Like every other teen, that would be home preparing for their Waec and Jamb Examination. Here I am sitting in a prison cell with no idea how my sisters are faring, like every other teen with a bright future but here I am full of depression and dark thoughts. I already have lost weight in just two weeks of staying here.
I have never told anyone the reason I was convicted for a serious crime. That was until I spoke up for the first time on the 3rd of July 2019 when my cellmate spoke to me for the first time, “you never told me your name or the crime you were convicted for.You don’t even eat, it has been over two weeks,you have to move on”he said.
“My name is Dede” I said, with little courage, he turned to look at me because my voice sounded young to him. “Why are you here and how old are you?”He asked me.
“It is a long story and I’m only 18.”
“I want to hear it all, tell me Dede what exactly you did”.
This is my story; I noticed each family I meet have this special bond, whether rich or poor. You can tell by the way they care for one another. It is called love and that was the one thing missing in my family. Right from my childhood I could hardly feel the fatherly love because he was always drunk. My sisters came few years later and life became a living hell.
My mother will always sit Ufuoma and I down telling us stories that sounded untrue about my father,thing like; “you know say before I born una, una papa and me been dey as one. He was such a darling man”,she will always say smiling. She always told this stories when she was washing or making dinner for the family.
One faithful day papa came home very drunk with a bottle of ogogoro as we normally call the local drink he takes, “where this people dey?” he asked staggering from one point to the other, I’d just turned 17 that day so I went out to help him get inside the house, “Dede, you are such a disgrace. How can I have a son yet he can’t hold a bottle of drink talk more of drinking it. You are a woman.” He said to me. I didn’t say a thing to him I only helped him inside the house. He fell into a chair in the living room and looked at me “wetin dey this house to chop?”
“Papa, there is no food o, we all drank garri this night” I replied. He was going to reply me when my mum came in, “Dede go inside, let me talk to your father.” She took a seat and sat in front of him. “How long are we going to keep exchanging our children’s school fees for ogorogo?,how long are we going to use our upkeep money for drinks? You come home drunk and expect me to feed you when you lavish yours at mama Efe’s Ogogoro shop”.
“Come, you don’t tell me what to do with my money, you do not tell me how to use it either.”he shouted.
“I’ll go and bring garri and water for you to drink for the night”. She returned afterwards with a bowl of garri and a cup of water on the other hand, she placed it before him and that was when all he’ll broke loose. He got up and broke his ogogoro bottle on my mother’s head and she screamed in pain. He staggered away leaving his pregnant wife in a own pool of blood, murmuring that he wasn’t going to take garri.
My sister and I waited for him to leave before we rushed to her, I removed my shirt and placed on the injury to compress the blood flow, “Ufuoma, you will hold her head with this cloth, I will rush to Mama Clinic” as we fondly call the nurse at the end of the street.
Luckily for my mum, the nurse got to our house quick and treated her, prescribing drugs she will take for a woman in her condition. That was how that week passed and no one confronted my father. I told my mum times without number to report him but she was blinded by love and couldn’t see the damages.
Love as everyone knows is a mix of emotions, feelings of affection, warmth, protectiveness and respect for another person. My father was clearly not showing any of this sign to anyone in the house.
Deep down, I was only trying to be a man that my father wasn’t to my siblings. Ufuoma and I hawked sachet water, because that was the only means of making quick money to feed for the day, since mama’s provision store was not yielding much.
Mama finally put to bed and my little sister was so beautiful, until I noticed she took papa’s nose and then my smile changed. Ufuoma and I hawked every second just to pay mama’s bills for her to come home with Fejiro our sister.
Mama finally came home, papa came in to see her he carried Fejiro and teased the baby, for the first time papa squeezed little change into mama’s hand then smiled at I and Ufuoma, dropped Fejiro and left, we knew his next stop was mama Efe’s ogogoro shop,He was not going to stop telling people about mama and fejiro.
“I tell una say your papa na good man, but una mind dey made up” mama said after he left. I didn’t want to accept that she was praising papa, the man that broke her head few months back. “This small two thousand naira he give you, dey make you praise am, wetin you go do Dede way dey work pass am”Ufuoma voiced after mama’s comment, I looked at them and excused myself. That night papa did not return and only God knew how much I prayed for his death.
