Voiceless | Oyedeji Titilayo | Nigeria

Things have been tough for Tomiwa lately. She sits on the chair, tapping her feet, listening to her mom and her older brother berate her.

“You have no skill!’

‘It’s your fault that you don’t know what to do with your life. You’re a graduate and you still behave like a kid”

Geez! She was tired of the constant berating. Tomiwa Ajayi is her name. A twenty-two-year-old fresh graduate who was waiting to be registered for the next batch of NYSC. She graduated with a second-class upper, she couldn’t be happier.

When she got home after finishing her final year project and clearance, she thought everything was going to be ok. Hell no! Her parents, mostly her mother pressured her constantly and compared her with her older brother. She hated it. She always had to be on her best behaviour to avoid complaints. She was tired. She spaced out as her mother and her brother continued to complain about her not knowing what to do with her life. She rolls her eyes nonchalantly.

She remembers a tweet she saw online while scrolling through the internet which says, “It’s a privilege to be able to live in one’s parent’s house comfortably.” She couldn’t agree more. She hasn’t used up to a month in her parent’s house and she was tired and frustrated with the constant nags and complaints.

As a kid, her parents were strict with her and her older brother. They never really had friends while growing up due to the fact that her parents never allowed her to interact with her age mates.

Her mom always says ‘Friends will leave you, human beings are selfish, focus on your books and make a good living with it when you grow older.” She hated when her mom say those words. While in the university she did have a few friends, but they were more acquaintances than friends. She didn’t even have a boyfriend. It was safe to say she left school a virgin.

Tomiwa had an inferiority complex. As a grownup, she had difficulties Interacting with people. She was always reserved and focused on her studies. She felt the need to please her family with her good grades and her good behaviour. Her dad never really had problems with her as she was a daddy’s girl. That was the only good thing she liked about her family. She couldn’t wait to see her name come out on the list of people going for the next batch of NYSC.

The relationship with her brother was a love-hate relationship. There are times she loved her brother to death with some of the little acts he did. Some other times she hated him so much and this was one of those times. Her brother Tomi Lola Ajayi, twenty-five years old, was a very proud and confident person who never hid how he felt about a person. He was known to say his mind freely either positively or negatively. Growing up with him mostly was not fun due to him being his parent’s favourite, she envied him.

Tomi Lola never graduated with a second-class upper, he graduated with a second-class lower and still, he was still their parent’s golden child. Before gaining admission into the university, Tomiwa’s parents spent a lot on Tomilola’s admission into the university. He wrote JAMB twice, did a diploma course and all just to gain admission into the university which cost an arm and leg for her parents but still he was the golden child. It hurt her a lot because she never stressed her parents like that, she only wrote JAMB once and gained admission into the university. She hated that she was invincible to her parents. Tomilola is smart but Tomiwa was smarter.

Who cares anyway? When her parents didn’t even see her as a smart person, it was pointless. She envied her brother because he could do whatever he wanted and their parents would approve. If he had any issues with their parents, her brother would voice out. She on the other hand, if she ever did, it was trouble. Her mother would always say;

‘You’re a girl Tomiwa! Is this how you will talk to your husband? ‘Didn’t I teach you enough manners? Looks like you’re growing wings.”

Jeez! Her parents mostly her mom are sexist. Could this get any worse? For so long she has always been in her brother’s shadow, trying so hard to please her parents while her brother doesn’t even try so hard.

She sits still listening to her brother and her mom talk nonchalantly about her. These people don’t change. She thought. All my life, I’ve been pleasing you, doing everything to make you happy. Still, you find fault in me? She thought. It’s not that she didn’t want to learn a skill, she was lost in trying too hard to please her family most especially her mother and she never paid attention to herself. Tomiwa never got to know what she really likes, it was always her mother first.


“Excuse me, young lady,” her mom says

‘You heard me mom, I said enough!” Finally, she was voicing out. “Aren’t you tired of this constant talk? All my life, I’ve done nothing but please you.”

‘What do you mean?” Her mom asked.

‘Mom, have you ever asked what I wanted or have you ever sat me down and asked about my life in general? Even worse Mom, do you know if I have a boyfriend?”

