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.
Today’s subject for #ZikokoWhatSheSaid is Oghosasere, is a 25-year-old Nigerian woman. She talks about the complicated relationship with her parents in Benin, changing her identity to fit into the Lagos scene, and finally reaching the bad b!tch status that didn’t last long.
Let’s start from the beginning. Tell me about your childhood.
I grew up in a polygamous family and lived in Benin city. My parents were previously married and met each other five years after losing their spouses. They both had two kids from their first marriages — my mum had boys while my dad had girls. Fifteen years later, they had me and I’m their only child together. By the time I was born, all their kids were out of the house, so growing up was boring and lonely. It should have been more interesting because we lived in the same compound with my father’s family but my mother was adamant about me staying away from them, especially my grandmother.
My father’s family were traditional worshippers. My mother believed my grandmother placed a curse on her because she didn’t want my father to marry a Christian. To my mother, her 15 years of miscarriages and stillbirths before having me were my grandmother’s doing. Hence the decision to name me Oghosasere which means “The one God allowed to stay” — a reminder of the ordeal.
My mother endlessly recounted this experience in the hopes that I’d be frightened, but it didn’t work. It simply made me curious about the mysterious old woman. I wanted answers and one day, that curiosity almost killed the cat.
LOL. What happened to the cat?
When I was three, my mother sent me out to play on my own because I had been interrupting her conversation with a friend. Once I noticed she was engrossed in the gist, I quietly snuck away to my grandmother’s house.
The front door was locked so I went to the backyard, and what I saw looked like a Nollywood scene: candles lit, slaughtered animals laid around, and my grandmother kneeling in front of a figurine. Nobody had to tell me to run before she realised I was there. Luckily for me, my mother didn’t even notice I was gone. Thank God for the sweet gist. LOL
Omo. What was the relationship like with your dad?
We were close. He was an easy-going guy, who was firm about his beliefs but also accepted my mother’s faith. Everything was great until he made it clear to my mother that he wanted a son and refused to spend any more money on my education. This didn’t change anything for me at the time because I was an oblivious four year old daddy’s girl. My mother, however, wanted me to have an education, and moving me to her sister’s house in Lagos was her only option because she couldn’t afford the school fees herself.
So after my last term in primary two, I was off to Lagos. It was my first time out of Benin, and it felt like a vacation. There was lots of food, games, and no rules about going outside alone. My aunt had a daughter my age and we played to our hearts’ content. Lagos seemed fun. I wasn’t lonely anymore so there was no hesitation when my mum asked me to stay while she packed her bags to leave.
I still went back to Benin on school breaks. The relationship with my parents was great. My father was excited whenever I was back, and we’ddrive to Mr. Biggs for their juicy meat pies, while singing along to Brenda Fassie’s or Yinka Ayefele’s songs.. Things didn’t change between us until I was eight.
My father finally got the son he wanted with another woman. Our relationship went downhill from there. There were no more trips to Mr. Biggs or car karaokes together. He didn’t seem to care about me anymore. When I went back to Lagos after that break, the calls and texts stopped. I didn’t see the point in returning to Benin again.
I’m sorry that happened. What was Lagos like for you?
Stressful. No one could pronounce Oghosasere so I had to change my name. The kids at school were also mean. My classmates called me a village girl because I could only speak Pidgin English. Saying things like “How far or “Wetin” got me a good beating from my aunt too. Trying to become a Lagos girl took a toll on my confidence.
Secondary school was worse. I went from being called a “Village girl” to “Flat screen” because my uniforms were oversized. My aunty didn’t believe girls needed tight-fitted clothes. I resorted to using pins to hold the sides of my uniforms, but it didn’t make a difference — I was too skinny. “Flat screen” stuck with me until I graduated, and I dreaded every moment of it. I missed the simplicity of Benin.
Kids are wicked creatures.
Did you eventually get past the teasing?
Yes, my butt got bigger when I got into uni.
We thank God for puberty —
LOL. I still struggled with my confidence, but I felt much prettier in uni. The freedom after moving into the hostel also brought me relief. For the first time, I made friends and didn’t get bullied about things that made me a Benin girl. I partied, had shitty boyfriends, a lot of sex, and partied some more. No more baggy clothes or skinny legs, I was finally a Lagos babe and revelled in it. I thought everyone was on the same high of being young and free.
Unfortunately, the party days were coming to an end, and I didn’t get the memo early. My friends went from smoking weed and hopping between clubs to making solid plans about the next phase of life. They talked about things like getting a master’s degree, applying for jobs, and planning weddings. I was clueless and there was no one to speak to. My aunt was more focused on her daughter, while the relationship with my parents had become non-existent.
Would you like a relationship with them again?
I have to figure out my life first. I want my mum to be proud of her decision to take me out of Benin city.
What does figuring things out look like to you?
I’ve never dreamt about the future but I know it starts with letting people know my name is Oghosasere. My ten-year plan was to become a Lagos big babe but now, I’m owning my identity as a Benin woman living in Lagos and thriving.