After Long Years – A True Life Story, Part One

Road to Nowhere

In the cosmopolitan town of Abakaliki, eastern Nigeria, there was a prosperous young trader called Mr. Onyia. He was a handsome, tall, fair complexioned, progressive man with five rented houses and a fleet of six stores in the town. He was a guitarist and a drunkard, although he gave up drinking as soon as he got married to a young lady of a rear beauty named Tessy. But after marrying his wife, Mr. Onyia returned to his old way of occasionally drinking with a greater sense of responsibility.

Just a day before he set off to Lagos, western Nigeria to collect more merchandise for his stores, Tessy, his wife told him of a dream she had the night before. The dream was an unhappy one in which she saw the husband coming back from town and when he took off his hat; she observed that his hair was quite grey. He dismissed the wife’s dream as a child’s play. He said the wife feared he would drink and play guitar when he got to Lagos on a business. Emphatically, he said he would do good trade and come back with something for the members of his family, and then he set out.

At Enugu, eastern Nigeria, he met an old comrade of his profession on a similar journey to Lagos. They travelled together. At Onitsha, eastern Nigeria, night came and they decided to lodge in a hotel because night travel was risky as they carried heavy sums of money for their trade. After their supper, they had drinks and guitar play by Mr.Onyia. They retired to beds in rooms side by side. Mr. Onyia could not sleep throughout the night, because of his sense of business intuition. He picked his bags and went to the hotel manager and paid off his bills. He did not call on his fellow traveler next door because it was not yet morning. He left the hotel at 3am approximately, by himself.

At Benin, mid-western Nigeria the bus carrying Mr. Onyia and other passengers stopped for the passengers to refresh. No sooner did Mr. Onyia refresh himself in a hotel, he brought out his guitar to entertain a group of anxious fans. As he was playing, four officers of the Criminal Investigation Department arrived. As master detectives they did not waste time to identify Mr. Onyia as the man who left an Onitsha hotel in eastern Nigeria at 3am that early morning.

Apart from numerous questions put to him, they asked Mr. Onyia in addition, “why did you go away from the hotel before day light?” Mr. Onyia replied, “Why are you questioning me as if I have done something wrong? I am journeying on business for myself and I see no need for all these questions.” One of the officers said, “I am questioning you because the trader who was with you last night is dead, with his throat cut and money removed.” They told him they would search him. They searched Mr. Onyia and his bags, seeing a blood marked knife in his bag, the officers gave a loud cry of astonishment. They questioned him how the blood got to the knife but Mr. Onyia was flabbergasted and could not give them a satisfactory answer since he claimed ownership of the bags. It was highly incongruous to disclaim the blood stained knife. With the following words, he was taken back to Onitsha. Going into the room this morning, a servant saw the trader in bed with his throat cut. “You were the only person with him and the house was locked from inside. Here is this blood marked knife in your bag and your face and actions are suspicious. How did you put him to death? And how much did you take,” the officer asked. Rigorous investigations revealed that Mr. Onyia had a sum of $40,000.

After one month in a black hole of “Calcutta” known as “Police cell,” he was charged in court for murder and robbery of many thousands of dollars.

While in the cell, Tessy with her four children, one, a baby of two months old, visited their father and husband. He narrated his misfortune to his wife and his wife recalled her dream. Both wept.

The wife knew that her husband could not have the courage to kill a fellow trader because of money, but you see, she could do nothing about the situation. After taking his last parting from his family, the wife and children were escorted out remaining the suspect in the cell under a heavy chain and handcuff. His case was taken to the criminal assizes of the High Court of Justice and the tried by the Honorable Mr. Justice-Do-Well.

After a rigorous legal battle, the presiding judge found, as a matter of fact, that the weight of circumstantial evidence supported by a blood stained exhibit knife was against the accused. Although the charge of murder was reduced to manslaughter due to many legal authorities and cases cited by battalion of lawyers defending the accused, the case closed pending judgment. The judge went into the chamber and wrote his judgment. The judgment was read in the open court for precisely two hours. All laymen in court were wrapped in amazement. No one knew what the end would be; as the learned judge went on to read his famous two hour judgment. The learned lawyers at the Bar were attentively listening as the judgment reminded them of the qualities of mercy, whatsoever happens one of the qualities of mercy is that it drops like gentle rain from heaven, it blesses him that gives and him that receives.

But in spite of everything, the law is not a respecter of persons. Mr. Onyia was found guilty and the law took its course, he was sentenced to life jail.

The imprisonment was with hard labor. Before Mr. Onyia was led to Onitsha convict prison, he said in a pathetic voice:

“It seems that only God has knowledge of what is true, it is in him only that we are to put our hopes and only from him may loving comfort come Amen.”

NEXT CHAPTER: After Long Years – A True Life Story, Part Two

more by EMEKA ONYIA

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