“You don’t need that, boys are a distraction.”

‘I’m twenty two mom! I just finished university. Every time I do something to please you, you see a fault in me. Why? When I finished secondary school, you told me to go to the university. I did, I obey whatever you tell me to do. Why aren’t you satisfied?”

“It’s because I want the best for you. Her mom replied.

She laughed. “Indeed Mom. You all treat me like a kid, tell me why won’t I behave like one? Every time I try to make a suggestion you all shun me and do whatever you like with me. You guys are so good at blaming me for something that you’re to be blamed for, especially you, Mom”

‘Shut up Tomiwa!” Tomi Lola said looking furious.

“Oh! How could I forget the golden boy?” Tomiwa giggles bitterly. “Every time Mom is always comparing me to you.”

‘That’s because I’m better than you.” He scoffs

“Oh really?” She chuckles. “All you do is find faults in people meanwhile you have a lot of faults in you. How’s your shoe business going?”

Tomi Lola doesn’t reply.

“No answer?” She chuckles. “You guys are unbelievable!”

“At least I have a business.” He retorts back.

‘“I know! It’s going nowhere and you know it. the worst part is that I try to help you but as usual, you think that I can’t do anything to help you. Honestly, you and Mom suck.” She leaves for her room.

Damn, that felt good. She says lying on her bed. Feels good to finally voice out. Perhaps they will change for the better but one can only hope for the best. The next morning came, and everyone was walking on eggshells. Tomiwa didn’t care. She did her chores which were washing the dishes, sweeping the floor and making breakfast for everyone. She did her chores with excitement. There were no annoying remarks about the floor being dusty or the food being salty or the dishes not being clean enough. No complaints today. It must be her lucky day. After the did her chores, she went back to her room to scroll through the internet with a scowl on her face. She didn’t have any friends to talk to on WhatsApp, so tik tok and Instagram were her friends.

Knock! Knock!

“Who’s there?”

Her mom came in. Seeing that it was her Mum, she rolled her eyes and thought, “What is this woman up to this time?” Her mom sat at the edge of the bed and stared at her not knowing what to say. What Tomiwa said yesterday shooked her. It wasn’t her fault, she had been brought up the same way. Her mother who was Tomiwa’s grandmother always taught her to be quiet and made her brothers get away with anything when she was younger. While Her brothers played, she was always with her mother in the kitchen or she’d be the only one to clean the whole house. She hated it. She wanted to play too and she hated that her mom wouldn’t let her. As she grew up she swore that she wouldn’t be like her mom if she ever had a female child but slowly became her mother. What her daughter said yesterday made her realize that she’s making the same mistakes her mother made with her. She sighed deeply. “Okomi — my dear”, she rubbed her daughter’s foot lightly. “I’m sorry,” She whispered.

Tomiwa’s eyes softened. Her mother has never apologized to her before.

“Abike mi” her mom cooed.” I’m sorry for not seeing you for who you are.” I’m sorry for pressuring you when I know you’re trying your best. I know I’ve not been the best mom but you have to understand that I’m doing my best as a mother. Look this is the way I was taught to teach your female child. I know it’s not the best but I’m trying. Also, don’t blame us for liking your brother more than you, he’s my firstborn. I just want him to stand out so he can create a better path for you. I know your brother can be overbearing but you have to know that I can’t scold him in front of you because he’s your older brother.”

‘Oh really?” Tomiwa thought. “You don’t even scold him at all.” She murmured.

“What did you say?”

“It’s nothing Mum” she replies.

‘Talk to me, my child ‘

‘ You really want me to talk mummy?”


Tomiwa scoffs. “Mummy, do you know how long I’ve wanted us to sit and talk like this? Every time we try to sit and talk like this, Tomi butts in and takes over the whole conversation. If I did that, you would lash out at me. Don’t you see the gap you put between you and me Mom? You always favour Tomi and all for what? Tomi isn’t creating any stupid path for me, he’s creating his own with your help Mum. Every time Tomi comes up with something, you support him but me, no way! All my life I’ve been in Tomi’s shadow and I hate it.” She tears up. “Mummy we are not even close at all. We don’t have a special mom-and-daughter thing that we do. You and Daddy are all fixed on Tomi. I don’t blame Dad cause there’s only little he can do with me but I blame you. All of you make me feel little and stupid.”’ She wipes her tears.

