MY NAME IS RAMATU FAGGE. I AM 45 YEARS OLD. I AM FROM BAUCHI STATE. I WAS MARRIED TO MALLAM GARBA ABUBAKAR. I AM MOTHER TO FIVE BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN; I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE MY DIVORCE DIARIES WITH YOU.
I met Garba when I was a young impressionable and naïve 19 year old. For him, it was love at first sight, but for me, I realized much later that I didn’t even know what love was when I met and married him. At first it really did seem like I had found my prince charming, like in those romance novels. I was so brainwashed by those novels and romantic songs. Garba was the perfect man during our courtship period. He was sweet, funny, charming and generous. As far as I was concerned I would get my happy ending with him. He was my Prince Charming!
I was totally and absolutely clueless about life; my perception of married life was far from the reality of things. Like most girls, I hoped for a fairy tale and believed the love he showed me during courtship would continue in our matrimonial home. I got married when I was in year two in the university. Garba worked in Kaduna, while I schooled in Kano, so it was always a huge issue going back to School. I was so foolish to believe everything he told me during courtship. When I got to find out the truth about him, I was devastated. I quickly discovered most of what Garba told me about himself were lies; he even lied about what he studied in the university! What he was bringing and the way he presented himself during our courtship was not a replica of his real life or situation; I became distraught and disappointed by all these discoveries. I realized rather too late that I had married a poor man instead of an average working class guy. His meagre salary from his civil service job was never enough to cater for our needs, there were many times when i had to sell some of my things to source money to go back to school.
Our problems worsened by the time we started having children, I gave birth to Samira when i was in my fourth year, i couldn’t go back to school because of that, which caused more problems for me. I had issues because I couldn’t return to school until few weeks to exams due to financial constraints. There was a semester i returned to campus on the day we were to start exams. I earlier had problems of carrying over courses that i didn’t pass, so with this, i knew i wasn’t going to graduate the same year that my mates would be graduating and I eventually had to spill. I struggled to finally finish my degree in Accounting, in the year 2000; a distant two years after my mates.
That was how we continued our married life experiencing one financial problem or the other, there was always something to worry about. I didn’t lack support and moral assistance from my family, even when Garba wanted to transfer me to Kaduna Polytechnic to continue with HND to make things easier for him. I got all the moral support i needed from my family on that, what i lacked was financial assistance. I got financial assistance from just one person and then when things became more difficult, from my mother when she got to know what i was going through. Everyone else was waiting for me to beg, and because i never begged, they gossiped about how i pretended all was well when that wasn’t actually the case. But how could I expose my husband and his poverty to outsiders??
Things would have been easier if I had continuous financial support; especially with school finances. I implore parents not to relent in supporting their daughter’s education even after marriage, in order to ensure she doesn’t encounter any hitches during her studies as a married woman.
I had always known there was something off about my husband, the way he talked to people sometimes, in a very disrespectful and rude manner. The way he drove like a maniac, and how he got easily upset over things that don’t really matter. I will never forget how he entered a turn recklessly and we were involved in a terrible car crash which left me blinded in one eye for over two weeks. It was later discovered that Garba was mentally challenged. Doctors diagnosed him as suffering from schizophrenia since he was twenty years old. This was the most challenging phase of my married life; i was pregnant with Faiza when his mental illness took a turn for the worst. It was really terrible. I cried myself to sleep almost every night because I was miserable. I admired all the women around me whose husbands weren’t mentally challenged like mine.
Instead of Sympathy, I was blamed for everything; his family blamed me for his manic episodes. His family became so hostile towards me that his mother came to live with us because they believed I couldn’t ‘manage’ him. Imagine how i must have felt then. I took care of everybody in the house, his asthmatic, hypertensive and diabetic mother, himself and my children on a shoe string budget. The most disturbing thing was his relatives’ persistence in insisting that his sickness was not a medically diagnosed mental illness. The few relatives that agreed with me on taking him to get the medical attention he needed were not in a position to take any decision regarding his life. So it was a battle for me trying to make them see reason, some of them refused because of the stigma attached to mental illness and how it will affect their family’s image; being one of the ruling houses of Zaria Emirate. Some were in denial of his illness because of its high cost of treatment. No one wanted to take responsibility despite the fact that Garba cared more about distributing his meagre salary to relatives than he did using it for his family’s upkeep.
I was divorced first when i was pregnant with my fourth child, Ali. Over the years Garba would make a huge scene before issuing a divorce, and later after i had returned to my parents’, his relatives and himself would not allow any of my family members any rest they would come pleading and begging. His people would always fool my family with emotional blackmail citing Garba being sick. I always wondered how they succeeded in fooling us into believing they cared. And because patience is believed to be a woman’s only virtue, I was continuously made to return to his house and suffer even when it was completely and obviously clear that there had not been any improvement. Life continued like that, crises upon crises, days seemed like weeks, weeks like months, it was terrible. There isn’t a way to explain to anyone how it really felt being married to someone that is mentally unstable. No one can understand how it feels, absolutely no one. I was dying in silence, whenever i had a chance to go out for any reason, i always hated going back home. I can only compare the feeling i experienced whenever i was supposed to return to my house with that sinking feeling that a boarding house student in a junior class feels when they are being taken back to school. My matrimonial home became my prison, pressures surrounded me from every angle. There was even a time i was accused of being responsible for his illness by some of his family members; the women! Of course.
