Mrs. Oluwakemi Iyantan, widow of a former deputy governor of Ondo State, in a recent interview shares her experiences in the hands of her in-laws.
Your husband passed on when he was climbing the political ladder, did you have a kind of premonition?
No, I didn't, because we were planning to do some things. I knew we would all leave this earth, but I did not know that it was going to be that soon and sudden. It came as a shock. We didn't know death would come like that, no. We had great plans for the people, for our lives but death came suddenly and took him away.
How did he die?
He died in an accident. We were travelling together in the same car when it happened. He was an area pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. And as an area pastor, you are required to do monthly returns. So that was what he wanted to go and do when the accident occurred. He was the one driving. When I noticed the vehicle was veering off the road, I asked him why. But before I knew what was happening, the car ran into a ditch. All I could remember was our cry of 'Jesus.' I went into a coma. Some good Samaritans told his protocol officer who was calling to find out where we were that we just had an accident. We were taken to the General Hospital then in Akure. I did not know what happened until the following morning.
It is almost nine years now, how have you coped without him?
Life has been so harsh. I could not even imagine it. As if his death wasn't enough trauma, my in-laws brought their own trouble. They asked for the house keys just as soon as they learnt he was dead. My father-in-law said they would collect the house keys from me. I could not understand what was happening. The keys were in the car, I did not have any idea of what they were going to do with them. My father-in-law threatened there would be trouble if I didn't release the house keys. When I said I would bring them while coming home, his family said there was no need for me to come home because my husband was dead. I had to call my husband's immediate younger brother who said I should not worry, that I should come home.
Did you eventually go home?
Yes. When I got home, my in-laws manned the gate. They had changed all the locks. They said I could not enter the house because I killed my husband. They all rose against me. I asked how they knew I killed my husband. They wanted to stone me. It was strange. The church intervened, but the family members insisted that I killed him. I did not take out a pin out of our house. And that was the house I struggled with my husband to build when we were working for government. They didn't even allow me to take my certificate and my international passport. They were locked up in that house. The family head came and told me that my father-in-law said he would only allow me into the house if I came to meet him inside the room privately. He told me my father-in-law said he would like to ask me a few questions inside the room. I found that very strange because I didn't know what he wanted to ask me inside the room.
But were you allowed to attend the burial ceremony?
Of course, I attended but at the burial, the family were so hostile. They wanted to lynch me. But thank God, the state government under the late Olusegun Agagu, arranged security for me. If not, they would have killed me, because they thought my husband had money somewhere and I was the only one who had access to it. They believed that if I got into the house, I would take all the money and the documents. But I said if they wanted to take everything, they should go ahead and allow me to mourn my husband. But I was molested, humiliated and dehumanised. It was traumatic. They said I was the one driving the vehicle and that I intentionally faced an oncoming vehicle to kill my husband, whereas it was a lone accident. Others said I struggled to take over the steering from him because I was quarrelling with him. They spoke as if they were there with us. They did not stop there. They were going about looking for where my husband kept money. Because they had driven me out, they could not talk to me again. They went to the Government House to change records that I was not the wife, but fortunately they met someone who said it would not happen. Agagu told them that he had gone through all the documents in the Government House and the only name he saw there was Oluwakemi. Even when they were told that, they would not listen because they had made up their mind to torture and dehumanise me.
What role has the present Mimiko's government played in your plight?
That is sad and quite unfortunate. Governor Mimiko was a commissioner when my husband was deputy governor. When he died, Mimiko was the Secretary to the State Government. He was even the Chairman of my husband's burial committee. He promised to do many things for me but he has not fulfilled his promises. I used to call him on the phone until he stopped picking my calls.
What are you doing at the moment?
Since my husband's death, I have been in politics. Because of what I went through, I have made up my mind to fight the cause of women.
What is your relationship with your in-laws now?
I have put my nasty experience behind me. As a child of God, I had to put this behind me. I found it difficult to forgive and forget initially but now, I have nothing against them in my heart