Fehintola is sitting on the floor of my apartment, she is telling me a story that gets more bizarre the more it unfolds. I just cannot believe that this sort of thing happens to real people, it sounds like something you hear about but never know anyone it happens to. Some where at the back of my mind, I am thinking maybe marriage is not all that it is hyped up to be. I mean, I know that every marriage has its issues, but when you hear stories like this, being single doesn’t seem so bad, in fact it is great.
“So that morning after they drove off, I was still lying in the car, floating in and out of consciousness. Every time I tried to move, the pain was excruciating. I heard my gateman and his wife talking around me and the next thing I knew, I was being lifted into the back of an SUV and driven to the CRI Hospital within our estate.”
“I was in hospital for 10 days. My colleagues from work came to visit me during that time. My story was always the same – ‘I fell down the stairs in my house’. Somehow, though I had not done anything wrong, I felt an intense shame. I felt like I had brought this on myself and that there must be a reason why I am the one that this is happening to.
During my stay in the hospital, one of my neighbours came to visit me, her name is Anne-Marie. She was an older lady, half Jamaican, half Yoruba but very reserved. I had always admired her and her husband; a lot of the time as I drove in from work in the evenings, I saw them sitting on their front porch with a bottle of wine (at least that’s what I’ve always thought it was – from the distance) and laughing. They seemed to enjoy one another’s company. In my mind, their marriage was what I’d dreamt mine would be.
She brought me sunflowers in a clear transparent vase. “How are you today?” she said. “As well as I can be considering…” I said with a rueful smile. She shook her head. “May I say something?” She asked and though I still felt pain, I managed a smile; she had just acted the way she looks, you see, she was not one who would offer an opinion uninvited. “You may.” “What price are you willing to pay?” she asked quietly. “What are you worth? I have daughters your age and I am hoping that I have brought them up with some more appreciation of their own value to the world and to their family, than your present circumstances have shown.” I make to speak, ready with my “I fell down the stairs” story. “Shush, my child. You do not have to maintain a façade with me. It was to ours that Mallam Musa (my gateman) ran in the morning after your “accident” and he told us all that he saw. I do not wish to condemn you or even your husband but I want to know if you think this is worth it.”
“Is it for a name you stay in this marriage? A title? Or financial provision. I remember when you first moved here as a new bride, you were like a flower in bloom, always had a smile and a song. I saw the smile fade and the silence of fear fall on you. I watched as increasingly, you had to apply more foundation to your face, till you looked like a geisha, all in a bid to hide the scars. Your sunglasses got bigger and bigger. And I’m wondering is it in the grave you will think this through?” Tears are streaming down my face at this time. She holds my hands, “I do not say divorce your husband. I am a strong believer in the beautiful institution of marriage, but one partner does not make it beautiful. It has to be the two of you agreeing, that yours will be beautiful. So perhaps you can tell your pastor and then move out of your house to a place where you are safe (preferably a place that your pastorate sanction and can visit you in), then ask them to invite Bayo for counselling as well and try to work him through his anger, till he has dealt with it. When they feel he is ok and can be trusted to control his emotions, you can then start joint therapy and eventually move back together. This is a process that has worked for many people.”
Anne-Marie left me with those words and a steaming bowl of chicken soup. I thought about what she had said and made the call to my pastors while in hospital. I told them all that had happened and how I ended up in hospital and they agreed that there was a need to remove me from my home, where I was now endangered.
On the day I was discharged, an older couple in our church eldership – Mr & Mrs Adebanmi- came to pick me. It was arranged that I would stay with them in this time and that when the time was right, Bayo and any of his relatives who so desired could visit me there (even if just to ascertain that I was maintaining my chastity).
I went home with them. Our pastors told me that they tried to contact Bayo on several occasions and that he kept refusing to see them. This went on for almost three months, at which point a team of pastors decided to visit Bayo at home. I was not there, so I cannot say exactly what happened but I hear it ended with Bayo politely asking them to leave his house and that they could keep me. He explained how I was a witch and they must not be very anointed since they could not see it. I also heard that he assured them that he would not be seen in our church again.
As you can imagine, the pastors just came to me and said there was a need to keep praying –there was nothing God could not do. I prayed for different things over the next year – to wake up and find that all this was a bad dream. To die. To not feel so ashamed and naked and not to walk every day in fear.
At the end of one year, I felt I had lived too long with the Adebanmi’s, I thought it was time that I took responsibility for my own life; so what if the person I loved did not love me at all, so what, I had failed at this thing called marriage – I was not the first and I really doubt that I would be the last. I decided to brief a lawyer to handle my divorce from Bayo.
