The danger of swimming in another man’s river




Last weekend, I was at my mechanic’s workshop in Kubwa, a sprawling satellite town in the Federal Capital Territory, , when an apprentice was narrating the jungle justice meted out to an adulterer in his community during a recent trip to see his sick old man. Everyone listened with rapt attention as the apprentice spewed the story from under the belly of the car he was fixing for a customer.  Mechanics’ workshops are very fertile grounds for harvesting story ideas, next to beer halls and pepper soup joints.

Journalism has taught me to be a good listener but I have never been a good fan of joints. According to the apprentice, a man was caught pants down playing an away game not only in another’s house but also on his matrimonial bed.

Nemesis struck when the husband of the woman cut short his return journey by three or so days. The adulterers were in the throes of passion when the owner of the woman sneaked in on them. It was when the enraged man landed a side stool on the swimmer’s skull that he stopped the rise-and-fall sexercise on his wife. It was a fatal hit that eventually led to the adulterer hugging an early death.   

The covetous practice of a man swimming in another man’s river is as old as mankind. Recall the Biblical days when King David, standing in his balcony, sighted Bathsheba, the river belonging to one of his soldiers, taking her bath in a nearby roofless bathroom. He coveted her and decided to swim in the warm river. The freestyle (if you are familiar with swimming events) later resulted in a pregnancy. To shorten a long but familiar story, the king got the river owner, Uriah the Hittite, killed in the battle front to cover the crime he committed in the front.

Although King David might be immune to prosecution for his crime, his Creator ensured that he paid dearly by taking peace away from his household as exemplified by the rebellion led by one of his sons, named Absalom. Even the child Bathsheba bore for him from the swimming encounter was not spared.

The apprentice’s account reminds me of a similar incident that happened in Maiduguri in 2016 when a man was knifed to death after being caught swimming very vigorously like a catfish in another man’s river in the bush. The river owner, Bulama Ngama of Ngamma village, near Maiduguri, was arraigned and subsequently convicted on a one-count charge of culpable homicide, not punishable with death, contrary to section 224 of the penal code. Bulama Modu bagged five years or a fine of N250, 000 as a condign “reward” for his murderous effort.

According to the report, Modu had told the court that when his river, Faltama Kundura, flowed from his house on the fateful day to attend a wedding ceremony of her friend in a neighbouring village, he stealthily monitored the flow because he suspected the deceased named Bunu Zarami was following the flow closely and in a suspicious manner. Eventually, he trailed the duo to the bush where he found Bunu swimming vigorously on top of his wife. He told the court that when the adulterous swimmer sighted him, he panicked, pulled a knife and wielded it ostensibly to scare him (“an intruder”) away. But the river owner took advantage of the shocking state the swimmer found himself, and knifed him repeatedly until he gave up the ghost.

I love the comic relief the presiding judge added to the proceeding while delivering his verdict when he said: “Poachers of married women are on the prowl and married men should be extra vigilant and learn to catch a monkey alive.” He noted that it must have been an ordeal, knowing that the deceased had for long been swimming illegally in his river until the duo were caught on the fateful day.

 The Maiduguri tragedy came not long after a similar episode took place in Bayelsa state where a 53-year-old man, Raphael Solomon, in a fit of rage shot dead a man believed to be his wife’s lover while he was swimming in his river at a cassava processing mini plant located in the Aduku Community of Sagbama Local Government Area.

A close family source said the deceased lover boy, identified as 28-year-old Preye Bernard, was the owner of the cassava processing plant used by the couple to process their produce after cultivation in Odi community.

It was gathered that the angry husband, who had been informed of his wife’s alleged immoral relationship with the younger and, perhaps, a more active swimmer, trailed her to the venue and caught them in the midst of the aqua hostilities, to use sportswriters’ parlance.

When I was growing up, a relation told me that if someone threatens to shoot you while hostilities are at the peak or you are about to melt down, you will tell the gunner to open fire! I hope that was not what happened on the cassava farm on that fateful day.

But the average Yoruba man cannot waste his precious time monitoring his river wherever it flows. They have perfected all manner of checks to scare adulterous swimmers away from their rivers. The checks or traps include magun, cockcrow, agglutination and maje’la (don’t eat okra or okro) just to name some. And this is how they function:

Magun (not to be confused with Mangun, a community in Plateau state) is a deterrent. It is planted in the river. Once an adulterous swimmer dives into the river, he will come out and somersault three times and give up the ghost.

The cockcrow is a trap. The swimmer, upon jumping into the river, will feel like crowing like a red-headed fowl. In fact, he will announce to the river that he wants to crow and there is no stopping him. The swimmer will announce his arrival in hell with a very loud crow after giving up the ghost.

Agglutination is a dog-based talisman. Once the swimmer jumps into the river, he stays trapped in the river in the manner of mating dogs and the duo will remain inseparable until death will do them part.

Maje’la. This is a tricky one. You can swim adulterously and freely and get away with it. But the day the swimmer will answer the final summons is the day he tastes okro soup. So, if you see a man avoiding okro soup like a plague, it could be that he is a serial adulterer or fornicator playing safe. 

While Modu has been convicted for taking the law into his own hands, nothing has been heard of what became of Raphael Solomon, the cassava grower, who shot dead his wife’s lover till date.

Well, I have a suggestion for trigger-happy and knife-wielding spouses. They should go for any of the solutions listed above. Juju is not known to law. If any swimmer gets his just dessert while on an illicit swimming spree, the river owner cannot be held liable let alone suffer the kind of punishment the law prescribes for husbands who mete out jungle justice to their rivals.     

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