On the road to Lagos, Iya Farida thought about her future as the night breeze hit her hidden face. She covered the twins with a blanket because it was cold. She had worn Farida several layers of clothes to protect her body. She fed the children that night with heavy meals so none of them would wake up and complain of hunger. She was lost in thoughts and didn’t feel the leaves of plants by the road side slap her face as they drove by. She had her children with her; that was all that mattered to her. The doctor said the money she had on her was too small for her to survive comfortably in Lagos. It would last her only six months. Well, she would get to Lagos, meet with the doctor’s friend who promised to help her get accommodation, a job and then live a quiet life with her children. She was worried that Alhaji will come after them. She had to get a place where he won’t be able to find her. They said Lagos was big so it fitted perfectly into her plan. He didn’t know about her relationship with the doctor so; he would think she was still in Ilorin.
Lagos was a different ball game altogether. It was not what she expected. She was able to secure an accommodation but the place was barely habitable; she lived better in Alhaji’s house. She had no choice; it was all she could afford. She moved in with her children. The doctor’s friend gave her some used furniture and cooking utensils for starters. She was grateful. Getting a job proved even more difficult. Her lack of education, deformity due to the abuse stood in her way and she couldn’t work very far away from home because of the children. She took up odd jobs to make some money. Farida took care of her brothers while her mother worked.
Iya Farida and her children adapted to their life in Lagos. She set out every morning to clean schools, surroundings of offices and hospitals. She changed her outfit and went to the market to carry “load” for people that came to make purchases. She did this till 3:00pm then she buys food for her children to eat and goes back to work. This was her daily routine. She was hardworking and dedicated. She did not want a situation where she had little or no money to fend for her children and had to resort to begging or be forced to go back to Alhaji.
In a few months, due to her hardwork, she had saved up some money to start petty trade. As she was about to take a breath of fresh air, robbers attacked the house she lived in. It was a regular occurrence in that area but she was unaware. She lived in a dilapidated face me I face you building in Mushin very close to Mushin market. Such attacks were common. As the robbers were moving from room to room, she gathered her children together when she heard the noise. She tried to hide all her money then she heard someone stamping on her door trying to open it forcefully.
“Who is here? Show yourself or we will start shooting.” The robber announced immediately he came in.
“It is me. I am here with my three children.”
He flashed the torchlight at her. In her desperation to hide her money, she did not consider making herself decent as she had only a wrapper tied across her chest. The robber sized her up. She was young and beautiful. The scars were not visible in the dark.
“Where is your money?”
“Here.” She handed over to him all the money she was trying to hide. She saw the look in his eyes and she just wanted him to leave immediately.
“Come here.” She obeyed using her frame to block her children’s view.
“Open your wrapper.”
Her worst fears had just happened. With tears in her eyes, she spoke very steadily, “Farida, you and you brothers should lie down and sleep.” She waited for them to obey then she opened the wrapper for him.
“Come here.” He ordered her. He threw the wrapper away, forcefully bent her across her cupboard and as he was about to defile her, he heard screams and scuffling. He released her saying, “I will be back.”
That began her nightmare. His promise to return made her paranoid. Why would she be constantly raped by her husband and then a robber also wanted to do same to her. Was she cursed? She feared for her children. She didn’t want them to see her being violated. She decided to move out of the house to a safer place. The robber took all her money. She needed to raise money urgently. She worked harder than ever. She worked from dawn to dusk every single day. She did all types of jobs just to get money.
Eventually, she found a house. She helped a woman carry her load(goods) to deliver to her customer in a small estate very close to Daleko market. A particular house on the street caught her attention. After dropping the load and collecting her money, she walked to the building and entered the compound. She was very impressed with what she saw. It was a storey building of 20 self-contained apartments. The landlord lived in the next building. He had built a small room and parlour apartment in front of the compound which was reserved for the caretaker. She saw that it was empty. She knew if she approached the landlord the way she looked, he would not listen to her. She left with resolve, she would give him all she had saved and work even harder to get more money and pay for the apartment.
She worked harder than before and made some more money. Armed with her plan, she went to see the landlord on a Sunday morning. She wore her best clothes and covered her scar. He agreed to see her which was a plus for her. She greeted him and explained to him she was interested in the apartment.
“I fired the thieving caretaker. I intend to get a new one. I am not renting it out.”
“I am ready to be a caretaker and still pay some rent. I will take care of your compound, ensure it is neat every day. I will get the tenants to pay their bills and keep their surroundings clean. Anyone you have issues with, I will help you resolve. I need accommodation for myself and my three children. I need a safe place and this place is safe.”
The landlord looked at her closely. She was young and beautiful although she covered her face with a shawl. He could keep her there and have her work for him in every way. She mentioned three children.
“Where is your husband?”
“He died when the twins were born and the family abandoned me.”
“O ma se o. It’s a big pity. Pele. I think you should see the place you are interested in.”
Most of the tenants had gone to church that morning, so there were very few eyes on them. He opened the door and led her in. She looked around the place and loved it. The room had two large windows for cross ventilation and a back door that led to the bathroom, toilet and kitchen. This was heaven compared to where she was living currently. She was excited. There she brought out N2,000 she had saved and went on her knees saying,
“Baba, this is all I have. I want you to hold it so I can work some more to be able to afford this place. Robbers have been attacking us and we are not safe. Please, baba mi. Help me.”
The landlord looked at her and could see the genuine plea in her eyes. He responded, “Well, I can give you this place for free if you want. I will employ you as the caretaker to take care of the property. But you must do something for me in return.”
“E se sir. Whatever you want, I will do oh. I promise you. If I can get this house; half of my problems will be solved” she replied excitedly.
“You are a fine girl. Since you no longer have a husband, I can help do what your husband was doing for you.” The landlord suggested.
“Ah baba! How can you say that? How much is the rent? I will pay but I can’t do what you are asking. I can wash for you, clean your house, cook if need be but I cannot share the same bed with you.”
“Why? I am still an agile man. I can go many rounds. Instead of you to give it to boys that cannot help your situation, give it to me exclusively and I will take care of you and your children. You will not need to work, I promise you” he said reaching out his hand to grab her but she jumped out of it in time. Her shawl fell and he saw the scar of her face. “Why do you cover your face? The marks are not bad. I like them. I can make you very happy.”
“Baba, please, I can’t do this. Give me time to raise the money and give you. Tell me how much rent I should pay and then I will get the money.”
“The rent for that place is N15,000 a year. If you can raise the money, I will allow you to stay. I will not collect money small small and I will not collect agency and agreement fee. If you change your mind, I am ready. Just knock on my gate and ask for Baba Juwon and I will answer you.”
Iya Farida wondered what kind of luck she had. She was really sad that the man wanted to take advantage of her. Other men tried to do same too but she had always refused and focused on working hard for her children. Her children were the most important people in her life right now. She went back to working very hard. After three weeks, she was only able to save N2,000. It was glaring it would take even longer to raise the money.