked.
“It’s been all anyone could talk about, but I did not see it. It happened in block D. I live in block A. That’s much too far away.” She said.
“Oh! It’s good that it didn’t happen near you. It can’t have been pleasant.” I said.
“At first I heard it was a drug raid. Then the story changed. But it has to be said, if any block in 1004 was going to be raided for anything, it would have been block D.” She said.
“Why?” I asked.
“The people that live there are always misbehaving. If there’s noise at night in 1004 you just know it’s coming from block D.” She said.
She didn’t say much after that. She hadn’t seen, and she’s too good to speak about what she doesn’t know.
“I’m at the salon braiding my hair Afam. I can’t really talk.”
And with that she was gone.
Then I called Aburo.
“I know why you’re calling.” He said.
“Was it that obvious?” I said.
“It’s the only reason why anyone’s been calling recently, to find out what happened at 1004.” He said.
“So get to it! Don’t waste my time. What happened?”
“Let me begin by saying, I’m an EFCC survivor.” He said.
“And I’m Dick Slinger 99 on tinder.” I said obviously joking.
“I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve seen creamy la squirty on there so anything is possible.” He said.
“Yeah. So… I was just chilling, working from home and all of that when I heard people screaming and yelling. I went to see what was going on. I turned on my phone’s video camera in anticipation. It was quite the ruckus. There were armed men everywhere. They’d come with 2 buses, a Toyota Coaster which seats about 30 people and a Toyota Hiace which seats about 14.”
“So it was a big operation then…” I said.
“Yup. Pretty big. They packed those buses full. Now where was I? Yes. They saw me filming and said they’d take me too if I continued, so I went back into my flat.” He said.
"That can’t be all that happened.” I said.
“No. After that they start banging on doors and breaking them down. Then they escorted the men in the apartments to the buses.” He said.
“Did it seem targeted? It’d be a shame if you ended up in prison because of your choice of apartment.”
“Would come bail me out?” He asked.
“No. I’d only come to laugh at you, and shout ‘Shame! Shame! Shame!” I said.
“It was very targeted. Apparently some successful yahoo boys (fraudsters and 419ers) short let their long lease apartments to the less successful yahoo boys, and one of them snitched on all the yahoo boys living in the block. I suspected that there were yahoo boys here, but I wasn’t sure. I suppose it must take one to know one.” He said.
“The EFCC must have broken down a lot of doors.” I said.
“No, not that many. There were like 20 people per 2 bedroom flat. I’m exaggerating but you know what I mean.” He said.
“And the guy that died. Did you see that?” I asked.
“No, but I heard it. The EFCC didn’t notice at first. It was some residents that pointed it out, and then they called the police who took him away on the back of a pick up truck. I’m not so eager for excitement that I’d run to see someone’s dying body.” He said.
“It’s a shame. I hear he wasn’t even a suspect.” I said.
“He was probably scared out of his mind. Nigerian Security Forces aren’t known for their professionalism or tact. Who knows what happened before he jumped over the balcony? For all I know, he did it to escape being shot. I’m not saying this is what happened, but with Nigeria you can never know. It’s very sad. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” He said.
“Should I come over?” I asked.
“Yes. It’s been a rather dreadful week. Bring wine, a nice white one, something dry. There’s a new film on Netflix, Malcolm and Marie. We should watch it.”
Aburo and I met up that night. We watched Malcolm and Marie. We finished the bottle of wine. But the thoughts of the tragedy stayed with me. Not 50 feet from where I lounged a man had plunged to his death. Terrible.