THESE BLESSINGS ARE TOO MUCH FOR US
On November 18, 2004, the heavens rained down blessings on Mr. Cyril Onu, a native of Enugu Ezike community in Enugu State. On that day, his wife, Chinenye, was delivered of a set of quadruplets. The babies, three boys and a girl – Stephen, Gift, Charles and Miracle – were delivered in a rural maternity home at No 94 Alor Uno Road, Nsukka, through normal process by a local midwife.
The news was widely reported by various media, including the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Daily Sun of February 13, 2008. Nothing has been heard about the babies since then, a situation that prompted our reporter to take a long journey to Nsukka to ascertain the position of the family.
It took about 10 minutes drive from Odenigbo Roundabout to get to No 94, Alor Uno Road, where Ikechukwu Maternity home was formerly located. It was in one of the rooms in the bungalow that served as the maternity home that the babies were born.
The family has been living in the maternity premises since the birth of the children for lack of a better accommodation.
Locating the father of the quadruplets, Mr Cyril Onu, was much easier, as he now bears a popular appellation: 'Papa Ejima Ano' (Father of Four). Onu, a dark-complexioned man, sat exhaustively on a wooden chair under a mango tree in the compound, as he spoke with our reporter.
The 39-year-old man said the harvest of more babies brought both days of joy and nights of worries to his family. According to him, his wife, whom he married in 1994, had four other children, two boys and two girls, before they decided to take a break. But nature had its way when his wife became pregnant again after four years and gave birth to the four babies. He said his family size increased so rapidly that his business, which he started many years ago, crumbled and he had to run from pillar to post for help to cater for the children.
Onu bowed his head in grief, as he narrated how his family has been living in a two-room apartment provided by Mrs. J. N Chima, the matron of the maternity home where the children were born. But things became more difficult recently when the woman relocated to another area of the state, living the family like a bird without a nest.
'Presently, I have no job to take care of the family. People have been assisting us all this while but things are really challenging. My wife and I need to be employed in order to take care of these children. We cannot depend on charity because such assistance does not come always. We are really in a difficult situation,' he said.
Looking cheerless on her wooden stool, Mrs. Onu, who sat quietly at the corner during the encounter, said several promises made by some individuals and organizations for the upkeep of the children were never fulfilled.
It was gathered that the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace (CIDJAP) of Enugu Diocese, overseen by Monsignor Obiora Ike, visited the family shortly after the birth of the children and promised to provide a shelter to ease the family's troubles. But nothing has been heard from the group, save for a report in the CIDJAP Quarterly Magazine of January- March edition, 2007, claiming that the family has been provided a home by the organisation.
The report, which was made available to Daily Sun states: 'Quadruplets own home sponsored by CIDJAP. A set of quadruplets delivered by a family in Nsukka have attracted the support of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and peace (CIDJAP), Enugu, which granted funds for the building of a family home to shelter the children and the family.'
Onu said the promise has not been fulfilled till date. According to him, the institute asked him in 2005 to bring the cost of the building and he consulted an architect who gave an estimate of N2million, but he was surprised that nothing came forth since then.
According to him, more disappointments came to the family when entreaties to the federal government agencies for help in feeding, clothing and accommodation for the children failed to attract the desired response. Even his wife pleaded with the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs for help, but a disappointing letter came on October 6, 2006, signed by Fawekun I.O for the Honourable Minister.
The letter, (Ref: FMWA/CD/243/T) reads: 'I am further directed to congratulate you on this bundle of joy that God has given you. However due to financial constraints, the Ministry will not be able to assist you for now. Please, bear with us. While wishing you all the best, please accept the Honourable Minister's highest regards.'
A similar reply came from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in a letter dated September 5, 2006, where the ministry advised the family to take their case to government's social welfare ministry. To fulfil this demand, Onu sent a letter to the ministry but it has been silence till date.
Undaunted by these disappointments, Onu said several individuals had demonstrated unquantifiable love for the children. The Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime hosted his family on January 2, 2008, where he promised scholarship for the children. That promise has also not been fulfilled, he said.
In a series of letters to the governor, Onu reminded him of his promise and urged him to officially endorse the scholarship and also provide the large family with a low-cost accommodation.
Onu equally implored the governor to consider him and his wife for employment in the state civil service, noting that such a gesture would provide the family with a sustainable means of income. 'As a child-friendly governor, we request that you approve state scholarship for these your children. These children are the future of Enugu State and Nigeria. They are God's gift to the world. You can help in providing them the opportunity to excel,' he said.
Onu also appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, governors of the southeast, Lagos State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, charity organizations, religious institutions and other compassionate Nigerians to come to the assistance of the children, saying they are 'the face of hope for a greater Nigeria.'
A savings account, with number 3051200975, has been opened for the children with the First Bank in the name of Steven, Gift, Charles & Miracle. The family may be reached on 08038364002 or 07084494844, or through P.O Box 1105, Nsukka