WAR IN TOS BENSON'S FAMILY
The family of the late flambouyant socialite and First Republic Information Minister, Otunba T. O. S. Benson, is at war. And his children are at each other's throat.
At the centre of the problem is the declaration by some members of the Benson family that the first son, Prince Soji Benson, is insane. But the man at the centre of it all and his wife said there is nothing wrong with him.
'Please, ma, do I look like a mad man? My family has sworn to destroy me by labelling me a mad man. My only crime is that I married a beautiful young and caring woman who had sworn to stay by me till death. Is it a crime that I want to enjoy what my father gave me? I have prayed to God and read Psalm 109 to all of them. It shall surely come to pass, if they do not leave me alone,' declared Soji.
Soji, who owned Faze 2, a popular club on Ikorodu road, Lagos, in the 1980s, is alleging that his siblings conspired and forcefully evicted him from his home in Apapa, Lagos. He told Saturday Sun that his siblings, also conspired with a psychologist to put him in a mental home. He revealed that he was rescued by the Human Rights Commission and now living in his family home in Ikorodu when he could not be allowed into his Apapa home. He said his problem could be traced to the way his father treated him when they were young.
'My father loved me so much because of the progress I made. He called me the best. I was a millionaire in dollars at 28 due to the success of Faze 2 Club. In those days, I did much for my siblings, and because of that my father always used me as reference to them, as the best of all his children. He used to tell them: 'Soji is the best, you people are useless.' I believe that caused envy among my siblings,' Soji said.
Asked how he felt when his family declared him as insane, Soji told Saturday Sun that he found everything funny. 'It reminds me of one Nigerian movie, where a man decides to lock up his elder brother in a mental home just to squander his inheritance. I thank God for my wife who remains my guardian angel. She stood by me and it was her love and commitment in our marriage that made it impossible for them to lock me up in a mental home in Ghana permanently,' he said.
Soji alleged that members of his family refused to welcome his wife because they saw her as a hurdle in their scheme. He, however, said his wife is the most beautiful woman on earth.
He said: 'I met my wife in 1999. She came to my house, in company with one of my visitors. She was the most beautiful girl then. After some months, I met her again and we started a relationship. Till date, she remains the most beautiful woman on earth. About six years ago, she got pregnant and I asked her to move in and then sometime in 2008, we got married in court.'
Recounting his experience in the mental home, Soji told Saturday Sun that he was forced to take drugs that made him weak. 'I was kept in a room with mad people and I had no choice because I was helpless. I managed to write a letter to the Human Rights Commission to come to my rescue. My petition said that on March 21, 2009, my younger sister came to my compound at 1A Lander Close Apapa, Lagos with police officers. They arrested my wife and took her to state CID, Panti, for interrogation. They bundled me to Yaba Psychiatric Hospital, where, without any interview, I was given a lethal injection on an empty stomach by a female doctor. They then took my phone and other valuables and locked me up in M4, giving me drugs. Luckily, respite came my way.'
When asked what actually happened to the famous night club, Faze 2, Soji lamented that it was his desire to further his education that gave room for his managers to mismanage his club.
'They claim that my business collapsed because I was into cocaine. The truth is that I have a sensitive nose; so I do not know how I could have managed to get drugs into my system. Sometime in 1984, I went back to UNILAG for evening Law programme and the people that I asked to take care of the club mismanaged it. After one year, I had to quit UNILAG to come back and manage the club. From 1985, things started going down. When things kept on going down, I had no choice but to close it down. I decided to go into music labelling, but till date things have never remained the same,' Soji said.
Soji, however, said that despite his ordeal, he holds nothing against his brothers and sisters.
He said: 'I bear no grudge against them. All I want is for them to allow me to manage what I owe. In my father's will, the house at Apapa is my inheritance and no one has any right to drive me out from there. When I regained my freedom, I discovered that they broke into my home, destroyed my wife's shop and paid OPC men to guard my property. I have been talking to my younger sister, but she dared me to do my worst.
'She always boasts that they own Lagos and that nobody cares how we feel about what she is doing. She is threatening to dump me again in a mental rehabilitation facility for the rest of my life. I will forever remain grateful to the human rights lawyer who came to my rescue when they had perfected plans to dump me in a mental home in Ghana.'
Speaking also, Soji's wife said her husband does not have mental problem. Gloria said she was loved by the entire family when the late Otunba Benson was alive. According to her, she enjoyed the benefits of being married to such an influential family at that time.
She said that the peace and happiness she once had were halted a year later, when her father-in-law died. She claimed that members of the family, especially one of the daughters, told her to leave their brother's house.
Gloria said: 'After his burial, my husband's brother, who lives at the building besides us, came to our house and asked me to leave, since papa was dead. He said that I did not fit into their class. Wondering what this was all about, I told my husband, who asked me to disregard such threat.
'I got the shock of my life when, on my daughter's birthday, they bundled me to state CID without an arrest warrant. They alleged that I refused to allow them take their brother, who was mentally unfit to hospital. Instead of investigating the matter, the policewoman called me a gold digger. When I knew that I could be dealt with if I refused to allow them take my husband to mental home, I agreed and they dragged him to Yaba Psychiatric Hospital.'
Gloria said she was not allowed access to her husband. She said: 'They detained him there for weeks till the day of the Eyo festival, which was in memory of my father-in-law, T.O.S Benson. Since he is the first son, they had no choice but to bring him to the festival. If he was mad, how did they manage to take him to that festival and he still retained his sanity? It was after the festival that my husband called me to come and rescue him. I hired a taxi and took him home.
'When it dawned on them that they were not succeeding, they convinced my stepson to come back from America and insist that his father was mentally unstable and gave them the power to move him back to the mental home. When plans failed, they paid members of the OPC to demolish our shops and block the entrance to our house while we where in the church.'
Hoping to get justice, Gloria claimed to have written a petition to the Commissioner of Police to come to their rescue, but did not get respite.
Gloria said: 'The commissioner accused my lawyer of conniving with me to rip my husband off his money. The police threatened to charge us for bigamy, with the excuse that my husband was married before I met him. He explained to them that he wasn't legally married to the mother of his children. He told them that he was only married in 1986 and got divorced in 1989. Even with such accurate information, they still said that he was mentally disturbed. They forcefully moved him back to the mental home, in Yaba. I tried my best to reach him but failed, as all the nurses were warned not to allow me in.
'But I managed to sneak into the room he was detained and he gave me a letter to deliver to the human rights commission, which I did. Days later, he was discharged based on the intervention of the human rights commission. They refused us access to our house in Apapa, with the excuse that they were renovating it for us. They drove us to Ikorodu and abandoned us here till date. Today, his son has realised that he had been used and has since apologised to his father.
'All my source of livelihood has been destroyed. We have hired several lawyers, who backed out with the excuse that they cannot face the Benson family. Thank God for the human rights lawyer who has taken over the case? I do not know what they intend to do next; that is why we are crying out for help.'
When contacted on phone, one of the Bensons, who introduced himself as John Benson, refuted the claim, insisting that whatever decision the family took was for the good of their elder brother, Soji. In his words: 'He had a nervous breakdown some years ago and is not completely okay. What was done was for his own good.'
On why they denied Soji access to his Apapa house, John explained that the family decided to relocate him when the Lagos authority wanted to demolish the house.
'There was an illegal structure that was demolished by the authority. A shop was built against the wall. Authorities came and pulled it down; we negotiated with them a few times and they obliged, but this time they pulled the wall down,' he said.
John denied that the family ever attempted to drive Gloria out of the house. 'If we are trying to throw her out, she would not be with her husband today. She is leaving with her husband in our family compound,' John said.