Tobi* loved their dad. They were the best of friends and did everything together. But things changed and they started to fight too much, until Tobi felt the only solution was to put as much distance between them as possible.
How would you describe your relationship with your dad growing up?
Tobi: My dad and I were super close when I was younger. We used to wear “and co” and read the books he liked as a child. We always had something to talk about. Everyone around us knew how close we were. If anyone did anything to me, I’d go report to my dad. I trusted him a lot.
Tobi: Entering JS 1 in 2009. Growing up, I was never made to do things like wash my own clothes and sweep. Being thrown into boarding school was hard. He could tell I was going through a lot, but he didn’t want to do anything about it. It seemed like a very wicked choice to me.
With the amount of time I spent around my classmates, we would share experiences of our family lives. I soon realised there were some things my dad did I casually dismissed because they seemed normal. It wasn’t always like that, but something changed once I entered secondary school.
He would passive-aggressively preach about me. He always complained I was too quiet, and he took my quietness as anger. Every time we prayed in the house, he kept trying to “deliver” me from anger. Then, there were the strange punishments — he would tell me to kneel in a wardrobe knowing fully well I hate the dark, or fast compulsorily, or lock me in my room.
During holidays, I’d try to avoid everyone by spending a lot of time in my room, hiding. If I wasn’t in my room, there’d be something he’d berate or punish me for.
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How was it like when you finally graduated from secondary school?
Tobi: It got worse. I didn’t get admission to the university because I was too young, so I spent some time doing tutorials for exams. In the lessons I attended, there were these boys from our church who I occasionally hung out with. Once that started, my dad complained about people seeing me talk to boys. It escalated to the point of him slapping me because they walked me home. It was tiring because he never treated any of my younger siblings like this. I was the bearer of everyone’s mistakes, and I took all his anger.
How did he treat your siblings?
Tobi: As the eldest child, whatever they did was somehow my fault. Even if I wasn’t present or aware. Plus, he was always kinder in the way he spoke to them. Sure, he hit them, but he always hit me harder.
That’s why when I got into university in 2017, the one thing I pushed for was my own place off-campus. Living in the hostel meant you’d have to go home once school closes. I put a lot of distance between us, and it helped that he didn’t try to force me back. He never looked for or tried to see me in school. The few times he called, I’d tune him out. His voice became white noise.
That sounds better
Tobi: It was. Everything was going great until the pandemic started in 2020. With the lockdown, there was already a lot of mental strain we were going through as a society. It broke my spirit, and I didn’t know what else to do, so I tried to talk to my dad about my mental health and how I felt depressed. His response was to pray it away.
It felt like he was trying to use God to punish me. Whenever I did something he didn’t like, he’d try to pray or fast the problem away. It was ridiculous. Then, he tried to convince me that locing my hair was somehow responsible for why my life is the way it is, that God was angry with me. It really affected my relationship with God.
I’m so sorry
Tobi: After he got tired of shouting at me, he started to hit me. It made me realise I’d never have a proper relationship with my dad. He’s destroyed everything that could’ve been used as a bridge.
As the lockdown restrictions eased, I got a remote job that allowed me to still pursue my degree. I moved to live with a friend and didn’t step foot in the house for a year. Then, on the 30th of December (2020), I went to pick up some clothes and left the house for another year.
What about now?
Tobi: I’ve been spending more time at home now. I haven’t moved out yet because I can’t afford to, but I do try to leave the house whenever I can. Currently, I haven’t stepped foot there in two months. It’s from friend’s house to friend’s house. Finishing school and getting a job reduced the amount of control he had over me. So there’s not much I need him for.
What about your mum and siblings? Do you miss them?
Tobi: I do miss them, but there’s no amount of missing them that’ll make up for how terrible I’d feel if I lived with them. I’m choosing myself. My siblings have a better relationship with him than I do, so they’re fine. I check in on them regularly.
Have you ever tried to talk to him about how you feel?
Tobi: Recently, I asked him if he knew he was harder on me than any of his other children, and he said he did know. He felt I was going to spoil, so he had to prevent it. Funny because I still spoil las las, but that’s his own. I didn’t want to hear anything else he had to say.