The year was 1996. Daddy had lost his job several years earlier, and had been unable to secure another one ever since. Mom was a government civil servant, and at this pre-minimum wage era, she was earning a paltry one thousand two hundred naira a month; less than adequate for a family of seven, and the salary was not coming regularly to make matters worse. Since Dad had lost his job, the family had been surviving from hand to mouth. Sometimes, dad had to go out to borrow money, most times fifty or hundred naira to buy a cup of beans, and when he succeeded (which wasn’t very often), the family somehow always found ways stretch the beans to two days. When father came back empty handed, well, everyone spent the day dreaming of food, and drinking gallons of water to fill up empty stomach’s that played a constant orchestra of thunderous growls of hunger.
One day, Mom came home to announce that she had met a member of the church who felt
moved by their plight and had promised to assist the family with foodstuffs once in a while. This
kind benefactor, a lanky, stern faced man named Ubong became a sort of surrogate uncle to the
children, and they started to call him Uncle Ubong.
Mom sent the two eldest children, females aged eleven and nine respectively to Uncle Ubong’s
little apartment regularly, and whenever he was at his working place, a very popular secondary
in the Ejigbo area of Lagos state, the children would go to meet him there, where he would lead
them to the school farm and harvest different types of fruits and vegetables for the children to
take home.
Sometimes, the girls went together to Uncle’s house, other times, they went together to their
uncle’s house. At other times they went alone. The younger girl, Ifeoma (not real name), a child
who lived in her head most times, daydreaming and creating worlds and being the Supreme
Ruler in her kingdoms, often relished these visits because it afforded her escape from the
bleak realities at home. One day, mum sent her to uncle’s place, and she merrily skipped to the
apartment which was about an hour and thirty minutes trek from her home in Jakande Housing
Estate. Uncle was off duty that day, so he was at home. After his enquiry about her health, family
and other aspects of her life; Ifeoma gave her little rehearsed speech about the condition at home
and the fact that they had run out of food stuff again at home. Listening patiently, he waited
for her to finish before finally obliging to the request of assistance delivered by Ifeoma from
her mother. Uncle ultimately exudes a kindred spirit. He went through his food stuff at home
and doled out a lump sum of rice, onions and oil. The little girl packed the things together and
prepared to go home.
“Uncle I am on my way” she announced in her tinny, singsong voice. He did not respond.
Thinking he hadn’t heard her the first time, she announced in a more audible tone. “Uncle I
want to be going home now”. She noticed for the first time uncle’s strange stares at her lower
region, and he was staring so hard, she began to fidget. Normally, uncle Ubong was a stern
faced, no nonsense man, but this was the first time Ifeoma would be feeling uncomfortable in
his presence. The look he was giving her was so strange, almost as if . . . as if . . . she couldn’t
quite describe the look, but she was very sure she had seen a man looking at a woman like that
on the television. His eyes snapped away from her lower region, and clearing his throat, he
croaked at her in his heavily accented Efik English “won’t you come and give me a hug before
leaving?” “A hug?” she asked, bewildered. He had never asked for a hug before, and after the
way he had been staring at her a few minutes ago, she felt very reluctant being in close proximity
to him. But with the typical guilelessness of the innocent, she stepped forward and hugged him.
Aha, what’s this, what’s this?!
Something alternately spongy and rocklike in feeling poked rudely at her midriff from his
trousers. Startled, she tried to draw back, but Uncle didn’t seem particularly eager to break the
embrace. She endured the discomfort of this ‘alien life form’ attempting to impale her through
her threadbare frock, but when she noticed Uncle’s breathing becoming faster, and the stony
club in Uncle’s trousers growing in girth and corpulence, she tore herself from his impassioned
embrace and shrilled “ Uncle Ubong, what is happening to you?” With obvious great effort, he
tried to calm himself down. “Ifeoma, promise me you won’t tell your mother I hugged you”, he
implored, his voice an hoarse whisper. “Why?” She asked. “Em, em, so that . . . don’t worry, if
you don’t tell her, I will give you pineapple, and only you will eat it, you won’t give anybody.
But if you tell, your mummy will beat you”, he replied. That did the trick. Her mother was
undisputed champion when it came to punishing naughty children, and she was terrified of being
flogged. Uncle Ubong continued to promise her different gifts, but he was speaking so fast, she
could barely understand him. His Efik accent was so thick.
