Navigating life as a woman in the world today is incredibly difficult. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are.
Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their takes on everything from sex to politics right here.
For the woman in this week’s What She Said, choosing to marry a 61-year-old man who already had three wives when she was 27, was a much easier decision for her than many people would think. She’s 29 now and walks us through the unique dynamics of her married life, her lack of regrets and life in general.
What’s the beginning of your story?
I guess I should start with how we met. It wasn’t love at first sight. He was my younger sister’s boss when she was doing NYSC. He was very invested in her wellbeing and asked to meet her parents. We even thought he was trying to toast her. The day he came I happened to be at home, he was very polite. He brought food and money, chatted with my parents for a couple of minutes, and then stood up to take his leave. I walked him out so I could thank him again for taking care of my sister and for the things he brought. It was a time where things were tight for the family. Things are always tight, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, after I thanked him I told him if he knew anyone that was hiring he should please send me their way. I had been job seeking for almost two years with no luck. He said no problem and asked for my number, and that’s how we started chatting.
Did you date?
We chatted for a couple of weeks, then we started seeing each other. But it wasn’t a secret affair. He wasn’t trying to hide me or anything. I would go with him to parties or office functions, things like that. But anytime he wanted us to be together, he’ll take me to one of his guest houses. He never took me home, and he never mentioned his wives. I knew he was married, but I didn’t know he had three wives. Eleven months after we met, he told me he wasn’t a child anymore and he couldn’t be doing all the playing around we were doing. That was when he told me he had three wives and he wanted me to be the fourth.
How did you react?
Before I met him, marriage was not on my horizon at all. I had dumped one yeye boyfriend I had, and I was not looking for any man to stress me. The fact that I was not thinking about my marriage at all, coupled with the fact that he now even wanted me to be a fourth wife, made me hesitate. I told him I needed to sleep on it and pray about it. After a week I realised the thought of it wasn’t as scary as when he first told me, so I told him yes.
Would you say you were in love with him?
Which love? I don’t hate him, in fact, I’m fond of him, but if it’s that foolish type of love I used to feel for small small boyfriends that year, I don’t think so. The kind that will make me be cooking for a man that’s cheating on me. God forbid I use my eyes to see that kind of love again. Does anyone even marry for love?
Why did you say yes to his proposal?
It was just the sensible thing to do. This was a good and responsible man that was taking very good care of me. He was kind; he wasn’t abusive; he was already taking care of a lot of my family responsibilities. He was sending money to my parents twice a month and paying the last born’s school fees. This year he was the one who renewed the rent on my parent’s house. Saying yes was just the sensible thing to do.
You said he was kind, has that changed since you’ve been married
Not in the least bit. He’s not as sweet as he used to be when he was chasing me. Ah that time what didn’t he tell me. The only thing remaining was for him to tell me that he was going to make me the queen of England. But other than that, he hasn’t let me down. He promised me a life of stability and comfort, and that’s what I have.
Did your parents oppose the marriage?
My mother was supportive from the very beginning. She knew he was a very kind man, and he had already been helping the family out. It was my father that wasn’t having it, he even threatened to disown me that I’m a prostitute. But I wasn’t fazed by anything he said. When it’s not as if he’ll marry me. His biggest problem wasn’t even the fact that he was 61. It was that I had to convert. It’s not as if we were strong Christians, but he didn’t like Muslims. When I told my husband, he just told me not to worry that he’ll talk to him. Till today I don’t know what he said to my father o, but he gave his blessing that very day.
You didn’t have a problem with converting?
Like I said we were not strong Christians like that. Before I got married I hadn’t even stepped inside a church in two years. But he’s also not a strong Muslim like that. I didn’t have to cover my hair or change the way I dress or anything. The only difference is that I have a Muslim name now, but I don’t use it I still use my first name. He doesn’t even like it when people call him Alhaji, mostly because it makes him feel old sha.
What about friends and other families?
There was nothing I didn’t hear from those ones. That I’m a gold digger, that I’m marrying for money. I told them it’s better for me to be all those things than for me to be dying in poverty like them. Some of my friends stopped speaking to me but as far I was concerned it was good riddance. When it wasn’t as if I killed someone or destroyed somebody’s marriage.
What surprises people who don’t know you the most?
Asides my age that I’m educated. When his friends first heard of me, they were expecting to see a village girl when they met me. I was born and raised in Lagos. I went to Unilag; I have a degree in Microbiology.
How’s life with the other wives?
The other three wives don’t stay with us, so I only get to see them during family events. The first wife is in England with her children and grandchildren, the second wife is in Ibadan because that’s where he married her and put her. He does a lot of business in Ibadan, when he goes there he stays with her. The third wife is in Lagos here with us. When they were dating, he put her in an apartment and she just never left. He goes to see her every other weekend. So it’s just me in the main house with him.
The first time I met two out of the three wives, I was expecting drama. I didn’t leave his side the whole day until they told all the women to sit together. The second wife was very warm. She gisted with me and told me about how she met our husband, then asked me about how I met him. The third wife was very cold, but she didn’t cause any trouble for me at all.
What’s having stepchildren like at your age
I’m not anybody’s stepmother, please o. His two children from his first wife are older than me. Are those the people I want to form stepmother for? I’m not even sure how many children he has and I don’t want to know they are not my business. Sometimes one or two come to the house to ask for money or spend a week or two. I just let them be to avoid any insult. If I see them they greet me, that’s all.
Whatever happened to that job you asked for?
He found one for me o, with a friend of his. It was glorified secretary work, but that wasn’t the problem. The friend started disturbing me. If I pass by his table, he will touch my waist or touch my bum bum. When I finally told my husband, he called the man to abuse him thoroughly. I just stopped going to work from that day.
Do you work now?
No, I don’t. I was working on opening a makeup and skincare store before this Coronavirus thing started. I’ve already gotten the space, but all the things I ordered to stock up have been delayed. Some have started coming in now, so I’m optimistic that by the end of the year everything will be ready.
Would you have had it any other way? Maybe married a younger man if your life was different?
I don’t know; I don’t think so. Age is honestly a number, shey I was dating younger men before I met him they were bringing me nothing more than suffering. There’s nothing any other man can do for me that my husband isn’t already doing. Yes, my comfort and my family’s comfort was one of the biggest motivators for my marriage, but I would have done it, regardless. He’s a very caring man, he doesn’t take care of me just financially, he really cares for my wellbeing too.