|Nollywood actor, Foluke Daramola, campaigns against domestic violence.
Iniabasi look her husband wit corner eye as he dey sleep. Ukeme just dey roll up and dan like say spirit dey purshoo am. She don bone tire! Why dis her mumu husband dey snore like olden days Volkswagen? Ha ahn! One day, she go fit carry pillow press press im head make he for quiet! Ah ahn!
As if Ukeme know wetin she dey tink, he turn im nyash face her come release one kine mess wey smell pass egg wey done rotten. De mess go straight go her face like say na wetin in bin dey target.
She slap am wit one mind! ‘Your papa! Why you go mess for my face?! You dey mad ne?’
Ukeme wake up with vex. Dis time, she no even prepare herself before he start dey blow blow her. As he dey beat her, he follow dey bite her for her neck, for her breast, for her belle, and for her lap. After he done swell up her body well well, he tear the remaining cloth wey for dey her body come dey drag her for ground. Deir neighbors bin don tire for their fights so tey nobody even comot from their flat. Na so he drag her body for their compound till them reach outside. As people gather dey laugh, he pour spit for her face come waka dey go. Like say something push am, he turn back, waka come her place, open in trouser, comot in prick, come start dey piss for her body. All de agberos wen dey her area come dey laugh dey hail Ukeme. Na den she faint.
Iniabasi Unwana was the first of 8 children in a family that was piss poor! Her father was a mean mechanic who spent whatever money he made on Ogogoro. He drank so much that his natural odor was the stench of stale alcohol. They lived in a one-room apartment where they literally had to sleep like sardines. Her mother seemed to give birth every 10 months, such that at Iniabasi’s 8th birthday, she had 7 siblings.
Her father didn’t hit them but her mother more than made up for that. What her father did though was…nothing! He didn’t pay bills, he didn’t provide money for food, he never sent any of his kids to school and he definitely didn’t work…much.
Her mother on the other hand worked enough for 10 people. She was a street cleaner between the hours of 6 and 7am and a maid for an Alhaja from 8am to 5pm. When she got home, it was to begin her business as an Akara seller at the motor park. She would do this until about 10pm before returning home. Even with what she did, she was only able to raise enough to ensure that her kids ate and wore the cheapest clothes. She paid the rent also but the bulk of her money went into treatment for her ailing mother in the village and clearing her husband’s debts at different Ogogoro joints. Anyone looking at Iniabasi’s mother would never believe that she is a young woman; she looked old, tired, angry and very bitter.
Iniabasi started helping out when she was 4. Her mother would prepare Akamu and it was Iniabasi’s job to hawk them on the streets. As she grew older, it fell to her to wash the beans, take them to grind in a bucket heavier than her and then peel the yams and potatoes as she waited for her mother. She would then put all of them in a truck and push them to the spot where her mother cooked. She had to do all this while taking care of her younger ones.
It was on one of such days that her father returned home early. She was washing the beans when she heard a grunt behind her. She jumped, startled, as she faced the person who had made the sound. She saw her father rubbing his penis while looking at her. She was 9 but she knew that what he was doing was wrong.
‘Papa, wetin you dey do?’ she asked as she took a step back. He approached her, swaying, still rubbing his penis, and still wearing the weird look.
‘Come here. Come and take.’
Iniabasi looked behind her. She was boxed in. Her only escape route was through her father. As she contemplated what to do, Iya Kemi came out of her room with her broom held high. Iya Kemi hit her father repeatedly, with each well placed blow punctuated with a scream.
‘Neighbors! Neighbors! Make una come see abomination! Come see wetin Unwana dey do for front of im pikin oh! Aiye ma baje! Ko ni da fun e! Olori buruku! Oloshi!’
Iniabasi ran to Iya Kemi and used all her strength to try to pull her off her father. Iya Kemi wouldn’t budge. She kept hitting her father as he tried to protect himself.
Neighbors from other compounds came in and men started beating Unwana. They stripped him and continued to beat him. Someone shouted, ‘Bring tire’ and out of nowhere, a tire materialized. They had just put the tire around him when sirens of an approaching police vehicle and shots fired into the air sent the crowd running.
Unwana was rushed to the hospital and someone sent for her mother.
When her mother came home and asked what happened, Iniabasi trembled in response. She told her mother everything and watched her expression change from worry to extreme anger. Her mother went to the door, locked it and faced her.
‘Come here. And make devil punish you today say you shout.’
