Abbey, a pleasant young lady with a great smile, is someone I met at a women’s meeting where she shared her story. It was like watching a Nigerian home video, and I just could not get over the fact that it was indeed real. I got an appointment with her, and she didn’t mind sharing her story with the BI Empowerment team to help inspire the youths.
BI Team: “Thank you Ms. Abbey for the opportunity, Can we get to know you”?
Abbey: “I am Abiodun Bello, the fifth child from my father, and the second child from my mother. You can say I am a half caste; a Nigerian half caste (laughing), partly Delta, partly Yoruba.
BI Team: “Can you tell us a little bit about growing up?”
Abbey: “I went to school like every other child, even though it was not the way I wanted to be. You see, I was treated like an outcast even in my father’s house by my step mum”.
BI Team: “Would you say your rough childhood pushed you into drugs?”
Abbey: “I was deprived of a lot of things including food, I actually grew up in a home where we had everything money could buy, but I was treated like a stranger and was never free in that house. I remember there was a day, I was so hungry and I had to make some food for myself. As soon as my step mum found out, she took a razor blade and made many cuts on my hand. She then poured dried pepper on the cuts and tied them up with a bandage. It was a painful and horrible experience, and I promised myself that I will surely show the scars to my grand children. I also remember whenever I go out, even to school and I am as little as 5 minutes late, my step mum would accuse me of going to have sex. She would dip an egg into my vagina to confirm if I just had sex. It was a painful experience growing up and all these hardened me as a teenager. Consequently, I got into all sorts of terrible stuff like gambling, smoking and drinking”.
BI Team: “How were you introduced to drugs and how did you rise to be the queen of drugs”?
Abbey: “I loved to play lawn tennis, even though my step mum did not want me to. I forced my way. That was where I met a group of friends; mainly guys and that was how it all started. At that time I wasn’t doing drugs yet, I was just forging signatures and falsifying documents. All this while, no one in my family had a clue.
One day, I met a married man who saw me at a place where I was smoking and told me he had been seeing me around. He advised me to stop hanging out with those guys, that it was not a good job, and that I could go to jail for it. He then told me he was going to introduce me to something else that he could see that I had the guts for. That’s how I got introduced into drugs. I went on to become a professional peddler and started making my own deals”.
BI Team: “How come you were so confident? Were you ever afraid of getting caught”?
Abbey: “I was never afraid of getting caught. How I wish I could really describe to you how I grew up in my stepmother’s hands? That alone gave me the confidence to take risks. I was just so confident that I could never be caught; I usually told people ‘I am like air, I cannot be caught’”.
BI Team : “You had a team of women, how were you able to run a smooth operation for years”?
Abbey: “Like I said, I dealt with guys, it was later I started working with women, who would have been fortified by a herbalist. I paid for them to equip themselves”.
BI Team: “Did you ever feel guilty”?
Abbey: “For years I never felt guilty. Well… maybe because of the people that surrounded me, for them, it was normal and okay”.
BI Team: “So how did the turnaround happen”?
Abbey: “I had made so much money and had progressed to start running the business from abroad. There, I met a young man who wanted to marry me. He pleaded with me to stop, so I just decided to do the final one, the biggest one. I put together all the cash I had made in years, I got 5 groups of girls, to make the very last big money to enable me relocate out of the country and start a new life with him. Unfortunately, I was duped; it was such a painful experience, all my years of hard work, down the drain. I then decided to come back to Nigeria to search for the person that duped me.
A couple of days after I came back into the country, my handbag; which had my international passport and all my international details was snatched by a robber on the street. That incident worsened my situation because I became stuck in Nigeria. The embassy said I needed to start a brand new process to get a new visa.
I was so discouraged I started helping local drug dealers package their drugs to earn a living. It fetched me about 150,000 naira to 200,000 naira per day until one day, as I was about to go for my packing job, something strange happened to me. A little boy came begging for money and as I gave him, he said to me “please don’t go to the place you are planning to go”. Strange……. I ignored him, took a call, and before I looked up he was gone. I searched and searched but he was no where to be found, I then decided not to go. An hour later I received a call that policemen busted them and arrested all of them. I was shocked; I would have been a part of them. That was the beginning of my turnaround. People around me began to talk to me about quitting. I met some with similar stories and today they are better people. They showed me so much love and now I am clean, really loving my life now. I met my real mother a couple of months ago, and I have forgiven her, my step mum and my dad also.
I’m really grateful to God, my life would have been destroyed and now, I tell my story to anyone who cares to listen, I reach out to youths and to teenagers making them learn from my story”.
BI Team: “What advice do you have for the youths”?
Abbey: “To the youths I would say, show me your friend and I will tell you who you are. I also want to advise parents, “please learn to listen to your children and be their friends”
BI Team: “Thank you Abbey for sharing with us”.