What does it mean to have your parents say they no longer want anything to do with you, their child? For this article, I spoke to 8 Nigerians who shared their story of being disowned by one or both parents.
This was a difficult piece to write. And this is not just because of the number of people who responded, but also because of the diversity of the stories and the emotions contained in it. I am grateful to everyone who shared their stories with me.
I grew up with my mother. When I was approaching 14, I became a full-blown truant and she could not handle it, so I was sent to live with my uncle in the same city. My uncle’s wife is late, but he remarried, and so the new wife was like a step-mom of sorts.
In 2012, their youngest child raped me. He’s six years older than me. I was drunk when he did it, and I couldn’t speak up. I eventually told a cousin, but that one didn’t loud it, and I lived with the trauma for about 7 years.
In 2019, I told my story on Twitter. Instablog and Linda Ikeji posted it on their pages, and it traveled so far that my family members saw it and called an emergency family meeting. Turned out I was not the only one. Some had spoken before, and others were speaking out. But the guy denied it all. It became a full-blown family affair. I was accused of trying to disintegrate the family, and after the meeting ended, I was excommunicated from everyone.
My father has disowned me and my sister twice. The first time was in 2018. We had a family meeting, and he wanted to report our mother to us, but we took her side because we knew he was wrong. We told him we were unhappy because of his stinginess and how it made everyone’s life hard. He called us ungrateful and said we should go and look for our father. A month after the meeting, he came back to say he has changed and is ready to do better, but my sister didn’t speak to him for a year, because even though he claimed to be a changed person, the situation at home did not change.
A few weeks ago, he said we must be following him to church. My sister stopped in 2019, and I stopped in 2020. We did not actually stop attending church, we just stopped following him to his own church because he’s a pastor. Our refusal to follow him was the last straw. That Sunday morning, he said he ceased to be our father and we must leave his house, go and live anywhere we like. He beat us badly and even injured my sister, and we had no choice but to leave. We have now gotten a place. Once we buy a bed and cooker, we’ll move out.
So, I used to stay with my grandpa. When he fell ill, baba knew he was going to die and decided to give me my own share of his money, as per wonderful granddaughter that I was. I was in 200level.
As soon as the money landed, I told myself, ‘Money is meant to be spent.’ Besides, who would ask me why I spent the money given to me by my grandpa? I started balling in school. When my grandpa died, my souvenir was the talk of the burial party. See, there was money on ground, I had no worries. I had a make-up artist do my make-up and even paid for my mum’s make-up too.
After 2months of spending on unnecessary things, the money finished. Even then, I wasn’t bothered. Until my mother asked me about the money. According to her, my grandpa told her what I was supposed to use the money for.
Oya account for the money, I couldn’t. It was then I knew my village people were following me side by side. Next thing, my mother started asking me how I spend money and that she wanted a statement of account from my bank. I used to collect enough money weekly from home then, and according to her estimation, I was supposed to have a lot in my account.
Right there and then, she calculated my pocket money, how much I was supposed to spend from it, and how much I was supposed to have in my savings account. She said bad as e bad, I was supposed to have nothing less than ₦300k in my account but I had just ₦20k in the account. How?
First of all, I chop beating, and then she disowned me, told me never to come to her house again or call her number. The only person who would have begged on my behalf was dead so I was truly done for.
I was on my own for 3months. It was a crazy period. No pocket money, no mother to pity me. I even went to her friends but she didn’t answer them. I had to go to church to meet our pastor. I narrated what happened, and he brought other elders from the church and they started begging on my behalf.
She sha forgave me, but I wasn’t given pocket money for about 6 months. She’d buy my provisions and foodstuff, then calculate transport fare for me. Now, I have learned to save first before spending. Being disowned really helped curb my lavish spending.
I’m the only child of my parents. When I was about 6 months, they separated. My father went ahead to set up a new family with another woman and my mother did the same with another man, so I grew up with my grandmother.
Once or twice a year, I visited my father and his new family for the holidays. I was about 5 or 6 years then, and as a child, I was always excited to visit for the holidays and have fun once or twice a year. Eventually, they moved and my grandmother thought it would nice be if I moved in with them. I regretted it.