Iniabasi went to her mother for what she knew was a certainty; she was about to get the beating of her life!
That was the beginning of her daily beatings. For the slightest misdemeanor, her mother would look at her and beat her black and blue! Sometimes the neighbors helped and other times, they didn’t. Iniabasi’s body was designed with so many welts that she began to look scaly.
Her father recovered and returned home. The police dropped the case, blaming his attempted molestation on impaired judgement. The neighbors made fun of him and to escape them, he spent more and more time indoors. He was always drunk; even more so than before. One thing changed though. He was visibly scared of Iniabasi! When she served him food, he shrank a bit. If he was alone in the room and she entered, he would send her back outside. Eventually, he asked his wife to never let Iniabasi serve him food, drink or anything again. When she greeted him, he didn’t respond. If there was a message for him, she would have to send one of her siblings to him. On the contrary though, he showed love to the rest of his children. He alienated Iniabasi and didn’t care that she wilted a little bit more every time he ignored her.
Iniababsi had one sad childhood.
Iniabasi kept doing her duties; preparing the Akamu the night before, waking up in the morning to do house chores, preparing different trays for each of her siblings to go and hawk, cooking for the house and then setting out to hawk whatever Akamu was remaining. She would return at about 12pm to wash the beans for her mother’s business, peel the yams and potatoes, soak them in water and head out to hawk some more. At about 4pm, she would return home to go grind the beans. After that, she would load the wheel barrow with the food, plates, cups and firewood and head to the park. When she gets there, she would clean the environment and set the firewood, proceed to cook the yams and potatoes and do other minor things. Her mother would turn up, push her from the seat and continue frying with not so much as a ‘thank you’ for all the work.
Iniabasi always stayed on to help sell the food to the agberos and travelers at the park. When they were done for the night, she would park up and wheel the barrow behind her mother until they got home.
Soon enough, the agberos began to notice the young budding body of Iniabasi. As they noticed her, they began to grab; her bum, her almost none existent breasts and her oh-so-innocent face. As they noticed her, her mother noticed them noticing her. Her mother would deliver an occasional knock or slap when she thought Iniabasi was being too friendly; ‘too friendly’ being when she dared to smile or laugh when selling the food. How dare she laugh?!
One night, a young, dancing agbero entertained the people in the park with his utterly impressive moves. Iniabasi laughed with the glee of a happy child. Everyone was captivated; well, everyone but Iniabasi’s mother. She pulled Iniabasi’s ears and slapped her. She told Iniabasi to go home and wait for her. Iniabasi cried until she got home. She sat outside, in the slightly chilly weather as she wondered what she had done to God to get this rotten life.
As soon as she saw her mother, she stilled in preparation for the blow that was sure to come. She helped her mother with the containers and wheelbarrow, flinching every time her mother moved a muscle. She kept waiting for the blow but it didn’t come. As soon as she was done putting everything away, her mother called her into the room. She walked in with her heart in her mouth. She instinctively knelt down, taking care to keep her head down.
Her mother did all the talking.
‘As you don dey look boys, dey play with them, time done reach make you comot for my house. I no go allow you turn ashawo for my house. So, your father don gree say make you marry. Since your body big pass your age, nobody go know say you small. One driver for Ebute Metta wey dem dey call Ukeme wan marry you. We done gree. So, pack your load. I go carry you go meet am tomorrow. I for do wedding for you but as you disgrace your father, we go give you to Ukeme for free. Na so we take tire for you. And when you go, no come back this house. Oya, comot from my room before I use shoe finish you.’
Iniabasi got up, her shoulders resigned to her fate and for the first time in her life, she slept peacefully. She was leaving the hell hole!
Someone took the picture of the naked, battered woman lying down on the street in Ebute Metta and sent it to Linda Ikeji’s blog. She ran the story, asking the authorities to step in and people who knew her to help out in whatever way they could.
An intern at Project Alert saw the post and went to Mrs. Josephine Effah-Chukwuma with it. Mrs. Josephine sent out a team immediately to Ebute Metta. As soon as they got there, the team lifted the frail woman unto a stretcher and into the waiting rescue truck. They sped off to the Federal Medical Centre which was, thankfully, a few streets away.
Turns out the ‘woman’ was no woman after all. When she was resuscitated, the doctor was shocked that this battered ‘woman’, with multiple injuries, some cracked ribs, a broken nose, some internal bleeding and eyes swollen shot was no older than 14.
This series starts with different girls in different towns. To get acquainted with their stories, check the links below;