My name is Umaimah,I’m an indigene of Katsina state,I come from a humble family of 19 with extra family members living with us.My father was the eldest son and bread winner in his family. Although we were educated, we didn’t have much. I’ve always been the book worm so, when my family started making a fuss about me getting older, they would blame it on boko. They felt that I made it a priority.
You see, girls married early in my family. So, when I was 27 and still no prospect of marriage a family intervention was arranged.
My aunts,mother ,step mother and sister’s where all in attendance. They were concerned that I was getting older and I didn’t take anyone serious.
”you are not getting any younger Umaimah,3 of you sisters who are years younger than you are all in their husbands houses “me kike jira ke?” They talked for hours about importance of marrying early,making it look like nothing else was an accomplishment except for marriage. At 27 I graduated from University and was going for my master’s while working. Nobody asked me for my opinion, the only thing they cared about was that it’s high time I settled down.After a long conversation, I agreed that if they found someone interested in marrying me I will get married.
A year later, one of my younger sisters who was 19, was getting married. So, my topic came up. It was suggested that I also get maried. An aunt of mine who had already started talking to me about a certain friend of her husband said she had a potential man for me.
I tried to fight it, but they outnumbered me. I was reminded of my promise. Even though, at time I just said it so that they leave me alone.Unfortunately, I put myself in soup because my father heard about my agreement to allow them find a suitable husband for me and so it was decided
“Don’t worry You’d make a beautiful bride”my aunt said.I met my husband Hamza a few times before the wedding. I really wasn’t interested in knowing him but every time we met I got the impression that he was shy because we hardly said much.
I promised to make it work after all I know they had my best interest at heart.I let the wedding preparations, the lalle,gyaran jiki and all other festivities sweep me away,I was a blushing bride when my family escorted me to his house.
“He is a good man from a good family, you’re lucky to have him” one of my elder sisters said not knowing the day I agreed to their demands was the beginning of the end.
He was anything but a good man,from the very beginning of our marriage he made it clear it was a dictatorship. Apparently someone advised him to handle me with an “iron fist” because I was too exposed.
We didn’t talk like husband and wife; it was more like master and slave.He would talk and laugh with neighbors,family and friends but with me he didn’t even make an effort.
He had a list of do’s and don’ts that I had to follow and if I didn’t comply he would lock the kitchen so no food for me as a form of punishment.
Apart from torturing me he took away all forms of joy from my life.In the first weeks of our marriage he tried to stop me from working
I consulted my mom but she said “Ehn what do you need job for when you have a rich husband.”
The day I quit my job was when all forms of independence I possessed flew out the window
From then on, it was arguments for money because I had to cater to my needs.
I remember the day he slapped me. The betrayal of having the man that’s meant to take care of you turn around to hurt you.
I refused to take that so I packed my bag and left. I knew my family wouldn’t support me so I went to my maternal aunt’s place.He called and called. when I eventually answered, he apologized I told him in clear terms that I won’t be abused.
Hamza apologised profusely and asked me to come home.I was amazed that his ego even allowed him apologise so I went back home.
We managed to start patch things up. I still missed my job and I didn’t like this lack of financial independence but I was advised to work on my marriage for now.
I tried to but Hamza’s was his ego was bigger than anything I’ve ever seen. There were no apologies,sorry’s or get well soon and this was how he was brought up.He was the only boy and was treated like a king. So, he expected nothing less from me.There are times when he even tells me I should be grateful he married me.He had to give me permission to enter his room,I needed to get his approval of the food to cook if not he won’t eat and I will have to make want he wants.
I wasn’t allowed to come into the living room if he had visitors and when my family members come they were not allowed to stay in the living room so we would just sit in my room.I lived in a big mansion but wasn’t allowed a maid because I didn’t have one in my fathers’s house.
When there was no light I couldn’t ask for the generator to be turned on unless he allows it. When he’s out or has traveled I stay in the dark. Everyday he reminds me of how worthless and unloved I am.Looking back I wonder why I stayed,I felt like a piece of cloth he bought from the market yet I made excuses for him because I didn’t want to be a failure.
I lived in this unfriendly territory. After 2 years, the he inevitable issue of pregnancy came up. my mother began to disturb me for children. She asked when she’ll reap the fruits of her labor cause she’s wasn’t getting any younger. With pressure from all corners I started getting concerned too.
My in laws didn’t really communicate with me because I was not up to their social status. And even they were asking what I was waiting for because I was turning 30! I started getting anxious about the pregnancy issue,started taking any drug that would help but nothing. Hamza used that as an opportunity to torture me even more!
I can still remember him saying “useless woman you can’t even give birth”,sometimes he would just look at me, hiss and walk away.
One day, I confronted him and said I didn’t like his attitude. That a baby just like marriage came at God’s time but he just laughed at me.
He started shoving me,calling me names and constantly ridiculing me. I was in hell.He would bark orders and insults at me in front of his friends or neighbors. As for my family he made them so uncomfortable that they stopped visiting.
I became a shadow of myself,I began questioning my worth and for a year this continued until Allah smiled on me. I was pregnant and ecstatic. Although my oga didn’t really show much excitement,I had an easy pregnancy and finally gave birth to a baby girl.
I was relieved and fulfilled but unfortunately this wasn’t a happy occasion for Hamza because he was expecting a boy.