The next morning, ufuoma and I went out to fetch water and heard people talking about some drunken men they saw in the gutter that morning. Ah, I just hoped papa wasn’t one of them until someone walked to us and said: “your father is in the gutter down the road, your family dey lucky say rain no fall, if not you for dey find your papa”. Ufuoma looked at me to say something but I was short of words.
We went home and told mama and she took off immediately to go pick him up. She helped him out from the gutter, a lot of people were already saying she couldn’t put her family together, mama as always ignored them and helped papa home. This wasn’t the first time nor the last papa slept in gutters, he was frequent with the gutters and mama with her kind nature and love always went to help him.
Mama really loved papa even when he was no longer putting her first, not like he has ever put her first. 2020 came too soon and the news of papa having an affair with widows spread like wildfire. First it was mama Ovie who came to mama to warn her after a fight she (Mama Ovie) must have had with papa. “I only came to warn you to hold your husband” she started. But mama ignored because mama Ovie was the one whom papa started with, he must have probably left her for the next widow and she was angry. It hurt more when it was clear papa wasn’t wealthy but yet he got between their legs. Most nights he rejected food at home because there was always a widow waiting to take him in.
Each time mama thought of it she became depressed and to think that papa left Fejiro for her to cater for alone,Papa was a selfish man. I started doing other jobs, I’d grown older to hawk water so I started working with an electrician to earn.
It was an early Monday morning when mama woke us up as usual for our daily devotion. Ufuoma as usual led the worship and mama continued after her with the prayers, I had mastered the prayers that I knew each prayer point and papa wasn’t excluded, mama will always say “ pray for change in your father’s life, man can’t change him but God can”. Ufuoma and I will always keep mute until mama finally finalized our prayer.
I was preparing to leave for work, while Ufuoma was preparing to hawk, then mama was dressing Ejiro up to go to her small kiosk when a police man came in. I knew papa was in trouble when I saw the look on his face. “Good morning officer, how can I help you?” Mama asked.
“ good morning madam” he replied. Ufuoma and I came close to know why he was in our house, papa didn’t return that night and no one spoke about drunken men in gutters so it must be a different trouble papa had caused. “How you go dey this house and not care about your husband?” he asked mama, I quickly stopped her from replying him. “This morning, your husband and his members were spotted at the road sleeping peacefully and obstructing road users. They even slowed a lot of businessmen down, on a Monday morning”.
“Officer, I am really sorry, my husband no dey hear word. No be say i no dey try” she pleaded, he scoffed at what she said before he continued, “you will need to come to station to bail him”. The officer left after that. Mama as usual won’t leave the love of her life in a cell for just causing obstruction, She brought out the box she used to save money for Fejiro’s drugs; it was about five thousand two hundred naira. She gathered it, helped Ufuoma lift her tray of sachet water on her heed, then she carried Fejiro and took of immediately. I tried to stop her but she said he was too good to spend his night there much more of leaving him for three more nights as I suggested.
Papa had already started the year with his problems but I didn’t for once blame mama,she was blinded by love and hope that he will change.
After mama bailed him with four thousand naira, papa bullied the remaining money from her for his ogogoro. He came home that evening drunk with extra bottles of ogogoro. For someone mama used the last she had to bail, I woke up to sounds of beating coming from mama’s room.I rushed in to see that papa tossed Fejiro to the side to properly beat mama. What did she do? Mama emptied his ogogoro bottles and replaced them with water, papa knew my sister and I won’t dare and mama was his only suspect. He pounced on her and gave her the beatings of her life, Ufuoma carried Fejiro away and I just stood by the door, full of anger. I wanted to push papa away and beat him but I wasn’t sure if I was stronger. When he was done he spat on her and walked away. I went to mama as she was crying, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and forced a smile and then she said “He doesn’t mean any of this”. Mama needed to move on, because I wasn’t seeing the man she always said papa was or maybe the papa she told my sister and I about was only in her imaginations. “Mama, we can run away, I can take care of us” I said trying to help her up. “No, we can’t, I can’t live a life without your father and I love him”. The love mama claimed she had for my sisters and I was all a lie and this is why I just can’t believe the word exists. Papa didn’t love her,he never loved her and will never love her much more loving us his children. Ogogoro made him beat her to pulp but mama with such a beautiful soul won’t want to move on. I planned to move to the east or west from there and take care of mama. “You are just eighteen and won’t understand life until you are old enough” mama said to me.
