The bulk of the blame lies with my parents. They turned me into a housewife. Something about men not liking ‘acada’ women. Not like I blame them though, my mum didn’t finish form 5 and my father barely made it through school. I had always been smart, my favorite teacher Mrs Nnamani saw it from the beginning and took me under her wing. You can imagine the utter disappointment when my parents came to withdraw me from school after j.s.s 3, their argument being that school was stopping me from performing my womanly duties that included cooking, cleaning and taking care of the house.
They married me off to Cornelius. He was industrious and rich owing to the many convenience stores he had in all the busy cities in Nigeria and most importantly he was a christian. I wasn’t consulted about the marriage, I was told about it with the same enthusiasm Nigerian parents have when telling their children there is no Santa Claus, like it was something I should have known would happen. I accepted the proposal. Not like I had a choice to be honest. My parents had too many mouths to feed and Cornelius was our Jesus Christ, carrying our burdens and turning our sorrow into joy and he also promised that I will go back to school and I had no qualms with being the eldest student in s.s.1.
Five years and two children after and the promise has not been fulfilled. Excuse after excuse kept pilling in and after a while he had no shame in recycling the excuse he used the previous year. I soon got tired of asking and settled into my role and wife, mother and home maker. Saturdays at my house were as busy as Balogun market and I had to be on form. Dignitaries would come to our house for the weekly parties, people from far and near trooped in to see the latest car or wristwatch that my husband bought and ohh-d and ahh-d when necessary cos they know that virtue in the form of money will leave my husband and enter their pockets. The Jollof rice had to be hot and steaming, pounded yam had to be pounded, none of that yam flour nonsense and the drinks and music had to keep flowing.
“Mummy, why are you not happy?” I will never forget the day Chijioke, my eldest, asked me this question. I was helping him with his assignment when he dropped his pencil, held my hand and asked me this question. I couldn’t answer so I just walked into my room and cried myself to sleep. I was the wife of one of the richest men in Lagos, had the numbers of the Lagos big boys and girls on speed dial, I changed cars like no man’s business and my husband managed to return home to me every night. Why then was I so unhappy? I took hours and hours of pep talk for me to muster up the courage to pack my bags and that of my children. I was tired. Tired of pretending everything was okay. I needed to be my own woman. To live and breathe again. This marriage was choking me. On the other hand, I wanted my husband to convince me to stay. To tell me that he loved me, to hold me like he meant it, to tell me that I am a wife and a mother but I am also a woman. That I can be all three and no one had to suffer.
He just watched me pack my things and after I was done he uncrossed his arms, accessed me from head to toe and said, “Before you leave, don’t forget to make me Egusi soup. I’m starving.”