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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Memories of a fatal April fools’ joke

By Farooq Kperogi

Every April Fools’ Day, I can’t help recalling the story of a fatally tragic April Fools’ joke that caused the death of an old widow, the person who told the joke, and the son of the widow in the northern Oyo town of Saki.

A culturally incompetent high school graduate decided he was going to crack an April Fools’ joke with an old, uneducated widow who had an only son in Lagos for whom she lived and whose accomplishments gave her inexpressibly vicarious joy.

The young man told the old lady that her son in Lagos had died in a car crash. When the woman began to wail in agony, the young man reportedly yelled, “April Fool!”

“Kilo je be?” [Yoruba for “What does that mean?”], the old lady reportedly asked in inconsolable anguish.

Before the young man could translate this uniquely Western humorous tradition into Yoruba, the old lady went into a traumatic shock from which she didn’t recover.

Some accounts said the young man became clinically and permanently insane as a result of what he had inadvertently done. Others said he took his own life.

Upon hearing of the death of his mother days later, it was said, the son of the old woman in Lagos lost his will to live and also took his own life.

I didn’t witness the story. It was probably apocryphal. But it was widely told in my secondary school as a cautionary tale about the dangers of extreme April Fools’ jokes, particularly directed at people who don’t understand the tradition.

I thought I should share the story. It might save a life or two.

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