By Yetunde Arebi
Let’s just say that I am still smarting from Malam Salisu Mogaji’s torture of his seven month old step-daughter and last week’s article. Something however keeps me going back to us as women and the need to take motherhood more seriously. A woman I’d been acquainted with for over four years shared her story growing up with me last Mothering Day (Mother’s day to some), and I walked away almost in tears after our long discussion. “Ma, is it right for a mother who abandoned a child at a tender age to expect that the child will love and care for her in her old age? Is that type of mother worth celebrating today?” she’d asked. We have been talking ever since and I am trying to get her to let go of her pain. Her story is summarised below. Do have a wonderful weekend!
I hold my mother responsible for my situation and I will never forgive her. I have vowed never to have anything to do with her until she departs this world. If they are calling for mothers, my own mother does not qualify to answer to that title.
I was a little girl when my mother left me and my two younger brothers with our father. She left to marry another man. Before she married my father, she had been married to another man and had two children for him. Making a total of five children and two fathers. She left them to marry our own father too. It was after our mother left us that our father began telling us about all her bad behaviours and how she loves money and men so much she would never be able to take care of her children.
He told us that he met her through one of his friends who is also a cousin to my mother. He had accompanied his friend to a party in their village where he met my mother. Though she was married, his friend told him that my mother had been forced to marry the old man because she got pregnant by him. The man was said to be a farmer with two other wives and my mother became the third. My mother told my father that she did not love the man and that he was also not taking care of her. If he really meant to marry her, she would not hesitate to leave her husband and two children to marry him. At that time, my father had no woman living with him as his wife had died during child birth. So, one thing led to another and my mother came from the village to live with my father, leaving her two children with their father. She never bothered to imagine the kind of suffering those children would be exposed to.
All my mother cares about is her own enjoyment and happiness. According to my father, she began fighting with him after the birth of my brother.
Everything went well between them at the beginning, especially after she gave birth to me. This was because everyone was happy that she had finally made him a father after many years of living without a child and wife. But their happiness did not last long because my father could not provide my mother with all that she wanted. Maybe Lagos life opened her eyes to the good things that she did not know were possible. But my father always blamed it on the women’s club that she joined. She would leave the house almost every weekend on the pretence that they were following one of their members to a function somewhere. I remember that she would always ask my father, who would accompany her to her own village or attend her own party when she had one, if she refused to attend other people’s parties.
They also fought about money all the time. It took me a long time to realise that she was just being wicked. My father was a vulcanizer when they met, so, how could he have so much money to lavish on her especially with the kind of lifestyle she wanted to live? After my birth, he assisted her to start a trade selling, Ponmo (cow hide). But my father said she would always complain about the smoke from the fire and the hot water and she was very scared that an accident on the job could leave her permanently scared. So she decided to move to selling vegetables. My father said she was doing well from his own appraisal and had even started buying straight from the farmers. Still, money was never enough for my mother. Her women’s club provided her all the excuse she needed and maybe through her parties she met the man she left us for.
On the day she was leaving, she did not pack much. It became obvious that she must have been packing her things long before then, only we never suspected. She just told me that she would not be coming back that day.
That I was old enough to take care of myself and my brothers. That I should make sure to prepare food for them and that my father would be giving us money. Though she said she would be back soon, something told me she would not. And that was what my father confirmed to us when he returned home that night. I was just a child of about 10 years at the time. I remember that my father went to her village to report her. Her cousin who is his friend also came around several times. He spoke with their club president and everyone he could. He told us he even promised her that he would not disturb her or expect too much from her as a wife but that she should just stay to help him take care of us. But she did not change her mind. Later we learnt that she was living in Mushin area with one Alhaji who already had two other wives. That the man was rich and already had two children living abroad and that he was taking care of her better than our father would ever be able to do in two life times. Already, the Alhaji owned his own house and had set my mother up in a room and parlour apartment. My father did not own a house, we lived in a rented one room. That was how my mother left us, began a new life with her new, rich Alhaji and forgot about us. She went on to have two boys for the old man and was his last wife before he died.
I can’t recall us having any problem until my father married another woman. Though the woman was nice to us before she eventually moved in, she made life really difficult for me especially. She would force me to do all her work and still have something to say against me to my father. That one would beat us mercilessly for her sake. After she had a child, a boy for him, we moved into a room and parlour and by then I had started secondary school. I was the boy’s mother for everything except to breast feed him. Even when he cried in the middle of the night, she would wake me to back him while she slept with my father who saw nothing wrong with all the bad treatment his wife was giving us. It was only natural that I would become rebellious. I started hanging out with some girls and with their help, I first travelled from Agege to Mushin to see my mother after almost five years. She was no longer selling vegetables. The Alhaji had opened a shop for her in front of the house where she sold cold drinks and provision, like a mini neighbourhood supermarket. I will never forget that day for as long as I live. My mother who had not set eyes on me and my brothers for several years just sent me off as if I was a ghost or something terrible from her past that had come to disturb her. She just started shouting “ta le le yi”? meaning, who is this? “Ki lo fe? Ki lo nwa? Ki lo de?” (What do you want). Many questions all at once. She was shaking with anger as she fiddled through her purse, threw some money at me and shooed me away. It was N200,00. The girl that accompanied me there was worried and kept asking if she was really my mother.
I had thought that my coming to look for her would be an indication to her that something was wrong with us and she would come to check on us. But I was wrong. She was not moved. Life at home became more difficult for my brothers and I. I started following one boy, a conductor on my route to school. Shortly after, I discovered I was pregnant and my father sent me out. That was how I began struggling to stay alive. I went with the boy to live in a room he shared with another boy. The boy was the owner of the room, I later learnt. Life was difficult and he would beat me and throw my things out too. One day, his friend raped me and when I informed him, he threw me out instead of fighting with his friend for my honour. I later went to my mother’s cousin’s house and they took me in and cared for me till I had my baby. Whatever I am today, I owe it to that man.
My mother at the end of it all did not get the kind of life she probably thought she would. She had two male children for Alhaji but Alhaji died when they were young. My mother got the least from the man’s estate as she had only two children for him. She ended up practically raising them alone. Neither of them made it abroad and even one of them who turned out a thug died last year. Two of my other brothers are dead too meaning that three of her seven children are dead. I am the only female of the seven and here I am. I have disowned her and will only see her when she is dead.
Last year after one of her precious sons died and she was sick, she connived with some people to come and inform me that she had died. I went there only to discover that it was a lie. I left there in anger warning them never to call me again until she dies. A mother is supposed to be a care giver. She is supposed to stand by her children no matter the situation. No matter the circumstances surrounding the birth of her child, the fact that she bore that child in her body for nine months and went through great pain during labour to give birth to the child should count for something. This separates her from the father. A father is merely a donor of the seed of life, a mother is the one that gives life to the seed by nurturing it. Her place in the life of the child is different from that of the father.
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