THE EXCHANGE (FINAL EPISODE)
“Mo dáràn (I’m in trouble)” that was my mum’s first reaction. She must have noticed that her reaction wasn’t helping so she calmed down a little. She said she would help me beg him as there must have been something I did that he wasn’t telling me. My mum decided to go back to Lagos with me so she could talk to my husband. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea but I didn’t know who else to talk to.
We got to Lagos in the evening but Baba T did not come home that night…my mum kept telling me to believe that all will be well. He finally showed up in the morning and was shocked to see my mum. He greeted her but said he couldn’t stay because he had a meeting and only came home to pick a shirt and tie. He promised to be back later to have a talk with my mum. My mum was in Lagos for 3 days and Baba T did not come home. My mum had to leave on the third day because she had some other appointments to keep. I could tell she was disappointed but she downplayed it and said maybe Baba T already knew what he did and was too ashamed to come home. She left a message that he should come and see her at Abeokuta unfailingly that weekend and be prepared to pay a huge fine.
Baba T did not come home until that weekend; he didn’t greet me and didn’t even ask of my mum. He got the kids and said he was taking them out. I wanted to ask where they were going but he wasn’t even looking at me. They were out for about 5 hours, I was almost freaking out for the period that they were away because I didn’t know what plans Baba T had or where he took them. When they finally got back, the kids had lots of gifts and toys and they were really excited…they talked about all the places daddy took them to and how they had so much fun. He then watched a movie with them till very late and tucked them in. I just sat in the dining room with my left hand supporting my head…it was as if I was invisible.
Baba T stayed at home that night but in the guest room…with so much fear, I gently knocked on the door. He asked who it was and I mentioned my name, he was quiet for a while, then he asked what I wanted. I told him I wanted to talk to him…after about a minute, he unlocked the door and I entered the room. I knelt down and asked what I did to deserve what he was doing to me. I reminded him of how I had been supportive and faithful to him…how I gave him 3 beautiful boys…how I respected him and his parents and how I never complained about anything just because I wanted a peaceful home.He looked at me for a moment but didn’t say anything. I then told him what my mother said and pleaded that I would like him to honor her by going to see her. The last statement must have triggered something in him as he started to rant again. He said he chose to leave me and be on his own because of peace but I had to come disturb him and remind him of things I had done for him. Then he started to remind me of the things he did for me and my family…he said since I was keeping scores, he could mention a few things he did for me as well. I felt worthless when he was done with his ‘lecture’…I couldn’t hold back the tears so I got up and scuttled out of the room. He slammed the door behind me and locked it.
A few minutes later, I started to smell the vinegar/rubber stench like the odor in the guest room the last time I walked in on Baba T and I could tell what he was doing inside the room.
I couldn’t let my children live like that, I had to do something fast…and I had to do this on my own. The following morning right after Baba T left the house, I went to an Estate Agent around my salon and asked if he could help me get a 2 bedroom flat on the mainland, I told him it had to happen fast and had to be kept between the two of us. I figured if we went away for a while, it would make Baba T rearrange his priorities. I didn’t tell anyone my plans because I didn’t want them to tell my husband. So I gathered all the money in my bank accounts, got the apartment, furnished it and strategized my move.
The day we moved, I waited for Baba T to leave the house…it had been weeks since we said a single word to each other. Then I took my children and we moved to the new place. I had arranged for a van to come get us because I didn’t want to use our driver. I actually sent him to go get something for me so he wouldn’t see us leave. I also packed some of the things in the house but I didn’t take any of the cars as I did not want Baba T to track us with that.
The maid and the gateman were wondering what we were doing but they couldn’t ask me any questions. That was how I left Baba T’s house…I didn’t go to the Salon, neither did I contact anyone.My kids did not get it and they were not happy. They kept asking for their dad. I told them we would be going home soon but we had to be at the new place for a while. This fell within the long vacation period and I had believed that the issue would be resolved before the kids went back to school.
The thought of how troubled Baba T would be, gave me some form of good “gotcha! Deal with that! In your face!” feeling…it was nothing compared to the pains I had endured but it felt good fighting back in my own little way.
It was a totally different experience, my kids were not used to it at all and it wasn’t long before Junior caught Malaria. We couldn’t go to our family doctor so we treated it in house…it spiraled and he had to be admitted at a hospital in the area. At a point; I was so scared that I thought of going back home. Resources were dwindling but I held the fort.
After about 5 weeks, someone rang our door bell and it was Baba T, he had some police officers with him. He had reported an abduction/kidnap incident with them and they had been on our tail all the while. The way the officers handled it, I could tell he had ‘settled’ them because they did not care to hear my side of the story. Baba T was able to track down the van that took us, because somehow, the gateman remembered the License plate number.
