Read about this soul-touching story of an arranged marriage between Zainab and Abdul which turned sour.
My name is Zainab Mai Pampo. I am 26 years old. I am from Yobe state. I would like to share my divorce diaries with you.
I got married very early in life. I was in my first year in the university. I married my distant cousin, AbdulSamad (Abdul). I hardly knew him, to be honest. But it was the Fulani way; we were arranged for each other. Everyone said I was lucky. They said he was a nice man, a religious and pious man and that he would make a very nice and caring husband. Abdul was well educated in expensive schools in Europe, and had a good job in the oil and gas industry. He had been fighting his family over a Hausa girl he wanted to marry that his family didn’t approve. He was the only child and his mother had insisted he had to marry from good roots. His family insisted he couldn’t marry his girlfriend, because she was not Fulani. She was a ‘kado’ (savage non Fulani) and therefore unsuitable for a prestigious family like his. Because of this reason, his mother went on the lookout to find a suitable girl. And that is how I was selected to be his bride; I didn’t even know my mother and his mother had agreed.
I had been on a trip to Macina, our village to see my grandparents. By the time I returned, my family was already gearing to receive Abdul and his family, for the formal introductions and engagement, all without my knowledge! I met him once before our engagement took place. I thought he was soft spoken and kind. I thought to myself maybe this wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it to be.
And just like that, I was engaged to the man. Our wedding date was set 6 months after our engagement, so that we could get to know each other better before the marriage. I was really surprised at Abdul. He was religious and God fearing but he had a very volatile temper. I complained several times to my aunts and uncles and everybody said the same thing: “When you become his wife, you will be able to change him. He will change his temper to please you” or “Just be patient, and he will eventually change”.
After my wedding I quickly realised that my husband had sold me a fake idea of who he really was. Before we got married he was all for education. After we got married, he told me I had to stop schooling. My parents knew about this because I complained to them but they urged me to be obedient to my husband and respect his wishes. I agreed to.
He stopped praying even though before we got married he was always reminding me of prayer times. He hated prayer. Very early on we fought about waking up for fajr. He was so angry that I woke him up for Fajr prayers he slapped me twice, and warned me never to try that sort of thing again. I was shaken. Even as a small girl no one had slapped me before. On the face! Not even my own father or mother.
From that day, my husband became very comfortable hitting me, slapping me, and kicking me. At first I thought maybe he was having problems at work and he was stressed out, but as the months passed and became a year, the beatings became more and more frequent. More wicked and brutal. He had different ways of beating me. Sometimes, on the good days, he would use his hands and fists. But on the bad days, he had an array of belts, chargers and lamps to hit me with.
It was like he hated me. As if my problems were not enough, he kept rubbing his relationship with his former girlfriend in my face. He would put her on speaker phone and I would have to listen to their conversations or face a beating. On some nights, he would ask me to stand up then he would examine me and criticise parts of my body while comparing my body to hers.
One day I decided to report him to his mother. I figured as a woman and a mother she would protect me. I was so wrong, the moment I told her what was going on, she laughed. She laughed and said:
“You are a very stubborn girl, how do you expect your husband not to beat you when you needlessly provoke him to anger? Successful wives are those that know how to manage their husband’s moods. Or is it that you enjoy his beatings?’
I could not believe it. Clearly I was on my own in this family. I was going to tell her about his girlfriend too but after those remarks I decided not to. I listened quietly while I burned inside. She continued to talk.
“If you want your marriage to succeed, you must learn to manage your secrets. You must manage your husband so another woman will not come and make a fool out of you. You must also manage your husband’s image, if you tell anyone else all you have told me, do you think anyone will respect your husband, especially your family members and friends? You must manage your husband well for you to enjoy him. Kin ji ko? Allah ya muku albarka. Ameen”
I sat there and I thought of my life. Supposing she was right? Supposing I was being beating and brutalised because I was a poor ‘manager’ of my husband? What if she was right? I was the cause of my husband’s brutality towards me. I had to try and do better as a wife. I had to try and manage my husband kawai if I wanted peace in my home and on my body.
