“She’s stable now. It was food poisoning – something she ate. We were able to pump her stomach in time, and she’s responding quite well.”
My ex-wife mutters a small prayer of thanks and buries her head in my shoulder, hers moving up and down, response to the sobs shaking them. I hold her gently, saying my own thanks as I put my arms around her. I am grateful my daughter’s fine; grateful I haven’t completely messed things up for us.
“Thank you doctor,” I say.
“Baby…” my ex sighs softly.
Something happens to my belly every time she does that. Every time she calls me that.
“Yes?” I answer, throat all bumpy and rough.
“I’m glad you’re here. I know how busy you are; I understand how much time you have to do the things you have to – especially now with your book out. Thank you.”
I push her away gently, still holding on to her arms and look into her eyes. “She’s my daughter too, which would mean there’s nothing I can do for her that would be too much. You understand?”
She smiles, pushes my hands away and places her head back where it was. “I know. I know. Just – thank you.”
And that’s that.
From the corner of one eye, I see my ex look at me like It’s always you first.
I don’t say anything, the tightness in my chest is reflected in my grip on her hand. I know; I’m probably hurting her – but she doesn’t mind. I couldn’t even let go if wanted to.
And I don’t.
“Hi baby,” I say. At least, that’s what I intend to say but what comes out of my mouth is nothing remotely close to that. The girl on the bed smiles wanly, lifts a hand that has ropes – I mean tubes – attached to it. I don’t know when I start crying – in fact; I don’t realize I am till I taste saltwater.
“Don’t cry daddy,” she says, smiling bravely and struggling to sit up. “I think it was the juice I drank. Ogechi gave me some juice.”
My ex rushes to her side. “Baby, you should lie down – “
She looks at her mother with that eye I assumed before now is reserved for me. “I want to sit up, mummy. I want to be able to look at my parents properly.”
On unsteady legs I walk to the bed, cross to the other side and gently put my hand against her left cheek. It – I mean she’s warm; but it’s a healthy kind of warmth. Her smile remains radiant – even if it’s weak.
“It’s good to see you, Daddy. You and mommy together.”
I try not to look at my ex – instead focusing on the little girl who has been a constant source of joyful torment to me most of her life.
“It’s good to see you too, little girl.”
She frowns. “I’m not so little, daddy. What do you mean?”
I let go of her cheek, leaned back and scratch my beard. “Well I – “
“Are you hungry, darling?”
That was my ex. There was a strange, strained note in her voice…something I couldn’t quite…
At that moment, scales fall from my eyes with the suddenness of NEPA restoring power and I realize; with startling clarity –
My ex is jealous of my relationship with my daughter.
I am so surprised I stumble back a few steps. That doesn’t make any sense to me.
She spends more time with this kid than I spend looking at my reflection. She feeds the kid, dresses her up for school, takes her there most times, brings her back most times, takes her to the hair dresser’s, the tailor’s – takes her to church – everywhere.
Some resentment starts growing in my belly and I frown.
I barely see my daughter twice a month! I’m the absentee father –
You’re the absentee father who’s hardly ever there – and yet the mother literally disappears once you are.
“Daddy – what is it? Are you okay?”
I look at two of the most important women in my life and lie.
“I’m fine. I just need some air.”
And I leave the room before either of them can look surprised.
It’s been twelve minutes.
My left foot taps on the ceramic floor, making a low but distinct kokoko sound. A passing nurse squeezed her face in my direction once.
I looked at her – I mean really looked at her – and she scrambled away.
Yeah. I’m ugly when I smile. You really don’t want to see me frown.
So I’ve been sitting still, thinking about the ladies in the room behind me. Resentment has decided to leave me alone – and in its place now sit understanding and regret.
There’s a swishing sound behind me – and my nose identifies my wife – I mean my ex-wife – before any other parts of me are aware of it. She sits beside me, places her head on my shoulder and sighs softly. Her hair tickles the side of my face – her hand is heavy and warm on my thigh – but everything feels right.
Like finally finding your perfect size of the shoes that caught your eye from the store window – three hours later.
I feel her smile – I see it vividly in front of me even though her face is out of sight. “Hmmm?” she mumbles sleepily.
“I apologize if it seems as if I commandeer all of our daughter’s attention away from you whenever I show up. It’s not like that at all. I cannot compete with you when it comes to taking care of that child – and I’m not even trying to. There’s no point. You’re her mother – and honestly – I couldn’t have gotten a better one for her if I cloned one.”
She turns into my shoulder and pulls my chin down with a gentle hand till I’m looking into a pair of eyes that must have inspired God’s most beautiful night sky. Smiling softly, she begins to speak.
