AUTHOR: OGECHI ALABI
Usman returned to Kano and asked her to visit him as soon as possible. She agreed to visit him. She decided to take the risk. She told her parents she was visiting her friend in Abuja. She went to Abuja and flew to Kano to visit Usman.
Usman was surprised when she called and told him she was flying into Kano that afternoon. He was at the airport to pick her up. He liked the spontaneity of her visit. It showed how smart she was. He took her to his home. He lived alone in a four-bedroom duplex. He told Zainab it was a wedding gift from his late wife’s family to them. It was a nice accommodation in a very decent area.
“We won’t live in Kano. I was thinking of relocating to Abuja or any other state where we can get employed lecturing and working.”
“Lagos is good. We can work and live there but the cost of living is very high. We can try Kaduna. It will be cheaper to live.”
“I will look into it. You did not warn me before coming so I did not prepare anything for you. Let me take you to lunch.”
They had lunch and then he took her to the hotel where she would lodge. She wanted to pay for her accommodation but he insisted on paying. He said he invited her and so he would pay. That evening, he took her to meet his mother. They drove into his family’s compound. There were five houses. Four of the houses were the same except for the one in the middle. It was a magnificent house.His mother lived in one of the similar houses in the compound.
His mother was pleased to see Zainab. She was all smiles but she had her reservations. She felt Zainab was too old for her son. She wanted a young girl who could bear him children. She discussed this with Usman when they had a moment alone. He assured her Zainab would bear children. If she didn’t, he would marry a wife who will. This made his mother happy.
He refused to see his father. He told Zainab that he fell out with his father and older siblings. He didn’t want to share the details. His mother was the third wife of his father and he was the last son of all the children his father had. He was stubborn and strict. He wanted Zainab to experience it first-hand so she would know if it would be worth it.
The following day, he took her to see Hadiza. His late wife’s family were very well-to-do. They were sceptical about Zainab. Zainab was good with Hadiza. Hadiza showed Zainab her toys and her bedroom. They bonded in Hadiza’s bedroom. An aunt was there with them to watch over Hadiza while Usman talked with his late wife’s family. Even though Zanaib was inquisitive, she was careful about what she said to the three-year-old. She listened more than she spoke. Hadiza seemed excited to be in her company and didn’t pay much attention to her father. Her father wasn’t very affectionate to Hadiza.
Usman’s in-laws were surprised he came with a lady. They were not impressed when they realised she was not young. They advised him against marrying a lady who was educated and exposed. When he told them she was a divorcee, they were more disappointed. They asked questions that he refused to answer. He told them she was his choice just like their daughter was his choice. He didn’t allow anyone to discourage him from marrying her because of her health conditions. That is how no one can tell him who to marry. They were surprised. He told them when he marries Zainab, he would want Hadiza to move in with them.
His in-laws objected to it. They were very upset. His late wife’s mother shouted in Hausa, “You cannot take her away from us. She is part of us and we have been taking care of her. Because you want to marry a woman who is old and infertile you now want the child you abandoned with us.”
“I abandoned her with you? Is that what you are saying? You lost a daughter and I left her newborn with you for you to be consoled. I told you when I remarry, I will take her to live with me. I have brought my wife-to-be to you and you have written her off. You are judging someone without defects or medical conditions because she is older than you expect. I married your daughter knowing the challenges ahead. If you refuse to give her to me freely, then I won’t ever accept her as my child. I will announce to the world your daughter got pregnant while married to me to someone else and you were aware of it. If the child is mine, it will not be difficult to release my child to me except you are saying she is not mine.”
Read – Sisterhood episode 72
His late wife’s father calmed the situation immediately. “She is your daughter and you can have her whenever you want. We can’t tell you who to marry but we can advise you to use wisdom. The woman you brought is beautiful and humble, but what is her character like? Would she love Hadiza as she deserves to be loved? When she has children, will she abandon Hadiza and be more focused on her own? Think about it. It is not just looks but character.”
“Alhaji, you should know me by now. I do my homework before I go to anyone. I know this lady and I can attest to her character and it is one of the reasons I want her to raise Hadiza. She will be able to groom Hadiza to be the woman I desire her to be. We share similar ideologies. I wanted you to meet her because before we travel, I want to take my family to meet hers.”
“Usman, do what you think is best for you. Pardon my wife and her utterances, she is being emotional. When you are ready, you can take your child.”
Usman called on Zainab for them to leave. Hadiza was not happy her new friend was leaving. She cheered up when she was given a bag of gifts from Zainab. They looked through them together and the child showed her excitement as she saw each item. Usman knew he made the right choice with Zainab.
They eventually left the home of Usman’s in-laws. Usman took her back to her hotel. They stayed in the car and had conversations. She asked him why he didn’t have a bond with Hadiza. Usman explained that she reminded him of her mother as she looks so much like her. It hurts him to see her. “When will you not be emotional about your late wife? So because of that, you will not draw close to your daughter; that is strange.”
“If you marry me, Zainab, I will draw close to her because you will be there to teach me how to love again.”
Zainab was quiet. Everything was moving too fast. Usman was coming strong. He said the right things all the time and made her speechless. She was back to her shy self. Why was she like this? Why did Usman make her feel this way? He had made her do things she would never do. She was liking it but was she ready for the next step? Was she making a mistake?
Later that night, she had a serious conversation with Nkem. Nkem advised her to open her heart to love again but she should not get carried away and not investigate the man. She asked her to find out about his family and dig very deep into them. “Know what you are getting into, you cannot go from the frying pan into the fire. Look before you leap. You can use your father to do the investigation.”
It made so much sense to Zainab. She was carried away by emotions but hadn’t done the first phase which was to find out who he is and if there were any secrets in his family, illness or criminality. She called her father and asked him to please investigate Usman. She gave him the full name, where he was from and also the name of his late wife’s family. She wanted as much information as she could get.
Zainab left Kano for Ilorin. Usman saw her off to the airport. He told her he enjoyed his time with her and hoped that the next time she is in Kano she would be in his house. “My heart has taken to you fully and my body desires you whenever I think about you. I know you are a pious woman therefore I will respect you. If there is something you won’t want me to do, tell me now so I will know and not ever do it.”
Zainab allowed all he said to sink in. She was shy but she knew it was time for serious conversations, not childish behaviour. She replied, “If we decide to get married, no matter what I do, never hit me. We can talk about the situation but if you are violent once, I will leave and never come back. I won’t take even a slap.”
“I promise you, it will never happen. I am not a violent man. I can’t hurt who I love. Any other thing?”
“I hate rivalry between women especially over a man. I will never fight my fellow women over you. If you choose to marry a new wife and she is troublesome, I will leave rather than stay there. I will not struggle for your affection, provision or time. You are free to marry other wives but choose wisely and be responsible to each and everyone of us..”
“I won’t marry another wife apart from you.”
“It is easier said than done. I never got pregnant when I was with Bashir. I don’t know if I will give you children or not. What if I can’t? Won’t you get them from another woman? I won’t stand in your way but choose wisely.”
“Is that all?”
“These are the major issues. I can cope with others.”
“Ok. I will comply with all of them. Today I make that vow to you.”