I have a young daughter. She is just 7 years old and we both live with my mother.
I am not financially stable to do so alone. My life is a hard life and it was carelessness on my part that resulted in the pregnancy in the first place. I admit I was stupid. When I took in, I was still living with my child’s father. He was a drunk who always beat me and even though my mother had tried several times to make me leave him, I couldn’t because I kept believing he would change, that someday he would be more responsible and take care of me and our unborn child.
He didn’t change. He kicked me in the stomach one day and that was when I knew I would die in that house if I continued to live there. So, I moved to my mother’s house.
Now, my mother is quite rich and influential in our town. She has a chieftaincy title in the big mosque in our town and she is generally seen as a woman many women go to for help and she helps them. She helps them secure stalls in the market, helps them by getting people to contribute money towards their welfare if there are widowed or if they need to pay school fees or buy WAEC forms or anything for any of their children.
In fact, it was my mother who got me the shop I am at right now. I sell yam flour, garri and rice; business is up and down, too many people here like to buy on credit and how much are we making per bag?
Not much as you can see. My shop is bare but let me continue my story.
In that same house, my uncle lives with us, too. He is not so much older than me but he is my mother’s youngest brother. My grandma had him in her old age, she is dead now.
This uncle has been living with my mother since he and his wife separated; that was over 17 years ago! Yes, more than 17 years because he and his wife separated when their last born was just two months old and that one is 17 years now!
My uncle’s wife was the one working all those years and my uncle had just been feeding off her. After a while, she had enough because he often beat her when she refused to have sex with him. You see, that was all he did at home, he would go out and come back drunk and demand for sex and when the poor woman, who was also a market woman got back home, it was beating and demand for sex. I guess she didn’t know what to do for a long time, that’s why she succumbed and kept churning out babies…they have 7!
Ok, you see this uncle; I told you he is a useless human being and instead of my mother to throw him out, she would say, “I promised our mother that I would take care of him, I promised our mother that I would be his mother…” this so called uncle is in his early 50s now! About 52 or 53! A useless human being that never paid school fees for any of his children!
So what happened?
When I left my husband and moved into my mother’s house – it is a big house, two floors, with 8 rooms – my mum has no tenants, only relatives living in that house; cousins, distant relatives looking for where to stay.
Once in a while, we would harbour women who have had trouble with their husbands. They would stay for a few months and later they would leave. We also harbour children whose parents have them sent out of the house. They would come to my mum and stay and after a few months my mum would go plead for them and they would also leave or they would go some place else for a better life. So, that house always had people.
I delivered a baby girl and was trying to do business that would enable me raise my child. I wasn’t thinking of going to rent anywhere because I was living with my mother and we were generally doing fine. Once in a while, I would get contract to supply garri or yam flour to restaurants and when these types of contracts come, I would go to the farm to meet with farmers who produce the food items, you know, since it is bulk. so sometimes, I am not fully in the house. I could be on the farm for a week or two, depending on the size of the contract.
This had been happening for sometime as my child grew, which is why I didn’t notice what was going on with her. She is just seven years old and is being sexually molested!
How did I know?
It was one of those women who came to live in the house that caught my uncle molesting my child, his own grandniece!
Yes, she caught him! This is not, ”dem say, dem talk”
I wanted to die!
How long had he been doing this?
I don’t know. I was so angry, so sad, so in pain that my child whom I thought was safe with her family was in danger from the same family!
My first reaction was to go to the police to have the bastard uncle arrested but that was when I got the shock of my life from my own mother. she said I shouldn’t take family matters to the police station!
I said, “What? Your granddaughter has been raped!” From what I saw when I examined my daughter, it was not even the first time. I often left for my shop early but even then, I would make sure she took her bath and had breakfast before I left the house and my cousin would take her to school which was a walking distance.
What I am telling you will never leave my head; my mother refused; she said if I called the police, she would send me packing from the house with my daughter. In my presence, she slapped my uncle a few times…but is that all she would do? She won’t send him away but she is ready to send me away with my daughter.
Ok, so this is family matter, so a few slaps is all he deserved? Who else is safe from this monster?
I can’t afford a room as I told you. What I make just helps us to get by; where will I find money to pay one year’s rent because that is what landlords are asking for. My daughter’s school fees takes virtually all I earn.
I am a woman who can’t protect my own child. Ok, I went looking for her father, the other day, to see if he could even help me, so that I could move out of my mother’s house.
Guess where I saw him? At the beer parlor. That one will not change.
Since then, anytime I go out, I go out with my daughter. She told me she was afraid to tell me because uncle said he would poison me and I would die and there would be no one to care for her. See, that is the animal my own mother is protecting? Maybe I will be the one to poison him after all I don’t need my mother’s permission to do that and the way the bitterness in my heart is brimming, I just might do it!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)