Divorce Diaries Season 4 Eps 7
MY NAME IS MAIMUNA ALHAJI. I AM 56 YEARS OLD. I WAS MARRIED TO ALHAJI KABIR, A PROMINENT MAN IN OUR STATE AND NATIONAL POLITICS. I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE MY DIVORCE DIARIES WITH YOU.
I met Alhaji when he was a slim eager young man. He was a young hotheaded firebrand student union leader at Ahmadu Bello University, during the late 70s and the early 80s when student activism was at its peak in the country.
I married him when he was a corper. We literally started out with nothing. We lived in a tiny flat in low cost area of town. Alhaji liked to be in control and over the years I let him have total control, for peace to reign. We have two daughters. To God be the glory.
I was a loyal wife, loyal to a fault. I was loyal beyond even my own reasoning. I was not allowed to work or go to school and so I was a housewife. I took my duties seriously. I was an upstanding wife though I wasn’t the perfect mother.
From the outside people think all is well with us as a family. It looks like we are the perfect Arewa couple. He, the fiery politician; and I, the supportive ever smiling hijab clad wife. But behind our picture perfect life in the public eye were heavy secrets, secrets capable of destroying my family. Secrets I have kept inside my heart for so long, until now. These secrets have weighed heavy on my mind for decades. I thought I was doing a good thing by keeping quiet but now I regret my silence. People around us still ask me why I left Alhaji. They all thought our marriage was made in heaven.
Alhaji is an abusive man. He beat me all the time. He beat me up when I provoked him and when I was just breathing. He is a tall giant of a man and has always been stronger than me. At first when he started beating me I would fight back. Fighting back made him more vicious. He would punch and kick and bite me all over. It’s as if beating me excited him with the way he put so much energy into it.
My two children; my daughters. My two daughters grew up in this domestic turmoil. My first daughter, Hafsa when she was only 7 years old told me her father had put his hand in her pant and it was hurting her. I was disgusted and I confronted Alhaji. He said me and my daughter were all possessions of his right hand meaning he could with us as he pleased. At the time I wanted to take my children and run but I couldn’t. What would I tell my people how would I face my family with this kind of accusation and my poor daughter I had to protect her. How could I expose my daughter to my family like that? I decided to stay. It was a painful decision but I had to do it. I did not want to deprive my children of a home. I wanted them to grow up in a home not as children of a woman that abandoned her husband. if I left him, who would love me? Who would want to love a battered mother of four? My best option was to stay. So I stayed on.
Alhaji continued to molest Hafsa until her late teens. As she grew older, she began to hate me. She became rude and disrespectful towards me and her father. She was recalcitrant and impossible with so much attitude. I wish I could explain things to her and make her understand that I was doing it to protect her. He made it very clear that turning a blind eye to his molestation of the girls was my only guarantee for a stress free marriage. I obeyed him and looked the other way, only tending to my daughters after the fact. Hafsa stopped coming to me, she stopped crying and screaming. She seemed to have accepted her father was a rapist. I tried my best but he was a monster.
I compensated my daughters with gifts and hoped my gestures would help them cope. Deep down I wanted it all to stop. I wanted to kill Alhaji and heal my babies,but I was not strong enough. Even financially I had nowhere to go if I left him. How would I afford their expensive schools as a single divorced mother with no skills or work experience? Alhaji knew I was financially weak and he capitalised on it. I was married to a very wealthy man but I had no real money of my own. I had no job. I had no skills. Leaving would be suicidal, financially.
Alhaji started abusing my second daughter (Amina) when she was 10. She came to me and told me. She was bleeding and crying. I was trying to console and comfort my daughter when he barged into my room and barked that I should `clean her up and shut her up“. I ignored him. That sent him into a rage and he pounced on me and beat me mercilessly. I cannot get the image of my small daughter trying to fight him off me. As little as she was, she knew to fight for me and I was unable to fight for her. I was so disgusted at myself that day. I had failed in my duty as a mother; I had failed to protect my children.
