It had been an arranged marriage between my sister Jadesola and Muyiwa.Mother knew Muyiwa’s parents quite well, his father was a former Minister of Petroleum, and his mother had been on the front page of the Vanguard Allure Magazine several times. She is one of the most influential women in Lagos, and mother had met her on several occasions at parties where their friendship first struck, then blossomed. Jadesola met Muyiwa in one of such parties, when she came home for holidays.
Jadesola and I hated those parties. Dad complained so much about Lagos big women parties, where the extravagant women bought ‘aso-ebi’ worth thousands of dollars . He couldn’t stand that extravagant lifestyle, and he told Mother so on the day she announced her decision to buy ‘aso-ebi’ worth five thousand dollars, for the Oba of Lagos son’s wedding
‘Fisayo that is too much, just because someboy’s son wants to get married.’
‘Demola, their party is not for poor people, it is for rich people, do you know who the king’s son is getting married to? The Ooni of Ife’s daughter. These are the high class people with pedigree in our society, their children just don’t marry a nobody.’
Muyiwa, my sister’s bethrothed, managed his father’s business. He has talked on several occasions in many of Nigerian Newspapers about the family’s business. Many entertainment magazines had reported the several women he had been with in the past— many of whom were from his class. One entertainment magazine even labelled him as one of the most eligible bachelors in Nigeria because of his family’s wealth.
I watched the way Muyiwa looked at my sister with warm, calm eyes. My mother saw it and encouraged it. She—not Jadesola – was the one who invited Muyiwa to our Lekki home. It was she who insisted that Muyiwa take Jadesola out for dinner, and get to know her better. It was she who gave Muyiwa Jadesola’s address in London so , he could go see her on his next visit. Muyiwa bought many gifts for Jadesola and Mother was always happy about this. She knew Jadesola didn’t love Muyiwa but she fostered the affection.
‘I didn’t love your father when I first met him but I knew he was the right man for me.’
Two months before Jadesola’s wedding, Mother, Jadesola and I went to Mrs Atinuke Subomi’s store at the popular Balogun market in Lagos to pick the Aso-ebi – Hollandais – for the wedding ceremony. Mother and Mrs Atinuke Subomi have been friends since childhood.
The traffic to Balogun market was heavy that day and Mummy’s driver drove bumper to bumper with other cars.When we got down from Mother’s jeep, she held Jadesola in one hand and I in the other, so we would not get lost in the crowd in Balogun market.
‘My daughter Jadesola is getting married. You know her, the one who just returned from London.’ Mother said pushing Jadesola to greet Mrs. Subomi after we got to her store, before sitting on the chairs one of her workers brought for us.
‘I remember her, you know she is your carbon copy unlike Omowumi her sister. The last time I saw her was at her graduation from Atlantic Hall. Children of nowadays see how they grow.’
‘Atinuke, I had to practically drag her back home to come and get married. All she knows now is study, study. I told her father if she is not ready to get married then he shouldn’t give her money to go to Princeton for her Masters, she must return home first, marry before going to America for any masters, that is what responsible daughters do, give their parents grandchildren before going for Master’s degree.’
‘That is what I told my daughter but she has refused to get married at thirty-three. She is in America telling me she is teaching African Science in one University, ki lo kan, what is her business with African Science, she is failing in her responsibility, settling down to get married.’
‘That is what I am concerned about, the children my daughter mingle with, if not for her fiancé Muyiwa who went to London often and told me what kind of people Jadesola is frolicking with I won’t have believed.’
‘My concern now is how my own daughter will come home to get married. Fisayo, I am so worried, gba mi ore.’
‘Tell her a lie to lure her home and seize her passport until she gets married, that’s what I did to Jadesola, until the marriage is over and a child is born, she won’t go to America.’
One of Mrs Subomi’s workers brought the Vilsco Hollandais and the Swiss lace. ‘The Hollandais is two-hundred and fifty thousand naira while the Swiss lace is three hundred thousand naira’ . Mrs Subomi told mother.
‘Mother that is too expensive, my friends in London won’t be able to afford it.’ Jadesola blurted out.
‘Keep your mouth shut, do you think we came to buy clothes for those your mushroom friends whose fathers have no importance in this country, I am taking five to Soun of Ogbomosho, five to Alake of Egbaland and other people who have relevance in this land.’
I watched Jadesola looking quiet afterwards though she was unmistakenly angry.
‘Atinuke, can you imagine? My own daughter mixing with low class people in London. She has not learn anything from me. She didn’t bring a picture home that Margaret Thatcher’s granddaughter is her classmate, she is now showing me her British boyfriend whose name I can’t relate with, she said his father owns a flat in London, eri nkan, why then did we send her to such an expensive school in the UK. I told her if she dared bring such a low class to this country I will disgrace her at the airport, mo fe ranu.’
‘Fisayo, we have to take it calm with these children.’