The kids ran to him and hugged him…they were so happy to see him. The officers asked what they should do with me, he told them not to worry about me as he had gotten what he came for. The Officers took the kids to the car they brought…Baba T stayed behind, he looked at me with so much disgust in his eyes and said
“This is the life you deserve, continue to live it…but if you dare touch my kids again, I will use everything I have to fight you and your wretched family” as he walked out.
It felt like transient paralysis, because I couldn’t say anything, I didn’t even move…I could hear my last child crying and asking for me but they drove away. I must not have thought this through; this was not the outcome I had envisaged.
Lots of thoughts flashed in my head.
How would I fix this?
How would I get my children back?
Who would help me?
The following morning, I went to Laide’s place…I hadn’t taken a ‘Danfo’ (commercial bus) in a long time but I couldn’t really afford a Taxi. Laide was visibly mad at me; she said there was no justification for what I did because there were better ways of handling it. She said I could have come to their house instead of absconding with the kids and getting everybody worked up. She told me of the showdown between my mum and Baba T and how my mum accused him of kidnap and murder and that he was only pretending not to know our whereabouts. How Brother Dipo and Baba T got physical and made a huge scene at Abeokuta. How my mum had been worried sick, running from pillar to post to find us. How I got brother Kola (my eldest brother) fired because Baba T would not buy the story that nobody knew where I was. How all the drama had caused a considerable amount of friction between her and Bola because Bola found it hard to believe that she didn’t know where I was either.
I tried to defend my action but Laide made it sound like I killed a fly with cannon…
“Are you kidding me? Moving my children away from a house where drug is abused openly is wrong? What would you have done if you were in my shoes?” I snapped back
Laide kept trying to rationalize it “After all they are his children, you can’t just take them away like that…baba ọmọ ló l’ọmó. Even your mother-in-law is not very happy with what you did. Her state of health cannot handle that. When I spoke with her; she said you didn’t inform her of what was happening”
“I didn’t inform her? She knew about all of this even before I found out. She hid he truth from me just to get grandkids…” I went on and on about the things I had heard and seen and how they begged me not to tell anyone. All the dirty secrets I did not divulge earlier…even what happened in London the first time.
Laide was speechless, she asked me to wait for her husband to return. She was mad at me for hiding the most important part of the issue. She scolded me for not making adequate preparation for this.“When you knew you were going to do this, you should have informed me. We could have executed it better. We would have waited for you to gather enough money. Maybe you could have travelled abroad with your children…we could have done a lot of things differently””Did you even remember to take your passport when you left the house?” Laide asked.That was when I realized I didn’t.
When Bola got back in the evening, Laide shared everything with him and he decided to go with me to see Baba T. When we got there, the gateman would not open the gate…he said ‘Oga’ told him not to let me in the house or he would lose his job. Bola had to get off the car and walked in through the small gate. He was in for a while and when he got back, the look on his face said it all.
He got in the car and said we needed to leave and that he would explain things to me on the way. I insisted that I wanted to see my children; I started to cry and was banging on the gate. Baba T came out and threatened to get me arrested if I didn’t leave. He said he was just considering the fact that I was the mother of his children, otherwise he knew exactly how to deal with me that I would never step foot in that house again.
Bola convinced me to get in the car and that we would resolve this. It was on our way back to their place that he told me what happened when he was inside…how Baba T almost fought him and finally asked him to stay out of his business. Bola said he also threatened to go to any extent to deal with me if I ever tried to come near his children.
When we got back to their place, Bola and Laide advised that I would have to get my family involved as I could not fight this on my own. I stayed there that night and travelled to Abeokuta the following day. Bola gave me some money…I guess Laide informed him of my cash situation.
As happy as my mum was to see me, she still scolded me for doing what I did. I told her everything this time, there was nothing to hide anymore. She said “You should have seen what that lunatic you call your husband did when he came here. Of course, it had to be drugs. Normal human beings don’t act that way…I knew he was definitely high on something”
Long story short, everything we tried to get the children back didn’t work. At a point, Laide had to withdraw from the ‘struggle’ because her husband’s family did not want to be involved anymore. I noticed that my brothers that got jobs through Baba T were treading with caution but Brother Dipo was ready for war…he was a Students’ Union activist back in school and was known for his ‘no retreat no surrender’ stance in the face of anything he saw as injustice. He didn’t have money to fight Baba T but he was able to get some competent lawyers that got the case to court and gave Baba T’s lawyers a run for their money.
