Mrs. Mfon Babatunde-Ojo (nee Okon Akpan) is a survivalist, even if she doesn’t describe herself as such. The native of Obot-Idim Ibesikppo Osutan in Akwa Ibom State lost her mother as a child and she never got to meet her father. Divorced and later widowed, Mfon’s story is a study in resilience, as narrated to Iya Magazine…
The significant thing about my birth is that my mum was defiled and impregnated by her class teacher when she was in Primary School. She was living with her Uncle who was a police officer in Lagos.
When the rumour of her pregnancy broke, the teacher absconded because he knew he would be in serious trouble. And he never came back. So, I have never met my dad. The issue sent my mother back to the village to my grandma who took care of her till she was delivered of me.
My mother later got married and left me with my grandma when I was still very little and can’t even remember how she looked like. Few years into her marriage, she died through a snake bite and her sister in-law confessed some years later that she was the person that sent the snake that killed my mother.
My grandma continued to take care of me. But when I was in Primary Four, she sent me to one of my aunties who was my mother’s younger sister in Lagos to continue my education because she couldn’t afford my school fees anymore.
That was how I got into housemaid job because my aunty didn’t treat me like a relative. I had it rough and hard growing up, just that I was determined to be educated, so it was like, “Well, let them continue to maltreat me so far as they are paying my school fees.” That was my consolation for all the pains and humiliation I passed through in my aunt’s house.
I don’t know my father and mother, so I cannot say anything about them. But I know that if my mum had lived a little longer, she would have loved me. Having parents has been the luxury I never had in Life.
I went to Christ Assembly Primary School in Ajegunle, from there to Trinity Secondary Technical School along Mile Two Express Road, both in Lagos. Later on, I went to Federal Polytechnic, Akure, for my ND programme in Business Administration. We were the last set of students in Federal Polytechnic Akure because we had to vacate the campus for the Federal University of Technology Akure. So, I spent one year in Akure and one year in Ado- Ekiti.
In my second year in Akure/Ado-Ekiti, the Cross River State student bursary really helped me a great deal, otherwise, I don’t know how I would have made it.
My dream was to become a lawyer or a broadcaster because I love the English language and I knew that either of those courses will give me the satisfaction I wanted; but my guardian told me to choose a course that they could easily pay for and which wouldn’t take too much time. they said that Law was too high-sounding for someone without a parent.
Life in secondary school was very exciting, but I didn’t let all the excitement get into my head because my background was always before me. I didn’t want to involve myself with stuff that would make my aunt and her husband say they won’t continue training me. Though they maltreated me and used me as a maid, I am still grateful that at least they sent me to school. I always remember them in my prayers, at least for their assistance.
When I finished my OND, I returned to my housemaid job because I couldn’t get a job; but eventually, God helped me I got an appointment with the Allied Bank then. I rose to the position of a Bank Inspector, and I spent 14 years working with the bank before it folded up.
Everyone in the bank then had a side business, and so did i. I had a fashion house where I employed people to work for me while I was still in the bank. So, by the time the bank folded up, I fell back on my fashion work.
Marriage and business
I got married to my first husband when I was still working in the bank. He was from Edo state. But the marriage was traumatic because we couldn’t achieve pregnancy. So, my mother in-law mounted so much pressure until my husband divorced me. She came and took my husband away from our matrimonial home and left me there, with the house rent and other bills to settle.
I was devastated, I thought the end had come. I even contemplated suicide if not for the hand of God upon my life. In the midst of that storm, with no family to run to, no job and no money because the divorce affected me in a way that it also affected my fashion business. My staff left because I was not paying adequate attention to what was going on in the shop. But in the midst of it all, God showed up. I met a friend I used t,o know then in the bank, so we became friends again and got intimate.
Before I knew it, I was pregnant. Wow! I couldn’t believe it. We planned on getting married but his sister insisted that I abort the pregnancy because she didn’t want her brother to marry a non Yoruba. But her brother was in love with me and so refused to leave me. So we got married but as the sister had threatened, I saw hell. There was nothing physically and spiritually that my sister in-law didn’t do to make sure my husband leave me. But he refused and the trouble continued. The first thing she took from me was my first child. I nearly lost my mind. Again, my business folded up and I became a shadow of myself.
I almost died but God consoled me by giving me another child – a girl and today she is 21 years old and in the University. There were many diabolical attempts on my life, I only sailed through because of God. I spent more than six weeks in the hospital after the delivery. I wasn’t stable enough to go home. I was in a long coma and on the day I came round, many people rejoiced. I was in another hospital and my baby was in a different hospital. I had many blood transfusions before I could live. At last, I got home with my baby but my sister in-law was still on my case.
When my daughter was five years old, tragedy struck, my husband died in a motor accident in his own vehicle.
My daughter & I
It has been God since the tragic death of my husband, my sister in-law and my mother in-law stopped visiting my house. My sister in-law stopped giving trouble because she had succeeded in her goal to separate my husband and I. Nobody from my husband’s family remembered my daughter and I.
So, from the day my husband died, I took sole responsibility for my daughter, it’s has been hectic but God has remain my back bone. I was looking for a child and He gave me a child so that I can experience the joy of motherhood, but humans think they can truncate my joy. How miraculously I took are of the child without anything is something I should thank God almighty for every day.
I sold my car and other valuables to start a business that will sustain us but until now I have not been able to buy another, but I believe my daughter will buy one for me very soon. (laughs)
My daughter Deborah dropped out of the university initially because I couldn’t foot the bill, I consoled her and worked towards her getting a new admission and God did it, she went to school of nursing and the problem of not paying fees on time arose again and she dropped out; but to the glory of God, she is doing quite well now in the university reading Geography and Regional planning and she is in the final year.
Out of nothing God is sustaining us. I am now into the business of fairly used clothes. But along the line, I buy anything I see that we will give me profit and resell and I do my businesses around Iyana-Iba, LASU bus-top.
I live in my own house because while I was working with the Allied Bank, I bought a small land and erected a house there. My husband was aware of it so we were living there when he died. I have a shop in the house and I sell anything sellable in that shop just to make ends meet.
I still sew clothes for people that know me personally, but I don’t have the right machine to meet up with today’s fashion trend. I plan to go back to my fashion business immediately my daughter graduates, so that I will put all my energy into it and stop the other businesses.
I relax with gospel music, I relax watching movies if time permits. I used to love reggae but now I love R&B. I would love to meet Dolly Parton.
My advice to women is that they should not depend on anyone because in this life, anything can happen anytime anywhere and there is nothing you can do about it.