Tuesday, 21 March 2017

At the End of the Tunnel #2

 Continued from #1

I was born into a polygamous family in the year 1963. My mother was the second wife of my father and I was her second living child. I have eight siblings,four from my mother and the rest from my step-mother. The major occupation of my family then was farming. I spent my early years in my father’s compound before I went to live with my maternal grandmother in another town not too far from ours.

Living with my grandmother opened a new phase in my life. It was totally different from what it used to be with my parents and siblings. My family wasn’t the very rich type but we were not begging either. Every member of the family was a part of the family business and we get paid for every service rendered on the farms. We were involved in the entire farming processes; from land clearing,bush burning,ridging,planting,watering weeding to harvesting.

You know the thing with a typical polygamous family. The wives are always trying to outdo one another and this was not exact situation in our family. The rivalry was so tough that it flowed down to us the children. We were in the habit of taking sides whenever a fight broke out between our mothers and even when the quarrel would have been settled between them,ours remained hot and fresh until common sense prevailed again.It is not atypical to see a newly married wife in a polygamous family trying to outshine her ‘senior’ or ‘seniors’ as the case may be. This was the case with my mother. History had it that she found her way into my father’s room five nights per week out of seven thereby leaving her co-wife at the mercy of cold and lonely nights and I guess that has always been the major factor in their incessant quarrels.

I was taken to live with my grandmother at the age of twelve when I was in primary three. Surprised? It was in those days when a child is certified old enough to start schooling not for his age but the ability of his right hand to be able to touch his left ear when taken across the head. And as destiny would have it, I was rejected three times before I got admitted into St. Andrew’s primary school,the only primary school that served about ten communities in the area. My late entry into the school system did not affect my intellectual abilities. As a matter of fact, I was always on top of my class.

About a year later,I was forced to start fending for myself when my grandmother  wasn’t doing enough. She couldn’t cater for my needs. I became an all season trader. I sold whatever crops and fruits available per season. And when I was not selling farm produce, firewood and manual labour were the next options. What did I not do to make money? So, I had no reason to bother my parents for anything. The money was not even there anymore. My father had suffered from a terrible loss some years before and he found it difficult to bounce back.  My mother on her own part had this indifferent attitude to life. She took everything the way they come not bothering or making efforts to salvage or change the status quo. She was contented with anything life dished out to her whether negatively or positively. She didn’t care too much about her children as well. She was so engrossed in her rivalry with her co-wife that she barely had a cordial relationship with us. So, I started making decisions for myself in my early years.

I was fifteen when I was taken to Lagos to live with my father’s younger sister. She had come home for one the festivals when my father handed me over to her to give me what he called the good life. I still remember that fateful day like it was only yesterday. The meeting and handing over service took place in my father’s sitting room with my parents,aunty and my humble self in attendance.
Baami as he was popularly called in our household had sent for me the previous day. I had the intuition that something was wrong because he barely sent for me. I quickly rushed through what I was doing so I could go see him. He started eulogizing me the moment I stepped into his chambers.
Abimbola mi adunni
Eyin loju mi
Adu maa dan
Ibadi aran
Ibadi ileke
Eyin fun jowo,eyin menugun,etc

At this juncture,I was confused on what could have warranted the unending eulogies. Not that my father has never been affectionate or tender towards, in fact, he was a great father any child could have. He loved all his children. And when I couldn’t stomach my confusion any longer, I asked him if something had happened or he needed me to do something for him. Hmm, he sighed deeply before he started talking. “You know I love and care so much about your well being as well as how I have always wanted you to have a good life and be the best you can be but my loss wouldn’t permit me give you that kind of life. This is your my sister,her name is Kuburat. Am sure you have heard so much about her from me. She used to bring you plenty gift when you were younger. You were her favourite niece back then. I know you do not recognize her because she hasn’t come home in recent years. You were six or five years old the last time she came home. She lives in Lagos with her family. I have discussed with her and she has agreed to take you along to Lagos so you can complete your education and become the nurse you have always wanted to be.” But Baami,I don’t want to go Lagos. I am okay going to school here.” I said. I am not asking for your opinion on this,it is an already established fact and I know what is good for you.

I expected my mother to say something my mother to say something to rescue me but she did not. Well, I wasn’t surprise. She has never been a vibrant mother in all her life. Aunty Kubura,my supposed guardian angel and destiny helper stood up from where she sat and walked gingerly to my side. She put an arm across my waist and used the other hand to below my chin to lift my face so I could meet her gaze. “Bimbola, I am not taking you to Lagos to kill or suffer. God knows that my intentions are pure. I have my own children which I am sure will like you and vice versa. You are such a beautiful girl and ambitious girl who shouldn’t be allowed to waste away in Ayetoro.” Come to Lagos with me and enjoy the best life could offer anyone. I will take….” 

I didn’t wait for her to complete her sermon when I forcefully freed myself from her hold and hurriedly left the room and ran as fast as my legs could carry me to my grandmother’s house sobbing uncontrollably. I ran straight into my room and fell on the mat. If I could suffer like this while being closer to my parents,what would happen when I live far away in Lagos? Would Aunty Kubura send me to school as promised? What would be my fate if she failed to do so? Those were some of the questions running through my mind when I fell asleep. 
To be continued.
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