In its current refrain within the pop culture in Nigeria, credit for the above title belongs to the songstress, Tiwa Savage. Somebody’s Son, the title of Tiwa’s last album, was released in late 2021.Featuring the equally talented African-American singer, Brandy Norwood, the song received almost instant warm critical and dance-floor acclaim and ended up as a personal favourite for the year.
The song, something of a dexterous mix of two emotions, silkily glided from a poignant outpouring of forlorn love experience to an upbeat melody of yearning and resolute hope for better love prospects. The lyrics in a mellifluous swing of emotions that speak of the singer’s deep talent, moved from, “Am tired of getting it wrong/Should I try again?/But now my heart e still dey pain me…” to a pitch of promise and optimistic yearning: “This won’t be another heartbreak song/ Somebody’s son go love me one day. One day/I don dey wait, don stay too far away…”
The artistic score of the song is actually not the real issue here. This is not a review. By one of those uncanny coincidences of life, however, at about the same time that Tiwa Savage’s song was gaining massive hit on the airwaves and the dancefloor, somebody’s son, an innocent one at that, jarringly came into national consciousness through a tragedy that claimed his unfolding life.
Sylvester Oromoni Junior, somebody’s son, became one more addition to Nigeria’s overflowing song book of tragedies, a metaphor for a land that consumes its young and prime children. Somebody’s son died in his innocence, wrapped in a heart-rending nightmare that no parent will ever wish to experience.
In the song, Somebody’s Son, Tiwa Savage was singing of love and its often-attendant heartbreak and desire. She certainly was not thinking or singing of heartbreak in an extreme case of a morbid tragedy. Yet, the title of the alluring song captured in a most poetic, even if unintended way, a dark reference to an innocent 12-year-old boy who died so tragically and so suddenly for reasons his devastated parents my never know.
The death at the upper class Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, on November 30, 2021, may have become a subject for national anger, protestation and even pseudo-child right activism for some seeking for anything to latch on to in the quest for public notice. At the end of the day, however, when the crowd dispersed as it has almost done on the matter, when the social media move on to other emergent tragedies and upheavals in a society brimming with such, after parents whose children were accused, rightly or wrongly, of culpability in the Dowen death had effectively applied all influences to shield their children from indictment, and after Dowen College has done all it could to protect its business, somebody’s son has died mysteriously, a victim of no known offence. Gone too soon. Such a painful loss.
Sadly, the nightmare of the Oromonis has already gone the way of such incidents in Nigeria. Rarely does the root of any mishap get convincingly established in this land. If they want to add insult to injury, even prime state functionaries will tell you along the line that it is God’s will. And that will be that. As if the God of Nigeria is a god that constantly sanctions tragedies, wickedness and recklessness.
The death of such a young child as Sylvester Oromoni Jnr., especially in the manner he died, cannot be anything but devastating to any parent. The state of their mind and life can only be imagined. When such a death came by way of suspected foul play, the pain and anger cannot even be imagined. The Oromonis insisted right from the outset that their child died from callous acts of bullying at Dowen College. Their child, poor boy, though he reportedly muttered some words at the end on what happened to him, obviously could not leave a clear report of who did what damage to his tender body. There were references to his being locked up in a cupboard for days, his being beaten for a prolonged period, his being forced to take some unhealthy substances, etc. Based on the names the young boy mentioned before his death, the police arrested and detained five students and five staff of Dowen College as part of the necessary investigation into the cause of death of the boy.
As at the beginning of the new year, one month after young Oromoni’s death, two autopsies have reportedly been carried out. The first was said to have been conducted as early as December 2, 2021, at the Central Hospital, Warri, by a consultant pathologist, Clement Vhriterhire. An uncle of the deceased, the investigating police officer and a lawyer were also reported to have witnessed the exercise. A second autopsy followed subsequently.
On the heels of the autopsies, the Lagos Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) reportedly exonerated the five students and five staff of Dowen College initially accused of complicity in the death. An agency report quoted an official of the relevant Lagos State department as saying that “investigation did not establish any prima facie case of murder against the accused.”
Indeed, the same report quoted the official as stating that “autopsy showed that the late Mr. Oromoni developed severe septicaemia (sepsis) as a result of an infection on his right ankle”.
You certainly will not expect the traumatized family of the deceased young boy to accept even the autopsy reports and the stance of the Lagos State DPP. They promptly dismissed them. Mr. Sylvester Oromoni Snr., father of the deceased, pointedly accused Lagos State government and the police of conspiring to cover up the circumstances surrounding his son’s death. In any case, Mr. Oromoni said, “the management of Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos, has always claimed that my late son sustained the injury while playing football. All evidence gathered so far has shown that this is not the true story but a way to cover up their negligence.”
So, where does the matter go from here? Possibly nowhere. At the end of the day, the poor innocent boy has died, a victim of a society where crookedness is prevalent in quarters where rectitude and care ought to reign. Oromoni Jnr. is dead and gone. And the dead, whether boys or men, don’t tell tales. The fact that even such sombre, scientific procedure as autopsy is being dismissed by a party in this matter as a tool in a conspiracy speaks of how far southward integrity and trust have gone in Nigerian society.
There should ordinarily be no sense or plausibility in a charge of conspiracy against a state government in an investigation into the tragic death of a student. Such an accusation is anchored, however, on the reality of our present state of being, a reality that everything is possible. The fact that the students mentioned in the allegation of culpability in the bullying of Oromoni Jnr., leading to his death, are reportedly from families with means and political reach leaves the Oromonis with the nagging feeling that they cannot get justice. Maybe they are right. Maybe there is no basis for their fear. If the truth must be said though, Dowen College substantially created this nagging feeling in the Oromonis that the truth is far from what has been fed to them. Schools to which parents entrust the life and future of their wards owe a lot more to parents than they owe to protecting their financial interest, which is what seems to weigh more these days. And it is not only at Dowen College.