by Rachel Ogbu
To Ibijoke Apena and Janet Eruwayo, two octogenarian sisters abandoned by their children and relations, this day might never have come save for media reports that brought to light their anguish.
Last week some of their children relocated them and moved the sister who had stuck together to a private old people’s home at Jakande Estate, Isolo, Lagos State.
The relocation was spearheaded by Apena’s first child, Rotimi, a contractor in Abuja and two grandchildren, who craved anonymity.
The children’s action came on the heels of PUNCH Metro’s expose on the deplorable state of the aged women last Friday.
Before the relocation, the octogenarian sisters were somewhat quarantined to a dingy one-room apartment at 8, Amusan Street, Rogo, along Iju Ishaga, Lagos.
Their conditions in the isolated room were simply appalling. The same place they defecated, urinated and did all manner of things, was where they ate and slept.
Women had first bath in last two months
On Friday when their sad news broke, some residents of Iju Ishaga trooped out to their residence to satisfy their curiosity, while others went to offer their support.
On Friday, the aged women had their first bath in the last two months. Medical personnel from Ancilla Catholic Hospital, Iju Ishaga, also visited the women and took them to the hospital where they examined and gave them some drugs.
The women were returned to their residence and the medical personnel visited them again on Saturday.
When our correspondent visited the Amusan Street former residence of the octogenarians on Saturday, a reverend sister, in company with another official of the hospital, was seen cutting the unkempt hair of the women with razor blade.
An encounter with the old women was indeed heart-warming as they exuded uncommon joy, sharply in contrast with their disposition when they were discovered last Tuesday.
Eruwayo told PUNCH Metro that she felt highly relieved with the show of kindness by people.
Eruwayo said, “Yesterday (Friday), I slept like a baby. I did not bath in the last two months. I feel relieved and happy that there are people who still care. May God reward all for their show of love and kindness.”
On her part, the joy of Apena, knew no bounds, as her infirmity did not prevent her from pacing up and down, laughing all through.
“As you can see, despite my age, I feel young in my heart. Those God has used to assist us, may they be blessed mightily,” Apena said.
Disunity among family caused their sufferings –Grandchild
One of the grandchildren said the aged sisters found themselves in the mess because of lack of unity among their children.
He said the immediate children of the sisters, apart from Rotimi in Abuja, were simply wicked and non-challant.
“If I called some of them about their mothers’ predicament, they would simply bang the phone on me. One of them asked me not to bother them again,” he said.
He said because of problem in the family, some of the children decided to change their names in order to avoid any link with their parents.
He said, “I was a month old when I was handed over to my grandma, Apena. I lived with her for more than 20 years before I left them in 2007. It is not that all of us abandoned them. There is a limit to what we (the grandchildren) can do when our uncles and aunts refuse to reunite with their mothers.
“Whatever our mothers must have done, they ought to forget and forgive. My grandmother, Apena, sent all her children abroad for studies. It is painful they left them uncared for, even when they are highly blessed.”
Dad said he won’t reconcile with grandma –Grandchild
A granddaughter of Apena, who claimed anonymity, said her father told her that her grandma did something he would not forget in his life hence he chose to abandon her.
“I have been begging my dad to reconcile with grandma but he said over his dead body. My dad is a very rich man and works with the Customs. He lives in Matogun in Okeifa, Lagos,” she said.
Why church did not relocate them –Member
It was learnt that if not for St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church in Iju Ishaga, the elderly sisters would have died since.
Susan Obarighoro, a member of the church, whom the church Welfare Department, entrusted the care of the aged women to, said the church approved N2,000 per week for their feeding since January last year.
Obarighoro said, “They are not members of the church. The church took it upon itself to help since some residents brought their matter to the church.
“I use the money to prepare their meals. The church would have relocated them but since none of the family members was seen to sign, it became difficult to do so.”
A resident, who craved anonymity, commended The PUNCH for the story on the women, saying it was what triggered a new lease of life for them.
“As soon as the report came out on Friday, their residence was agog with all manner of people. The children of these elderly women are wicked. Only Rotimi and two grandchildren used to come occasionally,” he said.
PUNCH Metro findings show that the octogenarians were women of substance before much water passed under the bridge.
For instance, a family source said the 87-year-old Apena was secretary to late former Premier of Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
He said if not for God and few individuals, the octogenarians would have died since, stressing that their children abandoned them more than 20 years ago.
He said, “Apena, apart from working with Awolowo, also worked with International Affairs. She was an Alhaja before. She travelled to Mecca, England and many other countries. I was even in England with her.
“The younger sister, Eruwayo, grew up in England. She was a fashion designer there. What is happening to them is difficult to comprehend.”
How I became blind – Eruwayo
The 82-year-old Eruwayo told PUNCH Metro that a daughter-in-law, out of sheer wickedness, mixed hydrogen peroxide to her eye drop and she became blind in her right eye.
She said, “Initially, I had glaucoma on the left eye and cataract on the right. I had my surgery in Port Novo, Republic of Benin. By that time, I was seeing with the aid of eyeglasses but when the HP was mixed with my eye drop, one of my eyes became totally blind.
“I started managing the remaining eye with my eyeglasses. The glasses fell down and broke. There was nobody to replace them. That is why I am not seeing with either of my eyes.”
On her educational qualification and experience in life, she sighed and said, “Much water has passed under the bridge. I attended Wesley College in United Kingdom. I had Diploma in Dress Making and Fashion. I grew up in England. When I finished my education in the 50s, I became an international fashion designer in England. By that time, my husband was a diplomat with the United Nations.
“I came back to Nigeria in the late 60s and I was still shuttling Nigeria, UK and United States for my fashion business.
“I have four children. The name of my eldest son is Festus. He works with Power Holding Company of Nigeria. He is one of their bosses.”
Eruwayo lamented disunity in their family, saying that it was tearing the family apart.
“I urge my children and my sister’s children to unite. Disunity is tearing us apart,” she said.