I married my wife knowing she was high maintenance.
We met in London, way back in the day, at a party organized by a mutual friend. Her parents had someone else in mind for her because, you see, she comes from a rich family. They had organized another chap for her, he too was from one of the wealthy Lagos families but my Princess was a rebel from birth. She came to the UK to study Law because that was what her father wanted but after one year, she changed to study Communications to her father’s annoyance.
I married her because I felt she was the love of my life and being used to a life of good things; travel, good food and I don’t mean rice and beans, I mean continental, exotic choice dishes…yes. That is what she was used to and yes, and with her agreeing to be my woman despite knowing I hadn’t got the means…I am not from a poor background but my folks aren’t what you’ll call wealthy either. We get by.
So I was willing to do my best to make my Princess happy.
Now, I wasn’t doing all of this is because I felt she would run and leave me, I genuinely believed she loved me because even though I tried to give her the finer things of life, she made do with what I could give and thankfully her family was there to support us, still, I tried to give my all…as best as I could.
We came back to Nigeria with three kids and her family took their time to accept me. You see in their eyes; I would always be the “poor boy” who married their Princess but that was ok by me because I had the love of my woman. We had our issues but we didn’t let other things get to us.
Now, back to Nigeria and its attendant wahala, it became increasingly difficult to maintain my home and keep my children in the schools my wife wanted us to put them. There was pressure on me to provide for my family and it didn’t help that my wife had rejoined the high society she once knew and the rich circle of family and friends she grew up with.
There was always one society function or another that we had to show up for; so I found myself buying laces, cupions, voiles, jacquards and going to parties of people I detested. But of course my wife was happy and even when I excused myself from these parties, I had to pay for aso-ebi for this wedding, this burial, one…ah and yes, jewelry, too. My Princess loved jewelry; coral beads, gold…she used to deck herself in those things which I admit are like some form of investments because should we go broke, like I often feared, we could sell these off art good prices.
Then add school fees, add the cars, maintenance…we were living in one of my wife’s father’s houses so no house rent but even at that…it was huge bills I was shelling out every day.
After a while, my father-in-law helped me secure a place in the civil service where I began to make good money.
You know contracts and kickbacks and bribes…that’s civil service for you. How do you expect a level 7 officer to build houses and run bakeries and stuff like that?
A few weeks after I resumed office, I was visited by one of the ministry’s contractors. He came with a portmanteau and I was wondering what he came to do.
He said, “Welcome Mr. So and so to a new life. I am one of the contractors registered by the ministry and I and the other contractors have brought you a gift…to welcome you, sir. We hope we will have a good working relationship with you like we did to the man who occupied your seat before you.”
When I opened the portmanteau it was full of cash, foreign currencies, dollars, pounds, yen…euro!
At that time, what I saw was my ability to give my Princess all she deserved!
I saw me being able to truly be the husband she deserved. So I foolishly agreed to whatever these group of people wanted.
And what did they want?
To continue to award them the contracts; get my own kickbacks in a separate account they asked me to open in my aunty’s name and everyone was happy.
So what this meant was that my children could go on their yearly trip abroad and after their secondary school here, they all went to study abroad; and my Princess and I could afford our annual Cruise.
This was our life for more than 15 years until there was a change in government that brought a change in my office. Another person, of course, replaced me at my office and I was kind of relegated. You know these positions are man-know-man that’s how my father-in-law used his influence to get me into that place.
A few months after this relegation, they began a probe into my tenure at the office…they discovered the bribes, the kickbacks…all of it and my accounts were frozen.
I was arrested and sent to jail after the court found me guilty. I got a reduced sentence because I agreed to return some of the monies I took…I gave them back what was left.
You can’t expect that I would give up my houses and lands? I only returned the cash…what was left of it…I got a reduced sentence of three years for that.
All through my prison term, my princess only came to visit me twice. She said I brought shame to her and she was too embarrassed to be seen in prison.
I told her the second time she came, “I did all of these for you! This is what marriage is, for better for worse!”
Guess what she said to me, “I didn’t ask you to go and steal, you did that on your own.”
I got to know she divorced me while I was still in prison. I never got any divorce petition and never signed any papers but this is Nigeria, I was divorced without even agreeing to it!
After my prison term, I came back to an empty house.
I tried to get my kids but they have all swallowed their mother’s lies…they treated me like the plague, they said I embarrassed them, that their friends were making fun of them.
I said to them, “Your friends’ parents are thieves like me, if you say I am a thief. Just that they haven’t been caught, yet. And as for you guys, so when you were going abroad every year, schooled abroad…it wasn’t any form of embarrassment?”
Anymay, that is life for you
Today my kids have come to accept me again after all I am the only father they have.
Life has been tough because I feel betrayed and abandoned. My wife has remarried and she is as you people say, “living her best life” and I wish her new husband goodluck!
For me, it’s all regrets.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)