STORY BY ME: COMFORT ADA OKPARAOCHA
MAIL: [email protected]; FACEBOOK: COMFORT OKPARAOCHA
TELEPHONE: 08025781478, 07031183371, 08054386430 (WhattsApp)
My humble bitter beginning as a poor girl coupled with the shame, insult and mockery I received from my family members, friends and neighbors, my community and the society at large because the unwanted pregnancy I conceived, made me to become courageous, bold and through hard work and perseverance by the grace of Almighty God, obtained a B.ED University Degree in English Language/Guidance from Nigeria’s premiere university.
I want to use my life experience to tell people anywhere in the world that they can succeed in life no matter the challenge on their way.
PART 1: MY BACKGROUND
I was born on First October, 1960 to late Mr. Enock Okparaocha from Amabia Ugwu Nkpa in Nkpa Autonomous community of Bende Local Government of Abia State, Nigeria.
My mother, Mrs. Helina Okparaocha nee Okoro hails from Awu Ugwu Nkpa. My mother’s village is a stone-throw from my father’s.
My grandfather according to what my father told us was a powerful man. A great hunter who enters any forest to hunt no matter the kind of wild animal in that forest because of the kind of power (charms) he possessed. My grandfather never went to school as school has not come to our village in their time.
Today, more than half of the landed properties in my village belong to my family. People come to my family to ask for land to either farm on or build their house. The health centre in my village was built on the land my family gave when government decided to build a hospital for the community.
My grandfather had two wives my grandmother was his second. The first wife had only one son and my grandmother six children; three sons and two daughters while the sixth child was born from another man after the death of my grandfather.
After my grandfather’s death, the whole properties were left for the two wives who could not manage it well. My father’s elder step brother was lazy in virtually everything. He couldn’t farm or do the work his mates did. His mother and my grandmother were also lazy. They spent the money they got from selling or leasing out the family properties on alcohol and tobacco which they got addicted to.
Whenever my father tries to correct his elder brother for selling the family property anyhow and his reckless life style, he threatened to kill my father telling him that as the eldest son, he has absolute right to do whatever he likes with the family properties. This necessitated my father’s decision to follower one of the rich men from my village residing in Ibadan and work for him as a house boy. My father nick name to many old people in my village till he died was “house boy”.
PART 2: MY PARENT’S LIFE STYLE
Both of my parents started their lives in their respective villages. My parents never went to school despite the fact that missionaries have penetrated into my village and established school in the village.
During my father’s era, those who go hunting, farming, climbing hills and trees, those who fish round the rivers around and fell trees, those who participated in local wrestling activities and do all the strenuous jobs and do not go to school were considered powerful, courageous and strong. That was the group my father chose to belong. He was the local champion in his time.
On the other hand, those who could not do those tasking jobs which the like of my father did were considered the lazy, weak and sickly ones. These are the ones who went to school.
Today in my village, the people who chose to go school are the educated ones who now take major decisions in the village that affects the lives and families of that way back considered themselves strong individuals. Among the educated ones are the lawyers, medical doctors and renowned educated personnel in their different fields of human endeavors.
My father left the village in his youth age to serve a rich man from my village who through his education became a big contractor in Ibadan. Part of the things that made my father leave the village was when he discovered that his elder step brother was ready to kill as he doesn’t want anyone to question him for selling the family properties.
After serving the man for years, my father decided to start his own life. He came back to the village and got married to my mother. Because of his illiteracy, he could not get any white collar job and had no choice order than to settle for all kinds of odd jobs. They lived in a one room apartment and had their first four children there out of which one died before a civil war broke out between Nigeria and Biafra and they ran back to the village and came back to the city of Ibadan after the war.
In my village today, those who were formerly called lazy people, as a result of the western education they acquired, now control families like mine even with our verse landed property which they even went to the extent of collecting from us forcefully because they are very wealthy. When my father came back to the village after spending years in the city of Ibadan, they attached my father claiming that he came to drag the family property with them. They made life so difficult for my father by accusing him of witcraft practice and excommunicated him from the village. My father died of heart attack five years after.
