April 23, 2021

As he laid his bed [opinion]

By Yetunde Arebi

Toyin, at barely 16, was pregnant and proudly announcing her great news to all who cared to listen.  Tall, dark, well bosomed with all the right womanly curves, appeared to have grown up before her time when I met her and her family. We had just moved to the area and her mother ran the neighbourhood retail shop right in front of their house. One could not but notice the family. Her mother, a very polite, slightly heavy figured woman made it her duty to exchange pleasantries with all the neighbours as they drove or walked past their shop. All the children took after their mother, tall, dark complexioned and blessed with her good looks.

However, Toyin’s father, though dark skinned too, was the opposite of his household. Short, smallish, with a monstrous temper. He went off the handle often and ‘does not send’ when his temper possesses him. He does not care for the neighbours’ approval of his actions and many decent people avoided him totally. I saw in him a frustrated man. He was not happy with his wife and children and perhaps, his entire life. It was obvious that he did not know how to address the family issues and so, everything continued to degenerate around him, before his very eyes. Toyin’s pregnancy was another challenge.

Toyin’s parents has four children. Toyin, the second born, two other girls and the last child, a little boy, less than 10 years of age. Toyin father, also the only man fondly called Babalandlord on the street was obviously quite advanced in age, much more than his wife. The first girl, had been ‘married’ for a couple of years. As if history was repeating itself with Toyin, she too had gotten herself pregnant by a guy, whose family also owned a property in the neighbourhood and had moved in with him.

At less than 21 and without a secondary school education, she already was saddled with two children. But she and the children appeared well taken care of as the ‘husband’ seemed level headed and doing well. (I have no idea what) Toyin’s younger sister, Shade at less than 14 was already set in following in the footsteps of her sisters and would later drop out of secondary school in JSS 3.  It was a pity to watch as their mother struggled with curtailing the excesses of her children as well as the explosive behaviours of her husband. It soon became clear that the family only lived together but was disintegrated, perhaps, beyond redemption.

So, who got Toyin pregnant? We were not surprised. It was no other than her long time puppy love. A young secondary school boy, who had recently dropped out for obvious reasons too. Sunny lived with his father and younger brother who was in Primary school despite his advanced age. They lived in a rented room in the house right opposite Toyin’s father’s house. Sunny was learning to become a bricklayer after their drunkard father had declared he could no longer support his education.

Their mother had died several years back, I learnt. It was Toyin who had been supporting him for as long as anyone could remember. In fact, story had it that she’d once stolen her mother’s thrift savings to pay for their accumulated house rent some years back. A development that had pitched the two families against each other, with Toyin’s parents banning the young couple’s association.

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Indeed, Toyin had managed to get herself into a worse situation than her elder sister, pregnant for a jobless dropout with no roof over his head, nor inheritance to look forward to.  But her parents had no choice, obviously tired of schooling, the pregnancy was Toyin’s excuse to bail out. She told all who cared to listen that the pregnancy was already past its first trimester and she could not therefore succumb to her parents’ wishes to terminate it.

Toyin’s father went around like a wounded lion, disturbing the neighbourhood about the fresh twist in his fate and threatening all sorts of calamities for his wife and the erring youths. Toyin stayed ‘put’ in her father’s house as she could not cross the road with her belongings into the room Sunny shared with his father and younger brother. And so they gave birth to their lovely daughter. But it would not be the typical happily ever after story after all. Many  were keenly interested in the unfolding events and I had predicted that the so called love story would end a disaster, especially for the boy. I was proved right.

Besides the fact that Toyin’s parents were against their daughter’s choice of a ‘husband’, Toyin was not also lacking in vision, desires and aspirations for her life. It soon became obvious to her that Sunny was not likely to ‘make it’ anytime soon. Their fights over the welfare of the child had become almost a daily occurrence and Toyin’s parents were not ready to take full responsibility of their daughter’s love child. Sunny must provide them with the sum of N200 everyday for his child’s upkeep. So, Toyin got herself a job as a sales girl in one of the new super malls. She soon discovered that she had indeed short changed herself by limiting the tentacles of her sexual exploration to the arms of a no-good novice who in perhaps seven life times would not be able to give her the new life she now craved.

When the child became of school age, with mother now firmly in charge, daily feeding allowance was increased to N500 to be paid by Sunny while Toyin paid school fees. With time, Toyin forgot about the circumstance of her real life, that though not married, she had a legitimate relationship with the man who had fathered her child. She began bringing home her lovers who dropped her off in their flashy cars.

Naturally, they were older, richer and more experienced and poor Sunny stood no chance at all. Sometimes, she would not return for several days and would offer no explanations. The relationship died a natural death but the N500 daily levy continued. On such days that he could not come up with it, curses, hail and brimstone would be poured on him publicly. Sunny bore everything in silence and I fell in love with the dignity with which he carried himself.

Toyin’s father has continued to shout to the heavens. But the story is that he dug his own grave. Those who knew him in the neighbourhood some 25+ years back claim these people were not his original family. Toyin’s mum was just a little girl, who had barely completed her primary school education when he impregnated her. The aunt, learning he was an elderly man with a house of his own and children even older than her sister, brought Toyin’s mum and dumped her with him.

Angered by his shameless action, his wife who already had a house of her own had left him, taking their three children with her. One of them we hear lives in the UK. He’d been stuck with his little child bride who suddenly became a mother and then grandmother at barely 30+ years. Pray, what sort of parenting can a primary school girl of about 12-14 years give as a mother? Toyin’s father dug his own grave and is now buried in it.

Do have a wonderful weekend!