It was 8:30 in the morning and we were already at the courthouse. Noah and I were standing in the parking lot waiting for his aunt to arrive, the court session was to begin by 9 am. Although, from the looks of the number of people present I had a feeling the session would not begin for another hour.
Nigerians and late coming are like 5 and 6.
A silver Toyota Camry pulled up beside where Noah and I stood by his dad's car. We needed a car to commute from place to place and his father had a fleet of cars packed up in their Lagos residence, so he took one.
Aunt Chisom got out of the car and walked over to us. She looked sharp in her navy blue pantsuit and blazers. 'Good morning' greetings were exchanged between us along with side hugs.
"How are you holding up?" she said to me
I shakily nodded my head unsure of what to say.
She rubbed my arm in a comforting manner. "Don't worry, nothing too strenuous is going to happen today. I'll just be giving an opening statement."
I released a shaky breath and nodded. "Okay"
The last few days, aunt Chisom kept us updated on everything that was been done behind the scenes. She had a letter sent to the court refuting the basis of the custody suit but gave us a chance to read through before she sent it. The next step was what she called the discovery process, where both parties discovered relevant information about the case. The relevant information included financial statements, list of witnesses, evidential documents and so on.
We didn't have a mediation done because there was no way I was going give Kunle any access whatsoever to Zozo. Mediation was a process where a mediator (a neutral person) helps both parties try to come to an agreement that would benefit the two parties.
She briefly glanced at her wristwatch. "Let's head in"
For some reason, I felt so anxious and nervous just heading towards the entrance of the huge courthouse building. Noah took my hand in his and entwined them together as we walked into the courtroom.
There were a couple of people scattered around the courtroom, some in groups talking in hushed tones, some already seated and others moving about. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone as my level of nervousness was skyrocketing.
"What in God's name is she doing here?" Aunt Chisom said more to herself than us.
I followed her line of sight to a woman who was standing at the other side of the courtroom, on the plaintiff's side of the room. From the looks of the woman and the number of men dressed in suits around her, she must be an important person.
"Who is she?" I muttered out as we slowly walked up to our side of the courtroom.
"Give me a second" Aunt Chisom said before walking ahead of us to talk to some people who were huddled in a corner.
"What's going on?" I asked once she returned.
"That's Mrs Funmilayo Ayorinde. She's a well-known politician, even ran for the last governorship election in Oyo state" she started.
"Okay. What's she doing here?" Noah spoke up.
"Turns out she's Kunle's mother. Did you know about her?" She turned to me.
My eyes widened with shock. "No... I never met any of his family members. He said that there was bad blood between him and the members of his family for some reason he never mentioned. I never bothered asking him more about it"
"Seems like the bad blood is gone" aunt Chisom muttered
My eyes travelled back to the woman who was now standing beside Kunle and unfortunately, she was already looking in my direction. As our eyes met, I could feel a nervous pit form in my stomach and my heart rate increase. I could see where Kunle got those cold eyes from, his mother's face was void of emotions as she bored into my soul. I quickly averted my eyes from her and returned them back to aunty Chisom.
No one needed to tell me that the case was going to be a tug of war. Everyone knew that politicians were deadly people, there was nothing they couldn't contort and bend to their will.
The court was finally in session and we were all seated. I along with aunt Chisom were seated at the table for the defendants while Kunle and the lawyer representing him were seated at the plaintiff's table just a few meters away from us. Noah was seated behind us in the gallery that was separated by a rail-like barrier with a bunch of other people and so was Kunle's mother, only that she was on their side of the gallery.
We all stood to our feet as the Judge presiding the case walked into the hall, in the signature black robe. The judge looked to be in his mid-fifties and had a pair of reading glasses hanging from his neck. Once the judge was properly seated at the bench, we all collectively took to our seats.
"We may begin" the judge looked to Kunle's attorney. "Your opening statement"
The man in question stood up from his seat and briefly adjusted his suit before sharply walking to the small area before the Judge's bench.
"My lord, before I give my opening statement I would like to add incompetence to the basis of the custody suit," the man said
"Objection, my lord. This wasn't stated previously and he is hereby taking us unawares" aunt Chioma shot up from her seat.
"Overruled. The case is just beginning, I can't deny the plaintiff their request to add to their basis for the suit, just because you aren't prepared" the judge said
We had barely started and I was already feeling like my heart was about to leap out of my chest. Aunt Chioma sat back in her seat and judging by the hard look on her face, this was going to be a mess. The judge gave kunle's attorney a slight nod as if to say 'carry on'.
