By Muhsin Ibrahim
Religion is one single thing Nigerians of whatever dispensations take in high esteem. Religion is often viewed as the opium for the subjugation of masses or as their Achilles’ heel. To Rahama, the story is different; religion means nothing to her. It is simply an identifier that she’s a Muslim lady. One might think having grown up in a multi-religious house would intuitively teach her to have the respect of some sort for religion, wrong. Her Imams and pastors do not use Qur’an or Bible.
A 28-year-old, stout Rahama Tsoho belongs to a disreputable family of three. Her father, an ex-serviceman, divorced their mother when she’s only two. She stays with the father, her sister with the mother. She had longed to marry since her teenage, but she couldn’t. She always attributes this to her look and family. So, she vows to live a better life in the future by hook or crook and begins to use highly effective and expensive bleaching creams to brighten her skin. She also hunts for a suitor via dubious ways such as flaunting her bosoms and derrière at the workplace and visiting the so-called Malamai, fortune-tellers and sorcerers.
After long and tedious trials and retrials, she meets a fine young man in their office, a newly transferred staff from another state. Without a doubt, she knows he’s beyond her league, but she believes it’s worth a try. But, as feared, the fine-looking new staff turned down her offer right away.
“I swear I will marry that guy by all means”, she declares. Soon after that, she starts consulting her fixers for the aid of whatever nature. “All I want”, she confesses to one of them, a mighty sorcerer who lives atop a high mountain, “is to marry him”.
“That’s easy for us as drinking water”, he assured her. “There are, however, rules, as you well know”.
“I am more than ready to abide by them. All of them provided my wish will be granted”.
For a start, she’s instructed to visit their family house, which is far away, which is uncommon in the culture of that locality. She unhesitatingly goes. She introduces herself as his colleague. Simple. She, throughout her stay, behaves the most innocent girl-type and spreads greetings to his stepmother and siblings and everyone who cares to respond.
“Oga Rabiu has been very helpful”, she warily announces. “I, therefore, felt duty-bound to visit his family as I am here for another reason, actually a relative’s wedding”.
In the evening of the same day, I saw Rabiu looking bothered and lonely. I was about to ask him what’s up when he started to tell me all about Rahama. He said that she’s a magic-savvy lady who shamelessly once told him that their marriage would yield many blessings. When he asked her how she knew that, she said her Mallam told her.
I was bewildered. I quite well know that she’s neither fit for him nor his scholastic family. He halts my busy mind, which is trying hard to dissect the whole scenario: “Muhammad”, he calls my name, “marrying Rahama would be the greatest mistake in my life”. That relieves my besieged mind, for I was contemplating whether or not I should tell him not to accept her proposal. “So, rest assured, I will avoid it like the plague”.
A few days or weeks, I can’t recall exactly, passed by, and I hear nothing from my dear neighbour cum friend, Rabiu or about Rahama’s blunt, in fact, unheard of proposal. I have just started thinking the issue was dead and buried for good when he comes to me with a bombshell.
“I am getting married next week”.
Wow! I said. I know he and his younger brother have been searching for a fitting life partner for him in the neighbourhoods. I also know he’s rich enough to solemnise his marriage within a few days if both parties agreed. Thus, I ask:
“Who’s the lucky girl?”
His look changed from thrilled to timidity in a split of a second. I wish I could retract my question. But, in this deportment, he managed to respond: “Rahama”.
After calculating the atmosphere, I feel convinced that no need for any further explanation on how it comes to that. Her magic, shameless pursuit and insincere insistence have ultimately worked out. Therefore, I pray for the Almighty to bless the union and call it a day.
A few years later, I begin to think that we all, who earlier condemned her, were proven wrong. She seems a wife everyone would want to have: caring, loving, dutiful, and generous towards him and his family. Yet, her significant frailty remains in how she handles religion. That too, we reason that she’s from a different background. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect her to behave the way we do or as we want.
Unbeknown to us, she’s simply buying time to portray her authentic self. She’s a wolf in sheep’s cloth. She is now doing the unthinkable; Rabiu has literally been her “yes man”. He worships her; he does everything to please her and parts with everyone she doesn’t like, including his brothers and sisters. He’s, to sum it up, blanketed in her world.
Rabiu is known for much discretion, but not any longer. You dare to tell him your undisclosed secret; you would hear it spoken of in the neighbourhoods. If you ask who told them, they would say Rahama.
Uncharacteristically enough and against Islam, Rabiu has at several instances bequeathed his wealth be given to her should he die as they don’t have any child yet. He cannot even reflect or recall that his father, who should rightly get the lion share, is still alive.
There is a single path to get to Rabiu now, and that’s through Rahama. Rabiu is for Rahama, and Rahama is for her family and pocket. He sees, but he cannot decipher. So everyone believes that he’s conjured. And that doesn’t last forever.
Muhsin Ibrahim is a student and staff at the Institute of African Studies, University of Cologne. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.