The devil used me.
Well let me put it correctly, I allowed the devil to use me.
I have been here at the Kirikiri prison for females for almost 15 years but I will soon be released. I did something bad and I regret it now. As a Muslim, I have prayed, I keep praying for forgiveness and I hope I will find peace when I eventually get released.
This is what happened to me. As you’re seeing me, I was once married to an Alfa, yes. I was married to a man who had three wives. I am the middle wife, the two others have children but God did not permit me to have children. I did not even marry Alfa early, maybe if I had been married early, I would have been able to give birth to at least a child but I didn’t. I married late and as you can guess, I did not have the benefit of an education.
How did I meet Alfa?
I used to be a maid to one of the rich men in our town. You also know that these rich men consult Alfas a lot. They consult them for all kinds of issues of life; marriage, health, children, money, business, politics, they consult Alfa for everything.
I was maid to one of those people and many times, I would be the one my bosses will send to Alfa, either for some concoction to drink or something to use. I was the one. My bosses trusted me and I had no desire to do anyone any harm, so, you see…
I had been with my bosses, Alhaji and Alhaja, for more than 17 years. Both of them, the servants in the house and many people who knew them, in fact, refer to them as Alhaji and Alhaja. They had children who also had their own children as well. They treated me well.
Throughout my stay with them, I just never met anyone who wanted to marry me. All the other maids that came, would leave for the village and never return to Alhaji’s house because someone proposed or got them pregnamt.
But I always did because apart from the fact that they were good to me, nobody in my village wanted me as wife, I am ugly, I know that is the real reason.
The only other person who wanted me was Alfa and his liking for me began when I started running private errands for my bosses. You know I said they would send me to collect things from Alfa. They would give me money to give him and they would ask me to be the one to buy all the things Alfa demanded for to be used for special prayers for them. I was the person they trusted to do it secretly.
So, I was surprised when Alfa began to show interest in me. I don’t know my age because I told you I didn’t go to school but I was told that I was born around the time Awo made education free. Why my parents did not send me to school is still baffling. Maybe they sent me to school and I was too dull to cope because I don’t understand it till today.
So, I told my mistress, Alhaja that Alfa is talking to me about marriage; Alhaja just laughed, she said ‘at your age?’ But Alfa was serious, he meant to marry me. He talked to Alhaji and before I knew it, we did a small Nikkai in their parlour. My bosses had become my only relatives, the only other people at our Nikkai were their driver and two other maids.
My being married to Alfa didn’t stop me from running errands for Alfa and my former bosses. I still worked with them but slept in Alfa’s house. At that time, Alfa already had a wife, Mama Taofiq. Mama Taofiq had five boys. Me, nothing. Two, years, four years, six years, nothing…Alfa took another wife, a younger wife. That one was trouble from the beginning. Her eyes were open like…but me and mama Taofiq got along, we were like age mates, I think but the younger wife…fire!
She started having children as soon as she came to live with us. She was also a little educated than mama Taofiq and she always quarreled with everyone in the compound. As for me, I tried as much as possible to keep out of her way, the day she insulted me that I am barren was one of the worst days of my life… even Alfa did not open his mouth to reprimand her. So I just avoided her and her troubles.
My trouble started when our youngest wife gave birth to her last child; she had three children. I don’t know if she has had more since I have been in prison. I don’t hear from them again.
Anyway, so she gave birth and Alfa said I should be the one to go and care for her at the hospital because they did operation on her to get the baby out, so I was the one who went to care for her. Mam Taofiq refused as the most senior wife, so I was the only choice.
At the hospital, there were babies everywhere; so many people were giving birth every day and me yet I couldn’t get a single one.
It was while caring for ‘my wife’ that the idea of stealing a baby began to form in my head. The way I saw it, nobody would even notice if a baby went missing. There were so many in the place they put them and they were just crying weeehn, weehn, weehn, all the time. I had never wanted a baby as much as I wanted one that time.
So, on one of those visiting times, when many people flood the wards coming to see their new babies. I had planned to go to where they kept the premature babies and wrap one in my shawl. As a Muslim woman, wife of Alfa, I am an eleha, meaning I wear a hijab.
So, as I was saying, that was exactly what I did. I waited for the place to become less busy just before they began to blow horn for visitors to leave. I planned to leave like everyone who came to visit with a bundle and the security people would think I was carrying a used bedsheet or dirty clothing I was taking home to wash. That was my plan. I went into the place, quickly picked the baby, wrapped him in a shawl I had brought and rolled him in a food basket. I walked away.
Nobody saw me at the nurse’s station, nobody stopped me as I left the ward, I was almost going near the main gate which was quite a distance and I would have got away if not for the gatemen.
That day, they were just searching people anyhow. I told them I was in a hurry to quickly go and wash the bedsheet and come back since I was still caring for ‘my wife’ but they said they must search me, I had to wait my turn on the line as people were leaving the hospital.
That’s how I was caught.
The baby was gasping by the time they opened my basket. Unfortunately for me, the baby later died because by the time they took the baby back to put in the cage I got him from, it had died. I didn’t know he could just die like that. That is why my jail sentence was long.
Nobody from my husband side came to see me in jail, like I said, I don’t have relatives…so, when I leave here, what will I do? Where will I go?
(series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)