Without papa, I’ve grown to be a man but mama doesn’t want to accept it. Papa broke her arm and even gave her other injuries even a black eye. mama is just in her late thirties but papa had made her look like a woman in her fifties. The rest of the week mama stayed indoors while I and my sister did our daily activities to bring food home.
I got back one day, papa had a visitor then I heard him say, “Just in case you also want to pay groom price, he is for sale too” then it struck me, papa wanted to marry Ufuoma away at sixteen. I went in to tell mama, she was furious .papa had no right. He was clearly broke and couldn’t afford his ogogoro anymore his only option was Ufuoma. Mama rushed out to meet the man, she pleaded with him, Ufuoma was only sixteen and she doesn’t even know what secondary school looks like talk more of giving her out in marriage . The man rejected papa’s offer and told him to take care of his family and left. That day, mama knew she was going to die, I took Fejiro and Ufuoma to my room and locked them up then went out and watched papa beat mama mercilessly and as usual he spat on her, cursed her and walked away. I know you might probably think I’m weak and I can’t do anything. Mama gave warned me not to raise my voice at papa, that he was my father,I was only obeying mama. This is because papa will keep hitting her for not training me well. My poor mother was living in her imaginations were papa loves her and I didn’t blame her, you can only have what you want in your thoughts.
Weeks later, mama Ovie came to our compound with her daughter Ovie who was Ufuoma’s age mate,shouting. Mama came out and she attacked her, I ran to them to separate them and all mama Ovie was saying was that mama couldn’t control papa, she went on to say “that your husband didn’t stop at eating from my pot, he went on to eat my daughter now she’s pregnant. Shameless family”. mama was broken,papa didn’t just sleep with mama Ovie, he also slept with her daughter that was old enough to be his daughter. Mama cried that day, she suspended everything she was doing that afternoon, locked herself up and cried. Papa came home drunk as usual and mama said nothing to him, which was the end of it. Papa couldn’t take care of himself, was it mama Ovie’s pregnant daughter that he could take care of?
My family was now the talk of the town. I was coming back one of the evenings and met Ufuoma crying by the house, I feared the worse had happened when I ran to her, “why are you here crying, wetin happen?” I asked but she continued sobbing, I noticed she still had her sachet water full on the tray. “Na because of market, you no sell today?” she shook her head no. Ufuoma got me worried, I had to ask what I feared most “did papa touch you?”,?she finally raised her head to look at me then she said “no one bought anything from me; they said our family had a problem and buying things from us will affect them. Dede they said they might start drinking like papa without control” she started crying again. I knew this day will come,I was not surprised I even expected it sooner. I consoled Ufuoma and took her inside.
Mama came home and started scolding her for not selling, we all depended on her for our feeding money that night. I calmed mama down and explained everything to her, she got up with tears in her eyes “I should meet mama Efe at her ogogoro shop and confront her” she said and took off.
Mama got to the shop and went straight to Mama Efe, crying and begging her to stop feeding papa ogogoro but mama Efe and her children stood and was laughing at mama. Mama got angry and started breaking things in her shop; papa was outside drinking when the news got to him that his wife was destroying things in his spot. He came in with a fat stick and beat mama, he punched her and then used the stick to hit her legs continuously, and he ended up breaking both legs. The only thing papa has ever fought for is his ogogoro, he could kill for them and his ogogoro shop.
We waited for mama to return but it was just papa who came back, drunk as usual. Ufuoma took Fejiro with her inside then I went in search of mama. On getting to the ogogoro shop I saw mama outside, No; I mean mama was dragging herself, I ran to her and tired lifting her, but she screamed out from pain. I carried her home, she just told me how papa broke her both legs, not one but both,he was such a heartless man.on getting to the house mama with her swollen face said papa didn’t mean any of it. Papa never meant any of the things he did to her; mama was still living in her imaginations. Now I was left with looking for money to get her treated. Papa was a liability to us, the little money we got, was either used for bailing him, treating mama or footing his drinking habit.
