I COULD HAVE SAVED MR. JOHNSON’S LIFE
My dad started another family when I was 9. He was a fantastic and loving father before the news of his extra-marital affair started to change things in the family. Everything began to change when my mum heard that he had impregnated another woman.
Ours is not the typical type of polygamous family you would imagine though. My dad rented an apartment for his second wife about 30 minutes drive from our home. He would spend the night in the other woman’s place and come home around 6 am to prepare for work. He would return home from work and give us our feeding allowance and settle bills before he left in the evening until he stopped coming home altogether. The good thing is, we did not grow up under the same roof and we didn’t have to witness the drama associated with polygamy and growing up in a polygamous family.
This abnormal change started in 1999 when I was 9 years old. I was in Primary 5 but I was old enough to know that I was growing up in a dysfunctional family. There were various incidences of violence and domestic abuse in the family but my mum endured it all. She had to practically raise her children alone, she had to share her husband but she was too strong to be broken.
I am her first son, I had to grow up really fast. I had to help in my little way to put food on the table and assume the role of a father figure at the tender age of 16. I paid my school fees myself when I was doing my Higher National Diploma in Lagos State Polytechnic when he stopped coming home. My mom was paying until I told her to stop because I already got a job and I could afford to start paying my tuition fees myself. I am presently financing my Masters’ in Business Administration at the University of South Wales myself.
I also have a younger brother who needed some form of guidance and direction growing up. Taiwo was subconsciously getting leadership training from me. You cannot blame him though, his father left him to start another family when he was 6. But, I was still growing up myself. It is really hard for a kid to act as a role model to another kid but when I look at my younger brother and how he turned out, I feel fulfilled. On Monday, 24th May 2021, He resumed work in the same organization I work for but in a different branch.
This story is a true story of my life events, nothing was edited or fine-tuned to sway my readers in a particular direction, nothing is sugarcoated. The title and inspiration for the story came from an event that happened in one of my bids to help the family in my little way. Please enjoy.
Growing up in Abaranje Road, Ikotun was like growing up in a modernized village. We all knew each other. We had friends all around the neighborhood and we would hang out, play football with other kids because we were like extended families. Then, there was Mr. Johnson, a septuagenarian who lives alone in the building next to an idle piece of land converted to a football field. Mr. Johnson had very few friends and we did not know much about him because he hardly socializes and make friends with people except members of the landlord association he belonged to.
Teenagers in the neighborhood hated Mr. Johnson more. We always hoped that we do not have to scale the fence anytime our football crosses the fence to Mr. Johnson’s compound because that would mean we would need to scale the fence and Mr. Johnson would gladly report us to the members of the association of landlords in the community.
In the middle of this interesting brouhaha, Mr. Johnson took a really strange interest in me. We became close, I bought him dinner and I was the only teenager allowed access into Mr. Johnson’s house in the neighborhood. He also provided the needed father figure I so much desired. My mum threatened to report me to him on countless occasions when I came up short and I would immediately receive sense.
So, Mr. Johnson continued to play the role of a father, friend, and a robust source of alternative income. Yesso, I was making something tiny on the side from my hustle – which was getting Mr. Johnson’s dinner. Mr. Johnson and I would spend quality time together discussing Nigerian politics, European football, and other matters of mutual interest. We were bosom friends and I was the only access to Mr. Johnson in the entire neighborhood.
‘Daddi Wole, ese gan o. (Wole’s Dad, thank you so much)’ I recall my mum was greeting him sometimes in the distant past.
Everything went on fine. I also secretly created a means of cutting corners and making more cash without Mr. Johnson’s knowledge. Looking back at my deceitful attitude, I honestly regret my actions but I thank God I have come a long way from what Oluwole used to be/was yesterday to who Oluwole is today.
In the second week of December 2012, less than 3 months to his 73rd birthday, Mr. Johnson became mildly ill. He sent me to get some drugs for him and both of us believed that it was just a minor illness, nothing to worry about. He will get better with time, we thought.
But Mr. Johnson did not get better. He only got worse. We were supposed to involve his children and family members but Mr. Johnson and I kept on procrastinating; ‘we don’t need to bother them’ we concluded.
On Thursday, 13th December 2012, I began to develop cold feet. I started getting scared that the end was near for Mr. Johnson. I spoke to one of my big brothers in the neighborhood about my fears and he advised that I should contact his children the next morning. Quite unfortunately, Mr. Johnson died the next morning. What happened?
Back to Thursday night, I went to get him dinner as always and I still did the usual – cheated him to make more money. As I was taking my leave, I noticed that he was in a very deplorable state. I wanted to spend the night at his place so that I would there to assist with anything if he needed support. Mr. Johnson turned down my request and I didn’t fight it. I should have.
On Friday, 14th December 2012, I was strapping my sneakers, preparing to go and visit his daughter that works at EcoBank, Ikotun branch when my cousin ran in, ‘wole, something is wrong, there are a lot of people in Mr. Johnson’s place and he was rushed to the hospital in a tricycle’ He narrated.
I quickly rushed to Mr. Johnson’s place and I met his lifeless body on the bed inside his room.
Apparently, Mr. Johnson was found close to his gate very early in the morning by someone who came to visit him. He had dragged himself throughout the night and he was found dirty, exhausted, and unconscious. Mr. Johnson could not find help when he needed it the most. Quite unfortunate.
Mr. Johnson was buried at Atan Cemetery, Yaba, Lagos on 21st December 2012.
Maybe, if I had stay overnight at Mr. Johnson’s place, I could have saved his life.
I have always wanted to write this story. When I heard about the Book of Teens, I was glad that the opportunity had finally presented itself. I thank God, I eventually found the courage to pen down this not-so-good part of my childhood.
Dear Teen, as we celebrate Children’s Day today 27th May, please make sure you follow your instincts, they are there for a reason and you should never wave them away. I still carry the regret and guilt with me. One night at Mr. Johson’s place could have made all the difference.
Second, honesty is of utmost importance. The money my greed and deceitful attitude brought all resulted into grave regret when I was staring at Mr. Johnson’s lifeless body before he was finally laid to rest at Atan Cemetary. I could not help to wonder what he would think of me now and how I had betrayed his trust and friendship because of some little change. Honesty pays. Never compromise your integrity, my friend.
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues.
He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.