“I know. I know; you don’t intentionally do it – just like you didn’t intentionally leave us alone to grow without you. That’s not to say it didn’t happen – it just wasn’t intentional.”
Her shoulders move up and down and a small whoosh of air leaves her lips – but she doesn’t break eye contact with me. “It’s like that prodigal son story – feeling angry because he was unappreciated when he could have just asked for whatever he wanted. I’m her mother, she loves me and nothing can change that.”
She pauses and then, another soft smile teases her cushy lips. “But you’re her father. And she loves you – which only means she will miss you – and be happy again whenever she sees you. So – it got to me and it still might – but I understand it. And it’s okay.”
Some food I have no memory of eating is suddenly stuck in my throat – and it feels as though I’m looking at her through layers and layers of nylon. I pass my hand over my face and look at it.
It’s wet. With tears.
“Aww baby,” she says, wiping my cheeks with tender fingers. “What is it?”
I take her hand; hold it away from my face. “I…I love you,” I say, after not saying it in a long time. And I have to admit, the look on her face makes it entirely worthwhile.
She doesn’t respond. Not with words anyway.
And by ‘men’ I’m referring to the male species exclusively.
You know, the third-leg-carrying specie, the one for who it is most acceptable for to have hair on his face – the usually beer-guzzling viewing-centre-arguing video-game-thumping…
You get the point.
Yes; man. This one is for us by us. And it gives me the utmost shame to inform you that we have failed.
We. Have. Failed.
I was online several weeks ago – and I saw some hashtag thing all over the place. It didn’t take too long to find out what was behind it. Turns out that a group of people came together to raise funds to give women self-defense classes to protect them from rape.
Okay. Hold up.
For a man born, raised and bred in Africa, I have the understanding that the male is the protector of the female – at least physically. Maybe today we have independent women who don’t need men or whatever (more on that later), the basic understanding I have is the man is the head of the home. That doesn’t make him superior to the woman, it just gives him the responsibility of direction. Of stability. And protection.
At least, that’s what I understand and believe.
And a lot of us secretly harbor resentment for a woman who thinks she is our equal. The only reason we have ‘accepted’ this gender equality thing is because it’s popular – but how many of us are actually comfortable marrying a woman who isn’t ready to ‘bow and scrape’ before us? How many of us can marry a woman who will not stay at home to care for the kids – a woman who probably earns more than we do – a woman who will not be ‘controlled’?
Would our ‘African’ male ego accept that?
So – is it not a slap in the face when the women have to take self-defense classes, not because they want to, but because they need protection from US? The ‘men’ who are supposed to be their champion/defender/protector/knight (even if said armor is rusty in too many places)?
And maybe that’s not exactly a solution – I’m referring to the self-defense classes thing – because not only does it still make it look like it’s the women’s fault they get raped, what if after self-defense classes they meet a rapist who is stronger and better trained than they are?
Guys, let’s take a moment to reflect on that.
Statistics according to RAINN show that 2/3 rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim. To quote;
Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.1
73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.1
38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.1
28% are an intimate.1
7% are a relative.1
- S. Department of Justice. 2005 National Crime Victimization Study. 2005.
Even though this data was not gathered in Nigeria, it isn’t too far from the truth.
Men, when did we become like this?
Shebi you’ve seen October 1? The most recent of Kunle Afolayan’s movies?
Remember the near-climactic scene – in which the villain has pinned down the leading lady and is ripping her clothes off – and she says “You would forcefully take that which I would willingly give you?”
And even if she doesn’t want to give you – should she not have the right to decide who or what gets access to her body?
After all, it’s her body isn’t it?
I know some parts of this letter would be me repeating myself – after all it was only six months ago in April I wrote something on this issue – but the truth of the matter is; we’re not talking enough. We’re not doing enough.
I was at the police station (Area F to be specific) about two years ago, to sort out a friend who had gotten into a spot of trouble. While waiting for his CO, I noticed two policemen; one male the other female, bantering with a pretty young girl. I really wasn’t listening – but after a while I couldn’t help but hear what they were saying and it made my head hurt.
Apparently, girl had gone to her friend’s house and met the friend’s boyfriend at home. One thing led to another (as they usually do) and friend’s boyfriend had forced her to sleep with him.
I don’t remember the story blow for blow but that was the gist.
But that wasn’t what I found bothersome. That wasn’t what gave me the headache.
What got to me were the responses of the policemen – especially the female officer.
“How e take rape u? No be ya leg u carry waka go dere? E tie your hand? Abegi! Na so una dey do – maybe de guy do finish e no settle u na im u vex!”