“You’re not stupid.” Her mom butts in. “Abike Mi, I’m sorry for putting you in your brother’s shadow. As a mother, I have failed. I made a big mistake in not paying much attention to your needs. I’m sorry. Can we start over? She curls a smile.

Finally, she and her mom settled after all these years. All it took was her voice out. Talking about inspiring change through small acts.

“Yes, Mom we can start over”. She smiled as she hugs her Mom.

“I promise not to let you down. “Her Mom says.

“Me too Maami”

A few minutes later her mom left her room. Tomiwa is all by herself scrolling through the internet with a permanent smile on her face.

Tomi barges into Tomiwa’s room unannounced. “Can’t you knock?” Tomiwa yells.

He doesn’t reply.

She rolls her eyes. “What do you want?”

He still doesn’t reply.

“So much for peace and quiet,” she murmurs and rolls her eyes. “If you don’t have anything to say, please close the door on your way out.”

He still doesn’t say anything.

Tired of him standing she says, “I’m guessing you came to my room to say something to me because you cannot barge into my room unannounced to just stand in the middle of the room doing nothing.”

“I wanted to apologize for yesterday. I overheard You and Mum talking about me living in my shadow all your life.”

“You heard so what are you going to do about it?”

“I’m sorry.”

“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Tomi.” Sorry doesn’t cut the years of torment you put me through. You make fun of me every chance you get and you also rub it on my face that you’re mom and dad’s favorite. I hate it! It made me feel unwanted Tomi. What hurts me the most is you not realizing what you do or say affects me negatively.”

“Hmph” Tomi sighs. “I’m sorry for not realizing it sooner. Listen, I know sometimes I can be a lot, but from my heart, I want the best for you. I know the way I spoke yesterday was a little too much but I don’t like the fact that you’re old enough to fend for yourself but you don’t have any side hustle going on.”

“Whose faults is it?” Tomiwa retorts.

Rolling his eyes he says. “It’s not anybody’s fault Tomiwa. Do you think mummy is pressuring only you? She constantly pesters me too.”

“What exactly does she pester you about?”

“The normal things Tomiwa.”

“Like what?”

“You really want me to talk?”

“Mom wants me to get a 9–5 job and I don’t want to.”


“Because I don’t want anyone bossing me around! I hate 9–5 jobs!” Remember when after I finished NYSC, Dad got me this job at Ikeja as a junior accountant.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“It was hell. I hated every part of the job. Before quitting the job, I told Mum I wanted to quit but she discouraged me. It took guts to quit the job and I did. That’s why I’m vexed that you’re not doing anything and you’re twenty-two. I’m afraid for you.”

‘So that’s why you’re talking to me with disrespect?”

“You’re not getting me Tomiwa.”

“I get you, Tomi! But you’re the one not getting me! You want the best for me fine! That’s good, great in fact. But that doesn’t mean you would disrespect me all in the name of your wanting the best for me.”

“Fine! He sighs. I promise not to disrespect you again”

Tomiwa chuckles. I know you, Tomi.”

‘Ok fine. I will try not to disrespect you. So are we good now?”

Scrunching her nose up, buy me this new pouch I’ve been seeing on tik tok for my phone then we are good.”

“Get out joor.”

They both laugh. “What colour do you want?” he asks.

“Dark green.”

“Cool,” He says as he leaves.



“I like that we had this talk.”

“Me too. He leaves.”

Tomiwa sits up on her bed. She smiles as she remembers her talk with both her mother and her brother. The talk with her mother was a big change but the one with her brother was still shaky. Anyways it was progress. Finally, her family finally sees her and all it took was her voice out. If she can voice out to her family, she definitely can voice out to the people from the outside world if they try to push her over. The talk with her family really inspires change. Now she’s ready for the big world.

Ojedeji Titilayo is an upcoming talented writer. She loves to write about different Nigerian characters, be it fictional or nonfictional.

Social media: Instagram shy-Matvy

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