PART 3: MY LIFE AS CHILD DURING CIVIL WAR
When i was growing up as a child, i did not understand or know the situation in which i found myself. That is, i did not know that we were living in abject poverty. I just felt that where we were and how we lived is normal kind of life until i began to notice and spot the difference from the environment where we live, the clothe we wear, the food we eat and that of others around us. I realized that other people around us will kill fowl, goat, and cook good food, live in fine houses while ours was the opposite. I discovered that whenever we have we ate delicious food in the house; it is either that some people in the neighborhood gave it to us or my father’s employer gave him food to give to his children.
The beginning of the bitter situation of my life which also led to my education success story today was the Nigeria/Biafra civil war that started in 1966 and lasted for four years.
How i survived the civil war that broke out the year I was of the age to start school still remain a great mystery to me till date. Again, my surviving the war make me to have strong faith that if God spared my life to live, nothing in this world will stop me from actualizing my dream except death.
Life during the war was so difficult. There was no food, no salt, no peace; we all lived in fear all the time because of consistent dropping of bomb which kills people anyhow. As children we were thought how to take cover whenever we sight an aeroplane, how to crawl on our tummy inside bush instead of walking openly which could attract enemies attention to strike that location.
A lot of children of my age including men and women died of Kwashiorkor as a result of malnutrition and lack of medical care. My mother who gave birth to a baby girl during the war was sick to the point of death with her legs swollen, water gushing out of it and the child died.
Since there was no way to farm, there was no food it was even said that the farm crops were poisoned with chemical from the enemies to dry up and die.
We suffered so much throughout the war. Our surviving food during the war was lizards and the different vegetables which my father collects from river banks, cook it without salt and the lizard which my elder brother kills within the compound and bisects and get them roasted.
My surviving the war is by God’s divine love, care and mercy.
PART 4: MY LIFE WITH A CRUEL AUNTY
After the civil war, my father’s younger sister who was also in the village throughout the war because people from different parts of the country ran back to their village as declared by government before the war started took me with her back to Aba which was her base before the war.
Living with my aunty for three years was hell and she never enrolled me in any school. She used and treated me like an outcast. I never knew difference between eating or taking breakfast from dinner to supper. I work from morning till night before eating the little food she gives me.
She was a worshipper of marine spirits which forbids her from placing any load on her head. As a result of this, whenever we went to the farm to harvest cassava or collect firewood, i was the only one who will carry the whole load back to the house. Sometimes, i will need to go from the farm to the house which is up to three kilometer four times depending on the quantity of what we harvested. As small as i was, i was the one that will carry fire to the market to sell from the proceeds; she will tell me what and what to buy for cooking in the house. The suffering and torture continued that i started sending emissaries to my parents to come and take out of her house before I die.
My aunt did not want me to leave her house because, first, she was okay using me as she likes, second, she tried everything possible to get me initiated into her marine occult world but the Spirit of the living God in me refused as I was so young to know what she was doing by trying to do with my life until she personally confessed that the Spirit in me rejected them.
It became so obvious that i am not part of her occult world when one night, as i went out to pee within the compound, i got bitten by a snake. My aunt was surprised when that happened and she said snake doesn’t bite anyone in the house of marine worshiper because they also worship snakes together with marine spirits.
After the snake bite, she consulted her gods and was told that am against them. From that moment on, my aunt developed another level of hatred towards me. She will not let me go near her shrine, touch certain in the house, she stop taking to places where they worship the spirit and she will normally take me along.
Finally, she has no other choice than to send me back to my mother in the village when my father ordered her to do so because he wanted all of us (my mother, siblings and I) whom he left in the village and relocated back to Ibadan after the civil war to seek for greener pasture.
PART 5: MY FIRST TIME IN SCHOOL
I was thirteen year old when my mother for the first time in my life took me to Army Children School, Mokola Ibadan order to start school. That was after we relocated to Ibadan and i have helped my mother to hawk groundnuts and fufu for months.
When we got to the school, because of my age coupled with the fact that I have not been to school before, there was problem of the class to place me since i could not fit into primary one and two, the best alternative for them was to put me in primary three more so, I could not recite the alphabets.
I was very fast in learning that in no time though i could not come first, but I was always within the first six positions in class. I still continued with helping my mother to sell groundnuts and fufu after school.
PART 6: MY LIFE AS A HOUSE GIRL
I lived almost all my growing up age life outside the love, care and supervision of my parents because they were always looking for how to lessen the burden of having to accommodate and feed us in the house. By then, out of five children of my parents, three were with one uncle or aunt.
