A man has his regrets and in deed I have mine; I am 82 years and yes, I have regrets.
Why do I have regrets in my old age? Look at my house, empty and yet I have children, all grown, married with children of their own. I don’t see them; they don’t come to visit or show me my grandchildren.
Would you believe that I married three women, oh yes, I have three wives.
They are all alive but none lives with me. They all moved out, one after another. Did I send them packing, oh no! I didn’t o. They left on their own accord! And yes, I had a thing or two to do with the reasons they left me.
So you see why I have regrets?
How did this come to be? Well, I hope this becomes a lesson for men out there. I started out well, my first wife is from my town, I met her when she finished standard 6 and was about to head to the UK to become a seamstress.
I joined the military after a few years of secondary school and met her again when I was sent to the UK for training. That’s when we began to court and got married shortly after. In those days, we didn’t have long courtships. You see a girl you want to marry, tell her family your intentions and make plans for marriage. That was it!
I was the one who went back to England because after her training, she stayed there for a length of time but we were corresponding through mails; when the time was ripe, I made marriage plans and we got married. We had our first four children there and the others were born in Nigeria; they’re all together five boys and two girls; all very brilliant and intelligent, like their father, I must say.
I was a military man, in my prime and so I was always on one transfer duty, training or another so I was mostly not at home with my family, so my wife raised all our children, both when she was alone with them in the UK and when she finally came back to settle in Nigeria and might I add that she did a fine job, too.
And like I said, I was always away, how do you people say it, ‘bodi
no bi wood’, is that not the saying? I dabbled into other relationships, other relationships that produced three more children from two other women…yessss, yesss, that’s what happened and for some time, I wasn’t able to tell the wife at home. So I hid them until after these kinds of things cannot be hidden anymore.
I was about to retire, I was tired of military life, I wanted to come back home to my first wife, and farm. So I knew I had to let her know.
Was I afraid of her? I wasn’t afraid of her, I got home that day and told her I had three children outside and where I come from, no child is a bastard. So there was no saying, the children in the house were more legitimate than those outside, no way! They are all mine! I took responsibility over them once their mothers told me they were pregnant.
My wife was, like any woman, very angry but she is a typical African woman, she knew she could not afford to be too angry or she would move out of my house, so when I told her the three children would be coming to live with us, she had no choice, I guess. And as for the other women, I made it clear to them, ‘give me my children to raise but if you insist on keeping the children for whatever reason, then I would not send a dime for the child, you are on your own!’
That’s how I kept all my children under one roof.
I like to think that I played my part as a good father to my children, I may not be a good husband but to a large extent, I like to see myself as a good dad…until something happened.
My first daughter was studying at the university here, she is now a lawyer by the way but when she was a student, I used to visit her, I was quite fond of her, she was my favourite child.
Fathers can have favourites, it’s mothers that are forbidden to have favourite children. So as I was saying, I went visiting one day when she introduced me to her friend. She had told me about the friend, said her parents were unable to pay her hall fees, pay for books and some other things. She was a pretty young thing. I gave her some money and that’s was how I became connected to her, this young girl, Veronica.
To be honest, Veronica was the last thing I wanted to sleep with. I was a philanderer but this girl was my daughter’s friend. But you know, she would come to spend the holidays with us in my house, because her parents lived in Akure and they didn’t send money for transport, even when I offered to give her the money to go, she said she would prefer to stay with my daughter in our house.
I didn’t have any problems with that, we had a huge house, my sons always had people staying in the house, so long as their parents or guardians knew where they were, I had no problems feeding or housing them.
Veronica was a sweet young thing and I became attracted to her. I paid her hall fees, gave her pocket money and a little more to shop for good decent clothes. That’s how it all started; we began to meet secretly because of course, my daughter or wife must never know…you can begin to guess how, I won’t furnish you with the details.
This continued for some time, until she finished school, law school and was bound for NYSC when she suddenly took in.
I am not a supporter of abortion, call me old school. So I said, you cannot abort this, you have to keep it. I mean, what if she went to abort it and died? That would forever be on my conscience, I knew it would be a big issue at home as all my children and wife had come to see Vero as a sister and daughter but I was a man who ruled my household with an iron fist; I won’t tell you this one was easy, no it wasn’t but there was no going back so I had to face it. I told my wife and daughter that Vero’s pregnancy was mine and that it was a mistake. I said it was a mistake to soften the blow. It didn’t work.
My daughter was angry, of course, my wife was angry…of course. The rest of the children…well, you can imagine.
Vero had nowhere to go, so I moved her into one of the rooms downstairs in our home. I didn’t want her to go and live alone especially since she hadn’t even given birth to the baby at that time.
My wife and kids were against me; to be honest, I never wanted to marry Vero, I mean, I thought she was just looking to have fun with an old man; but she was carrying my child, the thing to do was to bring her under my roof. Even Vero couldn’t have found life easy because you see after that incident, I became someone she hated. Or maybe she thought I had some money somewhere to give her. I didn’t. I had done some good investments in properties, shares and farming and poultry while I was still in the military and that was what was helping me get by with a large family and plenty of fees to be paid.
My first daughter and I had become estranged; after her NYSC, she simply relocated to the UK, being a British citizen. She is married with kids and I do not see her except when I hear snippets from the others. Same thing with the rest of the first four, all abroad and not speaking to their father!
My wife and I were estranged, again, you can understand why…this of course drove me into the arms of a second wife at this time. I married a new woman, six years after Vero…oh Vero, after she gave birth, a boy by the way. She left the house without as much as telling me where, it was later I heard she had migrated to America with my child, I hope she has got married to someone younger, I wish them well.
In time, the rest of the children finished school and left home…then my first wife left, after the youngest child finished secondary school. Then my second wife moved in, she gave me a son as well but she too, left me for another man, after some years…story of my life.
I know I am not an easy man to live with…what can I do about it?
I live alone; the worst part is going to the market myself. I used to have a steward but that boy is a thief! I fired him! Got another and that one was so dull, I fired him!
I live with plenty of regrets… I hate doing my own cooking, living by myself, no one to talk to or even quarrel with…I partitioned the house so I could rent out to tenants, so these are the ones who provide some kind of human interaction and sometimes they help me with cooking and stuff.
Am I the worst man on earth? I have made my mistakes, not more than most but yes, I have my regrets. I wish to have my family around me again. I wish to see my grandchildren; I don’t even know how many I have. Should I forever be punished for my sins? I think not, I think not…
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on trues stories)