Papa was the perfect example of one week one trouble. Mama Efe always came to the house to forcefully collect money from us for her daughter’s up keep; papa didn’t care about the shame or what people were saying. Fejiro was already one and started hawking with Ufuoma far from our area, the both always returned home late at night. My family was a clear example of suffering, when they say suffering you turn to my family. Mama had to stop going to shop, Ufuoma started selling fish with Fejiro at her back but she was too young for all this. Mama didn’t want to wake up from her dreams of loving papa, papa oh how I had grown to hate him but mama made me believe this love was going to be hard for me when I get there. There are days I pass streets and children there mimic my father and laugh as I pass, the disgrace he had already brought on us was much.
I came home one of the nights and met him with his friend, they were drinking as usual, I greeted him and passed he responded with “you are welcome my daughter”, then they started laughing. I couldn’t believe him, he had started seeing me as weak, I walked to the backyard and met my mother “mama, let’s leave this house, I can start saving up so by years end we can be able to move away”. She looked at me again with disgust ,“ I have told you your father can’t live without us, he can’t”.
“Have you seen yourself in a mirror mama, you look older than your age. Look at you with broken legs; we don’t feed well because we are trying to get you back on your feet. If you want to stay with him fine, my sisters and I will move out we need to stay away from this bad energy. Mama you don’t love us, see Fejiro she has done nothing to deserve all these, at one year she’s already hawking instead of going to school.”
“I love you all and you know it, your papa no go like am if una go. Moreover I need you all in the house, I can’t let you leave, we are family and your father will soon change, I promise you”. mama had a way of convincing me, I wish I could just run with them without her knowing.
There was a night papa came home drunk, he asked mama for food she said there was no food, the little money we had was for her medication so we ate one a day or nothing at all. Papa got angry, he didn’t stop at beating her, legs we were treating, he lifted her and threw her outside, in that cold, he packed her things and threw to her, and then he locked the doors. I came out later to help her in because he didn’t do it with a clear head, mama rejected to go in. “your father will be very angry if he finds out I still came in after he sent me out.” I didn’t even know who was cruel to whom; did mama hate herself so much?.
She always wanted to punish us and herself for papa, even God knew he never loved her. “Mama it is cold and it looks like it will rain too. Let me take you in please. Papa threw you out drunk, I’m sure he won’t do anything tomorrow”, this was how we argued for long,she even started crying begging me not to take her in. I didn’t go in either, that night it rained heavily on us, mama was shivering and still refused to go inside. By morning she was already burning up with a high temperature. This time I was not just treating legs I was striving to treat her fever too. On a second thought I just felt both our parents hated us, mama could give us out to evil to save papa. Mama can go through anything for papa to be fine and she won’t even care about us, this life they say is not balanced.
Papa fought one day with the cyclist that he rode,the fight became bloody when papa broke two ogogoro bottles on the man’s head and then people gathered shouting. They rushed the injured man to the hospital and arrested papa. Ufuoma and I returned the same time so we were teasing each other as we walked into our compound. Fejiro ran to us, though she couldn’t talk well because she’s just one but I understood, she only said two words ‘papa fight’. I went in to check on mama, she was just sitting on the floor. “Mama, can we at least keep papa there for few days” she started crying, saying papa was innocent and he won’t fight with a stranger. I had the money to bail papa but I wasn’t going to, I was ready to let him stay there for a while. “I will go and check on the cyclist tomorrow” I said and left her room. All through the night I heard mama’s cry and prayers to God to help her bail papa. What manner of love was she displaying, I couldn’t hate mama because she has always been the victim even when I was young, papa never gave her anything to look after me, she always stood by me, and that was why she was still seeing me as a baby boy.
I went and checked on the cyclist the next day, he was responding to treatment, I apologized on papa’s behalf but all I got there were insults and curses. I cleared the bill which was three thousand naira. Then from there I went to the police station to see papa. They brought him out and he was smiling when he saw me “Dede, have you come to bail me?” he asked
“Papa, things are hard. Right now I don’t have the money but it will be ready in three days”.
“Dede, three days is too big, you no fit leave me here”.