Not too long after I started school in my parent’s house, one of our village people also residing in Ibadan came to my parents and told them that someone was looking for a house girl. Though he has his own children, he did not give any of them out but rather came to my parents because he knew they will gladly accept his request considering our poor condition.
After the transaction, my parents told the woman that I was going to stay with not to pay any salary on me but should send me to school and she agreed to the terms.
The woman was the Chief Nursing Officer of the state owned hospital as she was a London trained nurse. She had no child and husband which made her to live a kind of life that one came liken to that of a prostitute as wealthy men in the society patronized her in the house.
I experienced what I will call modern slavery while serving my madam. I had no room of my own, no bed to sleep on as I sleep on bear floor in the dining room when she did not travel and inside the kitchen when she travel because she will lock up everywhere and leave only the kitchen exit door to the back yard. I cook my own food and most times the remnant or leftover food from the food her chef prepared for her. When I came to serve her, I was so small that I had to climb on a stool for my hand to wash plates in the sink. I did all the work in the house. I wash, scrub, mop, and dust among other things.
The day my madam called me a “slave” was the worst day in my life. I mistakenly broke a glass cup that fell out of my hand as I was washing it. There is no kind of insult this woman did not give me. She beat me to the extent that the local broom which she used break and got stocked inside my body. She hulled all kind on my parents and generation. She reminded me of how poor we are and at stage called me a slave that worth nothing.
Calling me a slave was like hitting with a very hot object. I did not remember the pain from the broom I pulled out of body, I did not remember other attack but that word, ‘you slave’ made me see and realize how retched I was. I wept for days and became sick and refuse her food. My behavior and actions changed towards her from that day. When she noticed my new behavior and realized I was ready to live, she invited one of her sisters to come and ask me why I want to leave and I told her sister that I am living because she called me a slave which I am not happy about. Her sister begged me because they knew I was hard working and very sincere in my service. The kind of quality she has never received from those who served her before me. After her sister’s intervention, I changed and continued my service normally.
Another bad thing that happened to me while serving as a house girl, is that, I lost my virginity during the period to one of the drivers to our neighbors. Then I did not know what virginity is all about talkless of the need to keep it as a virtue. The man took advantage of my ignorance and immaturity.
On the completion of my primary school which was free as the government of the day gave free education to children of school age from primary one to six. I wrote common entrance examination to secondary school and passed both the written examination and oral interview.
It was now time for me to further my education to secondary school. Because of the school fees, school uniform, books, school bag and other expenses involved, my madam was not ready to shoulder them as she agreed to. She succeeded in using me almost free throughout my stay with for my primary school education. Now that money is involved she was not ready carry out the terms and condition which she agreed to with my parents who requested that they are not collecting money as salary from her for my serving her but that she should send me to school.
When I discovered that my madam was dragging her foot by not been ready to start buying the things I needed to go back to school with, she started frustrating me in so many ways which I endured just of my education. When I realized she was not ready to foot the bills of my featuring my education, I decided to leave her finally and went back to my parents. I was ready face whatever challenges ahead of me no matter what the condition back home may be. After all, she sees me as nothing but a slave.
PART 7: MY UNWANTED PREGNANCY
Going back to my parents was another chapter of the story of my life that also contributed to where I am today.
When I went back to my parents, my mother has lest selling groundnut and fufu. She was cooking and selling food to some laborers working with a construction company where my father also works as a laborer but not in another site. With this, life was a little better as it improved feeding in the house but could not cater for the financial demands in the family of nine.
When I came back with the news of my success of gaining admission to secondary school made my father very happy because, he now has a child who is going to secondary which means that from there, I will go to the university.
With that joy, my father did not bother himself about my madam not living up to their agreement. He instead took it upon himself to add gathering, breaking and selling firewood after his laborer work in the construction company to increase his income.
I started secondary school as my father was able to raise money for me to pay the initial school fees, bought some of the text books, uniform, school sandals, bag and other things.
I did not finish my five year secondary program. I only finish form one which was just the first year because I got pregnant. The worst thing happened, but that worst thing turned out today to be the best thing in my life. I got pregnant. This pregnancy apart from our been poor, almost ruined my life and career but , became a driving force that made me strong, courageous and focused in obtaining a university degree which the society thought impossible for a girl like me that got pregnant out of wedlock.
