Man, mother-in-law at dagger’s drawn over baby - Family war

The relationship was quite rosy between him and his mother-in-law. But the sudden death of Daniel Okonkwo’s wife, Dupe, barely three years after their wedding, has strained that once robust relationship.

 At the moment, Daniel Okonkwo and his mother-in-law, Madam Olutola, are at daggers’ drawn. And at the centre of the controversy is the product of Dupe’s short-lived union with her husband, Nonso Okonkwo, who is barely two years old.

 Daily Sun leant that trouble started when Okonkwo refused to accept Madam Olutola’s request to have her granddaughter live with her after Dupe’s demise. The bereaved grandma had expressed her wish to have the little girl live with her, asserting that the presence of her granddaughter near her would console her after the loss of her daughter. She also believed that she was in a better position to raise the child.

 But her late daughter’s husband and the father of the little girl refused, insisting that the old woman would not have custody of the child. Distraught but determined to have her way, Madam Olutola dragged her son-in-law to the juvenile welfare office, Ewekoro, Ogun State. There, a compromise was reached on the way both parties would have access to the girl. A document was prepared. But while Madam Olutola reportedly signed hers, Okonkwo allegedly refused to append his signature to the document. And the battle line was drawn.
Okonkwo and Dupe on their wedding day
 Right now, both parties have refused to shift grounds, and even the juvenile court where the matter was taken to has not been able to resolve the crisis. Declaring that having her granddaughter is the only way forward on the matter, Madam Olutola bared her mind to the reporter at her residence in Ojodu. She also expressed regrets that her daughter was married to Okonkwo.

 Her words: “I have always been concerned about who befriends my daughter. I even told her to get married on time since she had sickle cell anaemia. She was going to 27 then. After some time, she brought Daniel Okonkwo to me as the man she wanted to marry. And indeed, he appeared like a very gentle and quiet person. He told my daughter that he was selling vehicles at the Western Avenue. He told me that he was a graduate. He said he read sociology at the University of Benin. But I didn ‘t know that he had no job.

 “They courted for two years and had their wedding on November 21, 2008. After the wedding, they were squatting with Daniel’s elder brother and his family in the flat rented by his brother. I was not happy with that and I advised him to get his own apartment. But he could not pay for the ones he found. After some time, their baby was coming and the brother began to mount pressures on Daniel and his wife to leave. When the pressure was getting unbearable for my daughter, she came to beg me to find a solution to it. So, I gave them an apartment in one of my properties.

 “When she took in again, we thought the pains would go as usual. Although, the doctors did their best, unfortunately, she died on the day we had the court wedding for her younger sister. Once I got to the hospital, I told her husband to go home and rest because he had been with her since morning. “Then I began to attend to her. I boiled water and massaged her body. But she was just restless. After some time, she called me and said: ‘Mummy, this pain is too much. Let me go.’ And I was asking her a question, I was saying: ‘Go to where?’ She beckoned to the nurse to measure her pulse and that one noticed that her pulse was too slow and they tried to revive her. I called my husband to tell him how she was doing. And he also called Daniel and they came back and met the doctors trying to revive her. But in the end, she passed on. I almost cried my heart out.”

 The grandma said she was surprised that just a day after her daughter’s death, Okonkwo began asking for all her vital documents. “The second day, Okonkwo began to ask for his late wife’s documents and phones that were in my possession. And I began to be suspicious of him. I wondered what he wanted to use the items for. Even the girl’s identity cards, he requested for the two of them - both the one that bears her maiden name and the one bearing his own name. And I gave him those documents because I didn’t want to fight him. But I asked him to make photocopies of the documents for me. But he has not done that till now.”

 Meanwhile, Okonkwo has vowed that nothing would take his daughter away from him. Describing his mother-in-law as being too possessive, he said: “The truth is that my mother-in-law had wanted our baby from the day she was born and we never wanted to give her. “Although, my wife had sickle cell, the way she died was not normal at all. She was a senior staff with the general hospital. Once she became sick, we would take her to the hospital and she would remain there till the time she was okay. The senior doctors confided in me that my mother-in-law wanted them to discharge her and I didn’t have anything against them in discharging her. At that time, she had just been given some pints of blood. And I noticed some blood in her mouth, so I called the nurse to attend to her. But when my mother-in-law came, she asked me to go home but I said I couldn’t go home. It was not proper for me to leave my wife in that condition. But she insisted and I left.

 “Some hours later, my father-in-law called me to say that his wife called him and something had happened. So, I had to go back to the ward to see what had happened. And I saw that she was dead. Before my wife died, my mother-in-law always liked to dictate to us on what we would do and I didn’t see that as being proper.” He explained why he would never leave his daughter to stay with her grandma. Said he: “After what happened that day, my father-in-law called for a meeting between the families, and right there, my mother-in-law insisted that she wanted the child to be living with her. But I said that was not possible because she couldn’t just expect that I would leave my child like that. Even if it is just for my happiness now that her mother has gone, I will like my daughter to be with me. She threatened that she would drag me to court and I just kept quiet.

 “Two weeks later, she dragged me to the juvenile court at Abeokuta and they invited me. But because I had not finished mourning my wife for 41 days as the Yoruba custom demands, my brother had to go. He asked them to give me time to come. Eventually we went there after a third letter came. “So, they made some resolutions to which they asked me to sign and I promised I would do so just to get out of the place. But once I left the place, I went to the Lagos State government to get a counsel through whom I made it clear to her that I can only allow her to come and see her grandchild in my place. Anything beyond that is impossible. She is my child and I’m her father.”
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