Who could have thought that a measly N60 would be responsible for the death of a brother in the hands of no other person than his own blood brother, the son of his father? Why would a sibling turn against his own brother? Why? These and others were the questions the villagers of Erua, a rustic village in Edo State were trying to find answers to on that fateful day in 1994.
It was almost midnight in Erua. Most of the villagers had gone to bed. Being a Monday, the first day of the week, the day had been hectic for many of them. Those who were not asleep were on the verge of slipping off to dreamland. Except for the chirping of crickets and occasional howls of stray dogs, the entire village was ensconced in silence and darkness. There was nothing in the air to suggest that something ominous was about to happen.
Suddenly, the peace of the midnight was shattered by the scream of Pa Uwagboe. Ordinarily, crying in the midnight is strange. What was stranger in this case was the fact that the person crying was a man, not only a man, a father and in fact a grandfather. What could make an elderly man, a grandfather to be crying at that time of the night? Those asleep must have thought it was a dream, a nightmare. Yet the crying continued. “My N60! SIXTY NAIRA!” The Old man muttered as he frantically searched the nooks and crannies of his house.
Alas, the N60 had developed wings. It had simply vanished. Who could have done this dastardly act? Stealing from an old man? All the members of the extended family were in a quandary. They all joined the old man in looking for the money in the house. While some checked under the mat, others lifted chairs up; perhaps it fell into the crevice of a chair. Cooking utensils, books and every conceivable object were ransacked. There was no trace of N10 not to talk of N60.
“My S-I-X-T-Y-N-A-I-R-A!” Pa Uwagboe muttered again for the umpteenth time.
“Papa,” Asha Uwagboe, a son of the old man called his father, “It is late and everywhere is dark. Let’s wait till tomorrow and we can all search for the missing money in broad day light.”
It was then that Asha remarked that Frank Uwagboe, his brother, must be somehow connected with the missing N60. On hearing this, Frank was said to have sworn to kill Asha that same night. Upon hearing the threat of death, Asha ran indoor with his immediate family, bolting and barricading the door from inside. Asha, his wife, Patient; Asha’s son, Monday and his own wife, Stella, the four of them cowered together, praying for a miracle to happen.
Gbam!, Gbam!!, Gbam!!! It was the sound of cutlass, demolishing the wooden door. Trapped in the room-and-parlour apartment, Asha grabbed a knife to defend himself and his family. Gbam!!! In a twinkle of an eye, the door gave way and in marched Frank, cutlass dangling dangerously in his hand like the sword of Damocles.
“Please, in the name of God, forgive and forget, please, abeg”. The four of them chorused, pleading for mercy, from the raving rage before them. Time stood still, brother against brother, blood frothing like foam. In the distant, an owl cried mournfully. Asha looked from his brother’s machete to his own knife. The equation was unequalled.
With a stroke, the knife clattered to the floor. Asha raised up his hand, perhaps to protect his head. In a flash, the cutlass descended, meeting the raised hand in motion. The sharp metal cut into the soft flesh, severing both the muscles and the bone. The hand fell, but not to the floor. It hung on tenaciously with loose skin. Blood spluttered as if from a broken dam. Asha screamed in agony as pain tore through his whole body. Monday did not wait. In a jiffy, with the speed of a bullet, he sprinted through the broken door. Stella appeared not to be stellar as she jumped after her husband’s son. Patient was not patient enough to observe what happened next. She ran after her fleeing husband.
Frank gazed at the bleeding crumpled figure. The dripping machete, newly tainted with fresh blood, hung limply from his hand. The deed had been done. In that sober moment of clarity, only God knew what went through his mind.
The neighbours were woken again by the midnight commotion. Sleepily, they dragged themselves outside, wondering what the uproar was all about. At the sight of the blood soaked Asha, they became wide-awake instantly. They carried the bleeding man to a nearby house. A traditional first-aid was administered, the hand was tied. Monday brought out his motorcycle and took his father to Ehor Maternity Hospital. From there, Asha was taken to Suyi Hospital in Benin where he died two days later.
Where was Frank all these time? Frank appeared to have disappeared into thin air. It was about three years later that he was sighted at Auchi Motor Park.
On Thursday, August 5, 2004, ten years after the deed was done, the High Court sitting in Benin held that the prosecution had proved his case against Frank Uwagboe beyond reasonable doubt. He was accordingly found guilty as charged. He was sentenced to death by hanging.
Frank appealed both his conviction and sentence to the Court of Appeal which dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the trial Court. The final lap of the tortuous race ended at the Supreme Court. The apex court dismissed Frank’s appeal. His conviction and sentence were upheld.
Frank was to pay the supreme price for his momentary loss of self-control.