By; RAYMOND TEDUNJAYE, Lagos
The ordeal and demeaning treatment of what African widows are subjected to by their once loving in-laws, after the demise of their husbands, is again recaptured in the agony of Mrs. Bolanle Ogundeji, widow of late Police Inspector Olukunle Johnson Ogundeji. The widow, a mother of five, narrates in chilling details the hell her in-laws had put her through. RAYMOND TEDUNJAYE reports.
Mrs. Bolanle Ogundeji, 49, is a mother of five children and had been married for 28 years, before death suddenly snatched away her husband, Police Inspector Olukunle Johnson Ogundeji.
The grieving widow said that no one could offer her the love, trust, honesty and unbridled care that Olukunle did for her and the children.
Olukunle, until his demise, was attached to the Lagos State Police Command. Following his death, Bolanle and the children went to live with her father.
She said: “I had to quit our two-bedroom rented apartment at Ikorodu, due to my inability to pay the rent and the fact that my late husband’s family abandoned my children and I.”
Olukunle was yet to complete the construction of his building project before his death. He died on April 25, 2021, after a brief illness. He died three months after his 50th birthday.
After Olukunle’s death, Bolanle had to pick up the pieces of her life, in order to take care of the children.
Blessing, 24, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member serving in Abuja is Bolanle’s first child. Others are Tayo, 22, Titilayo, 18, Precious, 17, a Senior Secondary School student, sitting for her WAEC Examination and Joseph, 10, a Primary 4 pupil of First Foundation School, Ikorodu.
Bolanle said: “The last time I saw my husband was on February 20, 2021, a day after his 50th birthday. He had been sick for almost three months before then. With the support of my dad and other kind hearted friends, we took him to Empire Hospital. We also took him to some traditional medicine homes in Ikorodu. He then began to recuperate. We rejoiced on his birthday because he was on his feet in our sitting room, and even danced. We were amazed at his recovery. Happiness filled our hearts, we went to bed, but the following day, his eldest sister, Biodun and younger brother, Pius, came to our house to take him away to an unknown place.”
Bolanle explained that Olukunle’s siblings didn’t allow anyone to follow them. One of her daughters, Precious, allowed to joiin them initially, was later ordered out of the vehicle.
She recounted: “Olukunle’s ill health started on September 10, 2020. He complained of a headache moments after the burial of his elder sister. His siblings took him to a Celestial Church of Christ, Olokodana Parish, Majidun, headed by one Prophet Oganla. Again, they took him to another Prophet at Rabaka in Owode Ilaje area of Ikorodu, and finally to Prophet Abbey at Majidun. It was Abbey that advised Olukunle should be taken to a hospital since there was no improvement on his health.”
Bolanle recalled that her husband was then taken to Empire Hospital, Ikorodu where he spent two weeks. When Olukunle noticed that he was not improving, he asked that he should be discharged and taken to my father’s house for treatment.
Bolanle stated that she was told on the day Olukunle was whisked away by his sister to go and look for another husband, that she wouldn’t see Olukunle again.
“True to their words, I was neither allowed to speak with Olukunle or set eyes on him. My husband in a WhatsApp chat with Blessing told her that his brother Pius didn’t allow him to pick our calls. But at times, he communicated through SMS,” said Bolanle.
Bolanle said she was shocked when she went on Facebook and saw a notice, stating that her husband was dead. “This was on April 25, 2021. The notice was put on Facebook by Pius,” said Bolanle.
She further narrated: “When I saw the message on Facebook, I fainted. I almost went mad. Can this be done to their sister? I was not contacted by anyone. It was a friend that drew the attention of my children and I to the Facebook post, announcing the death of my husband.”
She stated that the most painful aspect of the whole drama was that her in-laws turned around to accuse her of being responsible for Olukunle’s death. She opined that the allegation was because of her late husband’s two bed room flat, which was still under construction.
On May 15, the widow was invited to a meeting by her in-laws, but she refused to attend.