Like I said earlier, I only spent one year in my secondary school. After writing our third term promotion examination which I passed and was promoted to form two, I never knew that will be my last stay in the school.
We went on a long vacation and during the holiday, I had sexual relationship with a boy in the neighborhood which resulted into pregnancy.
I did know I was pregnant until after three months. The only thing I knew at the initial stage is that some experienced women in the neighborhood on seeing me will make some mockery comments by telling me that I am becoming more beautiful, fatter and a real woman. I did not understand them. I also notice that I vomit, sleep a lot and always weak which was unlike me because I was strong, and always very smart as I walk. I did not know that not seeing that blood that flows out your virgina is also a sign of been pregnant. I was just ignorant of everything about sex and the consequences.
When school resumed at the end of the long vacation, I still dressed up in my school uniform which was very tight on me and went back to resume school with my mates. The reaction which I got from my mates and teachers who on seeing summoned me to the staff room for questioning made me stop going to school.
By then, my tummy was big yet my parents especially mother did not know because she leaves the house very early in the morning to where she sells food and come back late in the night, likewise my father. It was neighbors who called my mother’s attention for her to look at me that made her know I was pregnant. I was about five months pregnant before my mother knew. Another battle of my life set in as soon as my mother got to know of my pregnancy as she made the house to become hell on earth for me.
My mother will lock everywhere so that I have no access to food in the house. She threw my things out and I was sleeping on bear floor in the corridor of our face me and I face you compound. When she comes back and see me around, she will chase me away. I slept in an uncompleted building around us most times.
I made several attempts to abort my baby by drinking local concoction of strong local alcoholic drink mixed with some other things yet the baby refused to flush out. Instead was growing and kicking very strongly inside my tummy.
When all my attempts to use local means to get reed of the baby failed, I decided to go orthodox way. In that period, so many girls died through abortion. Therefore, for any doctor to carry out abortion on you, you must come with one of your parents or a relation who will sign an undertaking in case of any eventuality.
One married man in the neighborhood whom I never knew was looking for way to have sex with me somehow came to me and volunteered to help me the child aborted if only I will agree to be his second wife after wards which I accepted because I was so desperate to get reed of the child just because of my mother’s maltreatment, insult and torture.
My father did not talk or acted like my mother but I know he hated me for what I did with all the hope he had in me and more so as the (Ada) the first daughter of the house who suppose to be a shining example to her younger ones.
The miracle that shaved my child from been aborted, happened on the day we went for the abortion. The man who volunteered to stand for me as a relation went with me. On getting to the clinic, the doctor was not around which the nurses said was unusual because the doctor was always punctual.
We waited and waited the doctor did not show up. At that point, that man said he wants to buy something from a shop close by. As soon as he left my side, a woman walked up to me and asked me what I was there to do. The question came as a surprise to me because people all over the city of Ibadan and beyond knew what they do in that clinic as the doctor was the best around then.
As soon as I told the woman that I was there for an abortion, she told me that she was in her house and the Spirit of God told her to come down quickly to that clinic and warn a young girl who was there for an abortion never to attempt doing that because, that will the end of her life and that of her baby. She warned me seriously against carrying out the abortion.
At that stage, I became so afraid because before going to the clinic, my friend told my about the dreadful dream she had concerning me. Whereby in her dream she saw me getting drowned, struggling and trying to swim to the sea shore. My friend advised to stop any negative action I intended carrying out. Even at that, I still preceded to the abortion clinic.
With what the strange woman said and my friends dream, I became so afraid that I quickly ran away from the clinic premises before that man will come back and convince me to stay and carry out the abortion.
But before I left and crying after the woman told me not to abort my baby, she asked me why I was crying and I told her about the poverty ravaging the family, and for me now to have a baby under that condition will be terrible. The woman promise to help me and she gave me her home address and asked me to come over to her house. She connected me with a woman who sells baby wears. From the second woman, I will collect the quantity of children wears I can sell. After selling them, I will give back to her the real cost of the wears and take the profit. With the gain I made from selling the baby wears, I was able to get baby clothes for my child and also buy some baby things before my child was born.
From the moment I made up my mind to face the worst either from my mother, neighbors or society, I became bold, strong and courageous. I told myself that I will do everything to keep my child alive and God helped me through his grace, love and mercy.
