Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
The subject of this week’s What She Said is an 18-year-old girl who says her mother hates her. She talks about the death of her father, and the abuse she’s had to endure at the hands of her mother and ex-boyfriend.
What’s your earliest memory of your childhood?
When I was two years old, I wasn’t able to eat regular food. I only ate pap, which had to be in a feeding bottle. My nursery school teacher at the time thought it was because my parents couldn’t feed me, so she fed me noodles. After eating, I vomited.
When my daddy came to pick me up, I told him and he stormed into the school and reported the teacher to the owner. I didn’t mean to put the teacher in trouble, but I told my dad everything.
You and your dad must be close.
Yeah, we were. He was my hero.
Was? What happened?
He passed away when he was 86. I was 16. One morning after he woke up and we bathed him, he went back to bed because he was weak. We sat by him and soon after, he passed.
I miss him so much. Before he died, when he was about 80 years old, he couldn’t eat by himself so he needed to be fed. I was the one who fed him. After he died, it became difficult for me to eat alone.
He protected me from my mum for as long as he could.
I’m so sorry for your loss. Why was he protecting you from your mum?
My parents had different ways of raising and disciplining children.
If I was disobedient, she would flog me with a cane or use a water hose. Around the time I turned 11, she switched to hot water and pepper.
She would put pepper in my eyes, vagina and hands. Sometimes she mixed the pepper with hot water. The older I grew, the worse it got.
I’m so sorry that happened.
When I was 16, there was this girl on our street who always changed her phone. One day, my mum asked her how she changed her phone so often because she lived with her aunt and not her parents. The girl said she has numerous boyfriends who bought her these phones.
After she left, my mom said, “is that not your mate that has men who give her money and buy phones for her. All you know how to do is sleep with boys for free.” And from that day on, the torment got worse. She started expecting me to foot bills in the house.
I couldn’t because I had just gotten into uni. I didn’t have a job or anything. It was around this time I met my 25-year-old ex-boyfriend. Our relationship was smooth for sometime until he met my family and problems started.
When you say family…
My mother and my younger sister. My step-siblings are older, so they don’t live with us. They’re the children from my father’s first marriage.
My younger sister outgrew my mother’s treatment and started siding with her to hurt me. They frustrated me so much.
My sister tried breaking my then boyfriend and I up. She messaged him on Facebook and told him she saw me sending nudes to my male best friend. It was all a lie, but he didn’t believe me. When I reported her to my mother, she told me to forget about it.
My ex stopped trusting me. He would monitor my chats, calls, outings, and my mother allowed it.
I wasn’t allowed to have either male or female friends, and I was only allowed to go to his house. Anything he didn’t allow me to do that I did in the presence of my mum and sister, they’d tell him.
When the lockdown happened, I wanted him to end the relationship. He used to say horrible stuff to me. I was so tired. I kept cheating, but he wouldn’t leave.
My mother’s friend told her that he’s the only one that can control me, so the relationship can’t end. My mother told me I wasn’t allowed to end it.
There was a time he even flogged me with a cane.
He did what?
One time at home, he insulted my mother because of an incident with a missing card. When he left, I called him and insulted him as well.
The next day, he came to my house with four canes, left them in the garage of our house and came to meet me in my room. He told me to repeat what I said on the phone.
I knew he was angry, and I felt trapped. When I tried to leave, he pushed me and my phone fell. When I tried to pick up my phone, he started dragging it with me, then he slapped me, so I slapped him back. He went to the garage to bring the canes.
He flogged my back where my mum had given me a spinal injury before, so I was in so much pain. I’m also asthmatic. I fell down and was crying, but he just kept flogging me.
Was there nobody at home? Did nobody help you?
Initially, when he came, he met my sister and she saw the canes in his hand. He told her to call my mum, and she went. She told my mum, who was at her friend’s house, that he came with canes, but my mum didn’t take her seriously.
After he finished flogging me, he felt bad and went to call my mum from her friend’s house. She saw the cane in his hand, but didn’t know he had already flogged me.
When she came to the house, heard me screaming and ran to meet me. She boiled hot water to help me massage my wounds.
That evening, he started begging me. He said he didn’t know why he did it, and he was sorry. My mum talked to him and told him to go home.
A couple of days later, my mum told me I had to continue the relationship. That I shouldn’t take life too seriously. When I threatened to report the boy to the police, she said she’d disown me.
That must have been so traumatising. How were you able to cope with the lockdown?
It was terrible. When the lockdown intensified, my mum made me stop eating at home because I wasn’t dropping money for food. So, I would wake up in the morning and go to my friend’s house next door. We would work out, cook and eat. She fed me for about three months. Then, my ex complained I spent too much time there, so I wasn’t allowed to go there anymore.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I started using my dad’s money.
Your dad left money for you?
Before he died, he linked my sim card to his bank account so I could withdraw money when I needed it. I’d just transfer from his account to mine. The money was about ₦200,000 .
I started using some of the money to invest, but I wasn’t really great at it, so I kept losing money. Eventually, all of the money finished.
My mother was a signatory to the account, and one day she went to the bank and noticed that the money was gone.
By this time, the lockdown had eased so I went back to school in Ibadan. She tried calling me, but I blocked her number. She told my ex to tell me to return the money. My school fees were also due, so I was looking for about ₦300,000.
Doesn’t she pay your school fees?
No, she doesn’t. I’m basically sponsoring myself through school. I reach out to people and if they can, they help me out. If they can’t, I figure it out.
She still expects me to send money home for them to take care of some of their bills. She thinks I’m a prostitute.
My sister sent me a message a while ago, that they need a new freezer and she wants to register for GCSE and WAEC so she needs money.
This must be so much for you to deal with.
It’s a lot. At a point, I wanted to kill myself because of all of the stress. I developed high blood pressure, and I have headaches that never go away no matter how many painkillers I take.
With my school schedule now, I can’t work. The days I ask around and nobody has money to spare for me to get food, I just drink water and sleep.
My dad’s pension comes every month, but it’s not enough because I’m in my final year in a Polytechnic. I need money for my project. If the money for this month gets paid, it’ll finish that day.
If I’m not fast enough and my mother takes the cheque book to the bank to withdraw the money, I’d have to wait till next month.
Have you tried asking your step-siblings for help?
I did in 2019, and they said they weren’t banks. I never asked them for money again.
Do you think there’s a reason your mum does all of this?
When my sister was born, we had a maid that used to live with us. My mother believes that the maid was a witch who initiated us.
How do you feel about your mum?
She gave birth to me, so I don’t think I can hate her, no matter what she’s done.
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