It was easy locating the storey building where Ruth Uche, the woman whose husband fled home when he learned she was expecting another set of twins after previously giving birth to two sets of twins, resides.
The dark-brown building at 32, Awori/Morica Street, Agege, Lagos stands out like a sore thumb, but locating the single room where she currently takes refuge with her three sets of twins is a bit more challenging.
Gaining access to the room situated at the back of the main building requires groping through a dark passage, made easier when you switch on your cellphone torch light.
An unpleasant odour emanates from the row of rooms built against the rear fence. The room you are looking for is on the ground floor.
It measures 8 feet by 8 feet and you almost mistake it for one of the toilets or bathrooms that flank it on the right and left.
Directly above is the bathroom for that floor, and water runs down Ruth’s room whenever occupants of that floor are taking a bath.
When Vanguard finally located Ruth, she was deep in prayer. There was no electricity and it was pitch dark inside the room. It was also very hot.
Ruth immediately switches on her cellphone torch light and urged the reporter to take a seat on one of the two plastic chairs. As she prayed, she shed tears. She prayed for all women and mothers.
Her voice shook with emotion as she prayed. “May your husband not die prematurely, and may he not run away or abandon you. May you not be left alone with the burden of responsibilities for the whole house, and may you not run mad with worry.”
When she was through, and after the initial pleasantries,the reporter stated his mission and asked how she came to be in her current predicament.
Ruth and Emeka were married in 2009. As a new couple in the village, they had a brilliant plan and part of it was to move out of the village in search of greener pasture. They both hail from Abia state but different communities. When Emeka first came to Lagos, he put up with his brother when the latter got married, Emeka was forced to struggle to rent his own room. It was then he asked Ruth to come over in 2007.
History of twins
When they began having children shortly thereafter, Ruth and Emeka knew they had a history of twins in their families. Emeka is a twin, Ruth’s uncle is a father of twins twice in a row and there are many other twins in her husband’s family.
“When I first began to see my menses, it was irregular and my mother thought perhaps I had been raped or something and she punished me. Later, when she took me to the hospital, the doctor told her I was intact and that I had not been raped, but predicted that in future I would have twins.”
Even though he absconded, Ruth describes her husband as caring. “Although his daily work is not helping matters because he spends more than he earns. He is a factory worker where they produce attachments and weave-on. So as a factory worker the little he is paid cannot solve the family problems.
“He helped me with the house work. During my pregnancy when one child rested on my chest and it hurt to the extent that I as unable to fetch water, he helped me out with that. And he is a good cook. He goes to the market to buy things and helps out with the cooking whenever I am too heavy during pregnancy.”
The last pregnancy
When She got pregnant the third time, Ruth said she felt so bad because there was no one to assist her. “Even during the previous pregnancy, there was no assistance. So when I got pregnant I was sad and annoyed, I quickly approached my neighbor who is a mid-wife to help me flush it out, but she told me that the oath of office she took would not allow her do so. She prevailed on me not to abort. But along the line I was scared. The suffering was much, but thank to God today they are both alive.”
Narrating her ordeal, Ruth said that her inability to meet up with the upkeep of her children facilitated her decision to dash out the children to state government rather than watching them dying.
“I teach in one of the private schools nearby where I earn N10,000 per month, but in this same school I have four children and they are to pay 10,000 each for school fees but because I teach there, the school slashed the fees to N5,000 per child which in total is N20,000.
So as they pay my salary with on hand, they collect it back with the other. I often beg them to give me N1,000 for my tithe which I do not fail to pay in the church where I worship because that one is most important to me.”
She recalled that it was a few months to her delivery that things got worse as she was unable to pay her children’s school fees and hunger become the order of the day.
“Last term, I was unable to pay their school fees. Iam even owing for this term because the money I had was used for my own health.”
In her narration, Ruth explained that her first set of twins, Goodness and Goodnews, both girls aged six, are currently Nursery 2. The second set, John and Joyce, is four years old are in KG 2 while the third set of twins, named Daniel and Daniella, arrived last month.
