By Yetunde Arebi
Memories of Shakirah that I have did not prepare me for the Shakirah that sat before me a few days back when I bumped into her at an aunt’s place.
The once beautiful and happy young lady now look really spent and depressed, her marriage which gave her much joy and pride, long over. And for the next two hours, she gave us a summary of her travails as the third wife of an Alhaji who swept her off her feet some years back. Now a single mother, Shakirah condemns polygamy and warns that only selfish men engage in polygamy:
“I left my husband three years ago when I realised I had no more justification for being in his house. I had lost two of my three children and he had taken his fourth wife. I was wife number three and her coming had changed everything for me, even though it had not been rosy for sometime before her arrival.
However, her arrival destroyed everything left, opened my eyes to some bad things I’d done too and taught me some great lessons. Men do not love women, we are mere puns, to be used and manipulated to suit their desires. The good ones, with the fear of God, stick to one wife while the wicked ones venture into polygamy.
I dated him for close to eight months before I agreed to marry him. I was 26 years old at the time. I knew he had two wives already with seven children, but that did not stop me. I was convinced he loved me because of the things he did for me. More so, he’d told me about his wives and how he was not happy with his life. He wanted more out of life. I understood what he wanted and realised I could be all that and more for him.
Alhaji was not really educated. But he was enterprising and it appeared whatever he touched turned to gold. His money bought him some nice contacts and circle of friends, most educated and would have been out of his league. He is a member of the prestigious clubs in Lagos and Abeokuta but still lacked something, a suitable wife to complete the picture. Alhaji had made it clear to me that he needed someone educated who will assist him with his business as well as accompany him to the socials he so much enjoys.
Which girl does not want the good life. It was like a dream come true for me and it was easy to get the support of my mother since my father was late. I was convinced that nothing could go wrong because his wives were no match for me. Like him, they were not really educated and exposed. Besides, Alhaji had assured me that he had taken care of everything, including spiritual consultations to protect me from any harm from them.
His father too gave me some charms for the same purpose. So, I had no reason to be scared. To be sure I would have very little contact with my senior wives, he built a three bedroom apartment in the compound just for me. Unfortunately, besides the gifts to my mother, we did not encourage Alhaji to go and see my father’s family to do the necessary traditional marriage rites.
I was already pregnant when I moved in and began enjoying all the attention. Alhaji practically moved in with me so nobody saw him without my approval since the other wives did not have access to my apartment. And though I had the assurance of all the protection Alhaji and his Alfas and his father had done for me, I still did not trust his wives and ensured they knew it. It was very obvious too that they did not like me, so the feeling was mutual. I continued to accompany Alhaji everywhere like his shadow.
My predicament started shortly after the birth of my first child, a girl. Everything was alright until the child was about three months old. We woke up one morning to see a strange mark on her forehead. It was as if she’d been struck by lightning. We were convinced it was not natural and should therefore be the handiwork of my enemies.
Everywhere we visited, we were told to exercise patience as it was too early to determine if it would affect her in any way. Her development became rather slow and by the time she clocked two years, she could barely sit down for three minutes. She died shortly after without a tooth in her mouth, unable to sit or stand.
Initially, Alhaji was devastated, he threatened everyone and sought help far and wide. Same for his father but nothing came through. It took a toll on me and eventually, our relationship.
Soon, Alhaji started avoiding the child and I had to make sure she stayed out of his way whenever he was home with us. Unfortunately, my second child turned out the same way. Naturally this would be a big disappointment for any man, not to mention a polygamist. I believe this is the main reason we fell apart, despite all the assurance Alhaji and his spiritualists had given me that nothing could separate us.
By virtue of my position and what I’d done to the other women, I had no moral justification to expect that they would be kind and empathise with me because of my challenge. Deep down, I could not help but suspect them too but Alhaji would hear none of it. He was sure something else was wrong and had nothing to do with his wives and family.
He trusted them completely. He’d told me that he married the second wife because his first wife did not conceive after four years of marriage. Her father too had been instrumental to his success and they hail from the same village and had been family friends from childhood.
But he’d betrayed her by taking another woman because she did not conceive quickly enough. If he could betray his first wife, then who can he not betray, me? Only I did not realise.
Early one morning, my husband called the three of us (wives) to announce that he was taking another wife. The first shocker was that the lady is from my town. Second, they were planning to have a proper wedding ceremony like normal couples do. The young lady is a common hair dresser and her parents had insisted that she must be properly married.
Immediately, I felt shame wash all over me. I had only moved in with Alhaji without anyone’s blessings. I was the only one who hissed and left his presence, the others stayed. I had a big quarrel with him later and reminded him of all the promises he’d made to me, all the concoctions I had taken with him at the various places we went to seek protection and demanded to know what would happen to me.
But he refused to fight with me. He told me I had more challenges to focus on and was not fulfilling the purpose for which he’d married me. He needed a beautiful smart woman he could take out and he’d found one. That weekend, work commenced on the house she was to move into. He rented a shop and equipped it for the 21 years old girl who was just as old as his first child.
It was as if he was possessed but I realised that he was only writing once again, the same script he’d written for me a few years back. For the first time, I wanted to join forces with my co-wives to stop the wedding but they turned me down, insisting that the girl was welcome just the way they had been forced to accept me too.
The wedding took place in grand style with a band stand and she was brought home with a siren and escorts to clear the road. It was a big story in our town and till today, many call her the wife with the siren. I don’t need to tell you how humiliating it was.
I used to think that everyone was looking at me with pity. You know, that Yoruba adage about the new wife eventually getting the same treatment as the first is very true. Everything I did for Alhaji while all was rosy was now being done by the girl.
The most ridiculous being that he drops her at the shop and brings her back every day. When this girl delivered her first child, a boy, it was celebrated with a funfair never witnessed before. He slaughtered a cow and invited friends and even his club members. Meanwhile, he only used to buy the ram for the naming rituals and nothing more.
As expected, I was the worst casualty of the wedding. I did not have the sympathy and support of the other wives who even preferred to associate with the new wife than me. My husband, for whose sake I now became the scorn of many women in the neighbourhood, no longer had any need for me.
In fact, he hardly ate from my pot again, not to mention sharing my bed. It was the most devastating period of my life. The girl did not make things easy for me as she considered me her direct rival and avoided me too. She was proud and rude.
To compound my case, I had a child plagued with a strange illness that nobody wanted to see. I can’t tell you how much it hurts even now. It is not good for any woman to be in my situation. It came to a point that I had to wait for him to come out from his new wife’s place before telling him anything. Most times, he would just tell me he was short of cash.
Reporting him to his father did not help either. So, I was left to deal with everything by myself. At the end, I just had to leave. The most painful part is that Alhaji has disowned by child, so I take care of him all alone.
A man is not friend again, the moment he marries another woman because it is impossible to serve two interests. If he is a kind man, he will only try to ensure a balance which in the real sense is not even possible.
Most of the time, men camp only where they get all the enjoyment and fulfilment. I think they also get kicks out of knowing that women would be at logger heads with each other for their attention and would compete to make them happy.
Nobody is as selfish as a man with more than one wife because he is only concerned about himself and no one else”.
Do have a wonderful weekend!!