Story Telling

Esther Chizaram Ngele: The Stolen Pride

Esther Chizaram Ngele

“Kini?! “Kilode ti o fi binu nigbagbogbo?” Mama Dami yelled at her daughter Dami. “Why are you always angry? I am your mother. How you treat me is how your child will treat you o! Ireti pe o le gbo mi! hope you’re hearing me. Miss independent.” She added while holding an ear.

Thinking deep and back. She knew she was being quite unfair to her family. Especially her poor mother. But somethings were better left unsaid. Right? It all came back to her. ‘Her pride’ as her Secondary School Matron had called it was stolen. Stolen even before she could take pride in it. 

“You can’t stitch it back together! once it’s open?” the matron shouted at the assembly ground standing akimbo. “it is open!” The students chorused and began to laugh.

There she was, a secondhand torn garment that can never be stitched together. Yinka laughing so hard turned to her bestie Dami and said “Eeooow!” with her tongue out. Dami forced a smile.

The NYSC Corper living in the same compound as hers, seemed to be the only one who truly understood her. He was a lawyer. She enjoyed talking to him. And having him explain some of the legal jargons. But deep down, she knew exactly what she wanted to ask but would rather lead with unsuspicious questions. Which to her were ‘innocent and harmless’. But this is the day. 

“Tell me about the offence of rape.” Dami asked. Trying so hard to disguise the seriousness in her tone. 

“Ha! that one is quite serious o!” the Corper began. “First of all, it’s a crime and its offenders should be sent straight to God in a black envelop in my personal opinion.” Corper Kunle replied. “You think so?” She asked. “O Yes!” he responded.

“What if it happened a long time ago? Is it also statute barred by the doctrine of lashes and acquiescence? Dami further inquired.

Straightening up as if he was about to give a sermon, Corper Kunle began. 

“According to sections 357 and 358 of the criminal code, rape is defined as having unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman or girl, without her Consent, or with her consent, if the consent, is obtained by force or by means of threats or intimidation of any kind, or by fear of harm, or by means of false act, or, in case of a married woman, by impersonating her husband. This offence is punishable by imprisonment for life, with or without caning.” Corper Kunle rattled off confidently. 

“The offence of rape is unjustifiable at all time. Regardless of how and when it happened. Time should not be a barrier in seeking justice!” He added pumping his fist up in the air.

“Because the victims of rape suffer unquantifiable hurt and most times don’t truly heal from the post traumatic disorders until they face their demons ….” Corper Kunle went on. Drifting away in her own thoughts on hearing the words, ‘Until they FACE their demons’; And here she was living with hers.

This is it. Standing up abruptly she matched towards their cottage. She has had enough. What’s left? There was nothing to be ashamed of anymore. She must confront her past. She must seek justice for her peace of mind. 

The Corper on realizing he was having a conversation with himself now. Stared at her in bewilderment before he got up and followed. “What is it? Where are you going to?” Corper Kunle asked frenzied. 

The next door neighbor, Opeyemi who had been eavesdropping to their conversations, exclaimed “o ma se o!” Ko ye mi o! Mama Precious e wa o! And followed suit. “Nibo ni iwon lo?” Mama Precious yelled after Opeyemi. Little by little, the neighbors gathered.

Dami felt the hurt and pain begin to build up with each step she took. She cannot continue to live with this. Especially in the same compound. It’s time to take action. The legal actions…. Breathing heavily and sweating profusely, she began calling out her demon. ‘Tobias! ‘Tobias!!…. 

There he was; her mother, her father, and her uncle Tobias. They were singing along the gospel song playing on the radio. “Baba sanu fun mi ooo! ….” “Do you want to tell them or should I.” Dami asked looking straight into her uncle’s eyes as she fumed in anger.

“Tell them what?” he asked with a frown. Tell them Dami yelled! Ah ah dami! Ti padanu emi re? Have you? Have you lost your mind? Her father asked puzzled. 

“Su fun kini? farabale kini in yen! Her mother asked in utter curiosity. 

“Tell them! Tell them! Tell them!!! Dami began to yell. Pa ēnu re mò! Shey iwa lost e mind. Moving frantically and looking around she grabbed the Coke bottle laying under a bench and aimed at Tobias who was already standing in challenge.

There he came crashing on the floor like an iroko tree. Dami!!! Her father screamed, her mother collapsed. 

“He raped me, this fool raped when I came back from school!” She yelled and began to sob uncontrollably. “Kini?!” her father yelled with his hands on his head. “When you came back from school? Oya talk!” her father asked in bewilderment.

Shouting on top of her voice and talking incoherently, she narrated her ordeal. She told everyone eagerly listening, how uncle Tobias had lured her into his room and forced himself on her till he penetrated her. How she was disvirgined at age nine. After returning from school one hot afternoon. And his serials of threats that kept her silent. The silence which has been replaced with anger and resentment. Always feeling inadequate and the constant urge to please.

The police came and arrested Tobias. She felt liberated. A new day has come for her. Nothing can hold her back again.

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