Written by Rejoice Igbinovia Aluyi
I AM ZAINAB ALIYU,,,this is my story
I am the first child of four children,the only daughter actually,my three younger siblings are boys,,, I am from a very poor family, nevertheless I have the most amazing mother, though not educated because her father didn’t believe in female education, she loves education, and her greatest wish was for us her children to be well educated,, thankfully I was a very smart child and that made her a very proud mother..
Baba my father, wasn’t really different from most Africa fathers, he loves us his family and tried so much to put food on our table, at least two square meal,,he wasn’t really interested in my education, but he allowed me for mother’s sake, he didn’t have a stable job, but works at the farm lands of anyone in need of a worker, that’s how we had managed..we were proud Muslims, and faithful ones at that,,,our focus was to do the will of Allah, and obey his teachings…..
At school, I didn’t have all the books like others, neither did I have good uniforms or shoes, but it didn’t stop me, I was focused and willing to do my best,, I had a dream of being the first female doctor in my town…My small town was suffering all because no medical personnel were available at our dilapitated health center,,those posted there, come only once a week, leaving us to die of different diseases, pregnant women who weren’t able to push their babies die of pain after much labour, since the health center was not available…
I already had idea of what science is and my dream, I was 14, we were very few females in the class, those whose parents were okay,and two who had come from a near by town because their town had no high school,,I was the only one from my kind of background in school,,, that’s because I had a mother who saw my dream with me,and wanted to push me to the top,,, amongst the girls, I was the most intelligent, I had some number of male students who were very intelligent, for this I became the most loved by the teachers,they would always use me as an example to other girls who were lacking behide,,, Zainab doesn’t have any textbook, yet she tries so much to be the best,,,you that are previllige to have all you need, you can’t even sit down and study your books,Teacher Ibrahim would always say,,,of course,this caused the girls to regard me as an enemy,,,they hated me so much,they would not talk to me,infact they say I smell,,,only Aminat saw me as a friend,,she was very close to me,and she would always defend me when those other girls tried to bully me,,,she loved me and was very supportive,she was an average student,but was very willing to learn,she was from the other town.
We were preparing for our promotion exams ,I was in Junior secondary school 2,, I had to study hard to pass,so that I can be promoted,the other girls need not study hard, whether they passed or not,their parents had money to give to the principal inorder for them to be in the next class,,, but my parent cant afford that,and even if they could ,l would still prefer I earned my promotion,,,,
That Saturday afternoon, I was studying, when uncle suleman came and saw me,he had actually came to see baba his elder brother,,,,baba heard his voice and came out,,they exchanged pleasantries,and uncle told baba that he’s still feeding a grown woman in his house,when She should be married,,,baba looked at him,and told him to stop,that I was only 14
“you call 14 only, my daughter who is 13 is already in her husband’s house, you are here wasting your food on her
“is that why you came visiting? baba asked trying to change the conversation
“no ohhh, I came to borrow your rake,I will be needing it tomorrow morning,,,baba went in and gave him the rake and he left….
I was very happy uncle suleman had gone ,and more pleased about baba response to what he said,,,some parent gave their daughters hand in marriage at a very tender age, in my place, but I was very thankful to Allah, that my parent didn’t belong to that school of thought…
The exams came ,and I did my very best,when the results came ,I had passed in flying colours, only I and Aminat were the female who passed,,,the others, their mothers had to see the principal for them to be allowed to move to the next class instead of them to repeat,,,this is my country where you can buy what you do not Merrit…..
Being in the final year of my junior high school was a very great achievement for mom and I,, no female had reached that level in both my paternal and maternal sides, this didn’t go down well with uncle Suleiman,,, when ever he came visiting and heard me talk in simple and correct English, it was as if I was pouring hot coal on him, he would start complaining and shouting at me that I am trying to act and speak like a white lady, that my father is allowing me grow wings in his house rather than making me a house wife,,, father would always finds a way to change the topic…
Life in school was as usual, the other girls were making my life a living hell, but thank God for Aminat, I just ignored them and did my best …
Everything was fine and I was done with my final exams, I was very happy, next resumption I would be in senior secondary school 1, that’s another step closer to my destiny…
During the holidays, things became very rough for baba,, we were finding it difficult to eat a good meal even once a day, no one seems to be in need of Papa’s services anymore,, we were surviving with the very little servings baba had, but certainly that won’t sustain us for long…
To make matter worse, my younger brother became very sick, he grew worse by the day, and our health center was nothing to write home about, all the herbal drugs mama gave him did little or no help, we were all worried, my brother Akeeem was dying and we needed to take him to the hospital in the big cities,, I had never been there,, but baba you have to take Akeeem to the big city, so that they would take care of him ” I had said
“You are right ZAINAB, but they won’t commerce treated in the big city without money, and I don’t have any
Oh Ahalla serve my son, mama had cried,, wait a minute,maji na,(my husband),why not ask for loan from Alhaji Usman the money lender for help
“oh matata (my wife),why didn’t I think of this earlier,I shall surely do that immediately….
Baba went to Alhaji Usman to ask for some loans,, he was back hours later, but he wasn’t smiling as we had expected him to since he has the money
“maji na, you don’t look happy,what is it?
he agreed to give me the money and he said that I shouldn’t pay back “baba said
“ah…. isn’t that supposed to be a thing of joy, that’s good news, so why are you not happy?
the price he’s asking is too much
“what are you talking about, nothing can be too much for our son’s life “mama had said
He’s asking for ZAINAB’s hand in marriage
“Allah ya kiyaye, God forbid, mama shouted, a Man in his 60’s, with five wives wants my only daughter ZAINAB as his sixth wife, I say God forbid
“calm down Fatima, you know I love our daughter too, but there is nothing we can do,, he has promised us so much,, our lives will change for good having Alhaji Usman as our son in law
“son in-law, a man old enough to be our father, and my daughter’s grandfather son-in-law,,, he’s our father in law not son, because we can’t birth such a man
I was speechless,, I watched my parents argued for such a long time, which has never happened, with me being the center of discussion, they argued and talked as though I wasn’t there,,I was shocked to know my dad even considered such an offer,, I didn’t know what to do or how to feel.
My brother’s illnesses was getting intensed, I was beginning to get scared for him, the peace in my home had disappeared with the wind, father and mother were not in talking terms, I know it was because of my situation,,,my siblings and I were dying of hunger and starvation there was nothing to eat,,,I wished I could help my brother, but sacrificing my education and dream was one thing I wasn’t sure of,, let alone living the rest of my life with a man twice my father’s age as his sixth wife, this man already has children old enough to be my father,, I couldn’t think of anything else and that was really breaking my heart, I wanted my family to be as it was, neither baba nor mama was willing to compromise…
Days on, I saw uncle suleman and some of my paternal relations, came to the house, and their faces spelt DOOM….
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