‘Not with me, Atinuke, it is because you have taken it calmly with your daughter that is why she has stayed in America to teach African Science. If Jadesola didn’t come back home, I would have used prayers to bring her back home to marry a man of her class here. Did we raise her in a flat? How can she now marry a man who was born in a flat.’
A month before Jadesola’s wedding, Jadesola told Mother that she wanted to call off the wedding because Muyiwa was behaving funny, she felt there was something he was hiding from her.
‘He is not hiding anything from you. It is you Jadesola that is not seeing well. You know how many girls in this country want to be in your shoes? That a man like Muyiwa has chosen you for a bride…’
‘Mother I don’t want to be in that kind of shoe…’
‘You must want this kind of shoe, nkan ti aye fe ni ka ba won fe…’
Two days later, mother asked the event planner to come to our house. I heard her discussing with the light complexion woman.
‘I want this wedding to be the talk of the town in Lagos, people must know my daughter is marrying into the Arowolo family.’
‘I won’t disappoint you Madam.’ The event planner told mother as she nodded in excitement.
A week before the wedding, Muyiwa and Jadesola had a quarrel again over the phone and Muyiwa banged the phone on my sister. When mother heard of it she chastised Jadesola
‘Call him right now and apologise, do you want to disgrace this family, or do you want Muyiwa to tell us he is not marrying you, so that the whole world can see that we have a disgraceful child for a daughter and all your father’s business associate to laugh at him at every business meeting.’
Jadesola later went to Muyiwa’s apartment. When she opened the door with her keys, she found Muyiwa in bed with another man. She realized this was what Muyiwa had been hiding from her.
‘Why would you want to marry me when you are gay, and have a lover?’Jadesola asked
Muyiwa spoke as he slipped his strong legs into his trousers, ‘I am trying to please my parents, you know, they are conservative and care so much about the outside world – bullshit anyway – that is why I am going ahead with the wedding. My parents would think it’s an insult on the family if I end up with my partner. By the way his name is Seun.’
Jadesola stared at Muyiwa’s partner who was still lying in bed naked. She was angry that Muyiwa chose to use her as a weapon to settle scores with his family. She would be his wife in the face of the world, yet his lover is the man lying in his bed.
‘I want to end this right now Muyiwa!’
‘And you think your mother would allow you do that. I bought a yatch in your name at Lekki, didn’t I Jadesola? I just bought a house in your name at Banna Island. It won’t be possible for you to leave me now.’
Tears flowed down my sister’s eyes as shiver went all over her body, forming a painful new skin
‘I don’t want those things, take them back.’ She shouted at Muyiwa.
‘You will have to tell your mother that.’ Muyiwa said as he returned to bed, right beside his lover. Jadesola stared at them both before leaving. She seemed defeated.
The next day Mother called Muyiwa and he denied having a male lover.
‘He is just a friend,’ he told mother.
‘Ma, why would I do that to Jadesola, she is my life. She is the one I want to marry. I don’t have any lover besides Jadesola.’
‘I said it, a decent boy from a decent home like yours would not be involved in such. Newspapers in this country would have make a lot of money from a news like that. Is it not the bad news of rich men in Nigeria that boosts the sale of newspapers? Muyiwa don’t worry I will talk to her.’
When mother dropped the phone, she told Jadesola what Muyiwa had said and Jadesola insisted
‘Mother, Muyiwa is lying. He is not bold enough to tell his parents that he is gay.’
‘Jadesola, maybe you saw something different, because a boy from a decent home in Nigeria cannot be gay.’
Jadesola stared at Mother in disbelief as she went into the kitchen to give orders on what to cook for dinner. I held her hand but she immediately broke free. I knew she had been roped into an arranged marriage, Mother’s arranged marriage, a marriage to please the class we were born into, that was what mother wanted.
I decided to wait for Daddy to come back from work so I could discuss the matter with him. After dinner I waited for Mother to go upstairs before going into the Library to speak with Daddy about Muyiwa.He sat down and listened to all I said with keen attention.
‘Omowumi, you know it is your mother who is insisting on the boy and I asked your sister, she said she likes him.’
‘Daddy, Jadesola does not like the boy, Mummy just wants her to marry Muyiwa because his father was once the Minister of Petroleum’.
‘Go and call Jadesola for me.’
‘You are not calling any Jadesola.’ Mother shouted entering the Library. I knew then she must have eavesdropped on my conversation with Father.
‘I have told you Demola, you are the one turning our daughters into spoilt brats. Do you want them to come to us after they have gotten married, begging for money.’
‘Fisayo, you know I don’t mind, when I married you, your parents were very poor and ….’
‘Is that why you don’t want your daughter to marry into a decent home, omo baba olowo, son of a rich man, is that why you are rubbing it on my face in front of my daughter.’
‘It is not that Fisayo’. Dad pleaded for her understanding.
