“The circumstances of your life have uniquely qualified you to make a contribution. And if you don’t make that contribution, nobody else can make it” – Harold Kushner
Watching Super hero movies while growing up was fun. Then it was either Superman or Batman against the evil guys who always want to cause trouble. My favourite hero, however, was Father Christmas who only showed up towards the end of the year. I never bothered to care if he was real or not, like my friends would sometimes argue, as the gift I got was enough evidence to prove his existence. Father Christmas was the only hero who met children’s needs.
Everyone has needs and everyone deserves a fair life. My job as a social worker gives me a glimpse of what it means to be a hero especially to a child. From our first initiative, the Care Continuity Challenge Initiative, which was geared towards taking children off the street, I witnessed first-hand the transformation of children, who sought refuge under Oshodi bridge, and are currently at home with their families.
Today, I visit a child referred to us by one of our partner non-governmental organisations. Indeed there is a huge gap between the rich and poor, even as there are different levels of poverty. I see hope for a better tomorrow in the eyes of these children as well as the parents who are striving to make ends meet despite the harsh realities of life. Meeting these people always presents an opportunity to learn the values of hardwork and patience.
Getting to my location this time wasn’t difficult, as everyone I asked for directions was happy to give me descriptions of the popular ‘CIVILIAN BARRACKS’. It is a four storey building, which houses different tenants who are ready to look out for each other. I approach two guys playing scrabble in one corner of the house.
Me: Una Good afternoon o. Please I’m looking for Mummy Tunde. I was speaking with her before I got to the bus stop but her phone…
Neighbour 1: (Smiles) We get many Tunde for here o. Na Civilian Barracks you dey so . As you see here so, my name na Tunde, but them dey call me Tunde Kekere Meji.
I had to check the form submitted for Tunde’s surname.
Me: Ok….I’m asking of Tunde Mayowa.
Neighbour 2: Oh…that’s Tunde Kekere Meta.
Neighbour 1: (Counting with his fingers) We get 5 Tunde for this compound.
They direct me to Tunde Kekere Meta’s house, which also serves as a shop, and my discussion with Tunde’s mum starts after the usual exchange of pleasantries.
Mrs. Mayowa: My name na Toyin. Them dey call me Iya Tunde Kekere Meta for this our barrack.
Me: Na wetin your husband dey do?
Mrs. Mayowa: Him dey do ‘kpom kpom’ work since him lost the driving job.
Me: Sorry o…I no understand. Which one be ‘kpom kpom’ work.
Tunde: My mom meant to say my dad work as a bricklayer.
Me: So… Tunde, how come you are not in school today?
Mrs. Mayowa: (cuts in) Na school fees o. This “Change” dey affect me and my family.
Tunde: I had to stay back at home since we knew you were visiting. I would have gone to hawk with my siblings.
Mrs. Mayowa: Yes o. My sister things dey tough o. See dis shop, na like N500 I dey make every day. How me and my husband go take feed our three children and also pay our rent? That rent na another wahala sef.
Me: So …Tunde, what class are you in?
Tunde: I’m in SS2.
Me: And your last position?
Tunde: I came second in my class. (Tunde hands me his most recent results. He came second in a class of 30 with an average of 80.3%).
Mrs. Mayowa: All my children dey brilliant. But my sister things get as e be….
Just then a man walks in.
Landlord: Madam good afternoon o…I still have not heard from your husband…
Mrs. Mayowa: Oga Landlord, abeg no vex him don go work. You go hear from us, latest this evening when him come back.
Landlord: Make una no blame me for wetin go happen tomorrow, because I no go hear ‘abeg’ o. (He walks away).
I watch helplessly as the whole scene played out like a Nollywood scene. The Mayowas represent one of the many I come across during my visits. Tunde is a very intelligent boy but the conditions at home are not pleasant at all. I wish a Super Hero could come to their rescue. I wish…but wishes are not horses.
Written by Emeke Ndego