SHADOW: THE COVER UP (A true-life story)

-December 1974-

Inspector Ajayi sat on his armchair in his office, his head was buried in the midst of his two folded hands.

His heart was heavy with too many avid thoughts of where on earth he would gather money to meet the deadline of payment required to complete the enrollment process of his eldest son into the University of Cambridge in the UK.

His eldest son, Kunle, had procured an admission to study Law at the University of Cambridge and needed a sum of three hundred pound for school fee, traveling and all other miscellaneous costs.

Where would he get that such big amount of money from? And thinking that could come from his salary was nothing but a mirage.

As a DPO of a police station, his salary was twenty-eight naira per month which was less than twenty pound sterling at the time. His entire salaries for a whole year were less than two hundred pound.

Where on earth would he get such big amount of money?

He really didn’t want to fail his son but there was nothing he could do to safe the situation at that moment. He had tried all he could but to no avail. He had tried to borrow from his colleagues at work but the amount he was able to raise was nothing to write home about – it was like a dot in the circle.

Inspector Ajayi resolved to ‘break the calabash’ when he got home next morning – Kunle would have to suspend his ambition to study abroad till the following year or he should simply go to the premier university in Ibadan. He knew this news would break his heart but what else could he do to safe the situation? Nothing 🤷‍♂️

It was around 8pm in the night, as all these thoughts were going on in his head – then there was knocking on his office’s door that jolted him back to reality.

“An emergency needed to be attended to sir” A Seagent at the door announced.

A driver skidded off the road and knocked down an old farmer who was waiting to cross the road.

The victim died on the spot but the driver could not run away, he had been held by the people who witnessed the unfortunate incident.

The driver was accompanied to the police station by four eyewitnesses who came together with him to the police station in order to make an official report of the unfortunate incident.

The hospital they first took the old man to did not admit him because he had died on arrival and they were advised to take the old man’s corpse to the morgue instead.

Taking the corpse to morgue would require a police report and that was why they were in the police station.

The young man that drove the Peugeot panel van was obviously slightly drunk but very sober and it could be seen all over him that he took the responsibility of killing an innocent old man through his recklessness.

The old man was lying lifeless at the back of his car and thinking about how it all happened made him terribly sick each time he took a glance at the man’s lifeless body laid inside his car.

Inspector Ajayi had interest in the case, he inspected the man’s corpse in its bad shape and ordered the young driver be detained for further investigation which commenced right away.

The eyewitnesses wrote their own statements and Inspector Ajayi followed the men to the scene of the accident.

The police needed to find out who the victim was and to identify and brief his family about the unfortunate incident as soon as possible.

In the morning that followed, the body of the victim was taken to the morgue and his family had been contacted.

But the news making rounds, as later presented by the police, had it that the man was knocked down while he was crossing the road carelessly and not while he was actually standing by the roadside and that the driver of the Peugeot panel van was not drunk at the time of the incident.

Nobody knew what had changed hands before day broke.

The victim’s family pursued the case to court but the young driver was acquitted based on the doctored evidences given by the police.

-December 1989-

As usual, Kunle came on his annual visit to Nigeria from United Kingdom where he had been ever since he graduated from University of Cambridge, it had been fifteen years since he relocated to the UK to study.

He studied law and had been gainfully employed as a legal practitioner in one of the top legal firms in the UK.

He got married to a Briton and had had three children from the marriage.

Kunle had become a very successful career man in his forties and which of course always gladdened his father’s heart every December he came home to celebrate Christmas with other members of the family.

Inspector Ajayi had retired and he had become an old man who relied solely on his two sons, Kunle and his junior brother Bolaji, for survival.

There is nothing on earth that gladdens elderly people’s hearts than seeing their children and their grandchildren flourishing while they are still alive in good health.

The joy that lived in the heart of Inspector Ajayi whenever his two sons and his grandchildren came to spend Christmas with him could never be measured or quantified, but little did he know that his joy would soon be cut short and vanished into the thin air forever.

Kunle with two of his children would arrive Nigeria on the 24th of December 1989 and hoped to head straight to his father’s house in Ibadan same day.

Their house had already been bustling as Kunle had sent money home earlier to take care of the expenses for the Christmas party while friends and relatives had gathered there to welcome him home as they did annually.

