By Bunmi Sofola
Andy and his long-term girlfriend finished their first degree at the university almost three years ago and it was decided that Chichi, Andy’s girlfriend and a British citizen should travel abroad.
The plan was for her to finish her masters, get established somewhat before Andy followed.
“To cement our agreement, we decided to have traditional engagement ceremonies before she travelled,” Andy said. For the two years she was away, I phoned and wrote regularly. We both finished studying for our masters degree and I travelled immediately after. Chichi was very happy to see me and we easily picked up our romance from where we left off.
“I was in England on a tourist visa, so finding a job that paid for my type of qualification was impossible. But I found a job as a security guard on an hourly pay. Chichi had a good job already and with our combined incomes, we started saving for our wedding. That would be my legal opportunity to get a better job once I got married to a citizen.”
“When Chichi suggested we should have a big wedding in Nigeria, I readily agreed, telling her we should have a simple registry do in Britain then a big wedding reception at home. She said she meant everything should take place in Nigeria.
At first, I thought she was joking, but when I realised she was serious, I asked her what the rational was for a Nigerian wedding. What stopped us from going to the registry in Britain as we’d planned? She said she would prefer her parents to endorse our marriage certificate, and gave some other bizarre reasons.
“I was still feeling confused by her behaviour when one of her friends let it slip that Chichi had already married a foreign African man so he could stay in Britain. It happened a few years ago, but she didn’t tell me.
According to this friend, it happened all the time as the money was good,around £5,000 (five thousand pounds sterling). Once such marriage takes place, couples go their different ways, and that was it. It felt as if I’d been hit in the stomach by a lorry. To come all the way from Nigeria to get hitched to a married woman?!
“When I got home, I told Chichi what I’d learnt, expecting her to deny it. But she burst into tears. She said things were very hard for her financially when she first arrived for her studies. Going to Britain on holidays was one thing, but settling down to study and pay your way was almost impossible. So, when a friend introduced her to an ‘agent’ that arranged bogus marriages for the purpose of your ‘spouse’ having a permanent residency, she jumped at the chance when she heard how much she would be getting.”
“With her “contract’ money, she paid off her overdraft and credit card bills. She was also able to send the money with which I bought my ticket. I was stunned. It was as if I never knew Chichi at all. We couldn’t get married in Britain, for it would be bigamous. Even if we went back home, the fact would still remain that I was taking a woman who was already married, to the altar.
My fiancée of three years, whom I’d known virtually all my adult life had a crooked, shameful sham of a marriage she couldn’t get out of. She fished out the agent’s card, called his mobile to see about a divorce, but his number was no longer recognised. He was the only one who knew the whereabouts of Chichi’s husband!
“Well, I would be damned if my first marriage in life would be to a married woman. What kind of devil possessed her to do such a thing? She said I should thank my lucky stars she wasn’t turning tricks. That a lot of hard up women in her shoes resorted to doing that to make ends meet. No wonder a lot of Nigerian men aren’t overly keen on getting married to these hard-hearted women. They don’t know what treachery these women have been up to and when they do,the men simply jump into the wagon for an easy ride.
“My six-month visa was almost running out. I thought once we were married, I wouldn’t need a visa again, but as it was, I had to find my way back to Nigeria. I told Chichi I would be back once I renewed my visa. When I came back and told my parents what happened, they were hurt and disappointed. They told me to look for a more trustworthy woman. A woman that would agree to a sham marriage because of money is capable of committing any other crime if she could get away with it.
“Yet Chichi didn’t look that kind of a girl to me. But the facts are there already, she’d gone through a marriage of convenience for money. Before I left, she couldn’t track down her husband who would already have her name on their marriage certificate as the wife. He’d disappeared into thin air after getting what he wanted. I’ve told Chichi to forget about me going through a bigamous marriage. She pleaded she did it for us. If she was planning to do a thing that would involve me and my future, shouldn’t she have discussed it with me?
“So, here I am, back home but with no intention of going back to chase any shadows. Chichi had recklessly taken a dangerous gamble with our future—she’s on her own.”