The 13-year-old Ovey Friday was deeply in grief, his head, downcast and he appeared too weak to even acknowledge the presence of reporters, who had come to know how he is coping, having recently lost all his fingers to what he termed the wickedness’ of his step-mother.
Even the presence of his uncle and grandmother could not stop the torrents of tears trickling down his cheeks, as he cried uncontrollably, lamenting his predicament and wishing his late mother was alive.
“I know you were afraid to die; I hope you have found comfort. However, for my elder sister, Salvation and I, life has no meaning anymore”
“Since your demise, my first two siblings have also left us to join you, and I now go about without hands – all my fingers, cut off by my father’s wife for no reason other than hatred. Sometimes, I feel like coming to join you in the grave, for life has no meaning to me anymore.”
“Mum, more than ever before, I can’t imagine life without you. People talk about broken hearts in songs and movies; I never truly knew what a broken heart meant until my hands were burnt without any justifiable reason. Mum, wherever you are, pray for me, since my father has neglected his duty of protecting me and allowed his wife to deform me.” Again, he burst into tears.
Mrs Mercy Juammai, 35, who lives with her step-son in Wulko community in Nasarawa Eggon Local Government had no history of mental disturbances or imbalance, hence no one could have predicted that she would at any time attempt to snuff the life out of her step-son.
But the trajectory of families with second wives in Wulko irreparably changed recently, when, Juammai attempted to kill her 13-year-old step-son.
Juammai, in a flurry madness, attempted to murder his step-son in connivance with a witch doctor on the allegation that the little boy was sleeping with her in her dream.
Ovey, lying in a hospital bed, told our correspondent that his trouble began when his mother, Esther died and his father decided to take another wife. He said as soon as the second wife arrived, his trouble began.
“She started accusing me of being a wizard; she kept raising false alarm and accusations against me; that I made love to her in her dream; that she always saw me making love to her in her dream. But I told her that it was not true.
“Thereafter, she started threatening me, saying I could not stay in the same house with her. She then took me to a native doctor, a Fulani man by name Mohammed Danlami. When we got there, the native doctor picked a stone and threw it at me. Thereafter, he rubbed the stone on me and tied my two hands with a rope
“He then brought charcoals out of the fire and poured them on my tied my hands, asking me to confess that I was a wizard and a member of a secret society. But I told him that I was innocent of what he was accusing me of. He brought out powdered pepper and poured it into the fire allowing it to smear my face, while my hand burned.
“After that, he fetched more charcoals from fire (he did it three times); that was when I began to pray to God. When he saw that I was praying, he came back and untied the rope from my hands, but my wrists, palms and fingers were already badly burnt. They brought me home but I woke up the next day to see that both my hands were swollen. That was when they took me to the hospital for treatment. The intention of my step-mother was for the man to burn me alive,” he said.
At this point, the 13-year-old again burst into tears. “What is my offence? I committed no offence to her; how I wish my mother was alive. Her absence has ruined my life. I’m being persecuted for an offence I did not commit. How can I make love to my step-mother in her dreams? It is certainly a case of hatred. Mum, wherever you are, your son has been disfigured. I wish you were here; I’m no longer whole. John and Moses died immediately to join you, and Salvation and I have felt your absence every day of our lives. I fell into an unending well of agony after you left, and dwelled there for years. Now, depression runs in my veins alongside my blood.
“Please mum, wherever you are, I want you to know how much of an impact losing you has had on our young lives. I can no longer continue my education again because I don’t have hands to write. What a wicked world and a wicked step-mother! But I have forgiven her, although God will judge her for what she has done to me because I didn’t do any wrong to her.” Tears of agony again.
Our correspondent also spoke to Friday’s uncle, Mr Zakaria Jeremiah. His facial expression, mood and intermittent sighs portrayed emotional gashes that will take time to heal. He introduced himself as the elder brother to Ovey ‘s late mother.
He said “The late Esther is missed so much. Since she left, no one has been able to fill the space she left behind, especially in the life of her two surviving children, Salvation and Ovey.
“She was an easy-going woman, good and dutiful; always committed to achieving whatever she sets out to achieve. She loved her children very much and meant well for them, but she died very early in life, leaving them. Two later died, leaving only two.”
He said what happened to Ovey has rendered him speechless, but he has accepted the fact that God almighty allowed it to happen. He added that even if the woman is sent to life imprisonment, it cannot bring back Ovey’s fingers, which are now gone forever.
He said Ovey is staying with him in Lafia at the moment and he is thinking of fixing artificial fingers for him, so that he can continue his education going forward.
The Achievers Newspaper also had a chat with the woman, Mercy Jummai, who is heavily pregnant for her first child. She insisted on the allegation that the boy, Ovey, kept making love to her in her dreams and that he deserves to die.
She confirmed that she actually took him to the herbalist with the intention of burning him alive. “He is an evil child who does not deserve to live. He is a member of a secret cult and eliminating his life is the best option.”
Commenting on the incident, the village head of Wulko, Sarkin Garin Wulko, Joseph Envuladu, expressed shock over the incident, which he said was not common in the community.
He said, “Ovey is popular in the village; he is humble and respectful; he is a member of the St Mary’s Catholic Church choir and a class captain at Government Junior Secondary School in the community.
“How can you carry out such wickedness on a small innocent boy because he is the son of your husband? His mother died long ago and was buried before the man got married to you, so what is his offence?”
Just before going to press, our correspondent gathered that the assailant, Mrs Jummai, who was initially detained at the police station, has been released while her husband, who happens to be the father of Ovey, is in detention.