{Benin City, Nigeria Local Time}
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Staying married at all costs?

By Yetunde Arebi (17/08/2017)

That marriage is supposed to be a life-long institution is no doubt. This is why you find such declarations as “for better, for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health,” as part of the marital vows taken by couples during wedding ceremonies, even though, most people know that these are very high stakes and may turn out herculean tasks for some partners to adhere to as time and tide may dictate. In fact, should the body and/or spirit of couples wane, parents and elders often step in, to ensure that the love boat does not sink?

Women often times are sent back to their marital homes to go and accept and endure their fate, if not for themselves, but for the sake of their children. Unfortunately too, in many societies, there is a long list of reasons why women must endure and look the other way, from the credibly intelligent to the mundane, silly excuses, and to incredibly illogical and downright wicked and evil reasons. That is why the actions of some women have continued to confound my reasons. Sometimes, I begin to question how just how low some women can stoop or how much they can endure in the name of staying in a marriage. How much sacrifice can they or those around them make, willingly or not, just so that they can remain in a marriage.

One of my early experiences of how wicked, self-centred and inhuman some women can be, happened shortly after I began writing the column, Youth and the Challenges of Adolescence, a few years ago. One of the cases that got my ire was the traumatic experience of a young girl who at the time, was in Senior Secondary School.

She had been forced to confess and pour out the pain in her heart as well as share a glimpse of the hell she was living in, with counselors who had visited their school to talk about child sexual abuse. Hers was not a case of ignorance as she knew that she was being taken advantage of, her problem was that she thought she had nowhere to turn to for help. Her story was that her uncle, who was actually her aunt’s husband, was sexually abusing her with the knowledge of her aunt.

When she became pregnant and they discovered, her aunt arranged an abortion for her. She said she believed that the aunt did not know when the abuse initially started as her uncle had threatened to force the aunt to return her to the village on the excuse that she was wayward and had stolen some money he kept in the house. So, she did not tell the aunt.

Her desire to remain in Lagos and get an education, rather than return to the hardship of the village and her poor parents, forced her to endure the advances of her aunt’s husband more so as he started buying her underwear, clothes and sweets. When she became pregnant, she did not even know until her aunt woke her up one night to ask who was responsible.

Her response that it was the man of the house earned her severe beating from her aunt who insisted that such a little mistake cannot destroy her marriage. A few days later, she was taken to the hospital where the pregnancy was terminated. This was after she had been informed that it was the only condition under which she would be allowed to continue to stay in the house and also complete her education.

A pregnancy anyway already meant the end of her education and there was no way she would be allowed to point accusing fingers at her aunt’s randy husband. Shortly after, the abuse continued even while her aunt slept (or pretended to sleep) in her golden matrimonial bed. With no one to share her problems until the coming of the counselors, the girl was forced to combine the work of maid and concubine in silence.

The more unfortunate aspect of the case the case was that at the end, the poor girl was still forced to return to the village without completing her secondary school education in Lagos. And though aunt and husband escaped the wrath of the law, they were not saved the humiliation of family members who were let into the sordid affair.

Even then, the argument to save the girl’s reputation in the village superseded all others and the matter was buried. Yet, this woman also had three children of her own, a girl inclusive, who were all in expensive boarding schools and she failed to render cheap but sincere and meaningful assistance to her relation.

What if the roles were reversed and it was her daughter in her niece’s position, how would she feel? Is a man capable of such hideous crime worth calling a husband and committing grievous sin against God and man, to remain in his arms when it suits his fancy? My worry regarding the role of the man was why he could not take initiatives to protect the poor girl from getting pregnant.

What would wearing a condom have cost him, if he must take advantage of his position as head of the house? However, I have heard people say that an erect penis has no eyes, taste, conscience or mercy, it simply goes for the kill. Surely, this cannot be true for all men, and especially not for men who have been privileged and blessed enough to be called husbands and fathers. Besides two other cases which unfortunately involved pastors (saved for another day),

I had always thought of the above story, as one of the most disgusting I had come across until I ran into an old friend at a birthday party a few weeks ago. It was an exciting meet, as our friendship dates way back to our secondary school days and we have become more like family as our two families were no strangers too.

We soon got down to play catch up and the topic shifted to one of her older cousins whose husband is now a top government official in their state. Their faces are a constant feature on newspapers and magazines as they have become celebrities of sort, gracing almost all high profile society functions with their revered presence.

Fame, wealth and power make all things possible in Nigeria, as you must know already. I was informed that she was still on her summer vacation with the children. “Along with Oyin,” I asked, but she answered in the negative. Oyin, is one of the little cousins in the family who after the death of her parents had gone to live with this older cousin.

When their fortunes turned around with the advent of the husband into politics, we were happy and optimistic that Oyin would be a direct beneficiary of this affluent lifestyle, if only to tag along on these trips to take care of the children as usual. Though I was disappointed, the answer to my next question got me worried and curious. “Is it that they don’t take her at all, so what does she do when they are away?”

“They send her to her grandmother in the village,” she answered, then dropped the bombshell. “You know Aunty’s husband is like a dog on heat, so she has stopped leaving any of the female    helps at home, once she travels, including Oyin”. Surprised, I asked, “are you kidding me, you mean, he may sleep with them?” “Yetunde, you are always surprised by everything. He is not a serious man oh!

Aunty will not even allow you to visit if she is not at home. Do you remember Moyo, the girl who died about three years ago in their house?” “Yes, I know Moyo, her sister’s daughter, I answered”. “Her death was linked to Alhaji (as we fondly call him). The story eventually leaked that he was responsible for her pregnancy”. “Are you serious”, I screamed! “But Moyo was not a small girl now.

“I recall that she already had a child with one guy before she moved in with Aunty to be straightened out,” I said. “True, but that didn’t mean she was any wiser. Besides, the stupid man must have enticed her with money and very few girls will not fall for money. It is Alhaji who ought to know better because Moyo was like a daughter to his wife,” she explained. “This is serious oh! And Aunty is still married to this man? So, what did the family say about the whole thing,” I asked.

“What will they say? You are aware of the families grass to grace story now. Aunty is the shining star of their family and it is only because of her husband. Everyone practically depends on her and her husband’s generosity. So, they had no choice but accept their fate, especially when Aunty insisted that it was a plot by the girl to destroy her home. She even almost dragged her sister in as the brain behind the plot. It almost tore the family apart but for their mother who insisted that it was not a big deal because their own father did the same thing to one of her sisters. They only resolved that Aunty must continue taking care of Moyo’s child. The little girl travels with them everywhere they go.

They dare not even take her as Moyo’s mother will make trouble for them,” she narrated further. “Abi, Alhaji is the girl’s father, I quipped? “No oh! We all know the girl’s father.” “You never can tell at this rate, can you?, I sniggered.

Sitting here, flipping through the society pages of one of the national newspapers, a photograph of Aunty’s smiling face popped out before my eyes. She, along with a couple of top government officers’ wives were at a state function as usual. Now, almost as white as an Oyinbo, she is the epitome of beauty, wealth and happiness.

I wonder if indeed, she is truly happy. If so, at what cost, at what sacrifice? Two souls, Moyo, her niece and the unborn child and the burden of guilt of a family conspiracy that cannot be wished away, no matter how much they try. Hmm! Do have a wonderful weekend!

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