The day I delivered my baby was a miraculous wonderful day from Almighty God to my life. A day I will never forget.
The day labor of the delivery of my baby started was the first time my mother looked my side months after she got know about my pregnancy.
When labor started, which I did not know was labor, I went straight to the door of the room where my father and mother slept and knock at the door. It was my father that came out. Immediately he saw me, he knew I was in labor. My mother joined him later. They asked for the clinic where i registered for antenatal and I told them there was none. I never knew that as pregnant women I suppose to register in a clinic for regular checkup which I never had for nine months plus.
The labor started at about 2 a.m. till about 5 p.m. before I delivered my bouncing baby boy in the house through the help of Almighty God and a woman whom we share apartment with. Both my father and mother left me to their place of work. It was this woman and another young woman who was inexperienced in child delivery as she was carrying the pregnancy of her first child that stood by me.
When my mother left in the morning, she did not come back until about 4 p.m. and when she came back and discovered that I have not delivered the baby, she quickly went out and bought a brand new razor blade. With the razor blade, she wanted to cut my virgin and forcefully bring the baby out. It was the intervention of those women around who stopped her by shouting at her and told her that the baby’s head was almost out. At point, with the help of my special midwife, the baby came out.
I would have died of excess bleeding if those women had not stopped my mother from carrying out her wicked act. My mother is still alive today. I have forgiven her for all the torture, maltreatment and wickedness she perpetrated on me during and after pregnancy. Today, my mother receives more gifts both in cash and material items than me from that same son of mine that she wanted to kill before and at birth. My son is also a university graduate because I sacrifice everything to ensure he got quality education. He is married with two children, a boy and a girl.
If I had aborted him years back because of my mother and what people in the society said and will say, I would not have any biological child of mine today because he is the only child I have.
PART 8: HOW I WENT BACK TO FINISH SECONDARY SCHOOL
After I had my baby, my parents especially my mother were still not friendly with me and the child. My mother was still bent on my packing out of the house she said I cannot stay in the same house with her like a second wife.
My son was three months old when I decided to look for job as anything just for me to have money to take care of my child. Luckily, I got a job as a sales girl in a book shop. When I got the job, the same woman who took delivery of my baby also volunteered to help me in taking care of him while I was away to work. I rush down to the house during lunch hour to breast feed my baby and rush back.
As I was at the bookshop working, I never knew that my boss was taking note of all my activities, the way I clean up the whole office, how I kept the record of sales, and even the way I read books while inside the shop because I was always reading whenever we don’t have any customer around.
What I normally do is, after settling my returns from the office, since she was not having a house girl and she was an elderly woman, I will help her to dust and clean up everywhere right from the sitting to the kitchen where I wash all the plates they used that were piled up inside the sink. I will make sure everywhere the toilet and even her bedroom which she gave me access to clean before I go back to my house. I became sales girl and house girl together without knowing that my boss was taking record of everything I was doing.
After studying and observing me for months, including the way I speak and write English among other things, she now called me one day and told me that she has been studying me and was impressed with my service, my punctuality, hard work, accountability, dedication, and humility. She asked me why I could not continue my education and if I would like to further and I said yes and explained my background to her.
I went back to my former school but the principle drove me away. I came back and told her that the principle refused to accept me back; she took it upon herself using her connection as a former vice-principal of a school before she retired and got me the school where I went to complete my secondary education. She promised to help to study to any level of my choice but unfortunately she died of stroke before I finished my final examination from secondary school.
I did not pass all five papers needed for me to gain admission to the university and because of lack of money as a result of my guardian’s death; I had to go back to selling the baby wears that I was into during pregnancy with the little I saved while working at the bookshop as a sales girl.
From my little business, I rented a shop in the local market and also had my separate room which I pay for in the same house where my parents lived. While in the shop selling, I got a syllabus and started reading text books on subjects relevant to the course I wanted to read in the university.
My son’s father ran away as soon as I got pregnant. He was afraid of my father who threatened to deal with him. The first time he showed up was when my son was about four years old. He just came secretly to see his son without seeing my parents and disappeared again. The next time he resurfaced with his new wife and two children, was about ten years after. Then he will secretly visit my son who was now in the secondary school before he disappeared again finally and never showed up till date. I single handedly by the grace and support of Almighty God train my son from birth to university level.
