By Yetunde Arebi
Can you just close your eyes for a minute and imagine how you will feel if your husband were to disappear from the face of the earth only to return after ten years! That is exactly what happened to the woman in the story below. I had met this grand old lady through a friend who happened to be her niece.
Though she was all smiles and playful gestures as she narrated her story, the underlining pain and humiliation was subtly visible in her voice. Ayinke (70), retired Civil Servant and mother of three, revealed with great pains that her marriage was a deceit for all the years it lasted. Her story:
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I met and married my husband, Adio, in England in 1962. He was studying for his law degree while I was a student Nurse. As expected, we had all arrived London from Nigeria in pursuit of greener pastures.
We led a normal life like most average couples with similar background as ours. There was no serious flaw in his character to make me suspect him of being capable of all he later did before his death. Except for the occasional few drinks at the club with friends or at a party, Adio never drank.
Every man loves the company of women, but I do not think he ever displayed any extra ordinary affinity towards them, at least, not that I really know for certain. It is natural for a woman to suspect her man from time to time, but if you should harp on this for longer than necessary, you will only end up destroying yourself and your marriage.
After our studies, we worked for several years before we decided to come back home in 1976. Actually, it was the trend by this time among our people. The country was still very good and many thought it had a lot to offer. On the other hand, most of us had left home in the late 50’s and had never had the opportunity of visiting our folks all during these years.
In fact, many of us had lost touch with life and people back home. So, coming back was considered a great achievement then. Very few people wanted to stay back then. And it was either they had dropped out of their studies and could not complete it, or had encountered some form of misfortune or another, such that returning home would not be the best option. Very few people stayed over out of choice. Unfortunately, with what later became of our country, I think it payed them off eventually.
So, as many of our friends were leaving, it was just natural that we too should decide to come home. My husband still had a mother while I’d lost both of mine. It was unfortunate because I couldn’t even come home for her burial when she died.
Our marriage was blessed with three children, a boy and two girls. It was decided that I would travel first with the children, while my husband who still had a few things to tidy up will join us shortly after. So in 1976, I came home with the children, the eldest being 12 years at the time.
As expected in Yoruba land, I went straight to my mother-in-law’s place, the family having received us on arrival at the Airport. My mother-in-law lived in a room in the family house shared with other relations and it was here we had to cramp our selves. I had a difficult time with the children, especially as they were not used to the sort of life they were going through.
Communication was a bit difficult as most times I had to act as interpreter between many of our neighbours, mama inclusive and the children especially as the excitement of home coming waned out. My husband kept in touch through letters assuring us of his love, how much he missed the children and how he was finding it difficult to cope on his own with out me.
Because of the uncomfortable situation in which we lived with his mother. It was decided that I should get a place of our own so that we could all live together as a family on his arrival. In all, we stayed with my mother- in-law for a year and two months before moving out.
The children had been enrolled in a neighbourhood private school along with some other children and they all used to trek to school under the scorching sun or pouring rain. Things were not easy as we’d envisaged and it took sometime before I could get a job with the state government.
However, I was quick in getting a job with a private hospital in the mainland, Apapa Road to be precise. Coupled with all these, I had problems with my mother-in-law. I can’t really say who was at fault, whether I gave too little or she expected too much.
But one thing was clear, she wasn’t the same person I’d thought she was through her letters. But on the other hand since she never wrote them herself, it was difficult to know if that was what she really wanted to express in them.
Anyway, we’d planned that my husband would join us three months after my arrival but with one excuse after the other, his arrival was shifted by another three months. Later it was shifted by four months, but at the end, all we got was another apology note on why his arrival had been delayed.
Then he told us to start hunting for a house as he wouldn’t want to live in the family house. I found a two bedroom flat in the outskirt of Surulere with the help of my sister and a cousin. I paid for it with the rest of my savings and assistance of my two relations, only to settle down and wait endlessly for my husband’s arrival.
It was all promises without fulfilment. Once, he actually gave a date, flight number and airline. I went to the airport with the children, my sister and her husband and a younger brother of his too. We waited after confirming that the flight actually was coming to Nigeria. But you won’t believe that my husband was not on that flight, he’d merely fooled us all.
By this time, it began to dawn on me that he didn’t want to come home after all for reasons best known to him. You can imagine the embarrassment I felt and the bewilderment of the children who couldn’t fathom out why their father didn’t want to come home.
Of course an apology letter followed a few months after, but by this time, I was past caring. Though I grieved in my search for an answer, I made up my mind not to expect him until I see him on the door step. The last letter I received from him was in December of 1978.