The Good Shepherd Orphanage, located at Okota, Lagos State, is enmeshed in a controversy. What the proprietor, Pastor (Mrs.) Gift John, had considered a novel idea - asking teenagers to surrender their unwanted babies to the care of her orphanage - has brought her trouble. Is the charity organisation involved in any foul play? ROTIMI WILLIAMS, on Friday, spoke to some of the teenage girls who are under various stages of pregnancy, on their experiences. He spoke also with Pastor Gift, and the woman who let the cat out of the bag, Bose. It’s very revealing. Excerpts:
My mother brought me to the Home –Ugowanyin Ike (15yrs)
I am from Abia State, and I got here, I mean the Home, about two weeks ago. My mother brought me here to the Home from the village because I was pregnant. I do not need the child. Secondly, I cannot take care of the baby. I was in secondary school when I noticed the pregnancy.
I do not know how my mother knew about this place in Lagos. This is my first visit to this part of the country. It was an arrangement between myself and my mother, because we both agreed that I did not need the baby. My boyfriend was the one that impregnated me in the village in Abia State.
We were having it raw without any protection. I knew nothing about condoms or protection pills. I am sure that somebody, who has herself been visiting the orphanage, must have told my mother about the Home.
I was already five months pregnant when I got here. Since I came, nobody asked me to sleep with anybody. My boyfriend was the person who impregnated me.
Since I don’t need the baby, I have accepted to hand it over to mummy, who is to give the government. I won’t come back in the future to ask for the baby because I do not need it. I shall find something to tell that my boyfriend who impregnated me and the few people who knew that I was pregnant. I do not want to know what government does with the baby. I just want to be free.
I left home without my parents’ knowledge –Chiwendu Okonkwo (17)
I am from Imo State. My girlfriend brought me here. She is resident in Lagos but came home recently when I explained everything to her. She told me to come here. He is also from Imo State. The boy who impregnated me told me he did not need any baby for now and that I should do whatever I like with the pregnancy. But at a point, he denied ever sleeping with me and rejected the pregnancy.
My parents did not know when I finalised arrangements to come to Lagos. They did not know that I was pregnant in the first instance and could not have imagined that I was in Lagos to get rid of the baby. I want to give the baby to whoever, just to enable me live my life. I kept the pregnancy away from my parents.
So, I just felt I needed somewhere to stay to get rid of the baby before the bubble would burst. There was no way I could keep an eight month old pregnancy without people, especially my parents, knowing. Though, I left home without the knowledge of my parents, I will return and tell them that I had travelled with my girlfriend, J. B., to engage in some work in Lagos to enable me have some experience. By the time I return, nobody would know that I had been delivered of any baby. It won’t show through the largeness of the breast. I may not breast feed the baby since I have agreed to give it to the Home.
It has become the Home’s baby. We are here to have the baby for the Home so that the children could be handed over to the government. Nobody has asked me to sleep with any male partner since I arrived at the Home. I want to further my education after delivery. The pregnancy is now about six months.
I plan to leave my baby in the Home –Grace Olotu (19)
I am from Delta State, Warri, to be precise. When I became pregnant, the guy who impregnated me rejected the pregnancy basically because he had no job. We both agreed that I should have the baby but abandon it for the government, since both of us did not have the means to take care of the child. We are managing. The boy who impregnated me, at a point, ran away from Warri, and he is yet to be seen up till now.
I got here very recently. I was not made to sleep with any boy at the Home. My intention is to have the baby and leave it at the Home and return to Warri. I want to go back to school. My parents were not around when I discovered that I was pregnant. They knew nothing about this arrangement. It was an aunty that gave me the address of the Home.
I came all alone without anybody following me or knowing. If the boy who eventually impregnated me comes up later to ask for the baby, I will find something to tell him. He won’t know I have abandoned the baby at the Home. I will give the Home the baby. I do not want to know what they do with it.
When I came, I was taken to an office at Alakara area of the state, later known as the Welfare Centre, where I was asked to sign a paper and some documentations took place. I want to go back to Warri as fit as a fiddle, without the burden of a child.
My baby was stolen from me –Bose Ejikunle, complainant
I applied to be working at the Good Shepherd Home as a Nanny and my application was approved after the negotiation of my monthly take home with an increment later. Madam also promised to accommodate my two children, the first, Jumoke, is about eight years old. Madam noticed that I was pregnant. She called me and told me that I was pregnant. I told her that I noticed that I was. She then did a scan test. She gave me money.
She later sent her driver to collect the scan result. I discovered later that she had collected it. It was from the scan result that she got to know that the expectant baby would be a boy. She did not tell me what the sex of the baby would be, but she called me and started pleading with me to give the child to the government. Later, she called my mother and told her the same, explaining that the baby should be given out to her and that she would take adequate care of the child. My mother rejected her pleadings and left.
But Madam called me later and told me that I was old enough to take decisions without my mother’s input. She now pleaded with me to agree to give her the baby after delivery. I was delivered of the baby on December 1. The same day that baby’s father died. I did not know that leaving the baby behind to attend his father’s burial would mean I would not see my son again.
Madam prevailed on me to leave the baby behind, that she wanted to administer some medications on him being a new born baby, just three days old. I accepted because I also felt that it would be wrong carrying the innocent baby to his father’s grave side. I had planned to explain to my husband’s family on the form that the child’s naming ceremony would take since the father was no more.
We were also to talk about plans to take care of the child because in Yorubaland, it is the husband’s family that has authority over children. But on my return, I discovered that the baby was missing. I called her and told her that I could not find my son at the Home.