Further, Ruth said , things were hard earlier, but after Emeka disappeared, she was really hit by the stress of coping alone. “Finding food to eat became very tough. There were occasions, I went from house to house in this neighborhood looking for assistance basically for something to eat, sometimes we would have rice but no pepper. The little money I realized from my place of work still goes back to the institution that I work for.”
Changed by stress
Ruth who expressed contentment about her children said despite the distress they still serve as vessels of encouragement for her.
“Their character at times amazes me. In the morning, even when I am reluctant to pray, they challenge me and ask, “Mummy, let us pray. So we would sing and they will pray, they will even name all the people in this compound. God, don’t let this or that person die. Don’t let my mummy and daddy die. When they are about to leave for school in the morning, they will bring out anointing oil I anoint them with sign of cross.”
Ruth admits that the challenges, have changed her. “It is not easy at all. What you are seeing is not my true image. I have changed a lot. Two years ago when I traveled to the village, my father burst into tears when he saw me. He could not believe it was me his daughter.
“The stress on me is too much and taking care of these children is not easy. At times I will be feeding one, another will be crying and their senior ones will be fighting or dragging things. The neighbors knows me as a shouter, because there are some occasion I will be outside washing cloth while they will be inside causing problem, sometimes I will beat them up and later draw them closer to beg them.
Looking back, Ruth said she it was a rude shock when her husband absconded. Recounting the ordeal, she recalled that prior to the fateful day, his character changed. He became irritable and hostile, complaining and shouting at every one especially the children. Nothing pleased him again. She begged him, and thinking it was all over, the next day, he dressed up and left for work as usual but failed to return at the usual time.
Alarmed, she called him on the phone to find out what was the problem. “When I called him, he picked the call and said enhen? Then he assured me that he was coming home, but when I did not see him for two days. I became worried, and started calling his friends Since then I didn’t hear from him again until after I went to the Governor’s office at Alausa in Ikeja.
When we came back from the Governor’s office, he called me and said he saw us in the media and asked why I went to that length? I said I had no other option, but then he again assured that he would soon come back home.
I told him the government is about to claim his children. I tried to speak fear into him to make him have a change of heart to return home but since that day he called, I have not heard from him again. If he is ready to come back, I will take him back.”
Ruth’s visit to the Office of the Lagos state Governor made headlines last week. When asked what she achieved from the effort, Ruth did not mince words. “The Lagos State government has promised to help me. I was told to go back home and put in writing whatever I want to be done for me take it back to the Governor’s office on Tuesday, July 7, 2015, with my children’s photographs.
“For the sake of God, first, I am pleading that my children be given scholarships for their education because sourcing for their school fees is hard for me. Second, this place I am staying is not good. It is surrounded by toilets and a bathroom is right above. Third, I pray the government helps me set up a business such as provision or food stuff that will not stress these children.
One of her neighbours, Mr. Samuel Ameh, a senior tenant and friend of the family hinted to Vanguard on how Ruth and her family have been struggling to survive. “I was here before they packed in, I live upstairs. When they came in, I didn’t know them but since my wife is from the Eastern part of the country, they became friends. Also my wife is a midwife.
“When they came, Ruth already had the first set of twins. But when she got pregnant again, this last one particularly, I noticed many things, particularly feeding. It was very hard. One day when she was coming to my house, she fell down mid-way. I thank God I was around, and I quickly rushed to her aid. I asked what the problem was and she said it was hunger. She had not eaten, so we ran around and help her get something to eat.
“As a man, I foresee it that her husband would run away. The man did not prepare for twins, their house rent is due and feeding as well became difficult since there was nobody to render assistance.
“I believe it is due to the burden that made him run away because he is a nice person and responsible as well. For the man that left, the only thing I see is hardship. If that man had money, he would be willing to take care of his family.
Ameh recalled that when Emeka ran away, his plan was that his wife who is a midwife, would take Ruth’s delivery, but she was on duty on the day Ruth put to bed.
“Those babies were only a few weeks old when they were being given milk formula. Even when the milk finished, there wasnt money to buy more.