‘Tell Omowumi all of it, open your mouth to tell her you married the daughter of your father’s driver, tell her. I don’t blame you since you don’t know what poverty looks like, that is why it is easy for you to want to push your daughter into it.’
‘Fisayo, you are taking this matter rather far. I did not mean it the way you’ve taken it.’
Father walked out of the Library as mother glared at me.
‘This is what you always want every time, a fight between your Father and me. Are you satisfied now, se o ti ri?’.
‘If you call mummy and don’t shut your mouth there, I will be totally cross with you. And all I am doing is for your good, can’t a mother want good things for her daughter’.
The next day I realized Mother had resolve things with Daddy and gotten his permission to continue with the wedding.
On the wedding day, Mother called Jadesola and I while the beautician worked hard to get Jadesola ready. She insisted that the beautician should dress Jadesola up quickly because the Oba of Lagos will be at the Church service and the King shouldn’t be waiting for Jadesola, rather, Jadesola should be waiting for the King before he entered the church. This was really surprising, as I thought Mother wanted everything done in good time so as to be in church early enough.
Mother was not impressed with the crop of friends Jadesola invited to her wedding. Everything they did irritated her. She cringed each time they laughed or showed any form of excitement. It is right to say even the clothes they wore did not fit for her daughters’ wedding.
Things were later hurried up and Mother was everywhere, smiling and warming her way into the hearts of the guests who wore the same clothing as hers, not giving the needed attention to others. My sister could do little and was saved by the wonderful reception Father gave to everyone. He was so different from Mother. I wish I could tell Father that Muyiwa is gay and has a lover, but it wasn’t in my position to say so. I stared at Muyiwa all through the party wondering why he would go through all this when he doesn’t love my sister. I wondered out loud if Muyiwa had invited his lover for this arranged marriage, but my words only seemed to infuriate Jadesola.
A month after Jadesola and Muyiwa’s wedding, upon their return from honeymoon in Dubai, Muyiwa began to spend more time with his lover than Jadesola. They hanged out at different night clubs in Lagos, and sometimes ended up in a hotel in Lagos, both in each other’s arms. Most nights, Jadesola would sleep all alone in her bed in their new duplex in Banna Island.To her, marriage was so lonely. She didn’t even have the nerve to tell her friends what she was going through, that her husband has a lover, he is gay. One of them might leak it to the Nigerian press in exchange for money.
When she could no longer bottle it up, she complained to Muyiwa, about how his absence from home had affected her.
‘You know I can’t leave Seun for you, he is my lover.’ He told her flatly.
‘Then why did you marry me, why not let the whole world know, end this marriage.’ Jadesola shouted, not able to control herself anymore.
‘You know the humiliation my parents will face when Nigerians find out that I am gay,I won’t allow Seun go through that too.’
‘Muyiwa if you can’t tell your parents who you are, if they can’t accept you for who you are, I shouldn’t be the one paying the price.’
‘You will stay in this marriage, and do what I say.’ Muyiwa said as he tried to caress Jadesola, wanting to kiss her
‘I won’t. I want you to face the world, tell them who you are.’ Jadesola said as she moved away from Muyiwa.
Muyiwa laughed out loud before he said
‘You know we will both be the laughing stock of Nigerian newspapers because you knew I am gay, had a lover, before you went into marriage with me.’
‘No, my mother forced me into it.’
‘Who will believe that part, they will think you accepted because I am from a wealthy family.’
Muyiwa left the house angry and didn’t come back to the house that night or the day after. Two days after, Jadesola came to the house to talk to mother.
‘I want to end this marriage. I am tired of Muyiwa. I want to go to America.’
‘Jadesola, behaving this way will not make me give you your passport, so you can run away to America. Until you are pregnant for Muyiwa, you won’t be going anywhere. Do you want to disgrace this family and have my friends say that I have a daughter who can’t live in a man’s house.’
‘You are the one that pushed me to it, Mother! I told you Muyiwa has a lover, yet you insisted that I marry him. ‘
Mother burst out laughing before she said ‘And you expect me to believe you that Muyiwa who come from such a respectable home in Nigeria is gay!’
‘Mother after all your education; I can’t believe you could speak this way.’
Mother slapped Jadesola across the face, leaving welts from the impact.
‘Is it me that you talk to like that, just because I want the best for you.Have I asked too much as a mother?’
Jadesola picked her handbag and left the house, tears streaming down her face. Mother stared towards my direction as she said
‘I won’t take any nonsense from you too. You had better listen.’
A month after, a call came through to the house; Mother picked it. Jadesola had been killed and her corpse was at a morgue in Victoria Island. She had a fight with her husband that morning when he brought his lover home. He pushed her from the staircase in their home. Mother screamed herself hoarse, tears running down her face as she ran to her car.
‘Muyiwa pami lomo, Muyiwa has killed my daughter.’ She kept saying as she drove herself out of the house.
*Revised :First published in http://indianreview.