A 28-year-old mother who beat her first daughter to death when she was teaching her tells TOYOSI OGUNSEYE that it was unintentional. A HUNGRY man is an angry man. Hope Odu, a mother of five, has proved that this popular maxim also applies to women.Odu, 28, is being detained at the State Criminal Investigations Department, Panti, Yaba, Lagos, for allegedly beating her five-year-old daughter, Uchechi, to death in their one-room apartment.
On the day the incident happened, the family of seven had only beans for breakfast. It was learnt that Uchechi refused to eat because she didn‘t like beans, but there was no other food in their room located in an uncompleted building at No 7, Tolashade Close, Igando, Lagos.
After the other children ate the beans and Odu breastfed her last child, who is eight-months-old, she started teaching them how to write. According to Odu, who has a Senior Secondary School Certificate, even though she was poor, she didn‘t want her children to end up like her.
In fluent English, she says, ”I know the importance of education and I made sure I teach my children how to write every day. I want them to be better than me because after my senior secondary school education, I got pregnant for their father and could not go any further.”
On May 11, 2010, while she was teaching her children, including Uchechi, who had not eaten, she put a cane beside her to let them know that she was not playing with them.
According to the housewife, she started the tutorials by asking her first two children to write numerals, while Uchechi was asked to write the alphabets, A-C. But the little girl did not know it. So her mother brought out her cane and spanked her twice on the buttocks. As Odu was about to strike her daughter the third time, Uchechi fainted.
Odu says, ”I had been teaching her how to write the alphabets for some time. That morning, I asked her to write A to C for me but she did not get it. I brought out the N20 cane I used to spank them and beat her twice on her buttocks.
To my surprise, she fainted when I wanted to beat her the third time. I lifted her hands, but there was no life in it. I dressed her up and rushed her to the General Hospital at Igando. When I got there, the doctor on duty asked me what happened to her and I told him everything that occurred.
”The first thing the doctor said was that Uchechi had no blood in her. He complained that she did not look like a child that was well taken care of. When he finished examining her, he confirmed that she was dead. I started crying and called my husband on the phone. I didn‘t mean to kill her.
She was my first daughter and we were very good friends. How can I murder a child that I carried in my womb for nine months? I bought that cane to instil discipline into them. Uchechi was my pet; I used to plait her hair myself. I loved her very much.”
When Odu‘s husband got to the hospital, he didn‘t have money to discharge his daughter. He told his wife that he needed to go to his office the following day to get some money. The next day, he still didn‘t have the funds, so the deceased was taken to the mortuary by the hospital.
Neighbours who learnt that Uchechi was dead alerted the Igando Police Station and Odu was arrested on May 12. The light-skinned native of Owerri Local Government, Imo State, says that she was not surprised when the doctor told her that her daughter lacked blood. ”Uchechi and her older brother were living with my mother-in-law in Abuja since 2007,” she says.
”I have to let you know that my husband did not tell me that his mother was going to take two of my children away. I came back one day in 2007 and did not meet them at home. When I asked my husband about their whereabouts, he told me that that my mother-in-law came and took them with her. I had to bring them back to live with me in Lagos because I was not happy with their condition.
“I visited Abuja twice and my children did not look like they were well taken care of; they looked unkempt. Before my second son was taken away, he was going to school in Lagos but that stopped when they got to Abuja. Even Uchechi was not enrolled in a school.
”When I brought them back in February this year, I took them to a ‘lesson‘ in our neighbourhood and ensured that I also taught them daily. I was going to register them in schools come September. When they returned from Abuja, I noticed that Uchechi was always vomiting after eating and was always falling down.
I bought worm expeller for her because I initially thought she had too many worms in her stomach but her condition did not improve. I don‘t know Uchechi‘s genotype but I know that her blood group is O. I told my husband to give me money to take her to the hospital because I am a housewife who does not have anything. My husband would tell me that he would give me money tomorrow. His tomorrow never came and now my daughter is dead.”
Our correspondent however learnt that Odu‘s mother-in-law took the children away from her to reduce the burden of the family. A police source said, ”Everything that happened to this family boils down to poverty. The day her husband came to visit her in detention, he was wearing tattered clothes and had no transport money to go back home. They are living in abject poverty.
”How won‘t a five-year-old who had no food in her stomach die? Obviously, those children were not fed balanced diets. The suspect‘s mother-in-law who sells cooked food in Abuja told us that she could not bear to see her first son‘s children go hungry. She took them to Abuja with her to ease the burden of the family. She even told us that she used to give Odu money monthly and had offered to rent a one-room apartment for the suspect in Abuja in addition to giving her money to trade which she turned down.”
Odu, whose husband is yet to pay her bride price, however says that her husband‘s mother was being economical with the truth.
”My mother-in-law lives in a one-room apartment in Abuja,” she counters. ”When my children were with her, there were eight of them sharing that room, including her husband. All that talk of helping get a job and an apartment near her is not true. I went to Abuja and she did not put any of her words into action. It is also not true that she gave me money monthly. It was only once that she sent me N1,000 recharge card and I sold it for N800. She said all that to impress the police.”
The suspect, whose husband is a 29-year-old local government worker, says she has learnt a lot of hard lessons and begs for forgiveness. She says, ”I beg the police not to charge me to court. I want Nigerians to beg the police for me.
“I didn‘t kill my daughter intentionally. If I go to prison, it will not serve any good. Who will take care of my five children including my eight-month-old baby? I‘m very sorry.”
The public relations officer of the Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Frank Mba, says that the police will perform their constitutional duty. Mba, a superintendent of police, says, ”The matter was transferred to SCID from Igando Police Station. Our job is to investigate the murder which we are doing to the best of our abilities.”