My father was your typical Yoruba demon. Yes, let’s say it as it is.
He had a string of women, many of whom lived outside while a few lived with him in our big house.
My mother was one of those who lived outside. She dumped me at my father’s house when I was just three, so I was raised, if you can call it that, by a string of mistresses, wives and house helps.
My memories growing up are very painful; I was left out in the cold most days. I remember almost dying from cold in the the corridor on several nights. I wasn’t given anything, not even a cover cloth and I must have been about 5 or 6, then.
The wives who lived in the house only catered for their own children because you see, father wasn’t much of a caring person. He never gave money and when he did, he never gave much to any of the wives.
Each wife had to trade, do business or work to care for her own children, so you’ll understand why feeding an extra mouth would not be their business.
I remember pooing and peeing on myself and walking around like that all day. Yes. I remember being beaten for begging for food…in my own father’s house. I remember I was always so hungry, I would some times get dizzy and pass out…in my father’s house!
So, of course, a you can guess, I didn’t get much of an education at that time. I was home sleeping when the others were going to school. I was home running errands because there was always the promise of a meal for those errands.
I was mostly unkempt, zero hygiene. I was toothless from years of neglect because I was busy trying to survive and knew nothing about cleanliness. I mean, who would have taught me, anyway?
I was in this sorry state until my brother, my step brother came into the picture. He was our father’s first son. He could very well have been my father given the number of years between us. I called him brother Boye back then, brother was a Godsend.
My brother came after his HSC, (Higher School Certificate) that’s A-levels then and my life changed in that household.
Where was he before then?
He was sent off to live with his maternal grandmother when he gained admission to secondary school, that was shortly before I was dumped in my father’s compound. So, he didn’t see much of me before he left and I had no clue about him. I was three, remember?
Brother Boye came when I was about 8 years old. You do the math. Anyway, my brother took me under his wings. First off, he bought izal, those native sponges that leave marks all over your body, tooth brush and paste then detergent…yes, that’s what he thought would wash off all the layers of filth I had piled on over the years. He took me to the bathroom and scrubbed me clean. I was screaming and pleading with him to stop the scrubbing because my skin became bruised from his hard wash. But it was love, it was love making him scrub me so hard.
He then taught me how to use toothbrush, hitherto, I had taken to using chewing stick, which I didn’t even use well at that time, by the way. He gave me cast offs from our other siblings and bought me new slippers.
He then began to teach me ABC, 123… to read and write. Remember Queen Primer, that small booklet parents used to teach 3 year olds? My brother used it to teach me to read and write. That’s how I began to see myself climb out of the deep shithole my parents threw me in.
My brother also made sure his own mother, who was my father’s second wife, gave me food every time she fed her own children, when she didn’t, he would share his own food with me. My step mother had to ensure I was fed because she didn’t want my brother eating half a meal.
I was almost 10 years when I began primary school…thanks to Brother Boye who at this time was in the university but ensured I was taken care of by his reluctant mum.
I finished primary school at 15 and gained admission to secondary school at this time, my brother had also finished from university. He ensured I was enrolled at one of the public secondary schools and there, I struggled to catch up. I was in class with 10 and 11year old children.
Let me tell you one funny incident. So, me, who was already mature and feeling my age and experience was being told by a Jss2 prefect to go and sweep the class. I looked at the small shory and told him if he didn’t disappear before my eyes, I would pick him up and swallow him whole.
The boy reported me to a senior prefect who asked me to kneel down during assembly. The senior prefect said that I had to obey the junior because he was my senior and was also a prefect!
See me see trouble o. Junior prefect and senior prefect were babies before me, and they were sending me, an elder on errands and even punishing me! I knew if I didn’t obey, I would be asking for more trouble, so I kuku knelt down with plenty of vengeance in my mind. Even as I knelt, I was almost as tall as they both were!
Anyway back to my brother. Every time my brother came home, he would encourage me to do well at school. I wasn’t an excellent student, just above average. I finished at almost 20 and my brother began to prepare me for university.
He was on my case every time I slacked. He was on me, every time I did something that disappointed him, so I lived to please my brother. I loved to see him smile, be happy with him, hear him laugh out loud and my brother could laugh loudly.
Today, I won’t call myself accomplished, I would call myself a living proof of love. Brother is almost in his 60s and nothing pleases me more than ensuring he lives comfortably in his old age. I am alive today because of my brother. He didn’t give up on me like the rest of my family.
As for my father, he is dead, he died penniless leaving 26 children behind! How irresponsible!
My mother, she has other children for other men; I try to replicate what Bro Boye did for me with some of my mother’s children, though they are in a better living condition that I was growing up. Still, I try to be the big brother, guiding them, encouraging them.
Bro Boye is my dad, I call him, Baami, meaning, my father and I love him like kilode!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)