The other day, I overheard my mother-in-law talking to someone on the phone. No, I was not eavesdropping. I was on my way to work and my car is usually parked outside her sitting room area.
Anyway, she was saying to the person on the phone ‘… oh ho, that one is now Patty’s problem, not mine anymore, she is the one who has to worry about him.’
I am Patty and the only person she could be referring to is her son, Dave, who is also my husband.
My name is Patty and I have a problem husband.
Let’s go back some 12 years ago when I met my husband in the UK. I was a struggling student doing a post-graduate course in media. I was self-sponsored and I was struggling to stay in school because I wanted to have a UK degree. I am the first of four, all girls with no parents. We grew up with our relatives among whom we were distributed.
He was a mummy’s boy with rich parents. Being a UK citizen, he had his secondary and university education abroad. In short, the difference between us is like night and day. We didn’t become immediate friends, just fellow Nigerians. He had an accent, whereas, I was proper Naija girl with heavy Lagos street sense but my sister, that sense did not help me o.
For the sake of the story being published, I will mask my identity, ok? So, I will not divulge a few things that will make my family and friends feel uncomfortable, ok?
Anyway, Dave and I were just fellow Nigerians. We acknowledged each other in class and had a few friends in common.
I finished my education and came back to Nigeria. All that UK thing didn’t work for me. I didn’t land the dream job I thought I would get and paying for my flat was difficult, you know, so I jeje packed my bags and came back home. Thankfully, the following month, I landed a job in a young PR agency in Ikeja. The pay wasn’t great but I felt fulfilled.
About two years later, I was part of a pitch project for a new account in my agency and met Dave again at the presentation. He was on the presentation panel. Apparently, the company belonged to his father and he was a Director…of course, what do you expect?
I told my boss that I knew him and my boss said to me, “Patty, talk to your friend to favour us, after all, what are friends for?’
Now, my agency was like the underdog at the pitch, the other bigger PR agencies made us look like we were schoolboys.
They came with huge presentation materials, plenty of documents, a huge team; whereas we were just four from my own agency. That is not to say we didn’t know our business, we just didn’t have the clout of the other agencies.
Anyway, I wanted us to have that business so after the whole exercise, I waited behind to speak to Dave. Of course, he had acknowledged me when we came into the conference room to present and he told me to wait so we could reconnect.
We were eventually able to talk and exchanged cards. Then he gave me his private line. I told him I would call him that evening. I didn’t call, he did, that evening and straight away, I told him he had to help me win the pitch by letting my company handle their PR. He said done. He said he was genuinely impressed with our presentation and that he was tired of the ‘big boys’ who would razzle their clients at the beginning and start treating them like nuisance afterwards.
That’s how I got the business for my company and Dave and I became an item.
We had gone out for about six months before he told me his mum wanted to meet me.
They lived in a huge compound with several duplexes that were interconnected; I never met her when I visited Dave because his part of the compound was away from his parents’. You can live in that place for one full year and never meet the others who live in the same compound! Ok, so his mother was nice to me but it was as if I was in an interview.
Who are your parents?
Where did you go to school?
Do you do drugs?
Have you had a child before?
I swear the interrogation was tough.
By that time Dave had been telling me he wanted to marry me. He had rich parents, he was kind but was always looking spaced out. You know, many times I would be in his part of the house and he would be gone for long periods, his car would still be in the drive, I knew he didn’t leave the premises and when he returned, he would be woozy. You know.
For a long time, I didn’t connect the dots. I swear, for all of my supposed street smartness. I didn’t link it to drug use at all.
I mentioned to one of my friends and that one immediately told me my boyfriend was on drugs and that was the only explanation.
Ok, so I confronted him about this and he told me, yes, he was, but he was trying to kick the habit and he needed my help. Foolish me, I thought I was the help he needed.
Somehow, his mother found out that I knew and called me to her apartment.
She told me she was distraught when she found out herself. Told me she knows I could help him, begged me not to leave him, said that he had got himself together since we started going out and that he would be going for rehabilitation again…
I bought the lie.
Before I knew it, they asked me if I would join them for a Caribbean cruise in three months’ time. Who no wan cruise? I agreed, it was booked and fully paid for.
I joined them for another trip to Marrakesh; I became ‘wife’ already and I did my best to keep Dave off drugs. I tried.
I didn’t know they were reeling me in.
We were busy smooching, getting all loved up. Was I jazzed, I don’t know. I know I was poor and this is rich life. It was on the second trip when Dave’s mother planned our wedding. You know that kind thing?
It was mooted as a suggestion.
She just said one day while we were sunning ourselves on the deck of that cruise ship.
“Wouldn’t it be a lovely idea if you two got married in some exotic city like…” I can’t even remember where she said because, I was drinking a cocktail and half asleep.
Dave was gone, snoring beside me and his father was busy reading a newspaper. I swear, it was so surreal, like something you see in a movie.
Next stop, she took both of us shopping for rings, that’s how our wedding appeared on the horizon! It became something we began to strive for when we got back to Nigeria.
In Naija, I called my aunty, because, at this time, I was living with Dave. I told my aunty, she said there is a process to these things, when did Dave propose? I said we have been going out under the assumption we would get married and that was it.
She said, what of introduction? What of engagement, what of…
I told her, ‘Aunty, don’t worry.’
I mentioned to Dave’s mum, not Dave o. I said, ‘Mummy, my aunty said there has to be an introduction…’
The woman just said, ‘Of course, pick a date, we will come to know your people.’
It was lavish: introduction o; engagement o; wedding, o, lavish!
Then reality set in on the first night of honeymoon in Vegas.
Oh yeah, Vegas! My Dave was nowhere to be found. He was so drugged out of his mind, he couldn’t find his way back to our hotel.
Twelve years later, it’s one rehabilitation after another, it’s one drugged-out husband who would leave home for months and suddenly show up again.
I am the one who lies awake at night wondering where he is; I am the one hiding my jewellery and phones so he doesn’t sell them cheaply to feed his habit. I am the one who ensured I got pregnant to have twin kids, it was almost like I raped him before I could have these children. What else could I have done?
My kids’ education is being paid for by my in-laws; I live in a free duplex; I still work, of course. I need that for my sanity. So that’s my story.
Is it a fair trade?
I feel cheated. My in-laws won – they wanted someone to take the responsibility of Dave’s wahala off their hands and I came in; they wanted grandchildren they could dote on and pass on their wealth and I gave them.
No, Dave isn’t the only child they have, his younger brother lives abroad and has vowed never to come home…long story that one.
As for me; I wanted the wealth, easy life and that is why I will do what I need to do to survive all these; I am still young and I will survive after all this is Lagos.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)