I couldn’t believe my ears. This was another woman talking.
After a while though – they finally took a statement from her and agreed to follow her to the guy…
After a while.
Why this apathy when it comes to rape? Why are people so indifferent to this heinous crime?
Men – why do we rape?
Why do we rape?
Is that how your – how our fathers did our mothers; so we’ve come to think it’s normal? Do we have sisters who come home weeping, talking about how their boyfriend/husband/boss (the various roles we play in other women’s lives) forced himself on them – and we laugh and pat her on the back and say ‘that’s normal na! Why are you crying? Kini big deal?’
Kini big deal – about rape – really?!
Guys, how is it a woman’s fault that she got raped?
If we’re talking indecent dressing, why aren’t the Allen Avenue evening ladies getting raped regularly? How about the rag-wearing mad woman?
If we’re talking ‘because she came to our house’, since when did trust become a crime?
If we’re talking because we spent money on her, then we should also rape our mums, we shouldn’t have any female friends – and that woman who brings her kids to our car window to beg should be the next victim.
We should be ashamed of ourselves o – we really should be.
I mean, if we say we’re superior to women, then we should be their protectors and champions – not the ones they need protecting from. We should protect their rights to choose – the exact same way we would protect children and animals.
And if we say we are equal and the same with them – they should be able to decide what they want and don’t want, and we should be able to respect that.
So what is the problem? Guys, can we have a conversation?
Can we realize it’s in no way a woman’s fault a man decides to act beastly? Do we understand that because we are not taking up the mantle to speak and defend our women is why they are taking it upon themselves to protect themselves? Shall we agree that no excuse is good enough – and that the only person whose fault it is in a rape situation is the rapist?
I mean, we should consider the fact that there are yet several of us who see women dressing in some very provocative manner – and the fact that not all men are rapists puts paid to the generalization that the victim did something to provoke that reaction.
Men, let us be responsible. Let us do the needful – and be responsible men, fathers, brothers, cousins, nephews, friends – magas; even!
Let us protect the woman. The girl-child.
From ourselves, if need be.
I hope this letter makes some sort of sense to us – and even more than that – I hope it provokes a certain kind of response. I hope it makes us speak. I hope it makes us think.
More importantly, I hope it makes us do something positive concerning this rape thing.
Daddy Had An Abortion
Such a story of dejection; one well known
A tale of woe
A web of destruction, tangled and old
An open secret; we hope no one knows
Mummy got pregnant; the whole neighborhood cooed;
Mummy had a baby, man! How cool,
Couldn’t wait for baby to grow, begin school
Till baby grew and didn’t know who was who
See the problem was daddy wasn’t really ready
Married mum and got her pregnant – what a tragedy
Liked the idea of ‘husband’, uncomfortable with ‘daddy’
So he skipped town, leaving behind a family
What do you think happened to baby?
Grew up without guidance, quickly became a screw up
Misbehaving, gambling messing the neighborhood up
Came home drunk one night; started a fight
But the mai guard’s arrow didn’t miss it’s flight
Sisi got pregnant – this was a tragedy
Cos Sisi and the coming father weren’t married
He wanted to pay for the abortion; she turned down the offer
He wasn’t ready to be daddy; so he did the job for her,
Beat the baby out of her
Daddy had an abortion – oh how ridiculous
Listen while I spin a tale of loss
Sure they were married; sure he wanted a baby
But he couldn’t ignore when the streets came calling
At least he could have put the phone on silent,
Waited a bit to play the role of proud parent
But he hurried out – couldn’t wait to play
Left his daughter amongst wolves at bay
She grew up beautiful without, all ugly inside;
Learnt of love from men who couldn’t see past her thighs
Should have had a father to open her eyes
But daddy’s abortion was effective; she was dead.
Daddy had an abortion; this is the last
Listen while I spill the tale of lives long past
Daddy wasn’t there – didn’t really like kids
Only time he was – it was through his belt and fists
Made his kids hate each other; made them compete,
Mother tried so hard to make them complete
Daddy had a twin in one of his kids
The one most like him, the one he liked the least
Took another wife to spite his wife
Mummy ignored that, took it in stride
Imagine that, as a man with pride! Frustrating, right?
Guess what daddy did? He robbed mummy of her life
Daddy’s twin was angry and hurt silently waiting
Promised to avenge mummy; such hating
Mummy prayed from the grave; God gave ear
He said ‘what I give I take; do not fear’
You need to be better than your father; listen here
If you really loved your mother you would learn to care.”
So thus ends the story; dry your tears
I hope it’s not for nothing; hope you learnt something
Hope you understand the truth; no lies
Daddies have abortions too; but God can give life.