My younger brother, Samson, and I returned from school one afternoon and did not find the key to the house where it should have been. My brother and I attended Temitope Nursery and Primary School, Ogba, Lagos. I was in Primary One at the time and brother was in Nursery One. We were sweating profusely when we got home because it was a hot afternoon. We were also tired, hungry and sleepy.
I told my brother to take off his uniform and I did the same. We were in our underwear. We then sat at the door, waiting for our sisters to return. Next to our house was a beer parlour that doubled as a restaurant. It was owned by one of our neighbours, Mama Unoma. We had waited almost an hour, so I decided to tell Mama Unoma about our plight and how hungry we were. She was kind to us. She gave us a plate of Garri with Egusi soup and two big pieces of meat. We thanked her and returned to the door where my brother and I devoured the meal. After I returned the plate with thanks, I warned my brother never to speak a word of what happened because we had been trained not to ask neighbours for food.
We cleaned our mouths, getting rid of any proof of what we had just done, and then began to do our assignments. At that time, Uncle I stepped out of his room and headed for the kitchen. He noticed Samson and I sitting outside. He came to us, asked why we were outside and I explained to him. He then told us to come into his room and stay there until our siblings arrived. Uncle I was our neighbour, a Benin man, living with his brother. On this day, however, his brother was not around.
Not too long after we got to his room, my brother slept off. His room was very cold, not because he had any air conditioner, but because his fan was blowing at its peak. He asked me how school was and I told him. Soon after, he asked me to sit on his laps. I did. He asked if I knew the multiplication table and I responded in the positive. He told me to recite it and I did excitedly. I started from two, but by the time I was on four, I felt something against my bum.
I did not pay attention to it until he grabbed my flat chest with his hands and started squeezing. It was painful, so I stopped the recital. He asked why I stopped and I told him.
He said he was sorry. Still wondering how to react to him, I heard my name. It sounded like Adetutu’s voice and I was about responding to her call when he covered my mouth, lifted me off his laps and told me never to tell anyone. He said people, including my sisters, would beat me if I ever told them what happened. I nodded in fear. He stood, faced the wall to adjust his trouser, carried my brother, and opened the door. When my sisters saw us, they thanked him for hosting us and took us home. I did not get over the incidence for a long time. The most confusing part to me was how he acted in front of my sisters. I did not know how to tell them what happened, so I kept it to myself, hoping that would be the last of it but I was wrong.
On a particular weekend, I was playing with other kids in the compound when I heard my name. It was Uncle I. I frowned. He told me to follow him, but I did not. He went straight to my house and demanded to speak with my sisters. He told them I had been rude to him lately, saying he wanted to send me on an errand and I refused. My sisters called me in and asked me why I was being rude to him. I was so confused. I could not say anything. I was ordered to follow him and run whatever errands he sent me. I followed him against my will. When I got to his room, he closed the door and just stared at me. I wondered what he was staring at. I broke the silence and asked him what he needed me to get for him. He smiled at me and said “nothing”. He teasingly told me to stop being a stubborn girl. He told me to take off my dress. I refused. He pulled me closer and did it himself. I just stood there confused. I wondered what about my body got him excited. My chest was still as flat as ever.
He started touching me again all over. When he started squeezing me again, I cried in pain. He said he was sorry again, but he obviously was not done. He asked me to remove my pant but just as he did, there was a knock on the door. He told me to wear my dress, and kneel down. I did. He faced the wall and adjusted his trousers before opening the door. It was his girlfriend. I greeted her and she in turn asked why I was kneeling. Uncle I did not allow me reply as he said he was punishing me for being rude to him. She begged him to let me go and he did. I wondered at how fast he cooked up his lies and stories.
I left his room and sat in a corner under the stairs. I could not go back to the other children. I did not understand why this was happening to me. I did not like it, yet I could not tell my sisters. I started crying, remembering my mum and how much she protected us. I wished she was still home. She would not have allowed us to play outside the house. And even if she did, she would have kept a close watch on us. One of the reasons she did not allow us play too hard, was she tried to prevent Samson and I wetting the bed at night. We did that if we played too much during the day. I promised myself I would report him to my mum when next she came.
Sadly, it continued like that for a long time. Uncle I got bolder by the day. Sometimes, he would meet me in the toilet or bathroom, on those days when my sisters asked me to bathe myself. Because of that, I stopped going to the bathroom. I started bathing in front of the house. He would come out of his room at such times and watch me as I had a bath. I thought it was only Uncle I who liked small girls. I did not know his friend was like him. He called me into his room again someday. When I entered and saw his friend, I was relieved, confident he would not try it. I believed he really wanted to send me on an errand for real this time.
As I waited, he said something to his friend in their dialect and they both laughed. He then put me on his laps, in the presence of his friend, and started touching me. He stepped out briefly and while he was away, his friend took over. Uncle I took over again when he was back. That day was a nightmare; my body was abused and my little brain hurt.
Before they could do more damage to me, my brother called out for me. He was my saving grace. He brought me lolly pop and biscuit. The moment I was allowed to go to my brother, I went under the stairs and cried again. That corner had become my shelter every time I was abused.
As I cried there, my little mind reflected on what our Sunday School teacher had taught us. She taught about heaven and hell and the example she gave could not have been a coincidence. She gave the example of a boy and girl who went to the toilet, took off their clothes and started touching each other, doing what ‘mummy and daddy’ do. She said such children would go to hell and she gave the description of hell. As I sat under that staircase, I cried the more, afraid I would go to hell. I thought of telling my dad, but I was afraid he would beat me. I doubted my sisters would believe me either. At that point, I remembered the good news part of what my Sunday School teacher said. She had said that if we did not want to go to hell, we should ask God for forgiveness. So, I did.
I prayed, though not sure if He was listening. I told God to forgive me, and not let me go to hell. I also asked Him to make Uncle I stop touching me. After my prayer, Uncle I fell sick. It was so bad that he was taken to the hospital, thereafter to his village. When he returned, he never touched me again. And after a while, we did not see him anymore. Some people said he travelled out of the country. Some said he relocated. I did not care which it was, I was glad he was gone for good.
God answered my prayer!
Culled from her book, REBIRTH