“Amina! Dan Allah! Turo! Turo! (Please Push! Push!)”, Amina had never felt such pain in her fifteen years of existence. It was excruciating! Like all the muscles in her torso where twisting harder and tighter each time she took a breath. The pushing gave her slight relief but she felt so much pressure on her pelvis, and she wasn’t sure how much of the baby was out of her body.
She finally understood how her late friend Khadija had felt. She did not make it through her child birth, and had to leave her most precious baby boy to that wrinkly old man who had black mailed her father into giving him her hand in marriage. He conveniently passed on the child to his third wife to look after and replaced Khadija within two months of her death with another under aged victim.
Amina wondered how it must have felt to have life slowly escape from you while under such unbearable agony. Maybe it was a good thing Khadija had gone to meet her maker. How would she have coped trying to raise a child at the tender age of fourteen with a poor, abusive man for a husband? She wondered; “Will death also be my fate in the next few hours?” Possibly, it certainly felt like she was dying. This wasn’t what she had planned. She was supposed to finish secondary school, then leave Kaduna and move to Lagos to further her studies in Political Law. She wanted to understand how the governmental system in the country worked. She wanted to become a politician and one day make it easier for the average girl child to live and excel. Some way somehow, she wanted to abolish laws that discriminated against women and the girl child. She wanted to stop the callous and systematic oppression of young girls in the country.
“Eh, Amina, this isn’t what we spoke about now. I know you’re in a lot of pain, but you have to breathe and push like we practiced during antenatal. Ki yi ƙarfi saboda yaro!! (Be strong for the child!)”
Amina tried to steady her breathing as her mid-wife had taught her, but her heart was racing and her mouth was dry. The creaky ceiling fan blowing at full blast and the dampness of her hospital gown from her uncontrollable sweating made her cold and feverish. She looked up from her quivering stomach and saw her mother in tears. She knew she didn’t want any of this for her. Her mother had also married young, but had at least completed secondary school before she moved into her father’s family house. Though she stopped her formal education quite early, she loved to read and spent as much time as she could doing so. She was an intelligent woman, very industrious and forward thinking. One would never catch her gossiping with the other mothers in the neighborhood. Their only concerns were when their daughters would marry their sons, and when these sons would become rich and respected leaders in town.
Her mother wanted to discuss how the women could become educators, leaders and financially independent; how they could move forward and become more progressive. She was a reader, a thinker and a doer; a savvy business woman and the bread winner of their home. She was the reason her only child could attend one of the best secondary schools in the local government area. Her mother had not cut any corners when it came to Amina’s education. She had insisted that her daughter would be educated, informed and exposed; having the opportunities that were not available to her growing up. Despite her father’s resistance, Amina’s mother had treated her as a male child and worked hard to prove that she was just as good as any male in the family. Her father had made it clear that he wanted a male child and was disappointed Amina had come through his wife a female, but her mother didn’t care. Every day, before going to the market to attend to her shops, she would drop Amina off at school and tell her, “You are just as smart and just as wise as any man in this world, and one day you will prove it. Tuna Tuna da wannan a yau, kuma ko da yaushe (Remember this today and always).
“Ah! Nurse, see the way my daughter is crying now! Dan Allah, (please) isn’t there anything you can give her to ease the pain?” Her mother frantically paced up and down the room.
“Madam, you will have to settle down o. You cannot be panicking. How will you comfort your daughter if you are behaving like this? We have already given her pain killers. We will help her through this. Please calm down.”
Mrs. Dantata, Amina’s mother, turned her frustration to Mr. Dan.
“Alhaji Moutari! Alhaji Moutari! How many times did I call your name? See the stress you are putting this small girl through! Eh! Wa ‘yannan mazan, Allah Ya gãfarta maku! (May god forgive you these men!) If anything should happen to her, Allah will have no mercy on you!”
The mid wife held on to the baby’s head and shoulders.
“Amina, you have to slow down. Take a deep breath and we will slowly push again soon.”
Amina was exhausted. Why was this happening to her?
“Ok my child, Tura! Tura! (Push! Push!)” Amina felt like she would break, but she decided to see this through. She pushed and pushed with the little energy she had left until she heard the soft cry of her baby.
The mid wife pulled out the baby, cleaned him up with a towel and gently passed him to Amina. “Mama Amina, congratulations, Namiji aka samu! (it is a boy!). Amina, hold your son. Place him on your chest and allow your heart beat to comfort him. Then the nurse will take him for a quick check-up and dress him up.” Amina did as she was told and looked down at the child. He was just as cute as Khadija’s son when he was born. He looked so peaceful and had stopped crying as she placed him on her chest. She couldn’t believe this beautiful child had grown inside of her. But she felt overwhelmed. What was she supposed to do with him now?
After a few minutes, once the baby had settled, the mid wife cut the umbilical cord, took him from Amina and passed him to one of the assistant nurses so she could tend to the new mother.
“The nurse will clean up the child and make sure everything is okay medically, then she will bring him back for you.” she repeated.
The mid wife cleaned Amina, changed her gown and beddings, gave her some medicine then left the room.
Amina laid back and looked at the man who had impregnated her a month after their forceful marriage. She hated him with all her might and wished the ground would swallow him every time she laid eyes on him. Alhaji Moutari, or Mr. Dan as she called him, was one of the wealthiest men in the country. He first made his fortune as one of the leading agriculturalist in Nigeria. His farms and factories were based in Kaduna and Kano state, distributing rice and tomatoes all over the country and in neighbouring countries. He then used his wealth and influence to enter politics, eventually becoming the Minister of Agriculture, no one is quite sure how his fortune grew from there. He was a dark skinned man in his early forties with a perfectly rounded tummy and fifteen wives, all living with him in one of the largest houses in northern Kaduna. It was in an area where the wealthiest men in the state lived, hidden behind a gated estate along with five other mansions just as big.
