Nigeria: I didn’t abandon Daniel – Teenage stowaway’s father
Two weeks after his son flew from Benin City to Lagos in the wheel compartment of an aircraft belonging to Arik Air, Daniel Ohikhena’s father denies claims that he abandoned his family, writes JAMES AZANIA
Little is known about Daniel Ohikhena, the 13-year-old stowaway who flew from Benin City to Lagos in the wheel compartment of a plane belonging to Arik Air, by his schoolmates at Ogbe Junior Secondary School in the Edo State capital.
Shortly before his celebrated escapade, Daniel’s mother, Mrs. Evelyn Ohikhena, had withdrawn him from a private secondary school for want of money to pay his tuition fees. She had enrolled him in OJSS, which was about 500 metres from her residence.
Investigation by our correspondent shows that the teenager had spent only a term in his new school before embarking on the dangerous adventure. A source said, on condition of anonymity, that Daniel joined the school, popularly known as ‘Ezoti Junior’ just before the end of the third term.
A youth named Festus, who also resides in the same neighbourhood as the stowaway boy, said the latter was not popular in the area.
“We hardly know him. It was recently that we heard he lives in the neighbourhood. I have not seen much of him. He was very quiet at school. I have not known him for long,” he said.
However, events took a dramatic turn on Tuesday when the boy’s father, Osaigbovo Ohikhena, 44, materialised as if from nowhere. Earlier, his wife (Daniel’s mother) had claimed that they did not live together.
Mr. Ohikhena, who is a driver by profession, said he had been separated from his family for a year because of a misunderstanding between him and Daniel’s mum. But he denied the latter’s claim that he abandoned his family.
“I always pay my children’s school fees and provide money for their feeding regularly, contrary to claims that I abandoned my family. After I lost my job, I decided to move to a cheaper apartment and told my wife that they should move in with me. But she refused and continued to stay in the three-bedroom flat. My new residence is located on Siluko Road. I decided to come here (Government House) to tell the world that I am the father of Daniel.
“Initially, when I heard the news, I thought my son was kidnapped. But my wife said I should calm down and she promised to get back to me when everything is finally okay. I never dreamt of going to America nor am I married to another woman. My wife refused to give the DSS my phone number when they asked for it,” he said.
Giving an insight to what could have been responsible for the teenager’s strange behaviour, an expert and sociologist at the University of Benin, Dr Kingsley Omoyibo, described him as suffering from maladjusted personality, due to inability to mix. Omoyibo did not only warn against labelling the teenager a criminal because of his action; he recommended that the youngster be made to undergo rehabilitation.
Noting that what happened to Daniel could have resulted from his experience in his home, the don urged the boy’s parents to live up to their responsibilities in order to prevent untoward behaviour from their children in the future.
He said, “Like we learnt, the boy is a recluse. He has a withdrawn personality because he does not mix. This is why he acts the way he does. This condition is capable of making him do damage not only to himself, but to his siblings and his immediate environment.
“The boy needs to be rehabilitated. Although we cannot say that his attempt to stowaway in the wheel compartment of an aircraft is criminal behaviour, it is a devious act that must have been propelled by lack of adequate parental care. I do not know the background, but what we can extrapolate from this is that the home is not stable.
“You will find out that there is a lacuna in the upbringing of the boy and consequently, it has affected the way he reasons and appreciates societal issues. The way he sees the complexity of society is different from a child that has complete socialization. The boy is suffering from maladjusted personality.
“Indeed, that child, I still maintain, is not a criminal. In the process of maladjustment, he is exposed to odious things. For a child to keep all night watching films, it tells a lot about his state of mind.”
Now that a group known as De RAUFS has offered the teenage stowaway scholarship up to university level, it is the duty of his parents to seek ways of reshaping his character for a better future.