She said: “I told them I wouldn’t attend because nobody informed me of his death. On May19, three old men came to our house and my father queried them about the family’s attitude towards me. We were not aware that Olukunle would be buried the following day. He was buried without anyone notifying us and without our presence at the burial. Before he was taken away, he prayed for us, and assured us that he would be back, that we shouldn’t worry. He told me that he used the name of his first daughter, Bimbo and my first daughter Blessing, as the next of kin on the Gen-16 form, which is the Police Pension Scheme documents. Aside from that, he gave one of my daughters, Precious, the Personal Identification Number (PIN) of his Union Bank Account and the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card, a thing I know some policemen wouldn’t do for their wives.”
She stated that her major harrowing experiences began after the burial. She stated that her in-laws refused her and her children to collect rent from a room apartment bequeathed to her husband. They also seized Olukunle’s bus, which was being used to generate money, used in fending for the children while he was alive.
To worsen the situation, the in-laws disowned the children of Olukunle, insisting they were no longer their blood. “Since then, Olukunle’s family members have abandoned us to our fate. It’s my father that has been fending for us.”
Bolanle, a trained nurse, said she has now realised the danger of being a full time housewife. She remembered how Olukunle asked her to quit her job.
She stated: “He asked me to stay at home to give adequate attention to the children. Since his demise, I used to assist my father who is a birth attendant occasionally.”
She also alleged that Pius seized her husband’s two phones, an infinite hot 6 bought by her daughter and an Itel and then the SIM card with which Olukunle used to receive bank alerts. She also alleged that Pius connived with Olukunle’s first daughter, Bimbo, from another woman, to begin the process of receiving his death benefits and entitlement. The police had however asked Pius and Bimbo to invite Bolanle and her children to the record office of the Lagos State Police Command.
At the Command, Mrs. Adejoke Adeniran, a Woman Superintendent of Police (SP), the Officer in Charge of Insurance Unit of the Lagos State Police Command, accused Bolanle of being tempered and desirous of amassing her husband’s benefits. The SP advised the widow to go and look for a street sweeping job. Saddened by the SP’s attitude, Bolanle petitioned the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Command Hakeem Odumosu, demanding justice.
In the petition dated September 1st, 2021, titled: ‘Widow’s Cry for Justice’, Bolanle narrated her unpleasant experience in the hands of her in-laws, calling for the intervention of the police boss.
She wondered why she should be denied her husband’s entitlement despite being legally married to him and having five children with him.
She petitioned: “As a helpless widow, with five children to cater for, I appeal that you use your good office to ask Mr. Ogundeji Pius to submit the mobile phone of my husband and the SIM in order to prevent him from fraudulently withdrawing the money in his account. That all assistance, support and donation due to the family should be given to me to enable me take care of the children left behind by my beloved husband. The police authority should regard me and my children as the real heirs to late Inspector Ogundeji Olukunle Johnson with all his benefits and entitlements paid in full to us, based on relevant available documents in my possession.”
Odumosu assigned the matter to DCP Administration (DFA), Bassey Ewah, who listened to both parties dispassionately during the mediation session on September 9, 2021.
When Pius was asked if Bolanle was divorced before the demise of Olukunle, Pius couldn’t provide a cogent answer. He only alleged that Bolanle killed his brother in order to inherit his property.
Pius stated before the audience, which had in attendance the Officer in Charge of Insurance Unit of the Command, SP Adejoke Adeniran, the lawyer, the Consultant to Bolanle, her third child Precious and Bimbo, that he was told by Olukunle, that he was poisoned by Bolanle.
When asked by Ewah for proof in order to substantiate his assertion, Pius became mute.
Ewah explained to Pius in clear terms, from the point of law that he was not entitled to the benefits, and entitlement of the deceased, provided the wife was legally married, and was not divorced by the deceased.
Ewah further explained that the Gen-16 documents of the deceased have also nullified him, since his name was not included as the next of kin.
Ewah directed Pius to return all the property claimed to be in his possession to the wife. The case was then moved to September 14, 2021.
On the adjourned date, having been briefed on the willingness of Pius to submit to the dictates of the law, Ewah consequently assigned Adeniran to preside over the matter, an exercise which took place in her office. Pius reluctantly dropped the Itel Mobile phone, an MTN SIM card, Olukunle’s personal identity card and the New Personal Documentation Form file, which contains vital information being used for the processing of Olukunle’s entitlement. He however claimed to have sold the Infinix S4 phone, to raise money to convey Olukunle to Lagos, from the place he taken for treatment in Ondo before his death.