Friday, December 22, 2006

Cain and Abel

The above is the picture of three of four Nigerians boys convicted on Tuesday, for the murder of a Sierra Leonian woman last year in Peckham. The murder of Zainab Kalokoh at a christening party last year upset me greatly for several reasons.

I know the area where she was killed very well. I used to hang out with a good friend when they lived on the street where it happened, just down the road from me in New Cross. The brutality of her murder. They shot her as she carried her baby niece, then proceeded to rob the rest of the well-wishers. And also it was where she was killed, in a community hall, the kind in which Nigerians abroad have parties all the time.

I sneer at these parties all the time, after all it's the older non-integrated generation who have parties in these places. Why would a supposedly well conditioned British Nigerian like me not sneer? It's in these places that people keep their ties to home, to the motherland, something Nigerian immigrants are incredibly adept at. It's one of the places where families get away from some grinding nine pms to five ams, to touch home again. It's night cleaners, caterers, labourers put on their Saturday night best, to revel in the great leveller that is London.

The places ar filled with the "if we weren't in London" kind talk - the great leveller London. It's where the legit and the illegit mix, the lawyer, the council worker, the people from Ibadan, Onitsha, and Lokoja entwine with their own once again. It's not the Nigeria of the Lagos metropolitan "I'm the average" Nigerian elite. It's where the parents speak to their children in various Nigerian languages without the child cringing for fear of shredded street cred. The other kids' parents also speak to them in that language. It's where the kids actually tease other kids for butchering their Nigerian names. They're Chigozie and Kunle rather John and James.

For many of these children, it's as close as they've ever gotten to where "my mum's from". It's where their diet doesn't smell or seem strange. It's the burning bush of immigrant communities. It's where the sandals come off. It's sacred ground.

These butchers probably knew all this, and that's why they went there. The one on the right, Jude Odigie, for want of a less courteous word, has a sergeant-major on his face. You don't get more Nigerian than that. The one on the left, Diamond Babamuboni, looks like he'd fit in as an Alabaru at Iddo market. I blame his name. Diamond, what the hell does that mean? The one in the middle is Timy Babumuboni, Diamond's younger brother. The fourth kid can't be named, probably because of a court order on account of his age.

Whenever Nigerians in Britain are convicted of violent crimes in this country, I'm shocked. I don't associate Nigerians with knives and guns. Credit card fraud, possibly drugs, but nothing involving weapons. Yes, I know all these things are tied. I'm naive - just look at Nigeria. Of course there's the argument that these kids aren't even Nigerian.

The pictures appeared in the Daily Telegraph in an article screaming blue murder about Britain's immigration system. Some of the boys should have been removed from the country. But their legal status changes nothing on the severity of the crime.

The Bamuboni's came to Britain in 1994, after their father had been killed in a robbery. In 1990s Nigeria, that was par for the course, lives were scythed down with a much ease as a gardener trims hedges. Families fled. Zainab Kalokoh was escaping the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone - a place where rebels asked potential victims, "short sleeve or long sleeve". Which mean, would you like your arm chopped off at above the elbow, or at the wrist.

Legally or illegally, comfortably or uncomfortably, Britain gave them succour. One set took the path of Cain, the other took that of Abel, a lamb to be slaughtered. Just thought I'd give you some season's cheer...

12 comments:

Morountodun said...

I like you was of the opinion that those community halls on estates were the preserve of the older generation and not for UK educated Naijas like me. But in the last few years as my friends have started to marry, have babies and celebrate those 1st year birthdays, I have found myself visiting such halls more and more...

Akin said...

I was in one such hall hardly 5 months ago - I take this opportunity - I felt like a fish out of water.

I could not help but notice the prominence of the lips, as if there is some dietary link to that visage.

Beyond that, how is it that the so-called tightly-knit communities that meet in these halls could have allowed such dereliction of responsibility that kids end up thriving in this way?

As for them probably not being Nigerians, I have heard that line before, where Africans from other countries caught in crimes say they are Nigerian but when lauded know exactly where they are from.

If this conspiracy does exist, I think we are in more trouble about the tarnishing of our heritage than we first thought.

It is a sad story, really a sad story.

Beautifully Human said...

...and they're all as ugly as sin!!!

Dilch said...

@ Beautifully human
Of course that is the important point, and trust you to mention it
Nkem, good story and I feel you, just to correct you though, I think the one in the middle is the Jide one and the one on the right and the left are the brothers. I dont know why the other guy can't be named, I think he's 17, but the Timy guy is definitely younger than him. There are legal reasons, but I don't think it can just be cos of his age
I know what you mean about community halls, who hasn't been to one. Those guys are shameful!! I can't believe anyone could be that cold blooded, Nigerian or not

April said...

London is indeed a leveller.

The manner in which this crime was committed is reminiscent of some armed robberies in Nigeria. It's interesting that the father of the Babuoni brothers is said to have also been killed by armed robbers.

Very sad.

Monef said...

@april - I think that is what creeps me out the most. Any trips to Nigeria are always tainted with the fear of armed robbery, so it is extremely depressing to learn that the purveyors of the trade have set up shop here in London.

RJ said...

Alot of people from other African countries claim to be from Nigeria when they are caught in a crime, it happens here in the US also, why? I would love to know, 'cos I have no Idea. Of course, to the white man or foreigner theres no distinction, no way to comfirm it because to him and everyone else, "they all sound alike"

Its so sad though, and the brutality of it all is astonishing...what where they thinking?

Confessions of a moody crab said...

'The places ar filled with the "if we weren't in London" kind talk - the great leveller London. It's where the legit and the illegit mix, the lawyer, the council worker, the people from Ibadan, Onitsha, and Lokoja entwine with their own once again.'


True say.....

Dami said...

i like the you described the halls
"i heard the gunshot richochet off the ceiling"
I cant believe they are nigerians

"Beyond that, how is it that the so-called tightly-knit communities that meet in these halls could have allowed such dereliction of responsibility that kids end up thriving in this way?"
@akin
like nkem said, most parents are doing 9-5 pm-am am-pm

imnakoya said...

The murder of Zainab Kalokoh by this ugly bunch is a fallout of an inefficient justice and social service departments. These guys should have been institutionalized long ago. Their rap sheets as long as they are is a clear indication that they ought to have been taken off the street. The issue of their nationality isn't that relevant; they could have been Jamaicans or Russians, it doesn't matter. When criminals strike, the anguish left in their wake cuts across ethnic or national boundaries.

The issue is do the residents in these crime-infested neighborhood have any political clout to effect a change? This mess is in their backyards, what are they doing about it? Apathy has no place in a society where public policies are driven by knowledgeable and vocal citizens. This people (I want to believe are tax-payers) need to organize and speak up!

2plus2 said...

until recently I lived in London and grew up in Hackney. These boys are like the boys I went to school with who just got lost in the system and really did not care. Their parents were so busy trying to make a living that they did not have time to see what was happeneing to the kids. I know. I have been in such communities. It took share guts, will power and strength for my mother not to loose her sons. The system does that to you. Almost helplessness creeps in, apathy and the gangster culture takes over and you feel invincible. Many of these communities do not want to participate in local politics and therefore will not be registering to vote and effect changes through their local counil. They think it does not work but it does, it is not like Nigeria. It is so sad that once again, Nigerian youth are involved in such violent crime.

Bebe'sHistory said...

Your descriptions of the 'naked' interactions that abound when all these Nigerians of differenct backgrounds come together was quite insighful; I could just picture it. I imagine it is the same here in America.