Eunice: Struggles of a single mother
First she called the editor, explaining her situation that she is a mother of five for two different men neither of whom is at home with her and the children.How did she get the editor’s number? She said she saw it in the newspaper, part of which she used to wrap fried fish and food she sells. She later sent SMS at different times as reminder, pleading for help. The editor decided to send a reporter to investigate her plight, and if her story is found to be true, it would be published, so that kind-hearted Nigerians would come to her rescue and help fund her children’s education.
When The Guardian visited her abode in the Ogijo area of Ikorodu, Lagos, it was truly a pathetic sight, quiet and isolated from other buildings. From the leaking roofing to missing windows, absent doors and bare floor in the building she calls her home, her inability to adequately provide life necessities for her five children and her ailing health, it was obvious Eunice only manages to make ends meet.Eunice Akande, a single mother in her early 40s and a native of Okene in Kogi State, said she was forced to relocate to the area after her husbands abandoned her and the children.
Her difficult journey to this point started when her first husband abandoned her and her four children, leaving her to shoulder the burden alone.She told The Guardian: “I got to know him, Mr. Akande, through a pastor of The Apostolic Church at Shogunle 20 years ago, who advised us to start a family. I was carried away by his looks. So, when he told me he was a panel beater and even showed me a certificate to that effect, I readily agreed to marry him, and we immediately started a family. Later, I discovered that the certificate was fake; that he didn’t earn it. He was given a certificate without any qualification. He couldn’t even repair a patch in a car; talk less of panel beating a whole vehicle. But because his father was wealthy and influential, the certificate was arranged.”
But this was the beginning of her woes, as she discovered more unsavoury facts about her husband. One of this was the compulsion to tell lies and his nonchalant attitude towards his husbandly responsibilities. “Then, I was hawking koko (cooked pap) and fried fish. We were living at Oke-Oko, another area in Ogijo. I was the breadwinner, while he was jobless and idle. I wasn’t even aware that I was pregnant with our third and fourth children, until the fourth month because he would neither let me use birth control pills nor protect himself. The day I delivered, he didn’t come to the hospital to check on me. He didn’t bring the things I needed to take care of the new baby and didn’t pay the hospital bills. I had to plead with the midwife to let me go and work for the money. After weeks of struggling all alone, I was able to pay the bill. He left me in 2010, and I started raising my kids alone. After our separation, the children and I came to a plot of land I own to start a new life. Unfortunately, the land was said to be a setback to another land owned by the military and was taken from me.
“My second husband, Aremu, with whom I had a child, also resides here in Ogijo, and is a commercial vehicle driver. I decided to marry and have another child because of loneliness after my first husband left. I felt so isolated in this undeveloped area. So, I thought it would be a good idea to have a man that would protect me and for companionship. To my great disappointment, however, he insisted that I should do away with my other children and live alone with him and the daughter I had for him. I refued and so he also left. Now, whenever I call him to ask for financial assistance for his daughter’s upkeep, he tells me he has no money. Till today, he still stays at the church, where I took him for prayers, when I got pregnant for him.”
Of great concern to her is the area she lives with her children. Her immediate neighbours are marijuana-smoking, fierce-looking touts, who constitute a threat to her and the children.She said: “This environment is a very dangerous one. In April, one of the touts broke in through the ceiling to steal things. They often take some of the things I struggle to buy for the children and when I confront them, they flare up and start threatening me. The person that sells Indian hemp to them broke into my house on May 21. He keeps his goods in my house, claiming that touts stole the hemp where he used to keep it. But this is a bad influence on my sons, because they are exposed to this at an early age. How am I even sure they haven’t started smoking hemp? I am scared to even inform the police, because the touts can harm the children and me. Presently, my second child is playing truancy. He is moving with bad company, and has started misbehaving. He would wear his school uniform from home and change into another cloth on the way. I informed them in my church to help counsel and pray for him, so he won’t end up joining a cult. And they have tried their best. My parents are telling me to leave the children with them and move on with another man, but I can’t. They just want to take the little money I have. If I put my children in their care, they will definitely become wayward, as they have not properly taken care of their own children, talk less of mine. They even advised that my children should stop going to school and start learning handicrafts, such as auto mechanic and hair dressing, which I rejected.
“The fifth child I had for my second husband was almost raped two years ago, when she was five years old. A man got hold of her and wanted to defile her, but luckily, her brothers arrived the scene before he could do anything. The man was my regular customer. This environment is too isolated, as it is hidden in the bush and sometimes I have to leave my daughters alone in the house, which makes me terribly anxious. What if they were harmed during the time Badoo cult was terrorising Ogijo area?
“It’s been a long time that I set eyes on my husband. The last time I sent the children to him, when I was sick, they didn’t meet him at home. A neighbour gave them his phone number and they called him, but he told them he was in Enugu. But people that know him said it was a lie; that he was staying at a nearby hotel.So, what does she want from good-spirited Nigerians?
“I just need help from anyone who is willing,” she said. “I am the only one catering for five children (three girls and two boys: Samuel 16, Phillip 14, Abigael 12, Deborah 10 and Maria 7). I am trying my possible best to ensure that my children go to school. But with the economic situation in the country, it has not been easy. Recently, I had to go to my children’s school to beg them to accept the little amount I had, as I can no longer continue to pay their full school fees. But they refused and advised me to take them to public school.
“The problem is that presently, I have high blood pressure, and was advised to work less. But I can’t heed this advice because my children need to go to school. I have to pay their school fees and cater for their other needs. So, most times, I have to leave the house early to go to the market to buy fish, which I fry together with the cooked rice and beans to sell at night. It is from this that I make the little money I use to cater for all our needs. The burden is getting too much for me to bear and is affecting my health. This is why I called the Editor for help. I just want my children to be well taken care of, so their lives won’t be ruined. I was once advised to take them to the orphanage, but even the orphanages are filled. They are struggling to take care of the children in those homes. I have been planning to see if I can send them to live and work for people. So long they complete their secondary education, I don’t mind if they work for others. I’ll find a way to take care of myself.”
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