Is it wrong to marry for money? What do you call it when one has to marry for money? Greed right? What do you call a woman who marries for money? A gold digger right?
Maybe you should hear my story so you can know that those who dig gold, dig it because they are at the point of death. If you have not experienced poverty you cannot say you can never marry for money. So you who poverty has not tormented with its’ cold hands are not better than me who had to marry for money.
A beautiful beginning
My father worked as a banker in one of the famous Nigerian banks, then life was good. He married my mum. A year later, they had me, and in a space of nine years, they had 4 other kids.
I remember growing up in a rented three-bedroom. We lived on the ground floor of a three-story building with six units in one building. My mum quit her job as a teacher so she could focus on raising us. My father helped her set up a kiosk beside the house and there, she sold provisions.
I remember playing house with our neighbors’ kids. It’s such a fond memory but happiness they say is not forever.
A journey into the wilderness
A year after the fifth child was born, my father was a victim of fraud in his office. A series of investigations were carried out and he was implicated. According to him, he was asked to sign the document that would authorize theft in the office and he refused. When the plan fell through, the culprits implicated him.
My father was sacked and life became a journey in the wilderness. The downside to a corporate job is that when you are accused of theft, companies won’t hire you anymore. My father tried desperately to get a job with other companies, but he kept on being rejected.
Memories of happy childhood became tainted with strife and recurring hunger.
My father did not have money saved as everything went into school fees, rent, and feeding. My mother’s shop quickly depleted because we were feeding on her shop and eating her capital.
At some point, it became difficult to pay rent, pay school fees, and buy food.
Soon, our landlord started harassing our family, he would come in the wee hours of the morning and bang our door loudly calling out my father and insulting him in the hearing of other tenants. On one such occasion, we were in the sitting room. The landlord came and shouted so much that mother burst into tears. We all joined her in crying.
My father had to move us out of the house to avoid further embarrassment. Thus we moved into a “face-me-I-face-you “( one room and parlor apartment facing each other). We were withdrawn from the private school we attended and enrolled in a public school. As for feeding, well your guess is right.
We no longer ate to be satiated. We ate to keep the hunger at bay. With fast-growing children, food never seemed enough. It was so bad that fights broke out among my siblings over who was stealing whose food.
Funny that people who had a three-bedroom to themselves had to manage a room and parlor. My parents sold off some of our properties and kept the basics. My father and my mother slept in the room and the rest of us rolled out a big mat each night and slept on it.
Because he lacked employment, my father had to settle for menial labor and my mum could no longer sell provisions. She started selling food and within a short amount of time, her cooking prowess earned her a place within our area and the environs around our area.
A great burden as the first daughter
As the firstborn, I grew up a little faster than my siblings and my age mates. I had to look after them in school and help my mum manage the little she and my dad made from their respective jobs. It was not easy to start bearing the weight of responsibility early on and this transformed me from that little shy girl to a bold, sharp-mouthed teenager.
I had to follow my mother on her rounds to sell food when school was not in session and constantly would see men ogle my mother and look at me that same way. My mother had learned to ignore it, but I hated it with every fiber of my being.
I was doing well in school, quite contrary to the stereotype of kids in a public secondary school, and so were my siblings. The genius amongst us was my younger brother, Chima, the third child. Teachers in school praised his intellect and constantly awarded him gifts. The rest of us were also intelligent enough to pass our exams with flying colors.
By age fifteen, I had to start making these rounds on behalf of my mother. This was the age of adolescence yet it looked like I had entered into the complete state of adulthood. I looked ten years older than fifteen years of age.
Men found it difficult to believe that I was fifteen instead of twenty-five. On my selling rounds, I was constantly subject to the leering eyes of men and this annoyed me to no end. I hated men’s attention because of a couple of attempts at rape by different married men that haunted me from time to time.
I was in SS3, I was selling food two streets away from our house to a group of mechanics. When I saw my sister, the second child, Ifeoma running towards me. On reaching me, Ifeoma told me my attention was needed urgently at home. On inquiry, she said our father had an accident on the site.
I felt blood rushing to my head. I had to fight it and find somewhere to sit first. The dizzy spell lasted a few minutes. I asked her to go back because I intended to sell off whatever I had left in those coolers. After all, it’s the money I made from selling the food that would be used to pay his hospital bills.
From a hot frying pan to a burning fire
I sold all the food in a matter of hours and rushed back home. On asking, I found out he had been taken to the hospital to get treated. In a twinkle of an eye, I changed my dressing and rushed to the hospital. When I got the doctor’s report, I knew that life was going to get harder. He was advised to stop menial jobs because it was dangerous to his health. My father came back with a limp and thus, I became the de facto mother.
My mother had to take care of my father while I had to make the rounds. When he could be by himself, my mother and I became providers for the household.
I finished secondary school with thoughts of what would have been. My WAEC fees could pay our house rental 3 times. I could not even open my mouth to ask. It came up one day in a conversation with my father while I was taking care of him and for the first time, I witnessed my father crying, his frail form being racked with sobs apologizing for being unable to pay my fees.