PART 9: I AM A UNIVERSTY GRADUATE TODAY
Continued reading inside my shop alone as I did not have money to go for extra moral coaching classes in the evening like others who also want to make up their scores.
After three attempts, I passed all the subjects and got the number of credit needed to gain admission to the university. I wanted to read law but all attempt to score the needed cut off mark that will enable read law proved abortive. Instead of wasting time and years staying at home, I decided to go for my second choice of course which was English Language/Guidance and Counseling from Nigeria’s Premier University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
When I got admission to the university and told my parents, they told me point blank that they were not going to support me in any way because I disappointed them by getting pregnant. They thought that been pregnant out of wedlock is the end my life and aspirations which my society also
While in the university, I missed lecture because most times I have to travel to Lagos a major city in Nigeria to buy some female wears I sell in other to have money to take care of my son, pay my house and for feeding. Must times I could not afford to buy text books or the hand outs needed for a course.
In all my challenges, struggles and pain, I was able to scale through my university studies and today, I am a university graduate by the special grace of Almighty God.
Apart from my university education, I am a song composer and singer. I love writing and travelling.
PART 10: MY FAILED TWO YEAR MARRIAGE OF HORROR
After my graduation from the university and working in different places, I decided to get married. First, for companionship, and second to remove societal view on single mothers whom they have no respect for as they are seen as a big disgrace to their families and the society at large.
I got married to a man who was far older than me, he was previously married with his late wife whom they had two children together. When I met the because of his physical maturity and he way he pray and attended church activities I was happy that he was the kind of man I was looking.
When I introduced him to my parents, my mother through somebody was told that the man was a wicked man and was the one that killed his wife while pregnant with their third baby. I was deceived by his lies that his wife because she was possessed of evil spirits that attaches her every now and then until they killed her.
Shortly after our marriage, he could not hide his true color or continue with his pretence of been a nice man. He started monitoring me wherever I go. I work as a marketer in a newspaper company, he will rank sack my hand bag in my absence collect the call cards I used to contact my clients, he will call, insult and harass them with further threat to kill them because of jealousy and suspicious nature.
He started fighting and beating me every day. He could hit me with whatever kind of object that comes into his hand. He asked me to resign from work which I refused because I knew he wanted me to be jobless so as to frustrate and make my life miserable. The battering became worst with bruises always on my face and I was always in pains.
I fled out of his house one night because he always fought me in the midnight when no one will be around to help me when he threatened to kill me that night and was looking for the object to use before he around I unbolted the door with a skirt, tee shirt and bear footed. I did not go back until when he got another woman and sued for divorce and the police escorted me to pick some of my things out of which he had already removed some before my arrival. The next woman did not spend up to two year with him as a result of same beating and battering.
PART 11: MY FUTURE ASPIRATION
My major vision and mission is to advocate against the maltreatment of single mothers, gender discrimination and domestic violence against women anywhere in the world. The need for women to be educated and have a vocation is my goal.
When a man (boy) impregnates a woman (girl), the male child goes about freely while the female he impregnated becomes a subject of ridicule and is subjected to emotional and physical torture in the society. This is pure gender inequality and abuse of human rights which I am out to speak against anywhere in the world.
PART 12: CONCLUTION
I want to encourage girls anywhere in the world passing through the kind of experience I had to be strong, courageous, focused, determined and hard working. They should never allow anyone intimidate them or make them look inferior in any way or anything. They should seek and listen to advice but take major decisions by themselves when it comes to issues that will affect their life and fulfilling their destiny.
No excuses, your life is in your hands. If I despite all my life failures can today became a university graduate, you too can make it in life no matter what the situation in your family or society.
I want to share with people that been a member of a religious body may not bring solution to their problem because members of such gathering could also join the society to ridicule, mock and make their life miserable. A pastor from my fellowship discourage a young guy that proposed marriage to me by asking him why he wants to marriage single mother like me when there are young girl who are virgins in the church.
STORY BY ME:
NAME: COMFORT ADA OKPARAOCHA
MAIL: [email protected],
Check my YouTube [email protected] titled "ANOINTING FALL"
FACEBOOK: COMFORT OKPARAOCHA
TELEPHONE: +234 08025781478, 07031183371, 08054386430 (WhattsApp)