"This case is about a man wanting to have a relationship with his child. My client, Mr Kunle Ayorinde, a kind-hearted man who is loved by his peers, easy-going and soft-hearted met his then-girlfriend Miss Ijeoma Eze at a University party and they hit off. They began dating and months later Miss Ijeoma fell pregnant. My client being young and naïve didn't step up to his responsibilities and left his girlfriend hanging but nevertheless, he eventually realized his wrongdoings and returned to make amends." The man started out
"They moved into an apartment he owned and with a well-paying job, my client was able to sustain the needs of his small family and things seemed to be going smoothly. What my client didn't know was that his girlfriend would rob him off of the opportunity to be a father to his own daughter."
"On the 11th of December, 2017, the company my client worked for went through some financial issues and some employees had to be laid off. Unfortunately, my client had been among the employees who were laid off and being the provider of their family's needs, their financial state began to suffer. Miss Ijeoma couldn't stand not being able to enjoy the life she was already accustomed to and so she disappeared with the child leaving my client distraught. Can you imagine coming home to find your girlfriend and child gone with no traces as to where they would be?"
Jesus. They were making me out to look like some kind of heartless money-hungry person and Kunle, a saint.
"Miss Ijeoma also has a long record of neglect towards her child both during pregnancy and after, from not bothering with antenatal to leaving her child with just anybody. She lived with a friend of hers, Miss Angela during her pregnancy and she can testify that Miss Ijeoma hardly ever went for the scheduled appointments given to her by her doctors. The next-door neighbours in her previous residence, a middle-aged couple with already grown children say that she leaves her daughter with them at every chance she gets, even to go on dates with her current boyfriend."
"My lord, after you hear and see the pieces of evidence that would be laid out for you. We are confident that you would see that my client deserves the right to be in the life of his own daughter after all he has been through." The man concluded with a slight head bow and walked back to his seat.
The Judge looked to aunt Chisom. "Mrs Gibbins, your opening statement"
She stood to her feet and walked over to the open space but not before giving me a look that said 'don't worry, I've got this'.
"I would like to refute every allegation against my client. My client, Miss Ijeoma was a young girl who was naïve and carefree fell for an older guy that used her naivety to rope her into a relationship that led to a pregnancy, he didn't even own up to. My client had to put her life on a hold and drop out of school due to her pregnancy. Her parents disowned her and threw her out of their home because according to them, she had brought shame to their name and the one person she trusted would be there for her, sent her away."
"My client was depressed and broken. Her friend, Angela offered to house her throughout her entire pregnancy, since she had no money to find a place to stay. My client didn't have the monetary means to meet up with her ante-natal schedules and the other necessary things that would sustain her throughout her pregnancy, so she had hope that her child would be fine till she was due for delivery."
"Mr Kunle came back into my client's life a few months after she had delivered her daughter and she forgave him regardless of the fact that he had been absent in the most crucial times. Yes, my client did take her child and run away from Mr Kunle but the loss of his job was never the reason."
"Why would a woman leave a man along with their child for monetary issues only to restart in a different state with little to nothing? I mean it would have been better to stay with him and with collective effort, they would be able to survive but she didn't, which shows that there were underlying reasons for her departure."
"After the loss of his job, Mr Kunle became an abominable drunk and a threat to my client as he physically, mentally and sexually abused her on numerous occasions. My client was willing to stay through all the abuses just for her child to experience a normal family but when the abuse extended to the child in question she had no option but to leave. I don't suppose you would let your abuser know that you would be leaving them, especially knowing how irrational they could be."
"She moved all the way to Anambra state where she found solace with a friend of hers until she was financially capable to stand on her own two feet. The reason why she left her child with the next-door neighbours was that she had to work all day just to provide for both her and her daughter's needs. Anyone who knows her properly can testify to how much capable and good a mother she is to her child, despite all the harsh curve balls that were thrown in her way."
"At the conclusion of this case, you would see no reason why my client, Miss Ijeoma shouldn't remain with the custody of her child." Aunt Chioma said boldly.
I could feel the zeal and passion oozing off of her as she confidently walked back to our table and took her seat. I felt a little bit relieved after she gave her opening speech, although I couldn't tell of the speech moved the judge because his face remained impassive.
I tried to make the court session as authentic as possible so if you notice any errors, wrong choice of words or misinformation, please kindly point it out.
Anyways, let me get your thoughts.
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