I am the first male child of my father, and perhaps my stepmother assumed I would be a threat because she made it obvious in how she behaved towards me. Funny thing was, the bad treatment wasn’t so obvious to me. Instead, I was grateful to live with someone else other than my grandmother. Looking back now, I see just how bad it was, and how heartbreaking it was that my father never paid much attention to me. He wasn’t always at home, and even when he was, he did whatever my stepmother told him. I lived with them for 4 years before my grandmother felt something was not right. When she came to pick me, I was covered in bruises.
In 2004, I was taken to Lagos to live with my aunt. There, I completed secondary school and university. My father wanted me to come back, but it didn’t work. After I left Akure in 2004, I never spoke to him, his wife, or their children. He tried to reach me but my aunts kept information away from him, and I kept my distance as much as possible too. I’m not very spiritual, but I know my step-mother fears that I’ll shorten her children’s ration when it’s time to share the inheritance.
Finally, after all attempts to connect with me failed, my father called to say he has disowned me, and that I should never bear his surname again. It was an easy thing for me, because even me I don’t want to see him again. And no, I don’t hate him. Honestly. If I’m going to hate anyone, it would be my mother who dropped me and never looked back, and even at that, I still don’t hate her because I know she has her own side of the story too. My belief is that nobody owes me anything. I grew up learning to fight my battle myself and now I have grown up to be someone who doesn’t depend on anybody. Call it toxic behaviour if you want, but some of us didn’t have the luxury of growing up in a family with both parents present.
The first time I was disowned, I was 13 in a boarding school, and I got raped. When my Dad heard about it, he called me a prostitute for being raped. He said I was no longer his daughter, and called me a disgrace.
Even at that, I still went back home to him. I was 13, with nowhere else to go. My mom was holding forte for me, pleading with him on my behalf. Isn’t it funny how one parent disowns you and the other still claims you as their child?
The second time, I got a second piercing for my ears. It was as if the Lord came down that day. My mother shouted, and my father beat the hell out of me. He said, ‘I curse you, you are not my daughter anymore, find your own parent elsewhere.’ I was 18 then. I am 20 now, and I no longer live with my parents.
I am from a Muslim home. My dad and mum are separated and my dad would always tell us that we can’t be Christians. Unfortunately, I didn’t live with him while growing up; I lived with one of his siblings who married a Christian. She goes to church with her kids, and I had no choice but to go with her. With time, I fell in love with the choir department and joined them. I became so committed that within years, I was made the choir coordinator.
Back in secondary school, I practiced Islam in the littlest way: I’d observe the Ramadan fast but pray like twice a day because I wasn’t just comfortable with having to perform ablution five times a day. I covered my hair as well. By the time I finished secondary school, it was glaring to everyone that I wasn’t a devoted Muslim. My lack of interest was obvious. Once, I visited my dad and was told to pray, and I was unconsciously praying in Jesus’ name. I felt so embarrassed but I couldn’t help it. I was used to the Christian way of life and I was interested in almost everything I’d seen them do.
My dad had a series of conversations with me about this interest in Christianity. Sometimes, the conversations came out as threats, but I was far gone. And then I was disowned.
It happened during a family meeting, and even though I had been warned by other family members to listen to my dad and just do his will so I could make him happy, I was stubborn within me. I knew what I wanted and although it hurt me more to disobey my dad, I was committed to following that path. After everyone said their bit during the meeting, I told them I couldn’t change my mind.
My dad announced openly there that he disowned me. He is a responsible father, I’ll give him that credit. He caters for my all my needs even though he had to struggle to make ends meet. He even made sure I attended one of the best schools. But because I held on to Christianity, he told me to forget I have a family and he warned my siblings not to call or have anything to do with me. I was sent out of the house that night.
For three years, I was on my own. I struggled with depression, low self-esteem, hatred, and many other things. I was broke too and very lonely because my closest friends broke up with me within that period. Many people blamed my dad for wanting to change a girl who spent almost her life living with a Christian family. Some of them told him that he shouldn’t have allowed me to stay with the family if he didn’t want me to be like them.
I was the one who made the move to reconcile because it is believed in Yoruba land that the younger should apologise to the elderly. I traveled down to his house and he welcomed me openheartedly without mentioning anything about religion and all.
I was disowned by my father on Saturday. I’d been angry with him for a couple of years and everything just burst out that Saturday.