According to her father, he had first laid eyes on her during the Afan National Festival, one of the oldest and most prominent festivals held in the state. The event was held on the 1st of January to celebrate the successful farming season and people from all over the world came to witness the beauty and display of their rich culture. He had approached her useless father a few days after the event, where he watched her perform one of the cultural dances, and connived with him to initiate their marriage rights. Amina’s mother was unaware of the arrangement. Mr. Dan had given her father a large sum of money to ensure that Amina would enter his house as his wife. He didn’t even have the courage to inform her, instead her father told her to escort him to Mr Dan’s house for a meeting. Her mother was not around and he had insisted she follow him to help carry some items back to the house. She arrived at Mr. Dan’s house with her father and, before she knew it, they had locked her in a room and refused to release her until her and her mother complied with the marriage rights.
No one in the town saw anything wrong with it. After all, most of their daughters too had been married off against their will. Why should her own be any different, especially since she was sought after by one of the wealthiest men in the country. She was told over and over again to be grateful that Allah had bestowed such favor on her. She had kicked and screamed; her mother had fought and tried to bring media attention to the situation. She had tried to use legal assistance to ensure her daughter was freed, but she was no match for Mr. Dan’s influence and status. In the end, when they started threatening her mother’s life, Amina gave in and agreed to the marriage.
Her father had sold her to a man for money he would squander on food and local prostitutes, as he usually did. He was constantly entertaining other women with her mother’s hard earned money. According to him, a woman belongs to, and is supported by, her husband; although he conveniently forgot this rule once her mother brought home any money she’d made from her businesses. After all, what belonged to his wife also belonged to him. He didn’t particularly have a job, though his father had taught him how to farm and left him the house and the large farm land behind it. Amina had concluded that her father was lazy. He relied on the fact that her mother was hard working and knew how to keep food on the table without challenging his unwillingness to work.
Mr. Dan, who had been afraid to watch the live birth and sat in a chair at the far end of the room, stood up with delight as the nurse brought the washed and dressed baby back into the room. He took the baby from the nurse and beamed down at the child.
“Ah, my wife, well done. You have tried. You have really tried. We shall have a lavish naming ceremony for the child and I will ensure you are rewarded for the stress you have gone through.”
Amina had no words, she felt like she had no voice. What she always imagined as one of the happiest days of her life only brought her pain and sorrow. She wanted to escape. She needed to escape. She closed her eyes and imagined how she could leave. How could she run away from Mr. Dan’s house? Would she be able to leave her son behind?
“Amina! Amina!” Mrs. Dantata shook her daughter’s shoulder. Amina opened her eyes promptly.
The bus was speeding down a clear but slightly rocky road as the conductor angrily turned to see where the mumbling had come from.
“Madam abeg wetin dey worri ur pikin, wey make am cum dey shout anyhow for there?” The other passengers in the bus stared at Amina as if she was possessed.
“Please Sa, don’t be annoyed… Amina, open your eyes, are you having a bad dream? You have been saying funny things since you slept. Dan Allah, ‘da na, babu abun tsoro (please my child, there is nothing to fear). Amina held on to her mother’s hand and allowed her reassuring words calm her nerves.
“Ah, Mama, I was dreaming?… I’m afraid, what if this man should come looking for us in Lagos. What will we do?”
One of her mother’s friend’s had overheard her father and Alhaji Moutari discussing his interest in Amina as his wife at a local bar near their house; she told her mother of their plan to start initiating the marriage rights without her knowledge. Mrs. Dantata would have rather died than allow her good for nothing husband use her only daughter as a way to make quick money. Money he would never use to take care of them. Alhaji Moutari was a very influential man, she would have lost the fight against him for her own daughter as far as the kind of law practiced in the state was concerned. She decided enough was enough. She had been planning to leave her husband and move to Lagos with Amina once she was ready to start university. She had to act fast and find a way to save her and her daughter’s life. She wouldn’t allow her daughter to marry a man who was the same age as her father, condemning her to becoming a house wife against her will for the rest of her life. She made plans with her younger sister who lived in Lagos to stay with her until she put things in place for herself and her daughter. Amina would complete secondary school, then prepare for her entry level exams to university. Her child was special; she was growing into a woman she was proud of. Her beauty often brought men to the house to seek for her hand in marriage but she refused them all. She wanted her daughter to have the chance to choose her husband and not be bound to a loveless marriage like she was. Her sister would always come to Kaduna to visit them so her husband did not know where she lived in Lagos. They would hopefully be safe there for some time. “Amina, kada ki damu kanki, komai zai zama daidai (do not worry, everything will work out).”
Her mother’s plan to abscond and run to the city was exciting but also frightening. This was all Amina wanted, but she wasn’t sure what they were going to meet. Her mother had told her she had made preparations for them to stay with her younger sister who left Kaduna while in her twenties. She was constantly harassed and ridiculed when she decided to remain unmarried to study medicine, but eventually the pressure became too overbearing and she relocated to Lagos. They would stay with her until they settled. She would miss some of her friends, but she would rather start a new life away from home than marry Alhaji Moutari. She wanted to become her own woman, to marry the man of her choosing, to bless her mother in her old age as her mother has blessed and looked after her. Her mother had left her father and her businesses behind, for her sake. She needed to prove herself, she needed to succeed. She wouldn’t allow her mother to suffer anymore.
”Mama, na gode (thank you) I will make you proud.”