– Chidera Muoka.
I was in Primary One. Couldn’t have been more than six years old. There was this boy in my class. His name was Victor and he was a bully.
I was the quintessential shy child. Talkative and playful in my comfort zone but shy nonetheless. I also hated confrontation. So, I stayed out of Victor’s path as much as possible. Until that day.
I cannot remember what happened. All I know is that for whatever reason, Victor hit me. Several times. Blows and slaps that had me crying until the end of the school day.
No teacher could pacify me. Neither could the driver, when he came to pick me up.
As soon as we arrived home, my father came to the front door to welcome me.
“Baby, what’s wrong?” he asked.
I had the hiccups and couldn’t answer. So he asked the driver.
“Oga, I don’t know o. She’s been crying since I picked her up from school.”
“Baby, better tell me what happened or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Through tears and halted sentences, I rolled out the story.
“Victor beat me!” I wailed.
“Who is Victor?” Daddy asked.
“A boy in my class. He used to like beating people. Today, he beat me.”
My father paused and for some moments, he was silent.
Then he asked, “This Victor, does he have two heads?”
Frowning in consternation, I momentarily halted my sobbing.
“No, Daddy,” I replied. “He has one head.”
“OK. Does he have four hands?” he asked again.
Now thoroughly perplexed, my crying ceased altogether.
“Nooooo,” I drawled, fade scrunched up. “He has two hands.”
Now it was Daddy who looked confused.
“So, Victor with one head just like you, and two hands just like you, beat you? And what did you do when he beat you?”
“I crieeeed,” I replied in child-like innocence, and started crying again.
“You cried,” he echoed.
Then without warning, he grabbed my hand and sharply pulled me toward him. He put his fore and middle fingers together, opened my palm, and gave me three hard smacks.
“Keep quiet and listen to me!” he thundered. “You will NEVER, ever, allow anyone hit you and go scot-free. Especially a boy. Ever!
You will defend yourself. If any boy hits you once, hit him twice. You will not grow up to be one of those women a man hits.”
I. Was. Stunned.
He wasn’t finished.
“Never start a fight. But defend yourself with all you’ve got.
Now, when you go back to school tomorrow, beat up Victor. You’ll beat him so bad, your headmistress will summon me.
Do you understand?” he barked, glaring for effect.
I nodded, speechless.
I tell you, at school the next day, Victor didn’t see me coming. My father was indeed summoned.
The headmistress said she didn’t understand what had triggered me; that I was a sweet, mild-mannered child. But the level of violence I’d shown was cause for concern.
Daddy assured them that I’d be on my best behaviour.
He always gave them that assurance after each fight. Once, when a boy in secondary school beat me quite badly. I used my teeth and nails. Daddy was summoned again.
“Sir, you really need to control her,” the VP said. “She’s a girl and a church elder’s daughter. Teach her to behave like one.
She should report to a teacher, not fight back. Do you know she even fights boys who are bigger than her?”
“I will speak with her,” he said with a smug smile.
“By the way, did you invite the boy’s parents here?” Daddy asked.
“No,” the Vice Principal replied.
“So, who will tell them to control their hooligan?”
“Sir, you know how boys are,” was the reply he got.
He nodded and together, we went to the car.
“What happened?” he asked. “How badly did you beat him?”
“Daddy,” I replied, “This one beat me o! But I tore his shirt, scratched his face and bit his shoulder till blood came out. That’s why they’re all angry.”
“That’s my girl! Gimme 5! Do you want some ice cream?”
As I grew older, because of Mum, I stopped fighting back. I’d rather go report to a teacher or the principal.
The fights became fewer too. Because I’d established a reputation. That no matter how mad you thought you were, I was capable of a higher level of crazy.
That reputation was so solid, that when my siblings went to the same school, no one dared touch them 😂.
This lesson from my father is why sometime ago, when a man hit the car I was driving, came out and said, “I will slap you here and nothing will happen, I was like, “Bring it on.”
It’s also why I’m staring at this DM I just received. It says:
“Ma, my friend said that you work with an NGO that caters to abused women. I need your help.
My boyfriend of three years has been beating me. I’ve tried to leave him but he always comes back to apolo…..”
I’m thinking of my reply, what to say. How shall I begin?
“Dear Girl Being Beaten Like A Talking Drum,
This your boyfriend – does he have two heads? Does he have four hands?”
Or maybe not.😁