It was a fall afternoon, October 1989 to be specific. I was in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria, when I shared a taxi with my secondary school Home Economics/Food & Nutrition teacher. That is where my story starts. Within five short months I was married to her brother in London, England.
We boarded the taxi from University of Maiduguri Campus where I was studying foundation in Laboratory Technology. The progression was to lead to a degree in Microbiology. I was going to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) for a rehearsal for a TV drama show I was a part of. When I got to my stop, I paid my fare and that of my ex-teacher. She then said to me, “Oh, I just remembered, I had you in mind a while ago, but could not contact you. There is something very important I would like to discuss with you.” She wrote her address onto a piece of paper and gave it to me. We agreed on a date and the taxi drove off. At the time, I didn’t think much more about it since I was so busy.
It had been three years since I saw my former teacher. I wondered what was so important that she wanted to speak with me. When I arrived at her address, she welcomed me and offered me a drink. After exchanging pleasantries, she revealed what she wanted to discuss with me. She told me her elder brother in London, England, wanted a wife.
From his specifications I was the ideal person for him. She said he wanted a well-behaved girl from a good family. She needed to be intelligent, have a fair complexion, an athletic build and be tall. I was all of those things. She wanted to take a picture of me to send to him. After he received it the discussion could continue from there. I could not believe what I just heard. In fact, I was astonished. “I am not sure if I’m interested in this proposal” I said to her. We left it at that. She went on to say that she knew my father and would approach him directly about the matter.
I left her house feeling confused and afraid. I was 19 and in love – not with her brother in England, but with someone else in the University. I returned to my college campus and told my boyfriend, whom I shall call Jim, about the visit. My ex-teacher proceeded to visit my parents. She informed them of her mission to find a wife for her brother per his instructions. My parents requested I come home one weekend for a meeting about the matter. During the meeting I told them I was not interested in marrying someone I didn’t know regardless of where he was from or what he had. Besides, I was not old enough to get married. They persuaded me to send my photo and said that he may have found someone else or may not be interested in me. Just to get them off my case, I pulled out a photo from my album and sent it to my ex-teacher. She, in turn, sent it off to her brother.
I received a beautiful postcard directly from my “would-be” husband. Next, there was a letter saying he would like to marry me and would be coming to Nigeria to make the arrangements. It was only four months since I had shared a taxi with my ex-teacher and now I was about to marry her brother? I was in disbelief and really couldn’t accept it. I never even liked the woman when she was my teacher. No one in school liked her.
My “would-be” husband arrived in Nigeria just a few weeks after getting my letter, much to my surprise. He claimed to be an accountant with a home of his own and tenants. He’d promised me a life of comfort and all I had to do in exchange was collect the rents, help him, go to college and live happily ever.
On the day of the marriage ceremony I refused to go home. My parents sent me a message through a friend of mine who lived opposite of me at home and was in same University as me. They wanted me to come home for the ceremony, but I refused. I was in Jim’s college room with Jim and so confused. I poured out tears that were filled with deep grief. I sent my college friend away to say I wouldn’t go and I was not going to marry that man. My college friend was sent back to tell me that if I did not come home I should no longer consider them my parents. Outside the college, there was a taxi waiting to take me back home. After about an hour of continuous tears and clinging to Jim, my college friend finally persuaded me that it would be best to go and also, I couldn’t isolate myself from my family.
I finally agreed because of a backup plan I made with Jim. The plan was to go marry the stranger just to please my parents and then I would leave him. I was scared of eloping with Jim, whom I truly loved, because I was very close with my mum and I didn’t want to cause her heartache by just disappearing. I would miss her way too much to do something like that. I was armed with a plan that I was not sure how to execute. Still, I boarded the taxi with tears freely flowing and headed off towards my home. A new husband and ceremony were there waiting for the miserable bride.
In a flash the ceremony was over. My now husband, whom I shall call Simon, told me he had learned of the boyfriend I had at the university. I was forbidden from having any contact with him. He went on to say that anyone who wants to see me must visit me in his sister’s house. He also instructed me to stop any contraceptive I may be using right away.
Just a few days later I had to go to the university campus to collect my belongings and face my boyfriend Jim. That was the end of college for me.
(Excerpt from book IT IS MY LIFE AND I’M IN CHARGE based on true event)