Adda B Say So:Hajiya Maimuna Matar Alhaji
By Fatima Zahra Umar
Hajiya Maimuna is a big woman; she is a beautiful big woman. Hajiya Maimuna is a comfortable woman. Hajiya Maimuna is a mother to 4 lovely children some of whom are adults. Hajiya Maimuna is married to Alhaji Bello, who in everybody’s eyes is the best husband this side of the River Niger. He is seen by all as considerate, loving and kind. Alhaji Bello is an upstanding citizen, a good father and a wonderful husband by all standards but there is a problem.
For 25 years Hajiya Maimuna has kept his secret. Alhaji Bello is a child molester and an abusive husband. For 25 years she has carefully covered up her scars and pain behind gorgeous smiles and expensive laces. For 25 years Hajiya Maimuna has not said a word about this abuse. For 25 years her children have been forbidden from saying or doing anything about the inappropriate touching and vicious beatings. Everybody thinks she is indeed a lucky woman.
I met Hajiya Maimuna three years ago while I was interviewing subjects for the first season of Divorce Diaries. Her story intrigued me, I couldn’t think of what would make a woman leave a man like Alhaji Bello after 25 years. Until we met and she told me the horrific details:
‘He started molesting my first daughter when she was 7. My daughter told me after it happened twice and I went to confront him about it. I was disgusted and I had even made up my mind that I would leave him that day. That’s the first time he beat me. It was with his shoes, then his belt across my face. I was 5 months pregnant with my third child at the time and I thought I would die. I begged him to stop but he didn’t. At a point my daughter tried to intervene and he threw her small body across the room, till this day my daughter has a limp from that incident. He told me that both my daughter and I were under his control and there was nothing I could do. Another daughter of mine who was born later was still molested by him. I stayed with him and kept up appearances because I had nothing else to do. I didn’t want to leave my husband because that meant I would have to leave the kids with him. I couldn’t do it. The beatings continued, for me and my children. I allowed it to go on. I swallowed my voice eventhough I knew it wasn’t right. I decided to stay and comfort my daughters as much as I could and pray for him. The way I saw it, we were all in his prison together. I did not stay because I loved him; I stayed because I loved my daughters. I stayed because it was in their best interest. I stayed because I wanted my children to have a home. It was as Allah willed’
I was NOT convinced so I pressed her further. I asked her: What good did that do?
Hajiya Maimuna fell silent.
‘I wanted my children to have a home’- what kind of home is that?
A home wherein a child is not safe from a father that is meant to be a protector and safe place? I cannot even imagine the depth of the damage her daughters (now grown women with families of their own) have to deal with. How on earth does one deal with being abused by their father? How does anyone ever recover from that? What kind of man defiles his own daughter? What kind of weak devilish man raises his hand to his wife and children? This man should be rotting in prison but Hajiya Maimuna is horrified at the thought of even reporting her husband to the authorities. She believes it is an abomination to even tell anyone that the father of her children is a monster.
It is this sort of complicit silence that is slowly destroying our families. This culture of hypocritical silence that makes us look the other way so we can ‘rufa asiri’. As long as people like Alhaji Bello continue to get away with their evil deeds, more of our daughters will continue to be in danger.
So many of us put up with abuse in the name of ‘keeping a home for the children’. While Hajiya Maimuna’s case is an extreme one, it is also a reality for many women. We need to have this conversation with each other, of what good is staying for the children? If staying enables an unhealthy and unsafe atmosphere for the children to grow up in, then what is the point? Why are we actively raising damaged human beings because we want to ‘stay because of the children’? Why do we let abuse go on, and carry on as if all is well when our children are being damaged by abuse that we condone?
As mothers, sisters, daughters and friends we all need to WAKE UP!
Ask yourself what type of parent are you if you allow your children witness abuse? If you ignore the signs of abuse in your children because you want to stay for their sake how does that help? Please somebody should explain the logic of this to me because I just don’t get it. Believe me I know marriage is challenging and I am all for building strong united families, but condoning abuse is not the way to build a strong family. If anything it is counterproductive because it completely damages the family dynamic. Shine your eye!
The way I see it, abuse is wrong no matter what or who is involved. An abusive spouse is not a good reason to jeopardise your life and that of your children. At the end of the day, there is no amount of material luxury that can fix your broken children, no amount of laces and exotic cars will fix you. There is no day you don’t see in the news that a small child has been molested. No single day. We cannot continue like this!
Some months ago, the story of a four year old girl who had been continuously molested by the same man for a whole year in Kaduna, was in the media. The sickening scenario got even more bizarre when I learnt that the parents were aware of the molestation and the monster was even known to them! For a whole year the parents of this child knew and did nothing, until someone else decided to do something. According to my sauces this little girl is so thoroughly damaged that she will never truly be a woman in the way that her contemporaries can. Did I mention that the parents knew? Did I mention that for a whole year their little girl was being defiled and they did nothing because ana son rufa asiri?? This poor little girl only got respite because someone paid attention and decided to do something about it!
Hajiya Maimuna matar Alhaji Bello has ruined her daughters’ lives. Let us not allow it happen to anyone else because Adda B Say So! maybe we might save somebody’s life by opening up our hearts and paying attention.
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This column will be on a three week break. I will miss all of you. I love you all. In case you miss me too much, feel free to send me an email via Fadimatuzahra@gmail.com or you can just sip a Ribena in my honour. God bless!