So I set to work, I cooked more elaborate meals and smiled more. I also started to avoid him when I noticed he was talking to his girlfriend. I tried as much as possible to be quiet around the house, to be silent and pleasant. For like a week it worked but then a leopard never changes its spots. What still astounds me is that Abdul is an upstanding gentleman in public and outside his home. Everybody said he was a good man and that I was too stubborn.
The beatings started with a fresh brutality. My scars multiplied. Since we were in separate bedrooms, he started this trend of breaking down my door at night, sometimes he would force me and sometimes he would beg me. I could not do or say anything. I felt helpless. Even if some spirit entered me to fight back or leave, I would remember the words of my mother-in-law and swallow everything. I wanted so bad to be a successful wife, a wife that her husband would be proud of. So I endured, and endured but things didn’t get better.
One day, my husband beat me so badly I almost died. He beat me because he said the food I served him for dinner smelt rotten. I was in the middle of my apology when a hot slap thundered across my face. I fell to the floor and the agony of being kicked and hit with several blows was too much for me to bear. At this time I was already a few months pregnant, I was using all my strength to protect my baby. I put both hands on my abdomen and curled into a ball. That provoked him to kick me even harder. I held on to my abdomen. I was not going to let him kill this baby. No way.
Suddenly I gathered strength and I pushed him off me, he was so surprised he didn’t move! I ran out of the house unto the main road. I must have looked like a mad woman, my hair was uncovered and my blouse was torn, revealing my bra, my face was swollen and my right eye was purple. People stared me and no one wanted to say anything to me. People just stared. I ran as far as I could. I had no destination, I was just running. I wanted to die and end it all. I just wanted to be free of Abdul. So I kept running. I got to the gate of a hospital and I fainted. Hours later, I was in a hospital bed, I had lost my baby. I was devastated. I had lost my child because I wanted to ‘manage’ my husband, how foolish of me! Abdul was a monster and that was the honest truth. There was no managing a monster. He would continue to beat me and he would eventually get away with it. The worst part was he would get away with it. No one would blame him. Everybody would blame his wife for ‘provoking’ her husband! Is it not foolish that the same man that seeks your pleasure at night will beat you like an animal? And we accept it because we accept everything a man does as right.
I was in that hospital for 10 days and my husband did not show up. His mother visited me on the 7th day and gave me my divorce letter. He had issued one divorce. He wrote:
“I have divorced you one time, for refusing to come back to your matrimonial home despite leaving it without my permission. Notwithstanding, I am prepared to take you back if you show remorse and ask for my forgiveness and that of my mother.”
Wallahi I almost laughed out loud when I read that last sentence. Can you imagine?
His mother paid my hospital fees and gave me some money to board a vehicle back to Damaturu. I went back home and faced my parents. My parents also felt that I was partly to blame for his violence. My mother still gave me lectures on how to manage my husband. After about 8 months at home with no sign of Abdul or his family, my parents eventually realised a lot of things. They started to agree with me that Abdul was a monster, and finally they believed me. Till today Abdul has not been able to face my parents.
I still face all sorts of discrimination and demeaning comments from family members because of my status as a divorcee. A ce na qi zama in ci arziqi. What is the use of arziqi (wealth) when you are in bondage? How is that a life? Just imagine the way our people think.
I still have my scars. Every day they remind me of how far I have become. They say patience is a virtue but so also is courage. I am grateful to Allah for leading me out of that marriage, leaving that marriage was the ultimate relief. If any woman is reading this and she is in that kind of situation, I just want to use this medium to tell her that she has to save herself. By allowing a man to beat you up at any slight provocation you are lessening yourself and your worth. He will not respect you and he will not stop. It is better to be alive, healthy and divorced than dying slowly as a punching bag.
Take a look at my life now, I would have been able to complete my education by now. I would have been a graduate. But because I thought leaving school would make me a successful wife, now I am starting all over again. Have I not cheated myself? Why do we women always sacrifice so much to keep the peace and yet it is not appreciated?
Thank you for reading my story. I really hope it will touch a woman who is in the shoes I used to be in somewhere. I hope it will touch our parents to start investigating potential spouses for us. I wish our parents will give us listening ears and not force us to stay in dangerous situations. I really hope our parents will reflect on my story and stop this practice of tribalism in marriage. A good person is a good person, regardless of tribe. I also hope it will touch a wife beater somewhere to change his ways or seek help. May God help us all.
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