At last, mercifully, he released her to go home, with a final stern exhortation to keep her mouth
shut. The child slowly made her way home, pondering all the while what happened.
Some weeks later, Mom sent the two girls this time to Uncle’s home. Uncle was inside sleeping
when they arrived. He was lying on his battered mattress in the middle of the tiny room, scrawny
chest bare, a faded wrapper tied around his sparse waist. They greeted him, and after the usual
niceties, ever the generous giver, he doled out the riches which the children accepted gratefully.
He tried to catch Ifeoma’s eyes, but with stubborn determination, she refused to look at him.
With fierce, almost comical concentration, she engaged the model in an outdated almanac
hanging on a rusty nail in the other side of the room to a staring contest. Seeing she wouldn’t
meet his eye, he chatted nervously with her sister.
All this while, the wrapper still hung precariously on his waist. Suddenly, the wrapper loosened,
sliding slowly down his stork legs to the ground, and he made no attempt to pick it up. The
movement had caught Ifeoma’s eye, and she turned from the almanac to gaze in fascination.
What her eyes beheld greatly puzzled her, while at the same time solving a mystery that had
been troubling her mind for weeks. The ‘alien’ projection she had felt and seen protruding
from Uncle’s trousers weeks back had resurfaced again. This time, she had a better view.
Unencumbered by the trousers, but encased in bright red cotton pants, the ‘alien’ stretched out
in all its disgusting glory. So THAT is what IT is, she thought, as she stared in fascination and
repulsion. He doesn’t even wear boxers, she thought in disgust and wonder, but why is’ It’ so
abnormal? It seemed impossibly big and long. Well, at least to her untrained eyes. It looked
as huge as Mother’s pestle which she sometimes used to crack palm kernels, and equally as
formidable. Uncle was in no hurry to retie the errant wrapper. He seemed to preen at them, and
even waggled ‘it’ a bit before their fascinated eyes. Her elder sister, red-faced, looked away in
embarrassment. The resemblance to her mother’s pestle brought an involuntary spasm of giggles
to Ifeoma’s lips.
Uncle Ubong, on hearing the barely restrained giggle from the child instantly deflated. If looks
could kill, the giggling child would have found herself choking on her mirth, and dropping
lifeless on the floor in the next instant with the poisonous glare he threw her way. He snatched
up the wrapper and retied round his waist. By this time, her sister was glancing nervously at the
door and tapping her foot restlessly. “Time to go!” Uncle snapped with rage and mortification.
Thankfully, he didn’t ask for a hug this time. After warning the children severally about the
dreadful punishment that would befall them if they breathed a word of what had happened
that day in his apartment to their mother, he released them, and terrified, they fled without a
backward glance. The children trudged home in tense silence, delivered the foodstuffs to their
grateful and unsuspecting mother, went to their common rooms, lay down on their shared beds,
and pondered.
About two months later, after enduring several days with no food to eat, mother had to swallow
her pride and send little Ify to their ‘kind’ benefactor and adopted uncle to ask for money or
foodstuff. She reluctantly set out on the almost two hours long trek to his apartment, tense and
worried, wondering what Uncle would have in store for her this time in his pouch of nasty
Uncle was getting ready to report to his post in the secondary school where he worked as a
security man. This time, Uncle did not wait for her to finish before dishing out the things. He
also threw in an unusually large amount of vegetables for good measure. Surprised by the
quantity of that day’s largesse, the child could only smile with gratitude as she gathered the
things together and put them into a bag and made ready to leave. “Uncle, I’m going o,” she sang
out in her sweet, clear voice. Uncle smiled wolfishly at her and sat down. “Don’t you want to
play with me?” Uncle asked slyly, motioning her forward. She discreetly put some distance
between both of them, but she couldn’t move far enough because the room was very small.
Uncle kept on smiling at her. “Come, don’t be afraid, and come and play with me.” he wheedled,
but the memory of the first experience was still fresh in her in her mind, thus she stayed put
at the spot. After a few more failed attempts at persuasion, he got up, exasperated. “Ok, since
you don’t want to play with me, give me a hug then you can go home, I promise”, he cajoled,
spreading his arms wide. The child’s heart sank when she saw that THAT annoying bulge in
Uncle’s trousers had reared, practically, its ugly head again. Not again, she thought miserably, I
don’t want that thing to touch me again. But there was no escape as she remembered that Uncle
had locked the door and pocketed the key when she had arrived earlier.