He said he regrets not signing the document that would authorize the fraud and believes he failed me. He has seen how hard I work and I deserved the best amongst my siblings. I could not help but cry too. I love my father, he is a good man and a hard worker. Life simply did not favor him.
Foregone dreams, I’ll fulfill other’s dreams except for mine
Right there, I made up my mind not to ask for the fees and just forgo university. I have always believed that you don’t need the four walls of a school to succeed. I doubled my hustle so that there would be enough to pay the bills.
My younger sister confided in me about her dreams. I promised I was going to help her achieve them even if it meant going an extra mile.
With the help of my mother, I struggled to put aside a token weekly for her WAEC fees. I had to expand my reach to sell to more people.
In time, I was able to save and get her registered for WAEC, she passed her exams with flying colors. The day I got the news, I bent over and wept like a baby. Finally, one of us would be heading to the University.
The news of her success fueled my struggle and in no time, I got money for her to register for the necessary entrance exams.
Between the Devil and the deep blue sea
Still basking in the elation of my sister passing her WAEC, I woke up feeling wonderful one morning. Rather than wearing the plain dresses I usually wore for the rounds. I settled for a nice gown.
As I got to the automobile repair shop that afternoon, I greeted the mechanics cheerfully and they ordered their usual. There was a richly dressed man among the group of mechanics whom I suspected to be in his 60s. He didn’t look like he was from around here, I had never seen him before. The rich man offered to pay for their meals, and mechanics hailed him. He asked them to order as much as they wanted.
All this while, he kept his gaze on me which made me feel uneasy. I ensured to keep my eyes away from him as I served the mechanics.
When I was done serving, still with his gaze on me, he asked for my name. You would not deny someone who made you sell more than you imagined in such a short time your name. I told him my name was Amaka.
He asked where I lived, and knowing further answers would spur more questions. I denied him that information. He smiled when he saw I did not answer his questions.
Already, I had a frown on my face which I put on occasionally to scare men away. He didn’t seem perturbed by it. He dipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a wad of one thousand naira crisp notes.
By faint guess, I could tell the money was around 30 thousand naira. I scoffed within me, shame on him, he thinks he is the first man to offer me money. The joke is on him. From the corner of my eye, I noticed the mechanic’s jaws touching the floor.
Without giving it a second thought, I refused the money. From my years of experience on the streets, men who give out money like that always expect something in return. I was not going to swallow this bait.
The mechanics’ mouths dropped more and I had to tell them to close it. Without hesitation, they scampered away to their various duties. His hand was still stretched out urging me to take the money but I didn’t.
I replied to him, “Sir, I appreciate your kindness but I know better than to take this money from you”.
“Whatever you are thinking at all is a figment of your imagination. I am giving you this money just to appreciate what you are doing and also to encourage you. You should take it”, he urged.
I had had enough of the back and forth and told him firmly I was not interested in his money with a little edge in my voice.
I bent down, held the handle, and pushed my food barrow away from the mechanics’ shop. His eyes were on me. I continued my rounds, pushing him to a corner of my mind and focusing on the business of the day.
A week later, I came back from my rounds and I met the rich man in our one-room apartment. I was quite surprised to see him there, he looked so out of place. And for a minute, I felt shame wash all over me. When I noticed my parents in the room, I pieced two and two together and I knew what was going to happen. Not in my life.
I growled at him, asking what he came for. Before he could reply to me, my father rebuked me. ” Amaka, what is wrong with you? Can’t you see he is a visitor? The least you can do is to welcome him. This is not how we trained you.”
I had to put a lid over my emotions and noisily plopped down on the rickety chair opposite the rich man.
The rich man started by introducing himself as Chief Okonkwo. He did not waste time indicating his interest in marrying me. At the mention of marriage, I folded my palms tightly around the armchair to keep my boiling anger from spilling. In controlled anger, I asked him, “Are you married?
Looking me squarely in the eyes, he said “yes”, and added, “to four wives”.
Worry was written on the face of my parents they thought the man was a widower. I laughed so hard.
“So you want me to be your fifth wife? My attitude did not fluster him, with a straight face he said, “Yes”
My father was wise to interrupt, the tension was so thick that you could slice a knife through it.
“Chief Okonkwo, we are pleased and humbled that you have found our daughter to be hardworking and want to marry her. We appreciate your gesture, but I am sorry to say. My daughter is the one with the final say. She has the final say.
My father had not even breathed out from the last sentence before I said my reply.
“No, I am not interested in marrying you. Thank you”. A triumphant smile spread across my face.
Chief Okonkwo smiled and stood up. He brought with him nylon, I could guess what was inside. However, I could not say anything. It was not my call. He handed over the nylon to my Dad who collected it. My father opened it and saw a big bundle of money. My parents’ eyes widened and the Chief smiled knowingly.
“This is kola for you, use it to sort things out and I promise there is more from where this came from, If only she is willing to think about it. I want to marry your daughter”.
