February 26, 2014

Abandoned by parents, pregnant at 15, homeless at 16

•Nursing mother takes to begging in Lagos

By Bose Adelaja

Descending Oshodi-Oke overhead bridge linking the main market this particular day, attention was drawn to a dark young woman, dressed in red trousers, a blouse and a pair of rubber slippers. She was standing and carrying a 10-month-old baby boy on her shoulder and  was begging for alms.

The baby looked frail and sleepy, crying profusely under the scorching sun. He started vomitting at a time but the mother was without a wrapper to cover him or a handkerchief to clean him up. The nursing mother who claimed to be 16 held her son firmly, although an experienced mother could easily deduce that she was a novice in nursing a baby.

Even traders and passersby could not help but wonder aloud what a girl of her age was doing at that spot under the scorching sun. But as soon as she spotted this reporter, she intensified  gestures that suggested she was there for serious business. ‘’E saanu mi nitori Olorun, a ni’lo owo lati jeun ni...’’(Help me for God’s sake, we need money to feed ourselves…), she appealed in Yoruba Language.

Vanguard Metro’s subsequent  chat with the 16-year-old nursing mother which lasted several hours revealed that she is a product of a broken home and that she got pregnant at the age of 15.  Also, she escaped a rape attempt by some street urchins, popularlly called Area Boys based in Oshodi.

Bimbola Oguntoyinbo, as she was later identified, hails from Ogbomoso in Osun State but was born and bred in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State.

According to the nursing mother, she was brought up by her late maternal grand mother, Madam Bukola Oguntoyinbo, who resided in Ago-Oba and took up the responsibility of fending for her grand daughter until she got pregnant for a bus- conductor by name Sodiq Adewuyi.

She told VM that prior to her relationship with lover boy Sodiq, she worked for two years as a service girl with a food vendor popularlly called Mama Kundus who is now late. Sodiq was one of the customers at the shop. One thing soon led to another and she found herself pregnant, prompting her to relocate to Sodiq’s rented apartment at Sodeke until the arrival of their baby boy, Waris.

But the joy of the baby’s arrival was short-lived as Sodiq soon started facing some challenges which affected his finance and he could no longer afford the house rent and the young family was rendered homeless about two months ago.

Sodiq’s response to this was to disappear with his belongings, leaving mother and child at the mercy of good Samaritans. When Bolanle could not cope with the situation, she took to the streets of Abeokuta and few days ago, she decided to relocate to Lagos in search of greener pastures.

According to her, her mother, Bukola Oguntoyinbo, about 35 years of age, got married to three different men and gave birth to nine children. ‘’I came to Lagos to find a job. I arrived here few days ago but unable to find a job, I was forced to take to begging in order to save my sick baby,’’ she informed.

As regards accommodation, she took this reporter to a motor park called ‘’Aso Rock’’ near Mushin park. ‘’I was sleeping inside a bus until I was attacked by some Area Boys who dispossessed me of my belongings, including my wrappers.

Also, they wanted to rape me and steal my baby. The situation prompted me to run for safety. As at now, I am afraid of going back to the park because of my experience but I am homeless and need money to take care of my baby. I am looking for menial jobs, be it service or sales girl, house help, gardner to stay alive,’’ she said.

At ”Aso Rock”, some of the operators confirmed that Bolanle had been their ‘guest’  but however denied a rape attempt by their members. ‘’We have never engaged her in a discussion as regards her mission. Some of us stay inside this bus and we decided to accommodate her after discovering she was stranded,’’ they chorused.

Officials of the park

When this reporter insisted on seeing the officials of the park, she was referred to the financial secretary who rained insults at the reporter for disturbing him at that point in time. ’’What is your business with her? I have been seeing her around but never knew she passes the night here. I am having my lunch now. Why  are you disturbing my enjoyment?’’ he shouted at VM.

VM was also referred to two other men who on discovering that their ‘visitor’ was a journalist put an end to further discussion as they angrily turned on the girl, upbraiding her thus in Yoruba Language: ‘’Why did you bring a government official to this park? If care is not taken, they will come and seal this park and all of us will be rendered jobless, what is your mission with a journalist…?’’

Several pleas to them fell on deaf ears as  they ordered the teenage mother to leave the park immediately with her child. The owner of the bus was equally reprimanded and warned thus: ‘’Never you harbour a stranger in this park again or else you will be dealt with…’’.

The girl-mother subsequently left with her child to an unknown destination.