I struggled to scribble as much of the events my eyes could behold. My hand shook like the waist of a cultural troop dancer. The old village stadium was overcrowded. The village chief, his elders and their robo robo wives occupied the front row; all dressed in royal regalia like it was some feast we were celebrating. Well, yes, it was the New Yam Festival, but no one was here to see any tuber …or masquerade. Everyone here came to send the wicked on a journey of no return. They were here to witness the public execution of a varsity miscreant who allegedly raped and gruesomely murdered a daughter of the soil. And yes. On a venerated festive day.
“May the Lord accept your soul. Amen,” the pot-bellied Priest said and banged his dusty Bible, the expression on his face saying the direct opposite of his prayers. It was obvious he wished his listener baked in hell. A hood was placed over the boy’s head, and the thick noose, fastened to his neck. I saw pity in his eyes, i saw a plea of innocence, i saw God, and i was moved to tears.
Did he really do what he was convicted for? Was His Lordship unduly pressurised by the village to pass a death penalty on him? Did his Attorney do thorough investigation?
When the case was assigned to me by my Editor, i reluctantly accepted it. My last Crime Report on the country’s first use of electric chair left a sour taste in my mouth that i vowed never to cover death sentences again. It was a horrifying experience: The first jolt of 1900 volts passed through the condemned prisoner’s body. Sparks and flames erupted from the electrode tied to his legs. A large puff of greyish smoke and sparks poured out from under the hood that covered his face. An overpowering stench of burnt flesh and clothing pervaded the room. Later, two doctors examined his body but declared he was not dead. He was administered another doze of electricity. His hood burst in flames, revealing a blackened face. Again the doctors examined him, but declared his heart was still racing. A third charge of electricity was passed through his body. The blackened skin exploded, revealing a bone of skull streaming with blood. The doctor checked the third time and pronounced him dead…
“Aww!!!” the cry of the crowd brought me back to the present. The boy had just been hanged, executed, but something was wrong. His head had popped out of his neck. I could see his eyes had also popped out of their sockets, his tongue hung out.
Then a car sped into the arena, causing a sudden fuss in the crowd. A man ran out of the car, holding a piece of paper in hand. Ten minutes later, the word spread in the crowd. The court had just ordered a stay of execution! New evidence showed they had the wrong person. The actual criminal, the boy’s twin, had been caught.