Some people can kill you, softly!
When you read newspaper stories about men who live double lives, you tell yourself, lailai, this can never happen to me; and as for the women who were deceived, I used to think the women too were not telling the truth; they had to be lying about not knowing…for two years? Three years…it’s a lie!
Well, mine lasted for 26 years…until he died…I was the other woman.
I never lied to myself about my situation; I just never knew!
I met my husband in Lagos; I grew up here, schooled here, and that’s it. We met on the job. I was a nursing sister; he was one of our resident doctors. He was quite older, 9 years older but there was nothing to it.
before we got married, I remember my grandma asked him if he was married before, he told her, ho ha, no, I have never been married before!
Was grandma suspicious? I don’t know, she always asked all the boyfriends who want to marry her grand children, the same questions. So it wasn’t a totally odd question but beyond that, I had no reason to suspect anything.
When we courted, I had no reason to believe he was married before and had a child; a son. He came from one of the mid-western states! I am south-south, though I speak Yoruba fluently.
I didn’t marry this man on the road; I mean, his family came, his siblings, they brought the necessary things for engagement, for wedding…we didn’t hide anything about it, it was not hush-hush.
When we newly got married, he traveled a bit more and that’s because he was fast coming up as a surgeon of repute; in fact, he was a visiting surgeon at my hospital when we met.
We had three children, all girls and I will say, while he was alive, he was proud of his angels, that’s what he called them. he called them ‘My Charle’s angels.’
So what happened?
Help me here!
I still can’t fathom what I did wrong because the fault must have been mine. Did I push too hard that he couldn’t open up to me all these years?
For 26 years! I lived with a man who often traveled around for work; in Nigeria and Africa, then ;we discussed work, he shows me his case files; he often asked my opinion on care, he was a dedicated man to his family and his job and yet, I didn’t know him.
I may have suspected if I was his first wife…but I was the second, the other woman, you see why it is baffling? I mean if my husband had been travelling before I met him and he continued to travel after we got married, what changed? But if we had got married and then the travels began, then I should have begun to be suspicious.
Here’s the story, he had married a woman in Osun state; Ogbomoso, she was his first wife; they had a son together; they didn’t quarrel but I suspect they grew apart; he took on more jobs outside and she was busy with raising their son, she also had a school or maybe a creche, not sure, now.
So apparently, half the time he travelled for so called surgery was to spent time with his first family; she too never knew about me and my three girls. So how did we meet?
An accident happened. He was travelling from Mokwa to Ibadan after a surgery he went to do. In those days, the roads weren’t as wide as we have today, he could have gone by train, which was very effective…yes, in those days, traveling by rail was safe and effective but also slow. The carriages were clean, you could do first class or second class or third class, from Lagos to Kano. It was safe back then, Nigeria was very safe. Anyway, back to my story.
He was in a hurry to get to Ibadan and you know while he could have flown, going by road was the best choice at that time. Niger state, where Mokwa is located didn’t have a vibrant airport, neither did Ibadan anyway.
The 504 he was travelling in had a burst tire and so somersaulted…he didn’t die immediately; he was in a coma at a hospital in Jebba.
We didn’t have GSM then and I only had access to phones at the hospital where I worked; the accident happened on a Friday, I didn’t get to know about it until Thursday of the following week.
You know, when accidents happen, victims are rushed to different places, their belongings are sorted out by police, then their relatives are contacted if they have any identifiable address or anything on their person…that’s why it took so long, no gsm, remember?
My brother –in-law called me on Wednesday at work, Then I traveled to Jebba on Friday.
When I got there, I was told my husband had just died; after being in a coma, he passed on. I met a woman crying by his bed side; I asked my brother-in-law who she was, he said, “She is your senior wife.”
Senior wife in Yoruba land could also mean the wife of your brother in-law, or your husband’s uncle’s wife…or any woman that comes into the family before you.
But the way he said it, I immediately knew he meant, the wife of my husband
I said, “What did you say?”
He said, “Mama ‘Labisi, that is your husband’s first wife, let’s not be theatrical here, your husband just died!”
I didn’t know which one to take in first; that my husband was dead and that I was a junior wife!
The woman too, obviously had just known about my existence because she quickly got up and asked my brother-in-law, “What did you just say?”
He just told both of us to carry our noises outside as he was mourning his brother.
Myself and my co-wife were shocked for a while and I just began to cry.
Remember, I was coming from Lagos, it took me time to locate the hospital and when I eventually did, was told my husband had died minutes ago and to cap it all, I thought I was the only wife for 26 years, I found out I had a senior wife!
I was not myself at all and that is putting it mildly.
My so called senior wife just began to curse our husband; she was heaping curses on his dead body and I was inwardly saying amen.
‘Said he would not rest in peace, that the earth would reject him…heavy curses.
How could a man be this callous?
I found out there she had a son who was just 6 years older than my first child.
I didn’t even know what to do, leave the corpse, go back to Lagos which was impossible, at that time, do what?
My brother-in-law sorted the corpse.
But let me back track a bit, my senior wife, who lived in Ogbomoso was the first to know about the accident because my husband had listed her as his next of kin. They were among the privileged Nigerians who had nitel phones in their homes back in the day. He must have been on his way to meet her when he told me he was going to Ibadan.
So she had been by his bedside the third day after the accident, though he never came out of coma. She called my brother in law and he too came and brother- in- law called me when he realized his brother was dying.
Messy story this was for me back then.
My girls and I were cut off from his inheritance because his first wife was his next of kin. I won’t say he didn’t love me or my children, I would say he didn’t know he would die so soon. He was devoted to us…or so I thought. He was the attentive husband, the loving father, nothing he did gave him away, nothing. He was that good at his deception!
My children miss him but I can’t think of him in fond memories. I still can’t. I don’t know where he was buried; I told my children they could find out from their uncle if they so wished. I will have nothing to do with his memory. It’s still too bitter and this happened almost 30 years ago.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande)