On Wednesday, May 9, 1979, Nafiu Isyaku Rabiu and his beautiful wife Fatima hosted his three friends to a dinner in the verdant garden of his Dawaki Road, Kano residence. After the sumptuous feast, toasts and clinking glasses, the friends left the “happy” couple “quite alright” at around 11pm.
The following day, Kano awoke to the most celebrated murder case in history. The story was that Nafiu Rabiu, the prima donna of Kano socialites and oldest son of a rich Kano cleric, Sheikh Isyaku Rabiu, had murdered his wife, Fatima. Nafiu Rabiu was in those days notorious for alleged methomania, reckless driving, vanity and hedonistic lifestyle.
In the public court, Nafiu Rabiu was pronounced guilty of killing his wife by pushing her down stairs. According to some accounts, the then governor of Kano State, Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi, took a vow to send Nafiu Rabiu to the gallows, just as Fatima’s millionaire dad, Tijjani Aliyu Dagazau, undertook to ensure justice for her at all costs.
But to the chagrin of the state, the family of the deceased and the people of Kano who trooped to “Kotun Nafiu” on Court Road, Kano to witness the proceedings, the Supreme Court on November 21, 1980 (exactly 37 years ago yesterday) dismissed the appeal of Kano State government.
In their testimonies, Nafiu Rabiu’s cook and driver gave the account of what transpired in the house on May 10, 1979. The cook said he came to the house in the morning and strangely found the door locked, and when he asked his colleague (the driver), who normally kept the keys to the main building, for the key, he told him was not given the key.
After waiting for a couple of hours, Nafiu Rabiu opened the window and threw the keys to the driver. At 10am, Nafiu Rabiu re-appeared and asked his cook to open the kitchen door as he had misplaced the keys to the front door. Nafiu later came out holding “soiled blankets and clothes” and asked his driver to put them into the boot of his Peugeot 504. Nafiu then asked the driver to pick his mother in-law in his other car, a Mercedes-Benz saloon, from Kano airport. According to Nafiu’s account, the mother-in-law was due to arrive from Niamey that day.
Nafiu later drove out in his Peugeot 504 and instructed his cook to serve his wife (who according to Nafiu Rabiu’s account was asleep when he left the house) when she woke up. For the first time, Nafiu left the keys to the door leading from the kitchen to the lounge and other parts of the main house with the cook.
Later in the noon, their children (who apparently slept the previous night elsewhere) were driven to the house. With the keys left, the cook opened the inner lounge leading the room to the children. They found their mother dead.
Those who saw Fatima’s body suspected foul play after noticing injuries and signs of strangulation. The state took up the matter, hiring top pathologists to conduct autopsy on her body. The team of the four pathologists who conducted the post-mortem examination was led by Dr. Bansi Badan Tribedi, a senior Consultant Pathologist working as pathologist since 1948 in Calcutta, United Kingdom and Ghana for 14years, and in Nigeria for seven years.
But despite state resources, public interest, the influence of Fatima’s father, the prosecution failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that Fatima had died as a result of strangulation that led to asphyxia.
Similar cases abound where powerful families escaped the hangman’s noose for their ability to pay for expensive legal services. A story was also told of how late maverick billionaire, Deinde Fernendez, footed the legal bill of his sister-in-law, Maryam Maude, who was tried and later acquitted of murder of her boyfriend about 10 years ago. The case of Mohammed Knight, Deji Adeyanju, Kabiru Ali Maitangaran and Musa Musa Daura who were tried and acquitted for killing one Alhasan Ali at No. 73, Church Road, Sabongari Kano in 2005, is still fresh in our mind.
With the exception of Salisu Babuga’s case (I think in 1987), who was hanged decades after killing his friend, Mamuda, most cases involving the rich families go unpunished or get lighter sentences. But a “two-fighting” between ordinary Nigerians who cannot afford legal service may lead to jail term. In Nigeria, what is clearly a coroner’s case, is left for the family of the victim to “support”. This is how our country is.
Maryam Sanda’s case has proved that domestic violence is not male exclusive act. With a few exceptions (such as Nafiu Rabiu’s case), male partners are always at the receiving end of fatal domestic abuse. Of course male at times display their dexterity in kickboxing on their wives, but cases of stabbing and poisoning of husbands are prominent among women.
I am also one of those who want Maryam Sanda to die by firing squad for the brutal killing of her husband, Bilyamin Bello last weekend. But the fact of the matter is that the law is an ass. The way Maryam Sanda rigged up the scene of the murder by breaking a bottle of Shisha tells every discerning mind that they were prepared for a legal showdown.
Unlike in the case Nafiu Rabiu’s wife where experienced pathologists were immediately engaged for autopsy, in Bilyamin’s case, I learn on good authority that no autopsy was carried out. This is no good tidings.
May Bilyamin get justice not “law” as American novelist, William Gaddis, averred: “You get justice in the next world. In this one you have the law.”