Tola is a brilliant nine year old girl. For five years, she had received the “Overall Best Student” award in her class. She loved to sing, dance and act. Her dream was to become a popular actress like the women she watches on TV. Tola only gets time to spend time with her mum on the weekends because her banking job keeps her from home till late. By this time, Tola would have been fast asleep.
Today, she was excited because her Uncle was coming to babysit her while her mum would be away for a week. She was going for an out-of-town job training. She loved her uncle because he didn’t make her feel odd. Her friends and even her mum had laughed at her dream to be an actress. But her Uncle had encouraged her and had began to give her acting lessons.
Bayo considered turning down the offer but he couldn’t. Big sis had taken up the role of a parent when they lost theirs in a plane crash. She had given an arm and a leg to see him to where he was today. Few weeks from now, he would be going to law school. He owed big sis a lot and it would seem odd because he didn’t have a concrete reason to turn her down as he wasn’t occupied with anything. He let out a big sigh as he stepped down from the Uber and approached the gate. He could hear her voice from the inside. It seemed she was ready to leave. Moreover, it was too late to turn back as the gate man opened the gate and called out his name in excitement.
She couldn’t concentrate in class, she wouldn’t talk or play with anyone. All she wanted to do was go home. Her teacher thinking she was ill took her to the sick bay. It turned out she was perfectly fine. No one could tell the reason for her strange behavior. As soon as the school closed for the day, she was the first person to run to the school bus. She folded her arms and tapped her foot impatiently waiting for it to fill up. She was getting more irritated the more the seconds passed.
He groaned as he turned in bed. Groping around for his phone, he unlocked it. It was 4:15pm. Bolting up, he realised she would be back any time soon. For some reason, he broke out in a sweat as he grabbed his joggers from the edge of the bed and put it on. He reached into his gym bag and brought out a tank top to wear. He didn’t want to walk around the house half naked. Maybe, just maybe that would deter her a little. Dragging himself to the kitchen, he opened a pack of orange juice and drank straight from it. In that instant, he heard the horn.
“Is he here?”
The gate man nodded and before he could say any other thing, she dashed off to the house, dropping her bag by the entrance as soon as she got in.
“Uncle Bayo!” She called out. As she was about climbing the stairs, she saw him come out from the kitchen.
Putting on a fake smile, he stepped out of the kitchen as soon as he heard her voice. She turned and shrieked as she ran to him. Picking her small form up, he spun her around and she giggled.
“How are you niece?” He wasn’t prepared for the response he got.
How can he be asking how I am? Can he not see I’ve missed him so much?, she thought.
“Uncle Bayo I’ve missed you. I miss our acting classes. Especially that thing we are always doing in your room. I’ve been waiting for the day you’d come back.” She grinned as she teased him down below with her leg.
Bayo gently placed her down and fell back against the wall. Looking into her seemingly innocent eyes, the reality dawned on him. Now he knew what his sister had meant when she said Tola was insisting it was him who would baby sit her. She didn’t want any nanny.
“Go to your room first.” As he watched her skip towards the stairs happily, he fell to the floor with his hands on his head. He couldn’t stop the tears flowing down his eyes as he recalled how it all started.
It was his second semester break after he came visiting. His sister had gone for a similar job training and had encouraged him to come babysit. She said it would help clear his head. A day after his last paper, his girlfriend of five years had told him she was leaving him for someone else. Her reason was she had fallen out of love with him a long time ago. He had drowned himself in alcohol on the first night and was crying when Tola had walked in. She joined him and in a child like manner told him to stop crying. Then she started jumping on him to cheer him up and make him play with her. Weirdly he began to have an erection. In his intoxicated state, he placed her hand on the bulge and told her if she wanted to make him happy, she should play with it.
He had no memory of what had happened the night before until Tola came to his room in the morning before leaving for school. She had told him not to be sad and not to worry, that she would be there to make sure he’s happy. Before she stepped out, she pointed at his groin.
“Is it okay?”
Bayo scowled and wanted to know why she was asking.
“It was bringing out something like catarrh yesterday night.”
Shock was spread all over his face as it all came rushing back. He closed the distance between them and made her promise to never tell anybody what happened.
“It would make me sad again if you do. You don’t want to see me sad, do you?” She nodded sideways.
After she left for school, Bayo began to piece back as much as he could remember. He felt ashamed for what he had done. He swore never to drink again. But that night he broke his promise when he saw his ex had uploaded a picture with her new boo. That night, Tola came again to make him happy. The third night, he was sober. This time, Tola just wanted to play with it. He told her it was wrong but she wouldn’t listen. She began to cry and he got scared she’d attract the attention of the neighbors. He couldn’t risk her telling them why she was crying. So, he let her have her way. This continued every night while he was there. He was ashamed of what he had done. But more importantly, he was ashamed of the fact that he had enjoyed it every single time.
That was four years ago. He had made her promise to keep their illicit act to herself. He made sure she’d keep to it by buttressing the fact that she’d never be an actress if people found out. Ever since then, he had tried as much as he could to avoid visiting his sister. He had realised that her presence in the house didn’t stop Tolu from coming into his room at night under the pretence that she wanted him to read her a story. She had become addicted to it. He was in too deep. If he refused her and this got out, he’d never be able to practice as a lawyer. He probably won’t even be able to go to law school as he’d be marked a sex offender for life. His career would be destroyed even before it kicks off.
Tolu eased herself out of her school uniform. She was excited that she’d finally spent time alone with her Uncle. It had been a long time and she missed playing with him. She tried playing with that of her neighbor’s son when he came over for a play date but his was as small as the carrots the aboki down the street sold. She was anxious for nightfall as she couldn’t wait to practice what she had learned while he away.
He dragged himself off the floor, wiped the tears off his face and made for the stairs. It would be dark soon. He had created a monster and now he had no choice but to feed it.
Tola like many other Nigerian children has fallen victim of child sexual abuse. In some cases, these children have begun to enjoy these acts and even practice these things with other children.
It was reported by UNESCO in 2015 that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys in Nigeria will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Unfortunately, only about 3%-5% of these cases are reported. Educate your children.