So D’Banj lost his one year son to a freak household accident and expectedly, social media Naija branch is split into two teams: those who think that D’banj and his wife should be asked a lot of pretty uncomfortable questions and explain to them – the “jerjes” of this world – why their son died under their watch; and those who think that those asking for explanations, reprimanding and/or calling out the multiple award winning, self-styled “entertainer” are already half way down the ladder to hell fire.
This is not an easy one to have an opinion on but first, my thoughts and prayers are with D’Banj and his wife. First is it not amazing that a Nigerian celebrity, one who gave us quite a few trending buzz words in his heyday (remember “kokolets” anyone?), could get married to whom we can all see is an amazing young lady and yet, kept his budding young family out of the public eye long enough to have a son and but for this tragedy, may have continued to do so?
I don’t know what saddens me more, the fact that this poor child died in such a freak accident or the fact that the gossip hawks have stopped circling and have now perched firmly atop such a private moment and are tearing it to shreds – ripping the heart out of the entire scenario and trying to finally kill it so the vultures can come feast?
Anyway, this calls to mind a certain incident of the 14th of February 2015. I take leave of the main dramatis personae to recount this story publicly, but I am sure that they would understand.
It was in the middle of the Presidential elections, I had been actively involved in campaigning for the erstwhile President and had heaved a huge sigh of relief when the elections proper were shifted from the 14th of February to a date about 90 days hence.
My daughter was turning ten on the day the voting would have held (14th February); and I had promised her a surprise I know she would have loved, for her birthday so the postponement meant that I could have all the time I needed to do all that I needed for my daughter’s surprise.
First stop, was a visit to the cinema with a close circle of friends and their children, all of whom were also my daughter’s friends. So, we first met in the house where we entertained everyone, then moved off to a restaurant in the silverbird galleria for the birthday lunch, which would then be followed by the movie. It was a small and exclusive gathering of family and close friends and I had wanted to keep it personal, so I had asked all parents to be physically present to participate and not send in their nannies to watch over the children.
We were headed up on the escalator after lunch, when a commotion suddenly arose within our party.
One of us, a five year old boy, was hanging off the escalator railings, and this escalator was still in motion, riding up to the movie theatre and the drop down would have been straight onto the marble basement, four floors plus below.
Everyone was screaming, shouting, kabbashing… most of us were transfixed on one spot and did not know what to do. Luckily, one of the moms unfroze, ran up the escalator and grabbed the boy just at the moment his fingers began to slip off the railings. She later said to me, “Vayo, I looked into that boy’s eyes and I saw the fear in him and I swore to myself that rather than let him go, we will go down together”.
The boy was still slipping down her hands (combination of fear and all that screaming made everyone sweat like crazy), but thankfully at that point in time, a staff of the arena had the presence of mind to hit the escalator stop button, and then one of my cousins on our entourage, ran and grabbed the boy out of my friend’s hands, and into safety.
Immediately, a cry went up, “where is his mother?”. Recall I had said that I specifically asked parents to attend the event as I didn’t want to be faced with a lot of children being supervised by nannies, I wanted that close, family feeling? Well, this boy’s mother who was also (still is) my very best friend away and ahome, was nowhere to be found and the yeye nanny (I had made the exception in her case), was too busy primping and preening for only God knows who, and in that one split second when she took her eyes off her charge, we almost had a tragedy.
Anyway, the escalators were deactivated, and our shaken party was sent off to go and learn how to use the stairs, since we were trying to come and use our reggae to disrupt Ben Bruce’s blues.
We were on our way up the stairs, when I ran into my friend.
She was surprised to see our party looking harassed and worse for wear.
Her children who had just seen their sibling narrowly escape a tragic death, were distraught and wailing.
I was shaking.
She was smiling.
I lost it.
I am not proud to say that I stood there and berated my friend for all of ten minutes. “Where the heck were you? I specifically asked that parents should accompany their children and shifted all our activities to accommodate the parents. Where were you off to?” I didn’t even allow her to respond before I tucked in to deliver the near fatal blow, “do you know your son nearly died now? Oh, you don’t know? So if anything had happened to your child what would you have told the world? Can you just imagine? You left your children to come and go off and…”.
I laid into her.