She told me that the government had taken the baby out of the Home and that the baby had been moved to another place. I requested to know how to get the baby. She told me not to worry. The story had remained the same. I was given five minutes to pack out of the Home. Eventually, we were yet to name the baby. I did not name my son before he was stolen from me. I kept quiet all this while because the woman is believed to be very powerful. I feared for my life. But I am a sad woman internally. Madam has her tentacles spread across the country.
She has people in all parts of the country who are members of her syndicate. They bring people from other parts of the country, especially from the East, such as Aba, Owerri, Enugu, Anambra, Delta regions. There is a particular lady called Blessing who co-ordinates activities from outside Lagos. She was also involved in co-ordinating the movement of new babies through some medical doctors from maternity homes.
I wanted to leave my baby here and return to school –Chioma Okoro (14)
I am from Enugu State. My friend, Cynthia, brought me here. I told her that I was pregnant and that the boy who owned the pregnancy denied it. The boy’s name is... We stay in the same town. He was going to school then. He told me he was not the person responsible for the pregnancy, though he never denied sleeping with me. I came here about a month ago. Cynthia is based in Lagos, but she came home and we both agreed on what should be my line of action. I want to vacate the orphanage home immediate after the delivery and go back home, though without the baby. I want to go to school. My parents are not aware that I am pregnant. I also did not tell them that I was coming here. If I had told them, they would have killed me. They won’t know that I was pregnant, not to talk of delivery.
Do not ask me how I am going to manage the situation and take care of myself to avoid any suspicion. I know what to do or to say. That is why I am abandoning the baby to the Home. It would be difficult to pin me down when you cannot find me with any baby. And, if they demand for any medical test to verify whether I had been delivered or not, I know how to handle such. Woe betide any boy who rises in the future to demand for any baby. I do not foresee any problem of child bearing in the future and I will not also entertain any pleadings from that boy who impregnated me. I know a situation could arise in the future for the father to come back and plead for his child, either through childlessness or through spiritual message to him to go and find the baby he once abandoned. It has happened to people, I won’t entertain any of such. Which baby? Was he not the same person who denied it?
No oracle can tell him, the father, to look for the abandoned baby because the oracle was alive when the boy rejected the pregnancy. The oracle cannot tell him to claim what he denied. And there won’t be any reason for me to come back here for the baby forever.
Even if the baby is a boy and the ones I have in the future are all girls, I won’t say because I had abandoned a baby boy somewhere, I should come back and claim the boy. My abandoning the child is final. I have given it out to the Home. I want to become a lawyer in the future. Don’t call me a lawyer who once abandoned her baby. I have severe warning for ladies out there, who do not know how to zip up tightly.
When the dice is cast, it becomes your problem alone. That boy who vows to do anything for you will run away as soon as you miss your monthly period. If you are not ready for any pregnancy, abstain from sex. Is it food? It is not.
You can abstain and prepare yourself for the right time. Girls should be very careful and mind the kind of company they keep. Most of us are now regretting. Is it a good thing abandoning your child? This is a lesson to girls out there. The pains, suffering, loneliness you will go through when you are abandoned, are real.
A friend of mine brought me here –Chinaza John (17)
I am from Imo State. My parents are in the village. I was impregnated by my boyfriend in the village. He had just finished schooling.
I did not tell him about the pregnancy. He did not know I was pregnant. If I go back to the village, I won’t tell anybody anything.
My bodyfriend’s mother just died and he has no money to take care of the baby. Even if he knows, eventually, he cannot ask for any baby, which baby? During this period that both of us are not seeing, I would tell him that I travelled with my friend to Port Harcourt. A friend of mine brought me here. I want to have the baby and leave it here. I will go immediately after I’m delivered of the baby to pick my life up again.
My parents do not know that I am pregnant and they will never know, never! I know they will be looking for me at home by the time I go back. I know how to handle that. All I want is to get rid of the baby first, all other things will follow.
I was brought here by my sister –Ifeoma Okoye (14)
I am from Umuahia, Abia State. My boyfriend impregnated me. We live in the same town. I was not going to school and also had no reasonable means of livelihood when I became pregnant. I was just roaming the town.
My mummy is dead while my daddy is very poor. We are five children in the family. I got here about three weeks ago. I was brought here by a sister. My father did not know. The boy who impregnated me denied me.
So, I do not want to have anything to do with the baby, moreso, there is no means to take care of the baby. I want to go to school.
I was told govt will take my abandoned baby –Grace David (18)
I am from Abia State and I arrived last week. My aunty brought me here. When I was coming, we had agreed that I would leave the baby behind after delivery. I do not need it for now. I was in secondary school, precisely, at the Holy Rosary Secondary School and in SSS 3, when I got pregnant about six months ago. I know abortion is dangerous, though many girls indulge in it. I thought of what to do with the pregnancy since I did not need the baby.
So, my aunty told me about this arrangement, where you can abandon your child at the Home. I do not want any trace of the child to me. I have given the child to the Home after delivery. The Home will now pass it to the government. The guy who impregnated me is in school, the University of Calabar. He abandoned me and I also want to abandon the baby. I do not want any extra burden.
I came here alone. My parents do not know anything about the Home and also did not know that I am here now. They did not know that I was pregnant. I signed some documents where I agreed that I willingly gave the child to the Home. What they do with the child is not my business. I mean, whoever they gave it to is not my business. I do not want an additional responsibility for now. I have my life to live.
By the time I was leaving home for this place, I did not tell those at home the truth about where I was going. The guy who impregnated me or his parents cannot ask me what happened to the baby. Even if that happens, I will know what to say at the right time.
Sunday PUNCH February 20, 2005