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Opinions of Friday, 27 April 2018

Columnist: Myjoyonline.com

Moesha is not alone: For some of us, it’s a project

So on the back of the Moesha – CNN saga, I got an email from a young lady who’s had to live a similar lifestyle to survive. This story has been edited for length and clarity. Maame has also requested that only her local name is used for the story for obvious reasons. All other names used have also been changed to protect the identities of the persons involved.

I leaped for joy when results from my WASSCE were released. As the girl’s perfect, it was expected that I’d excel… and boy I did. My teachers could not hide their joy. The headmistress had a special congratulatory party thrown for me and the other students who stood out.

But the joy will soon fade, because deep down inside, I knew this perhaps will be my last academic examination. My mother, who has singlehandedly raised four of us cannot afford a university education, especially when there are three more to go. But I brushed off that thought and enjoyed the delicious jollof rice and grilled chicken I’d been served at the party. “If this is going to be my last, I might as well enjoy it to the fullest,” I said to myself.

That evening when I got home, my mother called me into a meeting. As I sat on the worn out couch in the living room, my heart beat so fast and strong that I felt it was going to fall out my chest any minute. I wasn’t ready to hear the obvious…that this will be the end of the road for me; I simply didn’t want to hear those words. But I held on tight to the already tired armrest and hoped for different news.

When my mother entered the room – my other siblings were busy with God knows what in the compound screaming their heads off – she smiled at me and said “you have made me proud. My first girl, the very first fruit of my womb. I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter. You have set a good pace, just the right one for your younger brothers and sister to follow.”

And as she continued, tears welled up in her eyes, “when your father died, I didn’t think I could do it all by myself, but you, your brothers and sister give me strength and each day. I couldn’t have asked for better children.”

I got up from my seat and sat at her feet and after about five long hours of silence and tears she smiled and said “you’re going to the university. How it’ll happen, I don’t know. But I’m ready to see you through.” And with that, I saw myself in the university even before I started the journey of a tertiary education.

I couldn’t get over the excitement that soon, ‘a nobody’ like me will be rubbing shoulders with rich people’s children and of course others like me. This was a dream come through for me, because somehow, deep inside me, I knew this was going to be the turning point in my life.

I was in a hurry to experience a world away from my small village lit in darkness. I was ready to see the light, walk in it and be the light. It was my own ‘journey to the West’. A journey for a new life, with new people, hopefully, better food and better dresses. I was ready for fun, a lot of it. As for my books, well, it was never a problem in a dim, difficult environment with little facilities. How was it going to be a problem in the city with life and better facilities? Besides I’m a smart girl – sorry to flaunt it – but I don’t fail, so I knew I was going to take a stroll through my new courses in the university. Book was the least of my worries.

But I had a rude awakening in just seven days on campus- I was still a ‘villager’. I knew it, felt it. Everything about me screamed so loud about where I came from, a place not many will be proud of, let alone boast of. Anytime I saw the clothes the girls wore, I saw the rags on me in the name of a dress. Their handbags, shoes and other accessories left me in awe. It was then that I realized life was a league with some playing the EPL and others the Chinese league. I couldn’t even meet the standard of the Chinese league. It was a disaster!

I craved for the nice things. Was I not just as human as they were? I also wanted to look and feel good and because my mother could only afford the rags of the village life, I knew I had to find a way. I wanted to live a good life, buy all the things I ever wanted and still be able to acquire my degree and go on to become a lawyer. That dream is one I’m not letting go but in the meantime, “a girl’s got to do what she gotta do. She must be hot,” I said to myself one afternoon when I finally accepted Mr Osei’s invitation to dinner.

I knew what I was going in for by accepting his offer but I thought more of what I would gain than what I’d lose. More than anything, I wanted to free myself and family from the shackles of poverty and I really didn’t and still don’t care how I do it.

Mr Osei is one of the top government officials who have a stubborn reputation of bedding young university girls like me. He is also known to be a ‘spoiler’, yeah, he spoils his ‘girls’ rotten. Cash, trips to abroad on holidays and of course, with his connections in business, he can get you the job of your choice, all you needed to do was ask.

At the university, his reputation and that of others was no secret and once you were in their ‘den’, everyone knew. You were the talk of town, the ‘queen’ the slay queen, the one everybody gossiped about. But who cares? Those who wanted to associate with you did, and the holier than thous judged you.

When my roommate Nancy, realised the talk about me on campus was getting out of hand, she approached me and asked that I ended the relationship. For her, that kind of relationship was below me.

“Are you serious, I’ve even not started the relationship proper and you’re worried? See this could be it for us…how long do you intend to live in poverty? Don’t you want to have nice things like everyone else? Sister, please let me be wai…this is what I want and I really don’t care what you or anyone else thinks.”

That was the last time I heard any preaching from Nancy as she was beginning to enjoy the good things that came as a result of her association with me. Mr Osei will give her money anytime he came around and even on days when he didn’t come to our room, he’ll let me have some cash delivered to her.

