Owoidogho Oton, the mother of a one-year-old boy who was allegedly thrown into a bush on July 4, 2022 by his father, one Godwin Aweh, in Esit Eket, Akwa Ibom State, talks to OPEYEMI ADEFEMI about the incident
How old are you and what do you do to earn a living?
I am 23 years old. I am not employed at the moment.
Who is Godwin Aweh to you?
He is my husband.
Are you legally married to him?
We are not legally married but we live together.
Where is he from?
He is from Esit Eket.
What does he do for a living?
He used to be a driver but now, he is a palm wine tapper. He also sells gin.
How did you meet?
We met in Eket. At that time, I was working in a restaurant. He was a regular customer at the restaurant where he declared his interest to marry me.
For how long have you been living together?
We have been living together for two years.
How many children do you have together?
We have two children and they are boys. The first one’s name is Diamond and he is one year old while the second one is a month old.
Did your parents approve of your relationship with him?
When I met him, my father had already passed but my mum was still alive. When he came to see my family, he explained that he wasn’t financially capable of paying my bride price at that moment but said he would do so as time went on. So, I moved in to live with him. Now, I no longer have parents and my siblings don’t like visiting me because of his bad attitude.
It was reported that your child was thrown away in the rain. Is that true?
Yes, that is very true.
Can you explain how it happened?
Diamond was doing well after birth but when he was three months old, I began to discover that the baby shivered all night and cried loudly. When I informed the father, he told me that nothing was wrong with his child and asked whether I was wishing the child evil.
Did you take the child to a hospital?
I insisted we take the baby to the hospital but he refused. I could not do it on my own because I didn’t have any money. Later on, he gave the baby herbs and said they were what his predecessors used to cure all types of sicknesses and diseases. As a result of that, the baby’s body started drying up. It became so bad that Diamond could not crawl. Each time Godwin left for work, I cried and thought of means to take the child to a hospital. He once told me to stop feeding the child so that the child will die. Every time he returned from work and saw the baby trying to sit, he got angry and would beat him. I begged him to stop beating the child and that the child was only crying because of hunger and that it was because he insisted that I must not feed the baby.
Did he say anything that suggested he wanted the child to die?
He used to say to the child, “You don’t want to die, abi? You never die? People usually use people like you for rituals but I am not interested in doing that.” On different occasions, he put the child outside in the rain even at night and warned that if I ever took the child into the house, he would send me packing. Later, he came home from work and said he was no longer interested in Diamond and flung Diamond into the bush in our backyard, and left for his usual one-week trip.
What did he give as the reason for his action?
Before I moved in, I was not aware my husband had children. It was later that I found out. He had always said he wanted a girl as his precious children are all boys. He complained and asked why I gave him a “possessed” child like Diamond, even if I couldn’t give him a girl. He came back home that day to tell me that he had lost interest in being Diamond’s father.
How did you feel when he dumped the baby into the bush?
I felt very bad and I was crying. I was helpless. I had no money, so I couldn’t do anything. When he told me not to feed the baby, I fed him the child secretly.
Did he find out?
At a particular time, he came home angry claiming that someone from the village called to tell him that I fed the child. How will I not feed my child? It got to a point he stopped giving me money for food. He hates the baby and doesn’t like the sight of him at all.
How was the child rescued?
An anonymous person called a non-governmental organisation, Child’s Right And Rehabilitation Network, and informed them that there was a situation on the ground and some people from the NGO came to our rescue.
Does he abuse or assault you?
He frequently yells at me but he has never beaten me.
Do you think his action was influenced by alcohol?
He was perfectly okay when he committed the act. When I went to enquire about his family, people around him told me that spiritual forces didn’t want him to get maritally settled. A pastor once told me the same thing and that his actions were not ordinary.
What did the doctors say when the child was taken to a hospital?
The child was taken to the hospital by Child’s Right And Rehabilitation Network after he was rescued. A doctor confirmed that Diamond was suffering from acute pneumonia, malnutrition, anemia, and breathing difficulties. I was told that an X-ray showed a dislocation and bone fracture in the limbs. When Diamond was about four months old, my husband beat the child and mistakenly broke his leg. We were both unaware of the fracture until I discovered that something was wrong and that he had a dislocation when I wanted to bathe him. This contributed to the baby not being able to sit, crawl or walk.
Did the doctor confirm to you that the child came down with pneumonia as a result of exposure to harsh weather conditions?
Yes, the baby suffered so much in the cold and rain.
Is your husband remorseful? Has he apologised for what he did?
As we speak (August 1), I have not been able to reach him. It’s not yet time for him to return from his usual one-week trip.
Did you report to the police?
The foundation made sure the Department of State Services was aware of the situation.
Have you forgiven him for what he did to your child? Or will you ever forgive him?
I don’t know yet as it is not that easy for me.
Do you regret having children for him?
No, I don’t regret it.
What do you plan to do now?
As it is, I need money to take care of Diamond and my newborn. The NGO has promised to employ me so that I can earn something and take care of my children.