In life, people you think are your friends and confidants often turn out to be your enemies. I went into a relationship that turned out to be full of deceit and betrayal. I never saw it coming; otherwise I would have run for my dear life. Before I knew what I had got myself into, I already had a child in the relationship.”
According to Nifemi Oluwatobi Oladeji, a musician, saxophonist and CEO Neon Global Initiative, it never occurred to her that the man was interested in her wealth. “I later got to know that it was all a set-up; the man had a bet with his friends that he would marry and dump me, but how was I to know? I didn’t see the handwriting on the wall.”
Prior to the accident that condemned her to a wheelchair, Oladeji described the marriage as hell on earth. “I suffered one abuse or the other on a daily basis. Initially I thought it was because we didn’t have children yet, but it got worse when I became pregnant and after delivery.”
The arrival of the new baby did not help matter. “At a stage, my neighbours warned me to leave the man before he killed me. I couldn’t even tell my parents what I was going through in the relationship, neither could I tell my siblings.” She said.
Narrating how it happened, Oladeji said, “That fateful day, we had a little misunderstanding few months after I had my baby; the man started hitting me as usual. I decided to escape with my baby, but in the process I fell while trying to leave the house.
“I was carrying my baby when he made to hit me, so he snatched the baby from me and threw her on the bed. I had to rush pick her up. It was while trying to leave his house that I had the accident, which has left me in pain ever since. I’ve been in pain all through my life.
“It was my neighbours who took me to the hospital because I couldn’t get up or walk after the fall.
“I was diagnosed of Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) due to spinal cord injury, which for good six months I couldn’t talk. I was in the hospital for a year; I couldn’t sit or stand; I was bedridden all through. But I thank God that today I can sit on the wheelchair, move around and do whatever I need to do.”
Five years on, has there been any step by the man’s family towards reconciling them? How has she coped and what steps has she taken for towards getting justice?
Her reply was: “None of his family members has asked after my welfare ever since. They abandoned me with my baby from that infant age (she was one month old); she is now five years old. He also has never shown up or shown any care about the baby – he’s a military personnel. So, I’ve been taking care of my baby all alone. I also think some of our so-called mother in-laws are not worth that name, because some are so brutal mean and outright wicked.
Neon Global Initiative
Basically, it was what I went through that led me into setting up my NGO, Neon Global Initiative. It is a foundation for people living with disability, the less-privileged and women suffering from domestic violence. We want to let them know that, ‘Yes! They have a right.’ Like me, they have a right to step out to the world, to let people know what they are going through. I have decided not to die in silence. Looking back to what I have been through, the pain, the rejection, the trauma, everything I have come across in my life, even the challenge I’m currently facing. It so disturbed me that I had to like sit down, think it through and decide that, yes I can stand for what I’m standing for. I took it upon myself that there is ability in my disability. I have to let the world know globally that yes, even while you are disabled, while you are passing through some challenges, you can still make it. You can still do whatever you want to do in life; you can still go a long way in life; it’s not the end of life.
To all the women out there whose rights are being violated and are hoping against hope, Oladeji has this to say: “To all women at home who are thinking: ‘this man beats me today, let me endure,’ let me tell you, marriage is not by force. In life, it’s not everybody that will be opportune to be in a man’s house. It’s not everybody that will be opportune to marry. So, as a woman, don’t say because you want people to call you ‘Mrs somebody,’ you’ll now put your life at risk. We have only one life, once you lose it, that’s the end. And if you lose your life, tell me, who is going to take care of your children? Because definitely, if your husband should marry another woman, she would start maltreating them. It takes the grace of God to find another woman taking care of someone else’s child. So again, marriage is not by force. Don’t say ‘let me endure because of my children’ and kill yourself in the process. My advice therefore is ‘Quit that relationship!’”
Linking her whole advocacy with the International Women’s Day, Oladeji said, “As I said earlier, I’m a victim of domestic violence. It was this abuse that condemned me to a wheelchair, and that is why I am calling every woman out there selling their bodies, to say ‘no’ to that. Stop abusing your body; stop abusing whatever God has given to you. Your body is the temple of God, you shouldn’t abuse it.
“I’m proud to be a woman, despite all the challenges I’ve been through. I am grateful to God for helping me overcome and keep me alive. So my advice to every woman out there is ‘Speak out and let your voice be heard.’ No matter what you are going through in life, many people are willing to listen to you. Share your pain, share your problems; a problem shared is a problem half-solved. You have to recognise that you have a right as a woman and stand up for those rights. I’m a generation of equality, so despite my challenges I’m proud to be a woman.
Govt must preserve the right of persons living with disability
According to Oladeji, people with disabilities still suffer one discrimination or the other, and she is calling on government to address this issue. “It’s sad to see people pushing them away because they can’t walk or are handicap in any other way. That is the challenge and I will urge the government to please do something about it. Government should create mobility for people living with disabilities; they should create job opportunities for them. They shouldn’t think because we are now confined to the wheelchair, we cannot become anything in life. There are lots of people living with disability who need to be empowered with one skill or the other such as catering, hairdressing, computer training and stuff. I’m a trained computer programmer. So with the help of the government, they could help us to become empowered and ultimately help us overcome our challenges.”
Source: The Nation