For the first time in a year he had called me. With hindsight maybe I should have changed my number and moved somewhere he did not know I would be staying at before I commenced proceedings, but I did not. “Hello Fehintola” I hear on the other end of the receiver, I look at my phone, its Bayo’s voice, but not his number. His voice still has a way of sending shivers down my spine, I feel my throat constricting and my heart palpitating. Somehow, time has not dulled the fear or the memories that his voice evokes. “What is this I hear about you wanting a divorce?” The stubbornness in me wells up, “What you hear is what you hear. You have said you don’t want me, I also do not want a monster, please don’t contest the process and let us go our separate ways. I am not asking you for anything.” I hear a laugh “You are still so naïve, aren’t you? You think I am letting go of you so easily? It is true that I do not want you, but you see, I also do not want anyone else to have you. Since you have come and ruined my life with your witchcraft, I will ruin yours as well. Fehintola, till death do us part is a promise!” and he hangs up.
I told my lawyer about this conversation and asked about the possibility of getting a restraining order against Bayo. He told me that the chances that the court will grant one were slim as what Bayo said was not necessarily a threat, it could be that he was re-affirming that we took wedding vows. I should have hired a female lawyer!
Anyways one evening, at about 8.30 p.m., I am driving from work to Mr & Mrs Adebanmi’s and I see a car racing towards me, I swerve off the road and it pulls up right next to me, still forcing me off the road. I slow down, it is Bayo, he just waves and drives off. After this incident, I get my lawyer to procure the services of a plain clothes police man, to drive with me to and from work. Two days later, Bayo calls me again, with another number. “Who is that in your car? Who is that? You are seeing somebody aren’t you? You are an adulteress! Later you will call yourself a Christian. Fehintola if I see that man with you again, I will kill you both!”
I tell my lawyer about this. We have enough material to file an “affidavit of urgency” and get a restraining order he says. We get the order within a few days and Bayo gets served with a copy. I did not see or hear from him for another month and as far as I was concerned, he is off my back. In that time, he had refused to turn up in court and as our marriage was not up to three years and we had not been apart for a sufficient amount of time, I could not even get a divorce decree nisi.
One night, the Adebanmi’s and I went for night vigil. We were coming back in the very early hours in the morning when I saw bright flashing lights in the rear view mirror, I slowed down and moved to the side of the road to allow the vehicle pass, instead, I felt a hit from behind, the first thought that came to my mind was that we were being robbed. I then sped off, the car was in hot pursuit. Mr & Mrs Adebanmi were screaming and praying at this point, we are hit again. I am struggling to hold the steering steady, I see that it is a huge four-wheel drive that is doing the hitting, another hit. Mrs Adebanmi is asking me to stop, “let’s give them what they want.” Mr. Adebanmi is screaming “Go, go, these are not thieves”. I see the vehicle trying to reverse and use the time to try to speed off. It is coming towards us again at top speed and hits the car on the drivers’ side; I hit my head on the steering and lose control momentarily. I hear another hit on the same side, I hit my head again, the car is spinning and the last thing I see as I lose consciousness and my car spins towards the SUV is my headlight illuminating Bayo’s face.
I do not know how many more times we got hit, but it is in that accident that I lost my teeth and sustained a huge gash on my forehead. Mrs Adebanmi who was sitting in the front passenger sit only sustained minor injuries but Mr. Adebanmi was not so lucky, he sustained major injuries to his legs and is still undergoing physiotherapy to this day. “
I make to speak but Fehintola holds up her hands, “I know what you what to ask, of course I filed a report at the police station when I got better. Of course a criminal action was instituted but somehow, there was no evidence. They never found the SUV that was used, in court I was portrayed as unstable and bitter especially as I was the only one who claimed to see Bayo. All this plus the fact that Bayo is the son of a Justice of the Court of Appeal, meant that they were able to arrange it such that the matter never even got to hearing.
Now I have recovered and that is why I have come to see you, I want someone to know my story, because I have decided to kill Bayo and after that take my own life if need be. I just wanted someone to know, I just wanted someone to be able to tell my story, let them not say I was mad and unstable, I am just a woman who has been hurt in ways that I did not deserve, de-humanized and abused and certain to take revenge…” Fehintola says with a distant look on her face.
At this point, I find that I am on my knees, tears streaming down my face; I am holding her hands and saying “please no, he is not worth it. There has to be another way” but I am thinking “this is heavy stuff, this is very heavy stuff…”