Mama Jide was a leper. She was not always like that. By the time I was old enough to notice she was different, her ten fingers and toes were all gone and moving about was labored. Mama Jide attended church regularly. Her toes left dark moist stains on the concrete where she sat, because of this she sat on the same spot everytime and if she didn’t come to church, her space was always left vacant. I have never seen her anywhere in the village not even during any of the festivals. Her outing was usually from home to church, a distance of about 200meters.
By the time I was a teenager, Mama Jide could no longer join in church services, she was just too weak. She was lucky I am told, she should have been living at Egan (isolated area, two miles away from regular human contact). Mama Jide was blessed, my uncle had a big house in the village so she lived in the house with her family. She had two daughters and one son. Her son was the eldest so she invested in his education.
Jide later went to a theology school and became a pastor in our small town. His first job was at a big headquarter church where hundreds of people listen to him preaching all about Jesus and love to all mankind. I once attended his weeklong revival in the mid 1980’s. He was very charismatic, full of infectious energies, and everyone loved him.
Jide was embarrassed of his homebound mother and blamed his failed marriage on his her. Reportedly Jide’s wife could no longer bear the thought of her mother in-law being in that state so she left Jide. Jide in turn, though separated from his wife decided that his mother was the “devil” in his life so he wanted nothing to do with her anymore.
Mama Jide died in the mid 90’s after years of not stepping out of the house, thank goodness they had a big backyard for her to stretch her legs and also the girls stood by her through her illness.
Jide was located but refused to attend the funeral on the basis no one else in the villages around us had leprosy so his mother must be a bad person and being a leper was her punishment for her witchcraft and some bible quotations too daft to repeat.
In the 1920s, Christian missionaries founded leper colonies around Nigeria. The colonies where a safe haven for lepers, by the 1950’s Nigeria was said to be ahead of eradicating leprosy in the country with fewer cases reported. However by 2006 Nigeria recorded 1000 new cases of infections per year.
Leprosy is now abolished in the country, the government plans to continue treating new and existing cases as outpatients. There are government subsidized leper colonies across the country.
It seems to me that what we need as a nation is a drive to educate citizens on the disease to encourage better family support. Jide is a senior pastor at a big Pentecostal church in Ibadan, preaches to hundreds of people weekly. I believe Jide acted based on misinformation about the cause of his mother’s leprosy. Folakemi Odoaje for #JujuFilms