He told me to pick a name because she was my daughter,I named my precious little girl, Jamila.
I went home as per custom and for the whole stay he visited only 3 times. He would just send money and a few things.After the stay at home I came back. Things still were not well with my husband I guess he needed an apology for giving birth to a girl.
As time went on I realized Hamza wasn’t warming up to Jamila. I tried my best to make them spend some time together until the day that she fell of the bed!! I was in the kitchen,it was hot and Jamila was trying to sleep. So, I went into his room and laid her next to him while he watched TV. She slept off as I laid her there then I returned to the kitchen. Later I heard Jamila screaming her head off.
I quickly rushed into the room to find her on the floor with Hamza nowhere to be found. I found him in the balcony making a call. I asked him how he left her alone and he said I didn’t ask him to watch after her. I was enraged.
“What is your problem?do I need to tell you to look after your 5 month old baby when she was right next to you the least you could do was put a barrier on your side so she won’t fall from the bed”. He was unbothered and it broke my heart to million pieces.
Life went on like this with this weird behaviors ,he would ask me to drop my child to cater to him even when she was sick. He would put on the fan and the AC at the highest even when she had a cold. He would insist I sleep in his room and leave my baby in another room. I resented him. The insults went on,always belittling me,telling me how stupid I was and how I am not good enough,I became very protective of my baby.
My resentment for Hamza grew daily, I was living in bondage yet I couldn’t find the courage to walk out.
what would people say,where will I go to when I know my family are just managing at least here I had food and a roof over my head. Since he doesn’t beat me apart from a few slaps I was fine.
I noticed that Hamza loved antagonizing me so I tried to show him I wasn’t bothered with his behavior but with Jamila being born he would use her to get to me. When, she was learning to walk ,she would spill water on the carpet, and shouted at her till she cried. He would beat her at any opportunity and call her “shegiya”. She was terrified of him and I made sure to keep him away from her as much as I can.
One day I was making dinner and I let Jamila stay in the living room watching cartoon,she was walking and saying a few words now and I was so proud of her.I didn’t know when her father walked in and carried her on his lap.
As I walked back into the living room I was shocked to see my husband fingering our little girl.
I was frozen in time. I started praying that this was a nightmare.
I rushed towards them and shouted his name,he quickly stood up with a guilty look.
I don’t remember what exactly I said but I remember slapping him and he slapped me back,he beat me while our daughter cried her head off and left me lying there in a pool of blood.
I cried that night. The next morning I said I had enough,I packed Jamila’s bag and was done packing mine when Hamza walked in “meye yake faruwa?”,his first words after beating me,I didnt answer him. I picked up my handbag and carried Jamila from the bed. he stood in the way and said I am not going anywhere.
For the first time in a very long time the fear I had for him vanished. I told him to get out of my way,but he refused he started laughing and saying look at me packing a back as if he dint buy everything I own,”ke matsiyaciya ma kaman ki ,me kike dashi”,if you insist on leaving then keep everything that you got from me and leave alone,I said ok,I dropped everything my bag,Jamila’s box and everything else including my phone.
I came towards the door this time with only Jamila and my purse that had some money inside,he still stood looking at me with venom in his eyes,”Ina zaki da ‘ya ta,ai itama anan kika same ta so ki ajiye mun ita”,I was speechless for a while,I could see where this was going and I knew that today I would die fighting if he didn’t allow me take my daughter with me.
“Kaima kasan babu yadda za’ayi inbar maka Jamila”,he laughed and said then let him see how I will get out of this house. We struggled as he tried to pull her away. We struggled for a while and when he got tired,he pushed us into the room and locked the door.I tried to break the door but I couldn’t. I eventually got tied of hitting the door and calling out for help.
Luckily I had Jamila’s diaper bag with me so she ate and slept off.About 5 hours later,Hamza came back he asked me to come to to the living room to talk,
I was so hungry and exhausted but I tried to look tough ,he started telling me he doesn’t know what came over him and he started molesting our daughter that he was sorry.
Also he had provided everything for me so why did I want to leave him. He rambled for almost an hour and when he was done I said “Hamza nifa aure na da kai ya qare,the sooner you let me go the better”,”NEVER” was his reply,I’d rather kill you than let you go and even if you leave me I will find you and make you pay.
From then on I was only allowed a few hours outside my room,he said he would stop when I changed my mind. I wasn’t allowed to go out anymore and the worst was at night he would force himself on me.This went on for almost 2 weeks and I knew I had to get out of this place. I was able to escape on Friday when he was rushing out for Juma’at prayer.
He didn’t lock the door to the room so I quickly got out and used the kitchen window to get out,the gate was locked from the outside and I knew the security had also gone to the nearby mosque but luckily the fence wasn’t too high. I found a bench used by the security.
I finally got to my aunt’s house,told her everything but she said I couldn’t stay,because he’ll start looking for me immediately he finds out I’m gone.
It has been almost 2 months now since I escaped,I was lucky to have reconnected with an old friend of mine who was living in Kano. She welcomed me to her home and made sure nobody knew of my whereabouts. My mom was worried sick so, I reached out the family with an anonymous number and told them I was ok.
I heard Hamza has been raising hell asking where about of his daughter saying I had sold her for money,can you imagine? I stayed in a toxic marriage till I no linger recognized myself but my maternal instinct gave me the courage to leave .