My situation was hell on earth then. I was living a nightmare. I moved from one bad episode to another, from one pregnancy to the other; I lost a lot of weight. The painful thing was, nobody ever asked me how i was coping with him. It was terrifying sleeping with him in the room at night during his moments of crises, knowing he could snap at any moment. Living with him put me at risk of death or serious injury. In the morning people would be coming to see us and ask after his health condition, I guess the struggle was supposed to be mine alone. The pain and struggle were mine alone to bear. No one shared the agony with me, not even his mother that lived with us. Sometimes he would request for me to prepare tuwo for him at an odd hour, and the only way out for me at that time was preparing the tuwo. Garba’s situation kept on going like that, if he got well, he would be going to his office regularly, if not, it was as and when he desired.
I was blamed for everything that went wrong in my marriage, the situation was worse for me because my brother’s wife is related to my husband. There was a time when i got some intervention from my family, first was from brother in – law, who helped by getting some knowledgeable imams from Zaria, who came and performed Qur’an recitations on Garba , in a bid to expel the alleged evil spirits tormenting him. It didn’t work and Garba’s mental state deteriorated.
I got fed up and took a bold step; I got in touch with a Psychiatric Facility in Kaduna. I paid a deposit of thirty thousand naira which was one third of the total cost of treatment for a month, I naively thought doing that will earn me some certain degree of support from his relatives that shied away from responsibilities because of the cost of treatment, but unfortunately they all refused to allow me to put him in a hospital for mental treatment. At the time, I didn’t know that my rights as Garba’s wife at that time superseded theirs; i accepted their position and collected my money back from the hospital.
I got divorced first when i was pregnant with my fourth child after which i stayed at my brother’s house. After several visits by his relatives it was agreed I go back on the condition that they take Garba’s condition serious and take him to a psychiatric hospital. To my dismay, in a few months everything returned to the way it was. We had a huge fight, i was stripped naked and beaten by Garba in front of my children. There was nothing that he didn’t say to me, all the insults in Hausa land weren’t left out by Garba. I didn’t retaliate as i used to because i felt this had been taken to the next level, all i kept saying was, i was sorry. The reason for the fight was funny actually: my younger sister visited the previous day and she left a wrapper at my house and when it was time for me to sleep i tied the wrapper and slept in it, that was my offence. He said he didn’t like it when i tie wrappers that he didn’t know me with. I was angry at the statement but i never hesitated in changing to my own clothing immediately and I went to the kitchen to mind my business. It was in the kitchen that he followed me and started insulting me, kicking and hitting me. I ran out of the house to the neighbours for help. That was how he took our children to his relations, brought my things out of the house as I was later informed by the neighbours. My brother said my sisters should accompany me to collect my divorce letter that was my second divorce.
The last and final one was the most painful, even though i always saw those divorces as steps forward towards gaining my freedom from his terror, it pained me not because i wanted to continue living with a mentally derailed man, but because he divorced me right before my mother’s very eyes, in fact he was facing her when he uttered the divorce. My Hamza was nine days old when my cousins bought me a car. We grew up like sisters and they felt they should help me with something to ease my life. They even contributed money and gave me to begin a petty business. I was very happy and grateful for such kindness coming from them, they told me about the car even before it came and knowing how he reacts to things, i told him about the car beforehand. His issues worsened when he saw the car; maybe he didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. At the time he was using a car borrowed to him by his elder brother after we were involved in a terrible car accident i mentioned earlier.
Garba felt somehow offended by its arrival, i didn’t understand him at all. He would ask me to give him the car to use and i gave him. Sometimes he would be so angry to the extent that he would open the hood of the car and remove some things so as to make it difficult for me to make use of the car. He would say hurtful words to me because of the car. He did that purposely to find reasons and bases for finding faults in me because of he once told me; ‘‘wallahi Ramatu it pains me to open my eyes every day and see this your car parked outside the house’’.
That was how it continued over the months until one fateful day i saw that i couldn’t take any more and headed for my brother’s and incidentally my mother came for condolence. Garba followed me to my brother’s house upon realizing that i had left the house for good, he rained insults on me in front of my mother. He went to my sister’s house and made a big scene there too. He later came back to my brother’s house and gave me the final divorce in front of my mother. He gave me three divorces instead of the only one that remained. That was the end of me and Garba forever.
I learnt that Love is a very important attribute in keeping and maintaining a happy marriage, my lack of tolerance of my husband’s behavior and mental instability was due to my lack of love and affection for him. Perhaps if I had loved him the way he loved me, our problems would have been managed better. Orientation is of paramount importance for intending spouses, MEN should be given an orientation by family about how the reality of things are in marriage, so also the girl should be educated on what to expect after marriage instead of allowing them to learn the hard way like I did. I will make sure I tell my daughter and also my son that it is not all that glitters that is gold. Lies kill a marriage. I still remember how disappointed I got any time I found out the truth about the things my husband lied about. I never lied to him about anything. It was actually what contributed to my problems with Garba. My ignorance in so many things is also a lesson that I learnt how I kept asking for permission to take my husband to the psychiatric hospital from his relatives and how I allowed them to have the final say in everything that concerns him was because I was ignorant of the fact that I had rights over him. I would also seek references from family members and friends most of whom didn’t add anything positive. I became overwhelmed by frustration and depended too much on others even on issues. I blame my naivety for my challenges in marriage and divorce, I trusted people easily. I realized that it is unwise to continue to stay in a marriage that doesn’t serve you well because of children, staying because of the children eventually brings about more children and more children adds more problems.
Thank you for reading my story.
All thanks to Jaruma Magazine for allowing Us to share this beautiful and educative episode
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Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.
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