By Funmi Ajumobi
Mary Obikoya, the girl whose birth stirred controversy 15 years ago when three women claimed to be the mother, is in the news again.
This time, however, the news is that the `miracle baby’ is missing.
“Mary, just come back. It doesn’t matter where you are! Whether you are with a man or not, whatever that has led you to run away, many people still love you. I still love you. Just come out. You have a life ahead of you.
You are a special child and you have a future ahead of you. You are a child of Nigeria and many people still miss you”.
These were the words of Honourable Abike Dabiri-Erewa last Tuesday when she corroborated a report that Mary was missing. She said she had to speak out on the missing girl because a national newspaper published the story which she claimed she had been trying to avoid believing that the police who knew about the case will find out where Mary is.
Mary popularly known as `miracle baby’, ignited controversy at birth in 1994 when a 65-year old woman celebrated her birth as a miracle that happened to her at her old age. NTA NEWSLINE unraveled the mystery behind her birth through Hon. Abike Dabiri, who was a reporter with the NTA then.
After investigations, a syndicate which operated by telling mothers their new born babies died at birth was uncovered.
The mothers would be told to pay huge sums of money to see the corpses, which they could not afford. The babies were then sold to willing buyers. Three women laid claim to Mary and, after the investigations and DNA test spanning eight years, eventually, Mary reunited with her real mother, Kikelomo Obikoya.
According to Dabiri-Erewa, she took Mary from her mother at age 10. She said she did not like her condition because she wasn’t looking well and told the mother. After some discussions, Mary herself said she preferred to be around Dabiri-Erewa who then arranged for the girl to live with one Alhaja Ogunniyi a teacher and educationist.
Dabiri said Mary’s mother, Kikelomo, had been coming to see her and that she put her at Model College where she started JSS1. According to the lawmaker, by the time the girl was in JSS3, there were strong issues which started when she noticed that Kikelomo had been calling Mary, trying to turn her against her foster mother.
Dabiri-Erewa said she thought it was time to bond with her mother as a family and the mother herself came for her and she (Dabiri) arranged a school for her in Ketu where she kept on paying the fees.
But the lawmaker claimed that the girl’s last result from the school did not impress her prompting her decision to move the girl to a Catholic school with boarding facilities in Maryland.
The school had already agreed that Mary should resume with them last September.
According to the lawmaker, the last time she heard about Mary from her foster mother, Mrs. Ogunniyi, was when she said Mary called her around 10 p.m one day and said her mother had sent her out of the house.
On the efforts to get the ‘miracle baby’ since she went missing, Dabiri-Erewa said she reported the case to the police and waited till this time because she thought it was a mother to child prank.
“Sometimes a child may want to toy with the parents wanting to show them she is unhappy with what they are doing to her, but this is getting too long and getting really dangerous. One cannot really get the truth from Kikelomo. I know she uses strong words on that child like `I will kill you’ and several things had happened within the eight months that she left to live with her mother.
“When we called her (Kikelomo), she said it was her neighbour Mary went out with for a wedding and she also said that there is a teacher in her school that raped her. We cannot understand because she just hooked with a lovely woman in the quarters who actually takes those children to church.
“After interrogation of Kikelomo by the police, I got a text message from one of the police officers handling Mary’s case before that goes thus, ‘Your Honourable ma, during the course of my little investigations, I discovered that the woman has knowledge of her daughter’s whereabouts. Please be careful this time around about the case because of the way the woman talks. I will not say more than that’.
“Two months is too long and I believe two things could have happened. She could go with a man or could even be pregnant but the appeal is that everybody still loves her even if the mother doesn’t. However, if the mother knows more than she is telling and there is more to this, by the grace of God, everything will be unraveled.
“The Mary I know is a brilliant girl, smart , sweet, shy and very respectful and I cannot see her being that girl that somebody will want to drive out because she is a girl that one will always want around.”
Alhaja Ogunniyi, the foster mother, narrating her own story, said, Mary called her around 10 p.m. one day in August that her mother had sent her out of the house. “I didn’t see the number she used to call me but I asked her if she could find her way to Ikorodu and she said she was coming the following morning. We expected her throughout that day and we didn’t see her.
I called her mother and the mother said I should not mind her, that she had gone to pack in with somebody. I went to her school at Ketu to know if she was coming for the holiday coaching classes but the school said they didn’t see her and they assured us that if they saw her, they would inform us. I then informed Honourable Abike who asked me to report the case to the police which I did.
“Kikelomo is such a woman with a character that one could not understand. All through Mary’s stay with me, I did not see anything in her that will make one to send her out. A child can misbehave and the responsibility of the parent is to scold the child not to the extent of wanting to kill her. The way she left my house was not really palatable because ordinarily Mary will not want to stay with her.’‘
Debola Ogunniyi, the daughter of Mary’s foster mother, also spoke on the missing girl. She said, “Mary is a very quiet girl, gentle and easy going. Anytime her mummy visited, she did not always like to see her, she preferred to stay indoors and anytime she went to her place on holidays, she was always telling us that her mummy is wicked and didn’t like going there. Mary’s mum was always saying negative words to her. What surprised me was the day she was leaving with her mum, it was not the Mary I knew”.
