…You know you want to
We would all agree that any mother, no matter how irresponsible, will be glad to be addressed as mother of the bride/groom, mother of the grandaunt, mother of the winner, mother of the celebrant on the day of their child’s success in any area of life. However, the exact opposite of this is the reality endured by several mothers supporting their children through criminal trials in the court of law. Their plight is the kind that makes many African mothers snap their fingers over their heads and say “God forbid”. They are the mothers of the Accused Persons.
As a lawyer, I have had cause to relate with a number of these women and through their stories, I have some insight into the troubles of a mother whose child is standing a trial in a criminal matter.
The law office I belong to was briefed with a matter involving three teenage boys recently and I attended the juvenile court to represent them on a number of occasions. Two of the boys (barely 14), had been corrupted by a much older boy who got them involved in the mischief that eventually landed them in juvenile detention. One of our clients’ mothers, ‘Mama Johnny’ had pleaded with us to do our best in securing and perfecting her son’s bail immediately they were arraigned. She kept on saying “My son is a good boy. It is those other boys that are corrupting him”.
The court granted bail to all the offenders and Mama Johnny gladly all paid the unofficial expenses of bail perfection. She thereafter took her son home with a stern warning to make sure he is available to continue his trial on the next adjourned date.
The mother of the other boy, a poor widow said she did not want her son’s bail to be perfected because she had observed a change in his demeanour since his detention at the Boys Remand Home. She said she would endure the trauma of leaving him there in the hope that by the time the trial is over, he will be discharged and she can take him home, a better person than he was before going into custody. I hoped for her sake that her hope would not be cut short.
Before the adjourned date, Mama Abdul came to our office in tears saying she had just visited her son at the remand home and she could no longer bear to see him there. She said she had been to mosques and churches to pray for her son so that he would turn from his wayward and rebellious ways. She planned to take him to live with her late husband’s brother for the time being. Thus, on the appointed date, she came with her son’s uncle and they both stood as sureties for the boy’s bail.
She had tears in her eyes as she thanked me as if I was the one who granted the bail. She prayed for me because I saved her a lot of expenses during the bail perfection by pleading with the officials. She obviously could not afford their initial demands. I declined as she tried to squeeze a hundred naira note into my palm saying “Lawyer, please take this as your transport fare, God bless you”. Our office had offered it’s free services to her and she needed the money more than I so I humbly refused. I was content with the appreciation in her eyes.
As the trial continued, I remember Mama Johnny dragging her son by the ears when she found him sitting with the other offenders while waiting for their case to be heard. She gave him a slap on the back of his head and told him to sit on her lap if there was nowhere else to sit. I remember nearly giggling when I saw her prop the teenage boy in her lap and clasp her arms around him like he was about to escape, speaking angrily in her local dialect. She was bent on separating him from their company.
Now to Ola, 24 who was charged along with 5 other young men for a series of grievous criminal offenses: Ola’s mother removed him from the big city to attend a Polytechnic in his home state so as to keep her only son from all the mischief he was constantly getting into at home. If only she had known that that move would only make things worse. He fell into bad company and got arrested for offenses that could earn him 14years in prison upon conviction. His mother was distraught, to say the least.
The first time I met Ola’s mother was the day the court was to deliver the ruling on his bail application. However, I learnt from my boss and my colleagues how much trouble she had gone through since her son was taken into custody at the state prison 2 months ago. She had been calling my boss repeatedly, wanting to know about the progress of her son’s case. Even her Pastor had been calling the Lawyer. He said she rarely left the church and was always approaching him for prayers concerning her son.
As the court delivered the ruling, she sat on the edge of her sit, looking pensive and anxious. One could see from her appearance, though simple, that she was a beautiful and classy woman but worry had eaten out of her. As soon as the court pronounced the grant of her son’s bail and rose for the day, this mother went out of the court room and rolled herself on the ground, obviously fulfilling a personal vow of appreciation to God. Onlookers would have thought that her ordeal was over but it was not. That was merely the conclusion of the bail application. The proper trial was yet to commence but she didn’t seem to care at that moment. She was just grateful to know that her son was leaving the prison that day.
When she learned that she and her brother in law could not stand as sureties because they did not meet the bail conditions, she began to weep profusely, pleading with the lawyer to do whatever he could for her. The court eventually exercised its discretion and allowed them. The mother went down on her knees and thanked the Magistrate repeatedly. She stayed on her knees as the court warned her to make sure her son attends his trial. Her eyes had grown weak and lean but her gratitude was unmistakeable.
I was in the courtroom once when a judgement was read and the accused person was discharged of the criminal charge brought against him after two years in prison custody. Eighty per cent (80%) of the people in courtroom that day were women and I did not know they had all come for him until the young man was discharged and all the women went out of the courtroom in a jubilant mood. Once outside, all twenty or more of them crowded around him, touching him, hugging him and singing praises to God. One of them was his mother. I knew because she was the only one weeping profusely. Others were her daughters, sisters, co-wives and friends.
These women and others sharing a similar plight had probably never been to a police station until their children got arrested and thereby sentenced them to a period of grief, tears, worry and anxiety. They attend most, if not all of their child’s court appearances and put the most pressure on the Counsel. They visit their children in prison or at the police station and pray without end for their release. Sometimes, the fathers of their children refuse to support them and they stand alone. Yet, they keep faith, believing that soon, all will be well. They are not the accused person but the society isn’t shy about stigmatizing them at least a little.
Feel free to judge the mother of the accused person. Feel free to say that she did not raise her child properly. The fact however remains that nobody bargains for or prays for such to befall them and this is definitely not a joy ride for any mother in those shoes.
I pray that God will help and comfort every mother going through this and that they learn something from the experience.
Train up a child in the way that he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6