My brother is a sportsman; if I reveal the kind of sports he does, then I may be jeopadising his position where he is.
He is abroad, in one of the Scandinavian countries. He is really talented and had been with a few clubs in Nigeria before he got a club abroad.
My brother has been abroad in the last 17years and I know he will soon retire; being a sports person abroad has age limits you know? You can only do so much after a certain age and if not for God, I think they would have found out that Broda is a lot older than he claims but that is a story for another day.
Why am I talking?
Before I began to live abroad; I didn’t realise how hard things were for my brother, none of us his family members knew. He didn’t tell us he hadn’t even started working with any club, that he was just a care worker, you know, taking care of old people. So we assumed he had got employed by a club and was into money.
For the first three or so years abroad, he was just caring for the old. When he came home to visit he bought us clothes, shoes, watches…we never asked how, we just took them and showed off to our neighbours.
Broda came home one Christmas and said he wanted to find a good girl to marry; we knew he wasn’t getting any younger, though we knew he lied about his real age to the club he was playing for.
My mother was particularly happy because Broda having a wife in Nigeria meant he would still be coming home every Christmas to see his new family; the coming of a wife was when m tra nkwocha started in our family o.
How? Or why?
He found a girl, who happened to be my old school mate and she was already at the polytechnic studying Food Tech. Felicia is her name. She and I were not friends like that, we just happened to be in the same class.
She greeted me on her way from an errand for her parents one day, my brother saw her and told me he liked her, that I should call her back.
No do, no do, they began to talk and of course, I was the familiar face to Felicia, so we kind of became close. That was how Felicia and my brother started a relationship. Next thing my brother came and did the ngba nkwu and that’s how Felicia began to live with us.
We didn’t treat her well, I must confess; I say that because, I am facing the same thing here with my in-laws in the abroad, o!
My family treated Felicia like our servant; well not servant sha but we treated her like a ‘wife’, you know, she would run errands, go to the market, cook for everyone, sew, wash clothes, clean the house…I never asked her to do anything for me but my brothers, mother…everyone demanded some sort of labour from her and to be fair, she did without much complaint.
Yes, I know you’ll think, but is that not what a wife should do, but truth is she didn’t have to be our cook or errand girl or you know what I mean? She was our senior brother’s wife, if she was living by herself, would we ask her to come and cook for us? Or run our errands?
Broda wanted us to keep an eye on her so he didn’t rent a place for her to stay, besides, my mother thought it was a waste of money; ‘Why are you throwing money away when she can share Tochi’s room?”
And maybe at that time, my brother didn’t have the money to rent her an apartment.
Broda came every year, for Christmas and he and Felicia would of course be together; I mean, by performing the traditional rites, he had married her, though they never did the church wedding. Felicia became pregnant almost immediately. Once she delivered, she handed her child to my mother and as soon as she could be on her feet, resumed her duties as cook and caregiver for our family.
I never thought anything was wrong with this arrangement and I am being honest with you.
Two years after, I too met a guy that came home for Christmas. I married him the folloeing and lo and behold, the same pattern as Felicia repeated itself. I was made to live with his family while my husband got things together abroad before sending for me.
I was treated like shit!
I was the cook, the sewing mistress, the cleaner, the…I had to send word to my mother to be careful how she treated Felicia.
Unlike Felicia, though, my own husband sent for me, two years after our marriage. When I got abroad, it opened my eyes to a lot of things. I was able to understand that my brother was actually struggling all those years.
He eventually told me he was always buying first grade second hand to bring home to us those years past. He told me he was not in any club at that time because it wasn’t easy to just get into clubs abroad.
And when he eventually joined one club, he had to do extra because he was already overaged but they didn’t know at the club.
You know, being abroad made me get closer to my brother than before. I was able to see things from a different perspective.
I realise now that when we keep demanding things from our relatives abroad, we put them under a lot of strain because truth is they are not as successful as we think they are and where they make money, it goes right back into the system; just a few of our people are really making it, if you are talking of legitimate means.
Anyway, it was while gisting again that Broda told me Felicia was pregnant again; his first child is almost 9, I think. And he said he wanted to bring her to come and live with him abroad. I knew he was going to face an uphill task because our brothers and mother must never agree!
Why? Because my other brothers think they deserve the chance to go abroad before Felicia; they think it is a betrayal on Broda’s part to send for Felicia and his children because after all, she just came into his life, whereas, they have been there since the beginning. Can you understand that logic?
I might have held the same view if I was still back at home; and that’s the truth but I see things differently now because, I see the way my in-laws treat me, like I don’t deserve the things my husband gives me, like I should wait my turn, you know that sort of thing?
That’s the same way my brothers are behaving and my mother too. If not that my own husband is westernized, he would have succumbed to pressure from his family.
Broda and I are secretly working with Felicia; we’ve succeeded at getting her passport as well as their first child’s. Broda has sent all the necessary documents for her to go join him. I hope we will be able to execute this our coup, o.
My other brothers have been hopeful over the years because Broda had promised them he would send for them to come live with him, even my mother too feels she deserves to be treated better than Felicia!
So, my sister, I needed to put this out there because, until you see the other side of things, you will not learn.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)