House keepers from hell

Death is everywhere but the Yoruba would say one does not stay in one’s bedroom and get strangled. I do not think that thesis is valid again. Danger lurks anywhere domestic duties are outsourced to “unknown” outsiders.

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French novelist and playwright, Honore de Balzac, said when there is an old maid in the house, a watchdog is unnecessary. He was wrong. Old maids over time have proven to be as too bad as they have been too good. Taking eyes off servants because they have stayed long and have flaunted that thing called integrity can even get out of hand. Lives are repeatedly lost and destinies altered forever.

This is no allegory or satire about the outsourcing of our survival as a nation to strange politicians who speak with a million tongues. There is no need talking about that one. We have been told to surrender and expect tougher times moving forward. Life will teach the laid back how to live it. This is rather about us thinking that because the water is calm, there are no crocodiles there. As a people, we see little alarm in being eaten by alien vultures and losing our chickens to familiar hawks. So, we pay handsomely for poison – thinking it is tonic for our weary or lazy bones.  This is about obedient domestic workers murdering their employers. It is about house keepers stealing their bosses’ lovely kids. Lagos in particular has become notorious for killer cooks and kidnapper house maids. You remember the Ondo chief who was murdered in his bedroom a few weeks ago in Lagos? You also remember the many cases of Togolese or Beninois maids stealing their madams’ kids? Many of such calamities go unreported with traumatized victims sobbing quietly in closet mourning rooms.

Three Saturdays ago, another one happened– still unreported by the mainstream media. It was in an estate in Lagos. A friend of the family told me the horrid story – another murder in the bedroom. Daddy and mummy had their driver. There was another driver for their daughter. That Saturday, Baba and Mama had a wedding ceremony to attend. Baba and Mama left for the ceremony with their driver. Before they got to the estate gate, Mama discovered that they didn’t have money on them. She forgot the envelope containing the cash gift she wanted to give the bride’s mum. So, they went back. They got to their compound, Mama went in alone to pick the cash. Baba was in the car outside, waiting. He waited and waited. His wife did not come out. He went in to hurry her up. Baba met his wife lifeless in the bedroom. What happened? His wife had been strangled. Who did it?

I have always believed that injecting complete strangers in one’s home is poisonous. It is in the nature of vultures to descend where they perceive carrion. It turned out that as Mama entered to pick the envelope, the other driver was right there in her bedroom packing treasures. She confronted him and he strangled her. The bandit ran out through the back door and scaled the fence to a neighbour’s compound. He changed his clothes and tried to walk casually away. He did not know that someone had seen him. He was caught and handed over to the police. But the poor woman is gone forever. She will be buried in the next two weeks. My friend, the storyteller, said home helps never help anyone. But if you must have them, adopt the Boys Scouts’ motto: Be Prepared. Being strangled in your own bedroom by someone you employed is horrendous! The slain woman will be buried before the end of the year. We will forget her case, and somewhere someday again, someone will engage another home help without ‘shining’ their eyes.

I got another case: The big man has two female children. The man’s daughters are his life. He entrusted their safety to and from school to his honest driver. But the driver soon realized he could use the girls to fill his criminally deep cistern of lust. He started sleeping with the girls. The elder of the two girls was 11. They must never tell anyone, he threatened them. The trusted driver would carry the oga to the office then go and pick the daughters from school, sleep with them before dropping them at home.  This was on for years without the parents having a hint of anything. But neighbours always know such secrets. One of them saw that the girls were extremely withdrawn, kept to themselves and trembled in fear as any man moved closer to them.  This neighbour pressed the younger child for reasons for their strange behaviors. After assurances of confidentiality, she opened up.  Cans of worms.  Every day, the evil man took any one he chose. The girls had no guts to confide in anyone – not even their Mum. They lived abused and carried the trauma until deliverance came from outside.

The Chinese equates good neighbours with gold. They don’t rust. So it was proved in this case. Alarmed neighbours called on the girls’ dad. One of them said he had a dream that a major calamity would  befall him through a highly trusted and close staff.  They asked him who was his most trusted employee.  He said confidently that it was his driver. He trusted him and could leave his life in his hands.  The man was told to separate himself from his trusted employee in the interest of his life.  He did. He was never told what the real issues were.  He has only those daughters and he loves them dearly. The girls are grown now, doing very well, but not all stories end that quietly in a bitter-sweet manner. Six months ago, there was a national newspaper report of 28 -year-old Thaddaeus Jaja, a native of Opobo, Rivers State, who killed his 35-year-old boss, Lt. Yahaya Abubakar and his girlfriend, Lauren Onye. Why? He asked him for money but the boss said he had no money but was  instead spending heavily on the girlfriend. Jaja decided to kill the girlfriend who was enjoying what he couldn’t. The suspect told newsmen that he strangulated the lady in her bedroom: “As she was lying helplessly on the ground, I went to the kitchen, took a knife and stabbed her on the chest and she died on the spot. I took her body to the sitting room and hid it behind the three-seater chair and was thinking of how to dispose of her body. So I went and bought a small cutlass which I intended to use in dismembering her body, but before I knew what was going on, my boss came back and he discovered that the rug in the sitting room was wet and he asked me to mop it up. When he asked about his girlfriend, I told him that I didn’t meet her when I came.He tried calling her but her phone was switched off. He then entered his bedroom and slept off.

“At that time, I knew there was no way I could dispose of the corpse without my boss knowing; then, I decided to kill my boss also so as to end all traces to me. So, by 4am, while my boss was deep in sleep, I hit him on the head with a cutlass and covered his face with one of the pillows then I stabbed him on the chest. When I confirmed he was dead, I brought out his girlfriend’s travelling bag and dumped his corpse in it. Then, I wore his uniform, took the bag into his car and I drove off with it. If I hadn’t worn his uniform, there was no way, I would have been allowed to leave the barracks with his car. Then, I drove to a bush in Apani area of Rivers State. After I had bought fuel from a petrol station, I set the corpse ablaze and took the car to Benin. I took his ATM to Lagos where I withdrew N2,500,000 from his account.

“I also wrote an sms with his phone to one of Lauren’s friends known as Joy and I made it look like my boss was the person writing her since I was using his phone. I told her that her friend was dead and she died during a fight with me over our relationship. I took advantage of some of their conversations which I had heard in the past where my boss told his girlfriend that he could not marry her because his father had found him a wife. So I told joy that I, the boss, killed her friend because she refused to accept the sum of N500,000 which I gave her as a payoff. I told her that I stabbed her to death because she insisted on collecting N3 million from me as compensation for the time she had spent with me.

“I told her friend to go to my boss’s house and retrieve Lauren’s corpse as I was on my way out of the country. I also told her that she shouldn’t call me. I later sold my boss’ car for N1.9 million. Then I went into a spending spree with women, sleeping in expensive hotels and going to night clubs. After a while, I discovered I had only N300,000 left and I became scared, so I went back to Port Harcourt with the intention of setting up a business. But when I got to Port Harcourt, I didn’t know how the police knew I was in town and they came and arrested me where I was. I need to let you know that I have no intention of killing my boss and his girlfriend. I killed her because she was the person who prevented my boss from paying me my money. The girl was the person who told him to send me out of his house.”

The list of such atrocious acts is almost endless. But it must end. It will end when couples, ‘big men,’ and ‘big madams’  carefully weigh options between their careers, their safety and that of their children. Do they really need that stranger in their lives? They should always know that the devil lurks in unlikely souls. Indeed, when you let Satan into your temple, look forward to that day he will take over the pulpit. A stranger allowed into the kitchen is a potential invader of the master bedroom.

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