Quaking helplessly, she watched Uncle advance towards the spot where she stood rooted with
fear. Uncle didn’t have very far to walk. Within a twinkle of an eye, she found herself enfolded
in his suffocating embrace. The ‘pestle’, in all its irritating glory jabbed at her midriff without
apology. The feeling was so bloody uncomfortable. However this time, it seemed he had other
plans for her. After what seemed like hours, but in reality was a just a few seconds, the child
felt something warm and moist rigmarole around her neck and in her ear. What’s this?! His
tongue??!! Uncle is licking my neck!, her mind screamed above the confused cacophony in her
head. When she tried to extricate herself from his embrace, she discovered, very much to her
chagrin that his arms seemed to have turned to steel. It was at that point that she knew she was in
trouble. Big trouble. Even the ‘pestle’ seemed to have grown to alarming proportions.
Uncle started to drag her towards the bed in the centre of the room. The whole thing seemed
surreal, but familiar to her, but she couldn’t for the life of her place where she had seen it. Then
it hit her, at the same time he flung her unceremoniously on the bed. She had seen a similar
scene played out in an American movie on television, but she hadn’t been able to find out what
happened after the actress was tossed on the bed like a sack of manure, because Mum had
ordered all the children to shut their eyes and cover their ears tightly.
Uncle lay on top of her and tried to kiss her. “INYANMA!” Her frantic mind shrieked, and she
promptly turned her face aside. He tried to nudge her stubby legs apart. Having been sheltered
all her life, and being too young to understand the nastiest natures of man, she didn’t understand
what Uncle was trying to do, but an instinct, very deep and atavistic, warned her that if she
allowed him to successfully separate her legs, the consequences would be tragic indeed, so she
kept her legs clamped shut as tight as she could. What he was doing to her felt so . . . so . . .
WRONG. She knew in her heart of hearts that THIS was wrong. Why, she couldn’t explain, but
she was absolutely, positively certain.
She tried to fight him as hard as she could, but he was too strong. Tears, fat and oily, began to
flow down her face and the side of her eyes, pooling in her ears and hair. “Uncle no! No!!NO!!!”
she wailed. When he saw her tears, whatever demon that had possessed him went out of the
window. He wiped her tears and tried to pacify her, but she refused to be pacified. She continued
weeping, and he continued pleading with her. Finally few minutes later she quieted down, and
the tears dried up. After several desperate pleas not to report his ‘mis behaviour’ to her mother,
he added a few more things to the already bloated bag, and sent her on her way.
Feeling unclean, she made her weary way back home, but still didn’t confide in anyone about
her ordeal in the hands of her ‘uncle’. it was after a few months that she summoned up courage
to open up to her sister, and was mortified when she found out that their uncle Ubong had also
been trying his unholy mischief with her sister. He seemed to have formed the unpleasant habit
of poking little girls with his ‘rod of vengeance’.
Thankfully conditions improved for the family, and Mom didn’t have to send her little daughters
to Uncle’s apartment again. It took the girls several years, when they finally understood the
significance of his unhealthy behaviour, (and if I may add, similar attempts were made by other
perverts to defile their innocence over the years) to open up to their mother. When Mother was
told, she was strangely silent, almost as if she was ashamed of what had transpired without her
knowledge, of what her trusted, stern faced, unsmiling, fellow believer in Christ had tried to do
to her innocent daughters. However, she couldn’t belatedly pour out her ire on him; they had lost
contact with him for several years.
Looking back, Ifeoma came to realize that she had been very lucky. Many others haven’t t been
so lucky. Child sexual molestation, as demonic and repulsive as it is, is a societal ill which
has been going on for centuries the world over, but has taken a quantum leap over the past few
decades; a pointer to the moral depravity of modern society. Divine grace prevented ‘Uncle’
from carrying out his degenerate plans on her, Ifeoma often mused, but what if it had gone the
other way, as it so easily could have . . . what if . . . ?
Ogbekene, budding creative writer, details in her story how poverty could expose young girls
to perverts and explore the frightening rising statistics of sexual abuse of adolescents.

Baobab Africa
Baobab Africa People and Economy reports the continent majorly from a positive slant. We celebrate the continent. Not for us the negatives that undermine the African real story of challenging but inspiring growth.

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