You know, many times we blame parents for the way their kids turn out but maybe the kids should also take responsibility for some of their own actions.
I look at my son David and though I take responsibility for some of the things that changed the course of his life, in other aspects, I find him culpable.
David is my first born son and he was a very brilliant boy at school. He always came tops, always won more than five awards, and he was prefect and head boy at school. He made myself and my husband really proud. And thankfully, we were also in a position to help him realize his highest dreams, financially, I mean.
You see, David scored 7 A-s in his WAEC and wanted to study medicine. We were all set for him to start at Unilag when my husband decided to reward him with a trip abroad to go spend some time with his brother in the US. It was just meant to be a three weeks holiday prior to school resumption that year. He was also supposed to buy a few things for school, you know, we felt he had worked hard, so what’s a few dollars to a son who had done his parents proud? More so, the rates then were a lot better than what we have today, I think it was N200 or 250 or so to the dollar.
David went, saw America and called us two days before he was due to return that he didn’t want to come back to Nigeria!
My husband and I were surprised. This wasn’t the plan. David told us he had thought about it and that we should let him school abroad. We told him we couldn’t afford it even we could. We just wanted him to come home, at almost 18 years, we felt he was too young to be on his own. Yes, he was staying with an uncle but the uncle was concerned about David getting his papers, getting things done legally.
We explained to David, we said, come back to Nigeria first, then we would plan a better exit to America for you; why should you be sneaking around, avoiding authorities? We would have money put aside for your education and accommodation and all, and we would get the right study papers, you know, we just wanted him home to start his medical course at Unilag, then maybe a year or two later, we could plan for American study.
Those things just couldn’t happen like that especially if we were to fund it; we needed to plan towards it, you know, save money and he had siblings, too.
On the day my son was to return to Nigeria, he absconded from his uncle’s house. He left a note to say we shouldn’t worry about him but that he wasn’t returning to Nigeria!
My husband and I began to blame ourselves for even letting him go abroad in the first place; we waited for him to contact us…he didn’t for more than two weeks. When he did, it was to tell us he had got a job cleaning and doing janitorial jobs so he could save for school.
It was apparent he underestimated the system;the American system that can often be brutal. He under-estimated the weather, under estimated people’s promises to help. He had somehow connected with some people who gave him their papers to use but these things have a way of coming for you, if you are inexperienced. So apparently, the person, whose papers he used for work had a pending debt or some jail time. I really don’t know the full details but they came for my son, one year later and found out he wasn’t even the person they wanted and had overstayed on his visa.
They gave him two options, do jail and be deported or be deported right away. He chose the latter.
We didn’t know when he was deported, we didn’t know when he landed in Nigeria apparently he had most of his money on him…what we knew was that we got a call from him, telling us he was in Nigeria at so and so hotel.
It was sadness and joy for us. Joy because we thought he had finally come to his senses and was home in Nigeria, sad because we wondered why he didn’t come home to us, instead of staying in a hotel where all manner of friends kept trooping in to greet him like he was a celebrity.
But maybe it was shame that made him stay in a hotel…he stayed there for the next six months. Nothing we said or did made him come home, all he was talking about was going back to America, going back to his apartment, giving people money to do him papers that would enable him go back. I didn’t understand why he didn’t realise these people were all fake and couldn’t help him. He was just wasting money.
I called families and friends to reason with him when he failed to listen to my husband and I. We even said we would go find people who would help us get him back to Unilag, though he had missed more than one session of school, so he could finish his first degree and we would send him to America for his masters…but something in America had got him, David refused, he was bent on going back to America.
After about 6 or 7 months at the hotel…he finished all his money and wanted to come home. As parents, we were angry but we said, ok, come, because we thought that with him under our roof, we could reach him better and talk some sense into him.
By now, he was broke and grossly ashamed because I think that was when it became obvious he had been duped. He stopped receiving visitors, at home, would not come out to greet family or friends that came by our house. He became a recluse…at this time, two and a half years had passed. He went into serious depression and all we were trying to do was to prevent him from committing suicide.
We wanted him to do JAMB again, and go back to school but he wouldn’t, he said his mates had passed him and that if he was unable to go to America, he would try Europe!
I don’t know what shady characters he got himself involved with but they promised him heaven and earth if he brought substantial amount of money.
When he asked us for the money, we were shocked! Where did he think we would get that? In fact if we had such money, we would have sent him back to America ourselves…but our son was already lost by then, we just didn’t know.
Long story short; today, David hasn’t progressed beyond his secondary school leaving certificate, he is almost 48 years and lives alone; no wife, no children and works as a poultry hand at some farm in Ifo.
If you see him now, he looks a lot older than his mates; mates who didn’t score half of what he scored at WAEC, mates who looked up to him as a star pupil…they are all doing well now.
I see them, they are all accomplished, married with kids, doing their own businesses…where did we go wrong as parents?
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)