It’s been several years since Ogom passed away and Mma has not recovered from it. I’m not saying it is easy for a mother to get over the loss of a child, I’m just saying back then, we the rest of the remaining children, three of us, girls, didn’t understand why Mma stopped caring for us, like we were not her children, like Ogom was. She just switched off like we didn’t matter. It could easily have been that my bother Ogom was the only child she ever had.
Ogom, my brother was the light of my mother’s life, he was my parents only son of all four of us and may be he was spoilt, I wouldn’t know because, we were all very young when the incident happened.
What incident you say?
My parents were middle class Nigerians; my father was a Principal of a school then; we lived within the school’s premises. My mum was a Matron at the state run general hospital; she was well known in our community and had several times been called to birth children that decide to show up in the middle of the night.
You could say we were quite comfortable; our parents bought each and every one of us bikes when most children our ages among children of teachers and even family friends in town and beyond had no bikes. Now, because we lived within the school’s premises, we had ample ground to ride our bikes, we were safe…yes safe but my parents didn’t buy those head gears, shin guards all the trappings that modern bicycles have today. We didn’t have them, I don’t know if it was that these weren’t available then or that the parents just thought we wouldn’t be extreme with our riding, we just didn’t have those safety gears.
The school my father was principal of, was a government college; it housed boarding house students as well and so many times, some of the boarders would sneak to the staff quarters to ride our bikes even though we could still ride to the hostel areas and let other kids take rides on the bikes, there was no joy riding your bikes alone, so this made us really popular among the other students in school apart from the fact that we were the Principals children but we were mostly restricted by my father.
When father was observing his sister for instance, Ogom would sneak his bike to ride around the huge school compound and meet up with some other students in the boarding house to make money off his bike; they would ride for a fee. Of course my parents had no idea, we his sisters didn’t either until much later.
So, as you’ve heard so far, my brother was a businessman, he and his closes friend, Ifeanyi would sneak the bikes out and during prep or whatever time they chose, they would meet up with some boys to ride and do daring jumps.
What I mean is, when they got bored with just taking a fee for every ride, some of the boys began to do tricks on the bikes, leap from one gutter to the other, from pavement to the ground…dangerous stuff they’ve seen on TV. They dared and double dared one another and as I heard, later, the fees got higher, the one who won the dare got the money, not Ogom my brother.
From what I was told, it started with simple, harmless dares and like many things dangerous, it became more and more dangerous.
One day, Ogom decided to take on a dare; the stakes were high at this point because the more dares the boys could execute, the more dangerous the dare became. He was to put his feet on the handle bars at a high speed.
He did, of course he fell off, and fell badly too with severe injuries because he landed halfway into a gutter!
Now, I told you my father was a principal, he never spared the rod even with us, he was a whip wielding Principal and even at home, he never hung his whips. So when Ogom got injured, he made us swear not to tell our parents because I can assure you, my father would have whipped him with his injuries before caring for him. We were kids, we didn’t know the extent of his injuries and we had mastered deception, to feign being well when the parents were watching and collapse into pain and misery when they looked away.
Our mother was a nurse, we had first aid kits in the house and so we knew a thing or two about injuries; I think Ogom figured he could take care of himself, disguise his injuries and fool the parents which would not be the first time anyway.
As things turned out, the injuries were more than anyone of us kids ever expected; two days after the injury, which was actually broken ribs and bad knee cuts that had become infected. Two days afterwards, middle of the night, he had become feverish, my parents didn’t know the extent of his illness, until they opened his shirt, it had become black, given that Ogom was so fair skinned, his nickname was Oyibo; he was immediately rushed to the hospital
Ogom didn’t come back from the hospital that night, he died in the emergency ward and he was just 14 years old.
His death felt to me like being sucked into a dark hole; my mother blamed herself; she blamed the fact that for two days, she didn’t see the signs that told her, her son was badly injured and needed her help. She blamed herself for rushing to help people and not her own child.
Today, my mother is in a home; she just stopped functioning since then; she hasn’t been a mother to the rest of us since then and to date, stopped cooking, didn’t care if we ate, went to school, did well at school, had boyfriends over the years, got married…she just stopped being our mother.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)