The maternal instinct of any mother is to ensure that their toddlers do not leave their care at any time unless absolutely necessary. For such mothers, they cannot simply risk anything bad happening to their children when they leave their sight.
But for Busayo Oyeniyi, an Ogun State civil servant in her 30s, her worst nightmare became a reality when her estranged husband, Olugbenga, 37, forcibly took her 28-month-old daughter , Rachael, away from her on Monday, April 18, 2016, and within few hours after, she received the news that the child was dead.
But what could have happened within such a space of time?
This is the mystery that Busayo wants unravelled with diligence as she grieves; she also demands answers to what exactly happened to her daughter who was taken from her hale and hearty.
Busayo told our correspondent that she married Olugbenga legally about three years ago and that since their wedding day, his attitude to her changed.
He had reportedly told her that she must resign or get a transfer from where she worked in Abeokuta and come to Lagos but she said that the transfer had not been possible.
Busayo said, “I was at my apartment on Monday when I heard footsteps while bathing for my baby. I went to check who it was and I found out it was my husband. He put Rachael on his lap and told me to go and change her clothes. I told him that I did not have to do that since I just bathed for her and the clothe she was wearing at the time was okay.
“He said he was leaving with the baby. I was surprised. I thought he was playing. We had never agreed that it was time for the girl to go and live with him.
“Last September, we had a disagreement over his sick younger sister who had been living with me since 2013. He brought her to live with me after we got married. I was taking care of her. After a while, he came to take her back alleging that I was maltreating her when he got an apartment at Egbeda.
“After he got the apartment, he said he was no longer coming to visit me at Abeokuta anymore. He called my landlord and told him to throw me and the children out saying he had concluded with me to leave the house. I told the landlord that it was a lie and we stayed on.
“Since that September, he had been saying that when our daughter was to start school, she must be with him and I said no because I had not been able to do a transfer to Lagos.”
Busayo alleged that her husband never told her about his sister or the fact that she had any particular health challenge before he brought her to live with her after their marriage.
According to her, it was after she gave birth to their first child that the lady, who is about the same age with Busayo, was brought to live with her.
She said, “When he said he wanted to take my daughter to Lagos, I asked him who would take care of her and he said his sister. I told him I could not allow his sister, who was still battling with her health challenge to be in charge of my daughter while I was still alive.
“Meanwhile, I had enrolled my daughter in school since September. He never felt concerned about our upkeep. I paid school fees, clothed my children and paid rents but he never felt concerned.
“Yet, I took it upon myself to come to his place in Lagos every Friday and stay over till Monday. He never asked how I was coping with the children.
“I pleaded with him to change his decision about taking the girl away but he insisted he would not change his stand.
“When he came to forcibly pick the girl on Monday, I went to report at the social welfare office in Agege, Lagos. They said they could not handle the issue because I live in Ogun while my husband lives in Lagos. After that, I proceeded to Egbeda.
“I went inside and found my daughter inside. I told her to wear her slippers and follow me. As I made to go out, he pushed me and the head of the baby on my back hit the door. He said, ‘Are you okay at all?’”
Busayo said that she begged her husband to let the girl go since she was still too young.
She said when he still would not bulge, she called his elder sister, who also tried to prevail on him to let the girl leave with her mother. But Olugbenga allegedly shouted the sister down too.
As the argument raged on, little Rachael was crying.
After a lot of argument, Busayo said she was forced to leave the house without her daughter.
She said she was supposed to go back to Abeokuta that night but it was too late and had to go sleep over at her parents’ house around Ajegunle.
“He came to pick my daughter around 9am in Abeokuta. I got to his place in Lagos and left around 2pm. By 8.30pm in the night, my father received a call,” Busayo said.
That call was one that would devastate Busayo beyond belief.
She said she did not believe her ears when her father started screaming that her daughter had fallen inside a well.
“I started hearing people crying in my parents’ house. My brother went to report at the Idimu Police Division. When they went to arrest him, he said he had also gone to the Gowon Police Division himself to lodge complaints,” Busayo said.
When Busayo eventually got to the station, she alleged that the divisional police officer of the station told her to forget about the issue.
“The DPO said after all, my husband had the right to take his baby away from me. He said it is the father of the child that has the first say over the baby.
“He said we should just go and give our baby a befitting burial and forget about the issue. I have become a mourning woman overnight. Please, help me ask my husband what he did to our child.”
Busayo said that her husband said Rachael fell inside the well when he went out to buy bread.
“The police have asked no question on how true that is. The DPO was not concerned about finding out who brought the child out of the well. He did not make any attempt to bring the people in for questioning. Is it wrong for me to ask how my daughter died?” she said.
Olugbenga was neither detained when he was invited by the police, it was learnt.
When contacted, the police public relations officer in the state, Dolapo Badmus, who confirmed the case simply said investigation was still ongoing.
Meanwhile, many attempts to get Olugbenga to comment on his wife’s allegations have proved abortive.
When he picked one of the numerous calls placed to his phone by our correspondent, he said, “I am busy, I don’t have time to answer any question.”
When the Gowon Estate DPO, Mr. Festus Otabor, was contacted on the issue, he was effusive with explanation on what happened when the case was brought before him.
Walking our correspondent through a step-by-step details of the issue from his point of view, he said, “The father of the deceased girl, who is a lecturer, came to report the issue himself. A person that is a university lecturer cannot be a baby. He came in company with other people from the street.
“The man introduced himself and said his daughter fell in a well while they were playing. I asked how old the girl was he said two and half years. I asked about the mother and he said she went to Abeokuta.
“He said when he was called to the scene, he went to rescue the baby and rushed her to the hospital but that she was pronounced dead there. I immediately sent my crime officer to proceed to the street. They got there and saw that the well was well covered up.
“I actually suspected that the well was not well covered up. I thought it was due to the carelessness of the landlord. But the father of the child told me that the baby just mistakenly fell inside. The body of the child was inside the vehicle in the police station at the time.
“The Father of the deceased girl’s mother said the man had been giving his daughter problems before and wanted the marriage dissolved. I told him that in a situation like this, you don’t bring such matter to the station but that we should just ensure that the child is buried.
“The man agreed. I told him he should just allow the soul of the deceased girl to rest in peace. I told them it is not possible for a father to take his own daughter and throw her in a well.”
Otabor said that the family later came to ask for a police extract in order to be able to bury the child.
The DPO said he gave it to them because he wanted peace to reign.
“The father of the girl’s mother wanted us to prosecute the late girl’s father, but I told them we cannot do that because that was not the report that came in. I told them, the issue was about the late girl. I told them if they wanted to find out the cause of death, the police cannot do that. Only an autopsy can.
“The problem is that people usually want us to take action when there is no basis for that. We cannot just take action when there is no doctor’s report that shows there was a violence involved.”