I n a society where people like to put up appearances and keep up with the Jones, it
came as a surprise that anyone would literally take herself to public space and shred it to pieces. Sylvia Etimâ€™s life story is a compelling read which she has chronicled in a book, â€œPreserved for Greatnessâ€.
Like many children in the 60s whose parents traveled abroad to study, she was left in the care of grandparents; a strict disciplinarian grandmother and an adorable grandfather fondly called Tete.
Life was tough but she constantly battled to surmount the issues of life. In later years, she found herself marrying her childhood sweetheart who unfortunately was already taken.
The event that followed left her a single mother. Life dealt her a deadly blow but the power of God was near and what many thought would break her, becomes her source of strength as she turns advocate for many single mothers who became so through choices they made in life.
In gratitude to God, the banker turned author, recently launched her first book and album, Amanam. Her story:
What inspired you to write this book?
Well, after I came out of all my struggles, with all the near-death experiences, I decided it would be good to let the whole world know my story and learn from my mistakes and know that only God can save.
The book generally chronicles your life story, the thrust being your experiences as a single mother. How did you find yourself in that situation?
I got married when I was not born again. I am sure if I was, the choice I made I wouldnâ€™t have made it. Immediately after my youth service, I got a job with a bank and in less than a year, I got a letter from my childhood friend whom I met in 1978 in secondary school. He was in the USA then. We got talking and after some time, he came to Nigeria to see me. I felt this must have been God-ordained coming back to me 13 years after. We got married.
But after the marriage, I found out he wasnâ€™t really in a hurry to have me join him. His plans were very far. Although he had told me about his wife, he said he married her in order to have the American green. Do when this came up, I questioned him and he told me that the divorce had not really taken place but that he was in the process. That was when the marriage collapsed.
So there was deception?
Yes, there was deception.
You talked about the choices you made; if you were to counsel somebody today, what are some of those wrong choices you made?
If anybody decides to take a decision concerning marriage and the man comes to tell you that I am divorced or that I am about to divorce or that there are issues, Iâ€™d advise that you donâ€™t have any business with that person as long as his wife is still alive.
You know husband and wife do quarrel but what happens if they decide to come back together? Youâ€™d lose out. So as I stated in my book, you have no business in a relationship where a man has committed himself to a woman. Stick to what God says and you wonâ€™t find yourself in such a situation. If you trace how some women became single mums, youâ€™d find out that it is directly related to the choices they made especially with a partner that already has issues going.
Were you too young to decipher that there was deception?
This is a guy I met in my secondary school days and liked. I was young, naÃ¯ve, and carried away with the excitement of marrying my first boyfriend. And not being a christian, all the factors played against me.
What is it like raising a child alone?
Itâ€™s very difficult especially as I was working at the bank at that time. I worked and lived at two extreme locations. Thank God for my early experiences of waking up early. There were times I came home late and couldnâ€™t help with my sonâ€™s assignment.
There are times my son would fall ill on admission and I would still have to go to work. I did everything myself. I was the father, the mother and everything. Things got better when I gave my life to Christ. Thank God also for the kind of child He gave me.
What was one most difficult moment for you?
There were several. The worst being times when he fell ill. There were many times he had to be alone. He did not have a lesson teacher for many years because I couldnâ€™t leave him alone with a teacher or house-help. If his father was there things would have been different.
God is great and that is why he did not advocate single parenthood. There was a time we were attacked by armed robbers, in fact, on three occasions; and I had to be in hospital while he stayed with minders. It was very difficult. But we got by.
Would you say these experiences affected his development?
Any normal child that has grown up to know that he has a father without seeing him, will start asking questions and he did. Thank God he wasnâ€™t completely absent. He used to come to see him but didnâ€™t stay for long. His father was telling him one thing and I was telling another. He became angry and was like, whatâ€™s going on? But by the time he started growing up, he saw how much I had gone through because we were in it together.
A lot of people who find themselves in this situation find it difficult to forgive the hurt. How were you able to heal?
The first thing a lot of people try to do is to take revenge, or continue to be angry or prove a point to a man that is not even looking their way. Unless you allow the love of Christ to enter into you and allow the God of all recompense to work through you and heal you, even if you read all the books in this world, you wonâ€™t heal. It was difficult for me because it affected me in every area. I found out I was going round in circles, talking about the same thing.
Meanwhile, he wasnâ€™t thinking about me or even remembered whether I existed or died. I lived in denial instead of accepting the situation. When people asked, I would say â€œI am married, my husband is abroadâ€. But the reality was that the man was not there.
He had moved on and here I was holding on to something that didnâ€™t exist. I found out that if I didnâ€™t release him, I wasnâ€™t going to be released. I discovered I was doing myself so much harm. I became so old because of the trauma and unforgiveness. But when I decided to let go and let God, I started blossoming and I began laughing again.