She (still not knowing what had nearly happened), was having none of it and so, she gave back as good as she got – yeah, that’s one thing with my friends: if you want peace, they give you peace. Mana I choo ka a piakasia (if you want war), a piakasia the whole place (they will return fire for fire).
Someone eventually pulled her aside and told her what had happened.
Of course at that point, I was too angry to care. She was shaken and angry and I didn’t even allow her time to process what had happened as I continued to tear into her and berate her for not “caring enough for her children to have left them to whatever fate might befall them”. Remember, this is my best friend, someone that I know quite well is a stellar mom and parent but that one incident, was beclouding my sense of judgment.
We still watched our movie – I had already paid and as a true daughter of Ukpor, Nnewi South, my money no dey quick loss like that. I must chop am to the last kobo; and the next day, I left for the UK (which was the main surprise I had planned for my daughter).
Interestingly, as soon as I landed in London, the first call I made was to this friend of mine’s younger sister; and she practically spent the entire duration of the trip in the hotel where we stayed. Helping me to babysit when I needed to go for some meetings in London, and even taking my daughter out with her most times to distract her and give me some time for myself, when I fell ill. I never mentioned the incident with her elder sister to her (none of her business), but I still held onto my self-righteous indignation that her sister “fell hand”; and was refusing to acknowledge that I had a right to blow off at her.
About a week afterwards, something happened that brought me to a full realization of how much of a self-righteous, sanctimonious jackass I had been.
Everyone knows a trip to London is never complete without an early Sunday morning shopping trip to Petticoat Lane, right? Good!
So the next Sunday, I woke my daughter up early and we headed down to the train station to go catch the train down to Liverpool Street. The train came and somehow, I still can not for the life of me explain what happened, I jumped aboard and left my daughter on the platform. All I know is that she began to scream as the train started to pull away from the platform.
I was also screaming and hysterical on the train. I pushed the panic button, was hitting the door, wailing (Naija woman style) and begging the passengers to just let me throw myself out of the train and die one time. My apprehension was heightened by the fact that as we pulled out of the station, I saw a strange woman walk up to my daughter, pick her by the hand, and laugh at me while waving goodbye at me. Over active imagination?
Maybe, but you try being the parent who has just done a stupid, klutzy thing and potentially placed your (only) child in harm’s way.
Try walking a mile in those shoes and tell me that you will not see monsters lurking behind every lamp post and ogres hanging from every tree.
Long story short, I got down at the next station and as I was hysterically rushing to get the train back to the station, I heard my name being announced everywhere, “Could Miss Viola Okolie from Abuja with phone number 08037555644 (bless her heart, all she could remember was my Nigerian phone number) come over to the information desk ASAP?”.
I rushed over there and they handed me to someone who personally went on the next train with me and walked me down to the Stratford station information desk where my daughter was sitting happily, eating a large burger and having a coke, with the evidence of all the tears she had cried (until the burger appeared, it appears), streaking down her face.
I held her close in a tight hug and all she asked me was, “mummy, why did you leave me behind”?
I felt so guilty.
I felt so conflicted.
I felt so stupid.
And all of a sudden, my eyes opened. It was like an epiphany as I realized how much of a jackass I had been to my friend just a short week back in Abuja.
These things happen in the twinkle of an eye.
Beating up the parent with your “questions” and your “right to know”, simply because you are an internet olofofo, is not the right way to go. Your need to know is fueled by nothing else other than your need for gossip and a need to berate an entertainer for daring to be so different from you, he had an indoor pool in his house into which his son could wander at will and get drowned.
Coulda, woulda, shoulda…
Yeah, yeah. It may interest you to know that D’Banj and his wife are beating themselves up with all these questions and “what ifs”. They are grieving parents, this was a freak accident, one that is more common place than you would think.
For perspective, compare this to you taking your eyes off your child and them upending a bowl of boiling water on themselves. If you could call that a “mistake” simply because you don’t have a swimming pool, then consider this a “mistake” too.
The one victim in all this, is the poor boy – Daniel III.
His parents are understandably bereaved and trust me, they would be blaming themselves for all that they coulda, shoulda, woulda be done.
You Uche, face your work. Where is your own child? Don’t be here berating D’Banj simply because you have an internet connection, while your child is busy exploring a power outlet in your house with a metal fork.