“Papa I am sorry, I just paid the hospital bills of the man you fought, and I don’t have five thousand three hundred and fifty naira to bail you. It is because of you Ufuoma doesn’t sell well again. She is called the daughter of the drunk or the girl from the cursed home. Papa give me three days I should be back”.
“You didn’t come with food?” he asked. That was when I knew he was no longer drunk. “Papa, we have been using the money we have to treat mama, her legs and fever too. But if something come out then I’ll bring food to you. Take care of yourself”, as I was leaving I could hear him calling me a woman and curse me, well I wasn’t the one in cell and I was enjoying my little pay back.
We stayed two days without papa, the house was peaceful except that mama had refused to eat, she just cried all night. She kept saying papa could die there and how scared she was, how she couldn’t live without him. Mama had problems, I was sure she was sick and in need of medical attention but I didn’t have the money to take her to see a physiologist.
I bailed papa after four days and the rest of the days he just stayed at home. I was beginning to think he had changed, that was when it all started and Mama had started using walking stick to aid her. Papa was drinking less but was still having problems with us, mama opened her kiosk and continued to sell while Mama Ovie and her daughter were demanding money from us almost all week.
Papa was still sleeping with widows and how they felt proud to talk about it made me wonder. I met one day I was returning from work when she begged me to install a bulb for her, I agreed then we went into her house. After I was done she held my arms, “mmm, so hard like your father”. I was confused and tried leaving but she ￼
pulled me back and was forcing herself on me and immediately papa walked in he pushed me away, the woman accused me of trying to rape her. Papa broke the bottle on his hand and tried to stab me but I ran.
I got home and told my mum everything she was angry, I couldn’t talk to girls my age talk more of raping a mother. She was ready to confront papa but when papa got back she begged him to forgive me, that was what added to my crime list.
Days turned to months and we were all managing and trying to live with papa and his attitudes, he returned one afternoon drunk, he threatened mama and bullied all our savings from her then he left and went to his ogogoro shop to spend it all. Mama every time said we didn’t understand what love was and won’t know until we love someone, she wasn’t considering us anymore it was all papa. Mama all of a sudden started paying dues. Mama submitted money to papa every day, when I confronted her she said she was only after peace; she didn’t want to fight all the time with papa.
We went to church on one of the Sundays, the pastor started the sermon and was using papa and his members as example, I turned to look at mama to see shewas sober. He always called mama’s name and told her God will answer her prayers soon. After the service I rushed at the pastor and punched him, people gathered and what I heard everyone say was, ‘Like father, like son’, I warned the pastor and left. On getting home, mama insisted on me going to apologize, we argued for a while and then I told her if I was to go back, I’ll still beat the pastor again as a warning to others who would try to make us feel bad.
I didn’t know why I couldn’t use same energy on papa, mama will always preach, “he’s your father and you can’t change that”.
One morning I woke to mama shouting at papa, I came out and noticed she was holding him on his trouser, I couldn’t tell what papa did so I got close and heard mama say “she is your daughter, why do what you did?”. As she asked that I saw Ufuoma come out with blood rolling down from her legs, I couldn’t wrap it all up, Ufuoma was in tears, mama was shouting, papa was struggling with her, that day I saw fire in mama’s eyes for the first time. I turned around and went to my room, I picked it up, I’ve had it in my possession for long so I just came out with tears and pulled the trigger, one bullet to end many years of domestic violence and just like that papa was dead. Mama turned to him and fell on his body “Dede, what did you do, ah, you have taken him away, my love, my love” mama started breathing fast and gave up last breath and that was it, mama died because she loved papa but how about us?. Love they say is kind, but she gave up for the same person who hated her, papa said so many times that he hated her from the beginning but mama, how could she do this to us, we loved her and cared for her, Papa was in debt and his debtor was in the compound with the policemen, they came into the sitting room after they heard the gunshot, immediately they ran to me took the gun away and handcuffed me. They dragged me away, Ufuoma tried pushing me away from them but they pushed her down. I could hear Ufuoma and Fejiro call out my name but I couldn’t do anything. Papa raped Ufuoma and took her pride, see, there is something about love that I can’t explain. How I got the gun? That is a story for another day.
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