He said I was being disrespectful to him, and he doesn’t want it to get to the point where he would insult his child. I flared up and shouted at him. I wanted him to tell me how I was being disrespectful to him. At first, he threatened to hit me. And then he actually tried to. I held him off and warned him that I would hit mine back.
If I were to describe my life with him, APC’s government is child’s play. He chose the course I should study. When I got admitted, he expected me to ‘thank’ him. I was like, ‘Did you write the post-UTME for me? Or did you do the interview on my behalf?’ I have no life because of this man. He had this elite level expectation for me, and basically, he controlled my life to fit into that expectation. I have no real-life friends because of him. In trying to live up to his expectations of me, I lost myself and this made me resent him.
I know I have lost him. I won’t apologise to him, neither will I accept his apology. I’m thinking of moving out.
I am gay. At first, nobody in my family knew about my sexuality and life was fine. But then I met up with someone online, and I was set-up. They tied my hands with the shirt I was wearing and beat me up until I was bloodied. My father was informed, and he was told to ‘bail’ me out with ₦700K. Originally, they set it for ₦2m, but they kept going back and forth until they settled for ₦700k.
My mother nursed me back to health. She thought I would kill myself and sometimes, I’d catch her watching me closely. When I was considered well enough, we had the conversation. She asked me, ‘Are you gay? Did they lie against you? Was it a one-chance incident?’ I couldn’t lie my way out of that situation so I told her the truth.
After that conversation with her, she took me to my father. Apparently, they had been talking, and the conversation was an attempt to get the truth. Now that it had been confirmed, my father said so many nasty and negative things to me. He called me a disgrace, placed several curses on me. And then he told me to go back to school.
When he told me to go back to school, I took it at face level. I didn’t know it meant something else. I was in school when I found out that my father called the entire extended family from my mother’s side, and outed me to them by saying that my mother had brought a disgrace to his house. He then told them that he was disowning me, even though he never told me to my face. He told my siblings too, everyone else except me.
It became so chaotic that my mother was caught in the crossfire. She was torn between her husband and her son, and at some point, she had to leave the house. But then she returned to him because she had other children too.
My father stopped sending me money at school. When it was time to pay my school fees, he didn’t. Even when I had an extra semester and needed to pay, my mother and siblings pooled resources to pay for me. When I graduated from university and wanted to come home, my father refused. He said that if I showed up, he would blow my brains out. And no, it’s not an empty threat. My father owns a gun. I had to move to another city where I started squatting with someone. Later, my mother’s family took me in until I was able to do my NYSC and get a job.
I am grateful I have my mother on my side. Despite my father’s refusal to associate with me, my mother tries everything to maintain her relationship with me. We don’t get to see each other often, but we try. Because of her, I have gone home twice. The first time, she was really sick and I had to be there. The second time, it was her birthday and I couldn’t miss that either. In both instances, my father wasn’t at home, but when he called during my mother’s sickness, he found out I was home and he began to yell over the phone. “WHO LET HIM IN? ANSWER ME! WHO LET HIM IN EVEN THOUGH I GAVE A STANDING ORDER THAT HE MUST NOT ENTER MY HOUSE?!” He has people on our street to monitor me and report to him if they sight me on the street. I could sneak in and the family members would not mind, but the people on the street will definitely do their work.
Yes, my father is not the best father, but when he was present in my life, he was fully present. I have been disowned for 4 years now, and I feel his absence a lot. I see him do things for my siblings, things that would have made my life easier if he did that for me too, but he withholds that support from me.
I needed to pay rent at one time, and I didn’t have the means to. Once, my mother and siblings sent me money and when I asked the source, they said it was my father who sent them a large sum of money and they decided to give me a part of it. I was sad, and even in that sadness, I was angry. I told them not to ever do that again. I don’t want the money they have to sneak to me. He is also my father, why not send me money too? Why not call me? He knows where I am, how I am struggling and he doesn’t make any attempt to reach out. Everyone keeps saying I shouldn’t stop reaching out to him, but he is not meeting me halfway. My hands are stretched out, but he is not taking them and pulling me close. Last year, something broke in me and I said, “You know what, fuck it. I don’t care anymore.”
But it’s hard to suddenly shut down that part of me that yearns for him. I am a carbon copy of this man. I look like him, sound like him, does it not mean anything at all to him? Do I not mean anything to him? I admit I made a mistake by getting set-up, but why is he holding it over me all these years? Why refuse to forgive me?