By Adeola Agoro
My parents separated when I was three years old. My dad, Dr Olapade Agoro did all he could to make my mum come back. He went to the welfare office to report. He went to court. He published it in the Daily Times that his wife was missing, he travelled several times to see my mum’s uncles and other family members. He did everything practically possible to have his wife and daughter back.
All this time, my mum had been sent off to the Polytechnic Kaduna to continue her education.
He chilled later when he found out that my mum had remarried. She married a man who had never been married before and had no child. I was the only child in the house for years until my sister came.
My father, ably supported by my stepmother, Olaitan Agoro would come to visit me. We would sit outside my grandmother’s balcony and chat for hours. My father would always tell me how much he loved me.
My grandmother ‘secured’ such visits because she was afraid my dad would steal me away one day. (Funnily enough, I thought so too and I wasn’t sure of what I would do. I loved my dad and I loved my gran).
My dad’s family members never stopped coming to see me and they spoiled me with gifts. Every weekend, somebody would come with my medication (I had a very terrible skin disease known to all my classmates and neighbours), goodies and everything I wanted.
I wasn’t able to eat pepper, so Aunty Remi Agoro Fagbamila would bring Mimite and other things. Uncle Sunday Agoro would bring provisions. Adedokun Agoro would bring everything that was everything. So many of my aunties and uncles always had something for me.
(My mum’s siblings too pampered me. I never lacked anything from any corner).
After many talks, visits and terms and agreements, my gran started allowing my dad have bigger access. Every Friday, the driver would arrive in either the latest Datsun Laurel or Shagari Benz or any of the cars and I would go to Apata Ayeraye Mansion.
The very first of such visits was a big deal. Daddy introduced me to the Merciful Church of Christ as his lost sheep. It was a big service to welcome me home. Drums were beaten loudly. There was feasting after it all.
I was ushered in by my mum’s former co-wives, Mummy (Iya Yinka) and Aunty (Aunty Laitan) then I met Aunty Sola and later Aunty Eli. As young as I was, I was neutral in my relationship with them.
Aunty Laitan was like a second mother because I had met her several times before at Ososami. Aunty Sola was like a big sister and since two of her children looked so much like me, the bond was very fast. Mummy was the quiet one who would hold me and tell me about when I was a child growing up in that house.
I had been warned severally by everybody in my other family not to eat anything given to me by any of the wives but how could I refuse to eat amid so much love? Anyway, we all ate together at the big dining tables, so there was no fear. But you couldn’t overrule any of the wives calling me to their rooms to come and take something, which I wouldn’t refuse.
Dad would later call me upstairs and we would talk endlessly. We would gist about his deep love for my mum, how much he loved me (I was born on his birthday so he loved me to bits), we would read stuff together and he always had something to say to me.
My grandmother would from time to time go to England for her medicals. (My stepdad, Olujimi Ademola Allen ensured we all got the best of the care home and away).
At such times when she had to be in England, I would sometimes be with my mum’s elder sister, Mrs Falayi (who suffered in the hands of my dad all the times he tried to take me back before he succeeded halfway) or be in the boarding house of St. Teresa’s College, Ibadan.
My father however didn’t like me being too far away from him, boarding house or not. He didn’t have much regards for visiting days. He would just come around with any of the wives anytime he wanted to see me. And once midterm came, he would ensure I was always the first to leave the hostel.
Dad knew that I was well trained and cultured by my granny, but he also respected the fact that I couldn’t do strainous things, so he would use style to drum it in the ears of everybody that I had ‘weak’ hands. And they all respected that. No one ever gave me anything hard to do in that house.
Whenever I had any disagreement with my dad, I would write long letters to him and somebody would take it upstairs. He would read it and call me and we would talk about it.
During long holiday times, my stepdad would have bought the Nigeria Airways ticket for me to be in Kaduna or my gran would take me by rail.
Both fathers never asked me how the other was treating me. My dad in Kaduna didn’t talk much. He did it by buying me all the clothes and shoes and bags and books I couldn’t use in a lifetime. My friend, Abiola Balogun Alimi who was also from a very big family would just come and take them upon my arrival back in Ibadan to go and give to the Girls Guide for the needy.
I never ‘chopped’ cane till I grew up except in school. And that of school sef, the teachers didn’t know where to beat on my body, so I was always excused when the general beating was going on.
My dad would come to school at any hour he felt he needed to see me, so a lot of my classmates and teachers knew him.
I didn’t agree with my dad (or mum or anybody) at all times. At an early stage, I knew when to disappear from the radar to think or evaluate things. Mrs Falayi was always calling me ‘Mrs. Room’. We would talk about that someday.
I learnt early in life that one can dialogue through letters, spoken words and behaviour. If none of that would work, then use silence to drive home your point.
I had a very interesting upbringing. I know that every child deserves at least some of the love and comfort we had back then. And I’m committed to seeing that we get there with my choice in the next presidential election.
Until then, love your children. They are your cherished sheep.