The life I’d always wanted to live was now in my reach and I was willing to do everything to keep it. Now, I didn’t have to worry about my fees, money for educational materials or my upkeep. The little money my mother had could now be used on my other siblings, whom I still provided for.

During the early times of the ‘change’, my mother was uncomfortable. She didn’t understand what was going on and was bent on knowing what I was doing to be able to afford all the things I’d bought for my siblings when I went for holidays. In fact that day, she will not have any of the things inside her house and even attempted to throw me out until I had concrete reasons and explanations for the life I was living.

And oh, I forgot to mention that I drove home the new Mercedes Benz S Class Mr Osei had bought for me as a birthday gift. That drove my mother nuts. She run out of the house to the compound where our jealous and pretentious neighbours had already gathered ‘worshipping’ the car. One rushed in to call my mother and the spectacle began.

Right in the presence of everyone she demanded to know how I got the car and what it was doing in her house. She will not allow me into the house and was unprepared to sit down and have a proper conversation on the matter, so I left in anger. At a later date, I met with my siblings to give them some money and other items they needed in the house but they refused to accept the items because they’d been given explicit information that nothing from me is allowed in the house.

Then it dawned on me that I’d been disowned by my mother. Well, I understood her fears and took none of that to heart but I no longer wanted to live in poverty and I was willing to do anything to get out of it. Hoping that she will get over the anger, I moved on with my life.

Thankfully, I still excelled in school, I was a force to reckon with when it came to academics. Many assumed I was just sleeping around for grades but they had no idea that after everything…the parties and holidaying around the world…I always went back to my books.

Although I’d moved out from the room we shared, Nancy was still generous. She’ll send me notes and notices of assignments. Sometimes, she’ll send voice notes of an entire lecture, explain anything she felt I’d not understand and send photos of lecture notes. She was simply a fantastic friend and when she is in her pious elements she’ll give me a preaching.

Why the life I was living was wrong, how I was potentially destroying someone’s marriage…blah blah blah. Normally, I’ll just roll my eyes while she’s at it and wait for the sermon to end and every time it did I’d say “thank you ma. I’ll pray about it,” and laugh. That always made her mad, but she’d always say “yooo, don’t say I didn’t tell you oo.”

See, what Nancy and the people like her – including my mother – didn’t understand is that I don’t want to struggle in life, at least not anymore. My entire childhood has been plagued by poverty, sorrow and the lack of very basic things a child should have. I don’t want to take that into adulthood. No.

Do I care about the other family I’m hurting?

No.

First of all, I don’t even think Mr Osei’s wife is hurting in any way. She still gets all she needs from her husband. Never has he put me before her and never has he given the impression that he’ll leave her for me. Not once. His children are still very well provided for, in every aspect, they don’t even need to ask.

We both understood that ours was a relationship of convenience and knew what to do and when to do it without being asked to. Call me mean, but a girl’s gotta do what she gotta do. In any case, he sleeps with me, that’s my body on a silver platter and he should be grateful to me because, without me, he’d be in a boring marriage. I brought back the spark…the spark his wife is now enjoying.

Mr Osei has told me about how his wife is now glowing. “And you’re the reason,” he said. “She doesn’t complain anymore because, by the time I get home, I’m so ‘full’ with you that I don’t see anything else she does. Anything she says, I agree and life goes on. She actually thinks her prayers worked”, he said cynically one Saturday evening after a steamy rendezvous in my apartment.

Will I ever stop?

Of course, I will. This is only for a period of time. After completing my studies, getting a good job and perhaps in case a man worth settling down with comes into the picture, why not? But in the meantime, I’m just going to make the best of the period, get what I can out of it and enjoy the moments it comes with.

But the one thing that really baffles me about the whole Moesha interview – after watching the full version – is the hypocrisy Ghanaians are exhibiting. These things are a normal part of our society. Hidden, it has been for a long time, but the truth is the truth and nothing can change that.

We need to begin to understand that we’re not what we say we are. The church, mosque and the whole religion thingy is just a camouflage. All these big men are indeed ‘big men’ in their churches. They are reserved the best seats and are called on to settle disputes and other related matters. They are held in high esteem yet these same men will not help any girl without asking for anything in return – unless of course, that girl is their daughter.

If men like Mr Osei were willing to give and support young girls when they are in need, we won’t be having this discussion. Their selfishness and greed is the reason we are at this stage in our society.

And oh, the women are not left out. All those who hurled insults at Moesha are not themselves saints. The bosses among them sleep with young guys all around, yet they have the audacity to question Moesha. Of course, it’s easier to pick on her than deal with the real issues.

Hypocrites! That’s what we are and it’s going to take us a while if the proper discussion is not had. This is what our society wants and that’s just what is being served.

Ah, well, as for me I’m headed to the UK later this year to start my masters in law course. Guess who’s paying...Mr Osei of course.

“You don’t need to worry about anything. I will provide for all your needs once you also give me what I want,” he said the day I informed him about my decision to school outside. He actually thought it was a fantastic idea and there was no way he’d have objected to it.

So while ya’ll tongue lash Moesha for living the life she wants, find a life too because she’s actually living hers. What can I say, go girl!