She sounded hoarse and tense on the phone, like someone consumed by anguish and pain which threaten to choke the life out of her.
‘It’s our landlord’, she begins.
‘He has increased the rent again and has given us one month notice to pay three years rent upfront or he will throw our things out’
Chinwe (not her real name) is like a sister and always impressed me with her rugged drive and determination. Hers it appears was always a life of struggle long before we crossed each other’s paths in the university; she self-sponsored herself while at the same time taking care of her aged parents and younger siblings. On graduation she moved to Lagos and fortune smiled on her.
She got a job, bought a car and moved into a 2 bedroom apartment in Festac town, she became a first among equals and still maintained her stylish fashion sense, in reminiscence of the days when she was severally voted the best dressed chic on campus.
Though age was now gradually taking its toll but she still glowed and managed to maintain her looks and beauty. While in Lagos she picked up a masters degree and a law degree from the University of Lagos, but by then her biological clock had started ticking, she was already in her thirties and she needed a husband, fast.
Along came Obinna (not his real name), a fine-boy-no-pimple type. A suave urbanite in the classic sense of the word. Obinna is your typical Igbo brother turned Lagosian, a fortune hunter, loafer and dreamer who chose to live on hope (of a mugu falling prey to his many scams), and on handouts from women and his many well-to-do friends, rather than haul his sorry backside to a 9 to 5.
He was blessed with good looks and a bag full of humour and lies, but his luck never shone in the 419 business. He failed to make it even at a time when it seemed that every Igbo brother living in Festac town was hitting it big in the advance fee fraud scam, and relied on his charm and good looks to survive. He never lacked women (single desperate ladies and sugar mummies scattered all over Lagos) who are willing to take care of him.
When he met Chinwe, he told her that he was a business man, car importer, exporter and general contractor. He always managed to convince a friend to lend him one of their state-of-the-art cars which he used to take Chinwe for a spin around the block, and ferry her across town to Victoria Island where her office was located. What he didn’t tell her was that he was also a merchant in a special type of commodity – women like her.
Chinwe fell for his charm, looks, lies and false promises.
Lagos is a big city and it is not uncommon for its dwellers to have lost touch and contacts with their roots, Obinna was not any different. He must have likened himself to the late Ernest Okonkwo, Nigeria’s ace sports commentator who lived, played, worked and died in Lagos.
At this time, Chinwe was probably in self denial mode, she may have known some things about Obinna but didn’t care or mind; he had after all said the magic M word and she was already pregnant with their first son.
Chinwe quickly paid for their low-key wedding. She later told me that the day after the wedding, rather than spend quality time with his new bride, Obinna was already on his way to Kaduna to meet up with a female acquaintance (Lady X), who was also in the dark as to the goings on in Obinna’s life. How did Chinwe find out?
Well, Lady X had mistakenly called their home number on the evening of the wedding day to confirm that Obinna was still flying out to Kaduna as planned. Chinwe answered the call and pretended to be Obinna’s cousin and took Lady X’s message for him, but she didn’t pass it on. She says she was too exhausted emotionally, financially and physically to start a ‘war of the Roses’ on her wedding night.
Obinna later left town to keep his date in far away Kaduna. Chinwe says that the humiliation that her hubby didn’t feel bad sleeping with another woman only a day after their wedding in a city hundreds of kilometers away almost killed her. She was to suffer many more embarrassments and humiliations at Obinna’s hands.
Against all the odds, Chinwe still kept up appearances and stayed in the marriage, she continued to hope for the best like many women in her shoes. By the time the second child (another boy) came, she had already been downsized at her job.
Without a job and regular income, stuck with two kids and an uncaring absentee husband, Chinwe began to suffer from the heavy burden of all the emotional roller-coaster. She is now a shadow of her former self, and gone with love are her beauty and fashion sense.
Obinna is still hovering around in Chinwe’s life somewhere, still angry and bitter with himself that Chinwe didn’t turn out to be the hoped – for financial saviour. Age and time is also telling on him, he is gradually loosing his touch and with all his ‘baggage’ (a wife and kids), he is no longer a ‘bankable’ and ‘marketable’ gigolo. Also, younger Adonis-like boys are now playing the field, these Taye Diggs look-alikes are first choice picks over him.
Divorce has never been considered she tells me, she doesn’t want her boys to be called bastards at school and at the playground, also she hates to have to live through the divorcee stigma, and then be scorned and shunned by family, friends and the society as if she is the cause of everything, thus making her out to be the most evil person on earth.
I was moved by Chinwe’s story and started writing this piece months ago before other things got in the way and I abandoned it. Since then a lot (good and bad) has happened in Chinwe’s life.
Chinwe has since gotten a job with one of the federal ministries in Abuja and will soon be relocating to Abuja.
Obinna is still the same loser and bum that he is and hasn’t changed I understand.
Sadly, Chinwe recently lost her younger sister (Meme) who used to live with her. Meme had recently gotten married and had been one of Chinwe’s sources of joy as she held out hope and promise for herself and their family. Meme’s death really devastated Chinwe. The last time I saw Meme she had looked full of life. May her soul rest in peace.
Like they say, life can sometimes be a b*tch. But God does provide us with the strength to carry on.The Nick Vujicic story is another good example of triumph in adversity.