This is a selection from my Twitter project small fates, a Fénéon-inspired series of (non-fictional) news briefs drawn from Nigerian newspapers. I worked on the project on and off from February 2011-February 2013. For more, see here, and here, and here.
"In doing this, I was leaning on the old French journalistic practice of the faits divers, which has not really caught on that much in the English-speaking world. But it’s been around in France for hundreds of years. Basically what they are is small, uncredited news items that appear in a column in the newspaper. … Around 1906, a writer — an anarchist and art historian, as it turns out — named Felix Feneon, for the newspaper Le Matin, for the course of 1906, was writing them. He somehow ended up elevating them to an art form. Where people were writing these news stories in a very plain and somewhat dull way before, he injected them with irony, with a dark humor, with a kind of epigrammatic compression."
1. Eyes closed please. While one man led prayers at Christ Happyhome Church in Sango Ota, three of his accomplices robbed the congregation.
2.Shamsudeni was sleeping in Nyanya when Abubakar sneaked into his house, crept into his bed, and woke up part of him.
3. Ude, of Ikata, recently lost his wife. Tired of arguing with her, he used a machete.
4. Some moms make empty threats. Not Anyah, of Lafia, who brought Joseph into this world and, over a land dispute, took him out of it.
5. “He doesn’t.” “She won’t let me.” Court testimony from Saratu and Isa, of Kaduna, who last did it ten years ago.
6. down. The Lagos office of Xerox burned down. The Lagos office of Xerox burned down. The Lagos office of Xerox burned down. The Lagos
7. A common fantasy: going back to destroy one’s primary school. Olumide, of Benin City, actually did it, and will spend 18 months in jail.
8. A dyslexic tailor in Bichi accidentally said, “the Prophet has come to market.” Blasphemy. The resulting interfaith dialogue left four dead.
9. MYXOMATOSIS. n. 1 Viral disease of rabbits. 2 Radiohead song. 3 Word spelled by Ibukun, 15, in Abuja to win the 2012 Spellbound Contest.
10. Arrested for theft in Mecca, the Nigerian immigrant Ibrahim is now learning to use his left hand.
11. God is in all things. In Lagos, ThankGod was murdered by his brother. In Abuja, Godswill was appointed Minister of Power.
12. “It’s the Devil. I don’t normally do this kind of thing,” Ogwuche clarified in Kogi after robbing and killing the fishmonger Victoria Moses.
13. In a spectacular case of carelessness, Ugbo, 75, of Benin, a witch doctor specializing in arrest-evasion amulets, has been arrested.
14. Some ladies whisper sweet nothings to their boyfriends. Into the ear of hers, Ejima, 35, in Asaba, poured hot Indomie noodles.
15. Monkey see, monkey do! Many of those who gathered to watch a troupe of baboons perform at Ikotun found their wallets lighter afterwards.
16. Lesbians! There are reports of more and more of them in Calabar, which is great. Greatly worrisome. And terrible. Terribly exciting.
17. In London (1755), Oyo (1897), and Lagos (2012), respectively, Samuel Johnson was a lexicographer, historian, and fake soldier.
18. Boarding her London-bound flight in Lagos, grandma Fatimat Abike absent-mindedly exceeded the cocaine carry-on limit by 1.74 kg.
19. According to the Chief Medical Officer of the Lagos DNA Centre, 50% of their paternity tests came back negative, you bastards.
20. When you get that feeling, you need sexual healing. But, also, consent. Niyi, 35, a security guard in Ile-Ife, has been arrested.
21. With a snap, an electrical pole in Sabo fell on Okolie’s car. With a crackle, it began to electrocute it. With a pop, he escaped.
22. In Cross River, the retired soldier Agbiji slapped his wife just once, but he misjudged his strength and is now a widower.
23. Prince Monday Whiskey was, on Monday, whisked away by persons unknown.
24. Unfairly accused by journalist Ibya of abuse of power, the First Lady of Benue had his wife, children, uncle, and mother-in-law arrested.
25. At Adeniji Adele, Lagos, both of Mr Adio’s wives are in hot water, the first for having poured it on the second.
26. Mrs Sofunlayo delivered a baby at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. And another. And another. And another. Done! No, one more.
27. What has three faces and four legs in Osogbo? Babatunde, 33, and Adebayo, 38, holding the severed head of Abefe, 65.
28. In Kubwa a man armed with a toy gun stole a real Camry.
29. In the matter of a 12-year-old girl in Ekiti, Innocent, 35, admits he wasn’t.
30. The members of a fake Super Glue syndicate in Ikotun came to a sticky end.
31. In Ojota last night, Teju Cole, 36, underwent an extreme form of literary criticism: he was relieved of his laptop at gunpoint.
32. Someone has a mania for democracy. 1,388 voting machines were stolen from the Electoral Commission in Lagos.
33. In a heavy morning fog, Mohammed, of Bauchi, couldn’t see who was following him. Frightened, he knocked the person dead. His wife.
34. Oluwatosin was swimming in a pool in Ikotun when he entered the past tense.
35. Four men of Zamfara who went deep into the earth in search of gold are now the earth’s.
36. If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother. With petrol and matches, Akinkuotu, of Ondo, orphaned himself.
37. Fleet-fingered Wasiu skilfully snatched N20,000 at Anthony Bus Stop but, being a modest man, insisted it was the Devil’s work.
38. At the City Centre Hotel in Surulere, Boniface Nwachie died happy.
39. To prevent future terrorist attacks and fix dangerous roads, the Nigerian Senate will consider a bill prohibiting gay marriage.
40. A man from Chad, stopped in Badagry, was carrying nine tusks from which the elephants had been removed.
41. At N7 million per kilo, double its price three months ago, cocaine is no longer affordable for most middle-class families in Lagos.
42. Age is nothing but a number. For James Eze, businessman and pedophile in Ogoja, the number is 2.
43. As the deeds of the former Speaker of the House were being brought to light at the Federal High Court, there was a power outage.
44. The Nigeria Police motto is “the police is your friend,” but Taiwo, 25, beaten in Alapere for not paying a bribe, has his doubts.
45. Did too many of Professor Igbafe’s pretty female students at the University of Benin graduate with honors? Yes.