At Jolar Private School, Ketu where Mary was schooling, Mr George Nebo, an official, said Alhaja Ogunniyi informed him during the holiday coaching classes that Mary was missing and he told her he didn’t see her in school.
Nebo said the last time he heard about Mary was when he called the mother that they didn’t see her to resume with others for coaching classes and the mother informed him that Mary would not come back to the school because she would be going to a boarding school.
Sunday Vanguard also spoke with Kikelomo Obikoya, Mary’s mother, in her office at the Lagos State Secretariat after bluffing on phone that she would not allow a journalist in her house. Kikelomo said she did not send out her daughter and that when she scolded her for coming home late when she went out with one of their neighbours, Mrs Kemi Okeleye, to a party was when she ran away from home. Kikelomo said she had warned her several times to stop following the woman to church as she didn’t like the way they always left her to board public transport home alone.
“Mrs Kemi Okeleye was the one that Mary spoke with on phone last and I have not heard anything from her since then. My right is to discipline my child. The Bible says teach your child so that he will give you rest.
Anytime I am correcting her, my neighbours will be saying she is a big girl, that I should stop harassing her.
“There is another of my neighbours called Sesan and our quarters chairman, Mr Kusimo and his wife who ganged up to hide my daughter because Mr Sesan asked me if I will still continue to beat her if I see her despite all the stress I have gone through since Mary left home and I told her I will still beat her because I did not bring her to the house because of anybody.
She is my child and I am the one that knows how to handle her. It is none of their business.’’On Dabiri and Alhaja Ogunniyi’s claim that Mary is a good child that no one would want to scold to the extent that she will run away from home, she said her neighbours had been speaking to Mary against her wish and it is what she likes that she does at home without listening to instructions. “I even hate the language that she a Nigeria child and maybe that is why she is becoming wayward.
“I reported the case in the police station and they arrested Mrs Okeleye and later released her but they are still investigating. I have gone everywhere in search of Mary including churches for spiritual assistance and I have been assured that she is not lost but kept by neighbours in my quarters. I was told the people went to give her to a man who they have been introducing to her before.
“I was thinking if Honourable and other people had supported me to arrest those my neighbours, Mary would have come out. I was just angry with Mary and I scolded her and I did not know that Mary could run away from home because of that”.
Sunday Vanguard visited Kikelomo’s residence at Bola Tinubu Quarters, Lagos to confirm her accusations against her neighbours especially the estate chairman, Mr Kusimo, his wife, Mr Sesan and Mrs Kemi Okeleye.
The reporter got the address in the police report in the course of interviewing Kikelomo as she had refused to give out the address, insisting the interview should be done in her office under the excuse of not wanting to see any journalist in her house.
We did not meet Kusimo and Sesan, but met their wives and other neighbours who did not want their names in print for the fear of Kikelomo’s alleged troubles. We were also told that Mrs Kemi Okeleye had gone for church service.
Kusimo’s wife said she and her husband did not know anything about the whereabouts of Mary and that all they did as neighbours was to caution Kikelomo about the way she had been beating the child as a way of correcting her.
“It has always been her behaviour to pick quarrel with everyone and we always try to avoid her. There was a time she beat this girl and used new razor blade to cut her whole body including her face and she rubbed pepper on it before pushing her out naked leaving her with ordinary pants. A girl that is 15 years old, how can a good mother do that to a child she calls her own?
Nobody in the estate was ready to save that child from her because she could pounce on anyone that tried it. I was the one that saved that child from her that day. And her excuse for beating her was because she did not finish washing the clothes she asked the girl to wash before she came back from work.
‘‘The last one that led to the missing of Mary was because she came home late from where she followed one of our neighbours to and the woman apologised to her to which she said there was no problem. No one is saying she should not scold her daughter. She has the right to do so but her own type of discipline, I have never seen it in my life.
She beat the girl and the girl ran out of their flat but maybe when Mary heard her breaking a bottle and started swearing that she will kill her that day with bottle and razor blade which the girl had experienced before, that made her run away. Kikelomo was raging that day that even if Fashola came to ask Mary from her, she would tell him that she is the owner of the child and that she was ready to kill her and face the consequence.
‘‘If she has been the one struggling to raise that child, she will know her worth. She doesn’t value the girl. If you see that girl before she left, you will pity her. She was so thin like somebody with HIV. Even if she is a maid, she should not have been used like that.
‘‘Mary is a good girl and I have never seen her with a man before. She does all the house chores, she is gentle and she doesn’t play outside because her mother must not see her children play outside. Kikelomo is the one that sent her out of the house and I pray that the girl will come home one day, you will hear more revelations from her”.
Sesan’s wife equally spoke on what she knew about Kikelomo and her daughter: “I don’t relate with Kikelomo because if you try to pacify her while beating her children, she will rain curses on you and I have never seen where a good mother will wake up and be raining curses on her children.
That is her style. Why my husband and the quarter’s chairman went to pacify her was because of the way she was behaving that she was ready to kill Mary that day”.
Other neighbours that did not want their name in print related the same stories.
Now that nobody has clue as to where Mary is since she left home, and everyone seems to see her as a good girl but her mother, her disappearance from home nine weeks after remains a mystery to Nigerians who have been expecting that one day, Mary, the `miracle baby’ will become a medical doctor, a career she has been nursing..