I expected my father to return the money, his gaze was still fixed on the money till Chief Okonkwo left. Tears dropped on the nylon in his hands and I knew his heart had been shaken. He gave my mother the money, wore a shirt over his worn-out trousers, and walked out of the room.
The silence was all that was needed to understand the depth of our poverty and how much the two hundred thousand naira in that nylon would go a long way in settling some of the hefty bills we had.
For the first time that night, I remembered childhood and how we ate well to our delight and our satisfaction. The night of the day Chief Okonkwo came to visit, we ate so well. We laughed a little louder than usual, conversed a little longer than normal, and woke up later than usual.
You can’t teach a hungry man contentment.
I had made up my mind not to marry that old man until tragedy came knocking. My younger brother Chima was due to write WAEC in SS1 as recommended by their principal. Ifeoma was about to get into the University until she was rushed to the hospital. The doctor’s report said she had leukemia and had to go for surgery.
The cost of surgery was fifty million naira
I heard the price, I laughed so hard I didn’t know when I started to cry.
The doctor looked confused as I walked out of the hospital restraining myself from cursing God and cursing my existence.
The silence at home was depressing. I had a talk with my parents and the implication of me doing whatever was discussed in that meeting would involve Chief Okonkwo.
A few days later, I found out my parents had approached Chief Okonkwo behind my back to beg him to assist. I felt betrayed but I could not fault them, they had a child who was dying.
Chief Okonkwo’s stance was solid, “give me your daughter and I will make sure to take care of your family. When they were about to leave, he gave them fifty thousand naira with a promise to ensure that Ifeoma will not die if they persuaded me into marrying him.
When I heard this, I stamped my feet to the ground and breathed, “over my dead body”.
I was going to be dead soon and would marry for money
A Sacrificial lamb
I went to the hospital the next day after my rounds. When I saw my sister’s frail form, I could not control my tears. She smiled and held my hands with hers, they were cold. She whispered in my ears and pleaded, “sister, please don’t let me die”. “Help me.
“Right there, I knew what was to be done.
The next day, I skipped my rounds, dressed in my finest, and went to visit Chief Okonkwo. His house was mighty fine, for a second, I felt like running away. I was ushered into his big living room which was draped in gold designs everywhere.
No other option but to marry for money
In a matter of hours, I had met him, accepted his proposal, and tendered my requests. He agreed with all my requests and promised to do more if only I was willing to stick with my decision. I assured him, I had made up my mind already.
Finally, I had sold my soul to the devil.
A month later, after my eighteenth birthday, I was married. My sister had been flown abroad for surgery.
The deed was done. I was officially the fifth wife.
Chief Okonkwo was like a lion that had been waiting to pounce. The night of my wedding does not pass as a fond memory, he ravished and devoured me. At the end of our coupling, I had to run to the bathroom to vomit. I felt ashamed and ensured to cover myself with the blanket. He expressed his pleasure at being the first man to bring me into womanhood.
That night, I wept silently for myself. Wept for the one that was fated to marry for money.
A new beginning. The life I dreamed
In a few months, my sister had been operated on and she was recovering quite well in the States.
She and Chima took the SATs. Both were offered admission to study at Harvard. Ifeoma to study Law and Chima to study Médicine.
They continued their education in the States on a fully-funded scholarship by Chief Okonkwo.
Our parents moved from our house to a mansion in one of the most expensive estates in Lagos.
My father learned the ropes in the electronics business and with the help of Chief Okonkwo, he started a warehouse business that imported electronics of different kinds worth 20 million naira monthly and sold them to retailers. And my mother went into selling jewelry and expensive lace. Within a short time, she became well known in Lagos s social circle.
My two younger siblings were enrolled in one of the top private schools. Chief Okonkwo promised they would join Ifeoma and Chima in the states if they performed well.
And I indicated an interest in going back to school. Chief Okonkwo vehemently disagreed, he didn’t want those small boys chasing me around. So, I picked an interest in art. He opened an art gallery for me where I sold expensive art pieces. My business took me around the world where I acquired various art pieces from the best artists and sculptors.
My experience in selling food made me business savvy and in no time, I experienced a huge financial turnover in the gala and art events I held. Chief Okonkwo invested more in my business, he was impressed.
As for my co-wives, we lived apart from each other. Chief Okonkwo got me a sprawling mansion he visited fortnightly.
Four years later, here I am, always traveling the world. I have lost count of the number of vacations and paid trips I have taken. I have more clothes than I know what to do with. More money than I know how to spend. I eat in the choicest of places and I am constantly in the company of royalties.
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I made my choice
Most people would expect me to cower because of my choices but I never will. I did what had to be done and while I am not proud that I had to marry for money. I’m not ashamed that I had to marry for money. It was the ultimate sacrifice and I don’t regret it. If my sister had died, and Chima was unable to go to the school of his choice. I would not have been able to deal with the guilt just because.
So, I did not make the wrong choice to marry for money. Is it wrong to marry for money, it depends on the context involved. I would marry for money again and again given the situation I found myself in.
Now I understand this better ;
“Judge not so that ye shall not be judged”