However, Baba T produced “evidences” even “witnesses” to “show” that I was emotionally unstable, had mental issues, and therefore was an unfit mother…and how this prompted them to take the children from me after I had forcefully taken them away from their father’s house. They “proved” at the court that Junior almost died when I had him in my care and his sickness was due to my negligence and incompetence. They “proved” that I was the abusive one and that I once threatened Baba T with a knife. They wouldn’t let the children come to the court or testify because of the emotional scar it could give them.
We argued back that Baba T was on drugs and thus, was the unfit parent…but all the test results showed that he was clean…I don’t know how they did it. At a point I almost went crazy and had an emotional breakdown at the court, I started to yell and curse Baba T and his entire family; I almost got punished for contempt of court.
Baba T’s lawyers killed the case with that and he got custody of the children. We appealed but he won again…this time around, he got the judge to allow him move them to the United Kingdom for a while so they could be with their grandmother and away from the traumatic experience.
The judge said I could come back in a year for another hearing and gave me the requirements I had to meet to do this…the requirements were so ridiculous that I knew it would take God to get my children back.
I cried like my world had ended…the injustice and oppression was too much for me to handle. I didn’t know where to start from or how to piece my life together. Baba T already locked off the Salon he opened for me and I wasn’t allowed anywhere near his house.
When my rent expired at the house I rented on the mainland, I saw people for who they really were. Everyone I turned to for help wanted something from me…even people I considered family friends when the going was good. Men that once placed me on a pedestal, even the estate agent that got me the house wanted to sleep with me to help persuade the Landlord to give me more time to source for funds…even Laide started avoiding me.
That was when I decided to move back to Abeokuta as I didn’t want to go live with my brothers…they had their own families and I didn’t want to be a burden. My mum supported the move and I had to start from scratch… I asked about Aunty Betty but was told she had left Abeokuta and nobody knew where she moved to.
It wasn’t easy at all but what could I do. I got a shop and went back to my hairdressing, it was better than prostituting under the guise of staying in Lagos. It took a while to get past all the jeering, mockery, ridicule and questionings.
It’s been years and I have only seen my children a few times; mostly on their visiting days at their schools. They are in boarding schools in Nigeria and once they are on vacation, Baba T sends them out of the country. My last born somehow still loves me genuinely…he shows it and he’s always promising to take care of me when he becomes an adult. He’s the only one that bothers to call me when they are out of the country. He eats whatever I bring for him with relish, even if they are not as expensive as his dad’s gifts. I don’t know what they did to the other two or what they told them…Junior hardly talks to me anytime I visit him at school. But I haven’t allowed that deter me…I still go there on his visiting days and bring things that I can afford. He will graduate from secondary school later in the year and he already told me he is getting his first degree abroad as he already passed GCE London.
Enough with my predicament…let me get back to why I shared this story
I was walking down the road to my shop yesterday morning when an SUV pulled up next to me. I couldn’t see the person driving until the rear passenger side window was rolled down. I could never forget that face…It was Tunji. He was still as handsome as the first time I saw him. I could see a couple of grey hair strands on his beard but they only made him more handsome. He said he could tell it was me but he didn’t want to believe it. He asked me to get in the car and I did. He asked his driver to drop us at an eatery so we could talk and sent the driver to go withdraw money at the ATM. Tunji said he wanted to know what happened to me…as something must have happened for me to be in the state he found me. I didn’t know what to say so he broke the ice by telling me his own story. He said he was in Abeokuta for a wedding and was just driving around to find his Bank’s ATM.
He told me how he had to leave Abeokuta after our breakup and how the Oil Company reached out to him not long after that, because there was a mistake during the recruitment process. Someone else that shared the same first name with him was offered the position in error. They apologized for the error, gave him the job and sent him to Germany for the training.
He told me how the breakup made him bitter and resentful to women but God used a lady he met while in Germany to start the healing process and how the lady showed him the path of righteousness and brought him to know Jesus.
He told me how God has favored him within the organization and he’s currently the Regional Head of Business Development, West Africa.
At that point, I started to cry, he consoled me and said he already forgave me and was willing to help me in whatever way he could. I told him my story…everything, without sparing any details and he couldn’t help but shed tears with me. He said he wanted me to meet his wife as he couldn’t do anything without talking to her. The driver took us to the hotel where they lodged…Tunji asked me to wait at the lobby and went in to get his wife. He came back with his wife after a while and she greeted me, she was really nice to me. She told me she had heard so much about me because Tunji never stopped talking about me.
At the end of everything, they wrote me a cheque for N250,000…I couldn’t stop crying. Tunji encouraged me that everything would be alright and shared a lot from the Bible. He promised to check on me anytime he drove through Abeokuta but he didn’t give me his number. They asked the driver to go drop me off and as I was about to leave, Tunji’s wife smiled at me and said “Thanks for not marrying him”
Looking for Episode 1? CLICK HERE