I was raised by my grandmother. I called her iya o’nisu (woman who sells yam). My grandma was a yam seller and she raised me all alone. She must have been about 46-47years or there about because you know our grandparents married early, and would have had all their children by the time they were in their early 20s, and by early 40s to mid 40s, they were becoming grandparents themselves.
Anyway, I was raised by my paternal grandmother. She took me from my mother, who was barely out of her teens when she became pregnant.
The story I later heard about my birth is sad.
I was told my parents met at secondary school; my mum was in her third year or what they called form three, what is today our JSS3. She became pregnant and ran away from home because her parents would beat her.
My father later came on the scene when he discovered my mother hadn’t been in school for sometime. He went looking for her, was told she had run away. Now, why her parents didn’t go looking for her was a mystery to me at that time. Anyway, it was my father who later found her, discovered she was pregnant and realised that he might be responsible for it. I said “might” be because, I was told my father initially denied paternity. He claimed he wasn’t the only one who “had been there.”
Anyway, my father’s mother invited my mother to come live with her and promised to raise the child…that is me.
I was born in 1986 at the general hospital in ikeja and I was a healthy baby.
My grandmother had ensured my mother did all the necessary ante-natal visits, took the necessary drugs, ate well, slept well…though there was no more schooling for my mum…you know, pregnancy and all that.
After she gave birth to me, my mum was said to have lived a while with my grandma before she ran away again.
Now, I don’t know the details of the arrangement between my parents. Remember my father himself was still in school and though my mother couldn’t go back to school, she kind of helped my grandma with selling yam…but I guess she wasn’t cut out for that kind of life, which is why she ran away when I was about three months.
My grandma said she asked my dad to go look for her but he said he was done with her and that she had gone to live with another man.
A month later, my mother was said to have suddenly appeared again. And my grandmother was said to have scolded her about abandoning me, her son. They must have settled whatever issues they had because my grandma told me that I was due to get a vaccination at that time; a polio vaccination. Grandma insisted my mother should take me to the hospital for the vaccination.
Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t, I don’t know, I was a baby, so I can’t tell but I was brought back and that was when my grandma said she noted my left leg was paralyzed.
Grandma said she asked my mother where she took me to, my mother told her she took me to the health centre, just like grandma had said, so what happened?
They injected me, I lost the use of both legs.
My grandma became angry because she didn’t believe my mother truly took me to the right place. So according to Iya onisu, my grandma, she strapped me to her back the following day and demanded my mother take her to where she supposedly got the injection that paralyzed my legs. According to grandma, as they were going, my mother just bolted and took off!
She took off for the next 19 years of my life!
We never saw her…
She never came back to check on me…
Her family, too, her parents, siblings…nobody came to check on me.
As for me, I became permanently paralyzed from hip down. For years, I couldn’t go to school because my grandma couldn’t afford to buy braces for my legs. The schools she tried to enroll me when I turned 7 didn’t want me, they insisted I had braces and didnt want me being knocked down by other kids
I did finally enter school…at almost 10years but I had been home taught all the while by a teacher my grandma got.
At school, the kids were mean. I was using a walking stick…you know. Sometimes they would just steal my stick or yank it off me and throw it far. Many times, I would have to crawl to where they flung it…sometimes, too, I’d get help from other kids.
Grandma couldn’t afford the braces besides… she was told she had to keep replacing them as I grew…you know braces are fitted to your length, once you outgrow them, they become useless. Anyway, one day, I was working as an apprentice tailor when my mother came back again.
I got home that day and met her but i had no idea who she was. I saw grandma crying. I asked her what the matter was, she said my mother had come to take me.
I almost fell. At what age did she want to take me?
Take me where? Take me for what?
I told both of them I wasn’t going anywhere.
I didn’t trust a woman who had the habit of taking off when things didn’t go her way.
I didn’t want to abandon my grandma, who had been my companion, my champion, in fact, my confidante, my supporter…my grandma was everything to me.
But you see, grandma had no money and she was sickly, this mother they claimed was mine had money…from what I saw. In fact, she came with promises of getting me braces so I move easily…well at least normal again. That was important to me.
Anyway, long story short. I moved in with her and her new husband but it wasn’t even up to one year and she ran away again!
Her husband has asked me to move out as he wants nothing to do with me.
So what will I do?
Unfortunately for me, my grandma is dead. She died in her sleep just two months ago. I will move back in with my father, the one who never even paid attention to me while my grandma raised me…that is life for you.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)