A giant cow had been slaughtered, there was abundance of foods to eat for everyone and several cartons of all kinds of beer brands had already been purchased and ’embalmed’ in the freezers.

As early as possible on Christmas eve, Bolaji had gone to Lagos to pick his brother and two of his children and everybody anxiously awaited their arrival.

While Inspector Ajayi was downstairs with his friends, the telephone box in his room upstairs was buzzing for attention, but Inspector Ajayi knew nothing, while he was having drink and chats together with his friends downstairs and he never had a premonition that a disaster had already hung in the sky above his head, the phone rang for several seconds each time and it kept on and on.

About thirty five minutes later, Inspector Ajayi excused himself and went upstairs to ease himsellf.

He was in the toilet when his phone box bumped up again noisily.

Inspector Ajayi quickly hurried out of the toilet to pick the phone.

“Hello good evening, who’s on the line?” Inspector Ajayi asked as he lifted the phone handle close to his head.

Good evening sir…., am I unto Mr Thomas Ajayi? The caller responded from the other side.

“Yes.., yes Inspector Ajayi (DPO retired) Ibadan..,” Inspector Ajayi replied.

“Ok sir…, we are calling from Ikeja, Lagos police command in respect of a fatal accident that involved one Mr Bolaji, Mr Kunle and two younger guys with a Mercedes Benz 200 with registration number OY 4-8-6.. JJ, could you please…” The caller continued.

It was the saddest day on earth for the entire family of Ajayi Thomas.

The irredemable losts of two sons and two grandchildren were too heavy for one man to bear on a one single day. It was the gloomiest tragedy that befell Inspector Ajayi on the eve of Christmas in 1989.

A careless trailer’s driver lost control of his long vehicle and hit the Mercedes Benz car driven by Bolaji that conveyed his brother, Kunle and his children, from the airport to Ibadan, Bolaji lost control of the wheel and skidded uncontrollably and plunged into a pit by the side of the road on the Lagos-Ibadan highway.

Bolaji and his brother’s two children died on the spot while Kunle died in the hospital hours later, the only survivor of the accident was the trailer’s driver who had fled the spot of the incident immediately.

Inspector Ajayi’s heart was shattered when the corpses of his two sons and two grandchildren were brought to Ibadan on the Christmas day, he remained motionless as he looked lost in the thoughts of his own past.

Past and present muddled up together and he couldn’t differentiate which one was which one – everything just muddled up together for him. He had lost their mother to breast cancer five years earlier, and ever since, Kunle and his brother had been his only source of solace in his old age.

Inspector Ajayi Thomas knew all what he did while he was in the police service as an officer, everything was replaying and coming back to him gradually as the deafening noise from the two ambulances that brought the four corpses of his seeds usurped the atmosphere.

He did not struggle to remember anything, because everything was just coming back to hit him harder and harder spontaneously one after the other – he remembered as the whole scenes kept coming back to him one after the other until he got to the old man’s scene who was crushed by the drunk driver in December 1974, fifteen years earlier, while he was in the active service.

The Flashback: What actually happened.

Inspector Ajayi who needed money to sponsor his son to study abroad could not resist the temptation of taking the bribe of one thousand pound sterling dangled before him by the influential father of the drunk young man that killed the poor old farmer who was standing by the roadside.

Inspector Ajayi just needed to make the incident looked complicated to exonerate the young man by distorting the facts that it was the old farmer that was drunk and crossed the road blindly and carelessly.

One thousand pound sterling was packed in a brown envelope that night and was given to Inspector Ajayi to buy his conscience to distort all the evidences at his disposal.

Same night while the corpse of the old man was still lying in the back of the Peugeot panel van that crushed him, Inspector Ajayi bought a bottle of Seaman Aromatic Schnapps and emptied its content into the dead old man’s mouth and poured the rest all over his body – this was a smokescreen to make the old man looked like a careless drunkard.

All these altered the evidences that were brought before the court and used against the dead old man who could not defend himself.

The oldman’s corpse was made to look like he was heavily drunk and dashed to cross the road defenselesly and Peugeot car unpreventably had to hit him.

Case closed. The young guy that killed the old man was acquitted based on the evidences brought by the police that the old farmer caused his own death.

“Nemesis is a shadow, it has run faster and caught up with me” Mr Ajayi thought as his heart cried bitterly.

Oladele Idowu Joseph

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