By Francis Ehwerido
There are three stories and a video that broke my heart in the last few days. Two are from afar, while one is local. The first story is from Zambia. A former nurse at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Zambia, Elizabeth Mwewa, claimed to have swapped close to 5000 babies over a period of 12 years. Now she is dying of cancer and has suddenly found God. She now wants forgiveness. Well, only God forgives sins and I am quickly beating a retreat from God’s territory.
But I have a right to remind Mwewa of her evil deeds and atrocities, and the pains she has wrought on humanity. DNA tests must have been conducted on some of these children in the past by suspecting husbands and wives have been wrongly accused of infidelity. Some could have been driven to commit suicide due to shame and pain. Some marriages must have broken up once the men found out the children were not theirs.
I hear that as many as half of married men in Nigeria are bringing up other people’s children their wives passed on to them as theirs. I do not know who came up with this staggering statistics and how true this figure is, but some siblings look so similar that a “foreign” child among them would stick out like a sore thumb. For such men, there is no way you can pass on another man’s child to them as theirs. They will fish out the child like you fish out a chicken among goats
Anyway, Mwewa’s confession is going to lead to a flurry of activities and unsettle many homes. Anybody who has had a child in that hospital in the last 12 years is going to do a DNA on the child. Does Zambia have the capacity to handle the likely increased demands? Can all the affected families afford a DNA test? Does the hospital have insurance to take care of liabilities arising from this revelation? How do you begin to match the children with their real parents? How do you uproot almost 5000 children from places they have known as home from birth, and people they have known as family, to new homes and families? Mwewa surely needs God’s forgiveness because many of the affected victims will not be generous enough to forgive her.
The second heart breaker is a nanny from hell. I learnt it happened in South Africa. She was caught in a video spanking a little baby and repeatedly hitting her on the head. I managed to watch the video once; I can’t watch it again. But I am sure of one thing: if the parents of that baby had caught the lady in the act, she would probably have been in the morgue or grave by now. On the spur of the moment, such people do not deserve to live. But then all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; we all live by His grace and mercy.
I learnt she has been arrested. The law should be allowed to take its course. She deserves the maximum punishment for that crime against humanity. May be, people need to go for psychiatric evaluation before children are put in their care. Such extreme cruelty to innocent and vulnerable children is inexplicable and inexcusable. The memories of another nanny-from-hell, Jolly Tumuhiirwe, are still fresh in our minds and now this. Tumuhiirwe is the Ugandan nanny who was recorded brutalizing an 18-months-old toddler. Some people are simply subhuman.
Parents of toddlers and other young children, who are yet to verbally express themselves, should be more vigilant and observant. Master the body language of your children. Sometimes children are not willing to go to the crèche or cry when mummy is leaving them home with the nanny. But we are in a hurry to get to work and ignore or fail to notice the subtle messages these children pass on to us. Our children should be our priority not our work.
Finally, we are at the homestretch and on a familiar terrain: rape; a father and son raped and impregnated a 13-year-old girl. The last celebrated of such a case was that of a 51-year-old lecturer, Andrew Ogbuja, who alongside his son, Victor, raped 13-year-old Ochanya Ogbanje, until she developed complications and died. This time around, the alleged culprits are 44-year-old Kabiru Oke and his 19-year-old-son, Faruq Oke. The victim is the younger sister of Kabiru’s wife and probably young aunty to Faruq, unless Kabiru’s wife is not the mother of Faruq.
In the case of the Ogbujas, the son started sleeping with Ochanya first before the father joined him. The reverse is the case here. According to the report, Kabiru started sleeping with the minor in October last year, while Faruq joined this year. Who is responsible for the pregnancy? They might need a DNA to know the father of the unborn baby. You now see why many families are in shambles. Fathers have become very lousy and lost the leverage to enforce discipline in their homes. How can you sleep with and impregnate a girl who probably calls you father and looks up to you? Once Kabiru started getting attracted to the little girl, he should have told his wife to send her away. He didn’t even need to give a reason. That is the intelligent thing to do if he lacked the will power to control his libido. But he allowed lust to get the better of him. Look at the mess!
Meanwhile, I hope the law will be allowed to take its course. Normally when such incidents occur, it is dubbed family affair. Somehow, they withdraw the case from the police, conveniently forgetting that rape is a criminal offence, and the story ends there. We have not shown seriousness as a people to tackle the problems we are faced with. There is no day a rape case is not reported in Nigeria. We have laws specifying the punishment for rape. Who is vigorously implementing them? Do we have to wait until all our daughters and wives are raped before we know we have a major crisis on our hands. Where does the problem lie? Is it that the laws are not strong enough to act as deterrence or they are being weakly implemented? Must we mess around with everything? Must we compromise on all fronts? Don’t we hold anything sacred anymore? We are increasingly making ourselves a joke and it is very sad and depressing. Shame!