The abuse continued as my girls grew into womanhood. He would tell them that he had to touch them and rape them so that bad men will stay away from them. He said it was an old family ritual to protect them from the evil men in the world. He manipulated them into thinking they would die if they told anyone, even me. Amina always cried that she would die every time she came to me. The worst thing I had to do was to clean semen off my little girl`s body after every encounter. Gradually with time, my daughters resented and hated me. Alhaji sent the children to boarding schools abroad while he continued his political battles, I was left alone. That is when I started losing my mind. I became depressed. I would stay days without eating or talking to anybody. I was dying slowly. During this period I only saw Alhaji when we had a function to go to. He would come into my room and say:
“ Ke mahaukaciya, put on your happy face, we are going to have dinner with the president and his family“
“NI ba Mahaukaciya ba Ce. You should fear God Alhaji! “
“Toh if not mahaukaciya who stays in a dark room for days and refuses to eat? One of these days I will have to marry a new wife since you are so neglectful of me“
And he would close the door before I could reply. That was our routine. “putting on“ my happy face when we had visitors over or when we were out in public. I was drowning in hate and anger and bitterness, while smiling and grinning for the cameras.
We continued like this for years until after Amina got married. Halima had stopped speaking with me even before her marriage. She chose to do her marriage in her uncle`s house and not her father`s house. I had lost Halima. When she had her first child I was not informed on time. When I went to see her she refused to let me hold the baby. She thoroughly embarrassed me in front of her in-laws that I was just meeting for the first time. I didn’t blame her. I failed her. She had every right to hate me.
After Amina`s wedding I went through another terrible bout of depression. I was having suicidal thoughts. I really did not see any reason to live. I was going crazy thinking about all the things I had covered up to keep my home. I couldn’t even pray. I was too ashamed to face God and ask Him for anything. What had I done? My daughters hated me and Alhaji despised me.
One evening I went to Alhaji`s room. The monster was on the phone. I stood there for 20 minutes before he even noticed me. He continued talking on the phone as if I was invincible. I went towards him and tried to kiss him. That got his attention and he got off the phone.
“Mahaukaciya, so we are lucid today? What brings you to my neck of the woods?“
“Alhaji we need to talk… I am tired of this marriage. I want you to release me from this prison I am in. “
“ Yes I am listening. Do you think you are the only one that is tired of this marriage? But we must all learn to live our destiny. Allah has destined that you will be my wife in this prison you put yourself in. I have given you everything yet you prefer to sulk all day in the darkness of your room. If that is your destiny then you must live it`
“ Wait for me to die you hear? So you can get an unconditional release Kinji KO?
I don’t know where I got the energy to pounce on him from. I just pounced on him and strangled him with all my might…till he gathered enough strength to push me off him. I fell on the floor. He got up and was walking towards me; I got up and kicked him in the nuts. That paralysed him for a bit and then I said I would kill him if he didn’t divorce me. He nodded. I sauntered back to my room.
Three days later, Alhaji came to me with a divorce letter and a bag full of money. He said he would divorce me on the condition that I never speak to anyone, especially his political foes about what happened with our daughters. I agreed.
It has been 6 years since that day. All our friends and associates still wonder why we are divorced. Alhaji sends me a regular allowance to keep me silent. My daughters still hate and resent me. I am now in University trying to get a degree, at least. I am still making efforts to reconcile with my children. Alhaji is now a “chieftain` of the ruling party. He is still respected and revered by politicians. I see him on TV sometimes.
I have come to realise that I was staying in that marriage for my own selfish reasons and not for my children. It was unfair of me to stay with a man that damaged and raped his own daughters. I will never be able to undo the damage that has been done to my children. My fellow women, when we say we are staying for the children, are we really staying for them? Does it really benefit the kids?
Thank you for reading my story.