More Than the Struggle

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| This is the 192nd story of Our Life Logs |


I was born and bred in Lagos in the late 80s, growing up with four siblings. More specifically, I hail from Ini, Akwa Ibom in Nigeria. My childhood was a long-term nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. My father was very violent and abusive, so I never had a chance to enjoy being young. I’d get punished for the smallest reasons, and I went through life feeling like I could never do anything right. One of his favorite weapons to hit me with was a cable spoke (a part on the handle of a motorcycle to support the brake). I was beaten and left with scars that still trail my skin to this day. Sometimes, I’d be lucky enough to escape by jumping out of a nearby window, but even then, he’d find me eventually and beat me for running.

My mother loved me, but it was overshadowed by my father’s hate. She never wanted to admit how bad the abuse was, and my father was cunning, always convincing her that his abuse was just common discipline. I lived in constant fear and never felt the comfort of love. The mere sight of my father made my heart beat faster. I grew up very depressed.

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One of my sources of comfort then was soccer. I’d spend the whole day playing ball outside just to get away from my father. But he couldn’t stand to see me not studying or working. He must have thought practicing soccer was a waste of my time. He would spank me to the point of bleeding just for playing my favorite sports. Even when I tried to stay in and read, he would verbally abuse me, mocking me by saying, “You’re just using the book to cover your face. Look at me, you coward!”

I am not sure why he was particularly cruel to me. Perhaps he had anger issues that he refused to take control of. Or maybe he had an inability to control it. However, I don’t think he saw the way he treated me as cruel. He believed beating a child and speaking with aggression would create a strong sense of discipline in a child. Well, I did grow up disciplined and dignified, but at the cost of my childhood joy, a price far too high.

Or, maybe extreme poverty makes a man lose all his senses. Our family was so poor that most of the days, we’d only have one square meal that usually came late at night after my father returned from work. We didn’t have extra money for public transportation, so I would have to trek about two hours to school on foot. My mother worked part time to support us all with feeding, clothing and school fees. She couldn’t do it well all alone, so I searched for menial work to help her, such as digging sand out of gutters to sell in wheel barrows.

Still, there were many days we went hungry, even during my teenage years. When I couldn’t bear the starvation any longer, I’d sneak into my mother’s room and take money from her little savings box so I could buy food or snacks for myself. I knew it was bad, but I only did it because I was desperate to quiet down the never-ending growl in my stomach. This method was working out well for a little while until my father caught me one day when I was 17. He was so furious that he screamed like a madman and kicked me out of house.

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You would think I must be sad to have been kicked out, but honestly, I was relieved to escape my abusive home. I knew I would have more freedom to live how I wanted without the constant beatings shackling me down.

I roamed the neighborhood for months. I would bath in a friend’s home in the morning when his parents were out and then spend the night on the streets, sometimes inside a broken-down car, sometimes in a small shade in neighbors’ home or a nearby shop. On rainy nights, I’d sit alone with tears running down my face, unable to fall asleep because I was terrified of what was to come. I would often say a silent prayer asking for protection. I’d scream in frustration wondering why I had such a difficult life compared to other kids.

Sometimes, I would still go back home to visit my mother just to make sure she was doing okay, but I knew my father would never let me return, so I wouldn’t stay long. I struggled to attend school while I was homeless and eventually gave up and dropped out. It was a difficult choice for me. I hated seeing all my friends continue with no issues, but attending became too difficult for me. I couldn’t get help anywhere. Life was difficult for everyone in the neighborhood and I guess everyone was busy caring for their own kids.

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Two years passed, and I struggled each day just to stay alive. Then a beacon of hope emerged from the fog of despair surrounding me. An older man who I knew from Christian meetings I used to attend made an effort to find me after he returned from a long trip. He noticed that I had stopped coming to meetings and went to my family’s home to ask about me. When my parents told him that they didn’t know where I was and didn’t care, he felt paralyzed by their response. He asked them to search for me and inform me to come and see him. My mother relayed the message to me when I visited next and I went right away to his home.

He invited me in and listened to all I had endured. Then, to my greatest joy, he offered me a place to stay, and my homeless days were, finally, over. He and his older daughter, Nancy, gave me the love I desperately craved as a young boy. I spent the next three years living under their roof. Through their guidance, I finished my high school. Through them, I began to study the bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. A lot of things I learned from the bible gave me a change of heart and moved me to be a dedicated Christian.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses scriptural teachings gave me hope for a promising future and moved me to keep improving my well-being. I read in the Bible that God said in Psalm 11:5 that he, “hates anyone who loves violence.” Knowing this, I stopped my destructive habits like smoking and giving in to my anger. A person of God does not use violence to solve their problems, and I refused to be like my father.

I also had to learn the power of forgiveness. I knew that I had to let go and forgive my father or I would never feel at peace. I forgave him so that I could be forgiven too. It was very hard for me to do, but through the support of my new caretakers, I succeeded. I couldn’t change my past. Instead, I chose to focus on the present and look brightly at the future.

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After high school, Nancy helped me obtain a scholarship to get enrolled in a mono-technic program where I took computer science courses for a few years. I looked for jobs after the program and when I was 22, I succeeded in getting one as an attendant and system administrator. It was a low-paying job but it paid enough to keep me afloat. That just kept me going.

Eventually, the Christian man who took me in relocated to Bayelsa to live with his other children. I couldn’t afford to live alone with the little money I was making, so I moved back to my hometown, Akwa Ibom. There I found a job as an ICT (information and communication technologies) instructor, teaching computer education to high school kids since 2015. The pay is still low, but I am happy and able to pay my rent.

As a teacher, I hope to be an example of leadership in love and honesty to the younger generation who often lack the moral support and good models to take after. I want kids to have a better life than mine, and I plan to use what I’ve learned to help others.

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I am content with how far I have come, but I am not done growing. I believe growth is eternal, and I will grow forever, in wisdom, knowledge and insight. After all that I’ve been through, I have become more resilient and learned how to handle situations better. My difficulties in life made me stronger, and I’m glad I had the help to get to where I am today.

 

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 This is the story of Clement Bassey

Clement lives in the Eket Akwaibom state of Nigeria working as a high school ICT instructor. Growing up, Clement lived in fear of his abusive father who got away with it by passing it off as discipline, and he eventually got kicked out at 17. He lived on the streets for two years until an older Christian man took him in and helped him get his life back on track. He’s currently aspiring to become a CEO for a digital ad agency company that provides free classified ads for young people with skills to offer services and earn a living. Though he’s not making much money now, Clement tries his best to take care of his parents in their old ages now that he has forgiven them. Clement loves playing soccer in his spare time.

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Clement Bassey, 2018.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on October 4, 2018.

| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: MJ |

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