My name is Binta.
I am 5 years old now. Everybody says I am now a big girl. I will finally leave nursery school to primary school. I even get to wear the big kids uniform. I am excited about that.
Uncle Shola is our neighbour. He is happy when I tell him I am 5 years old. He carried me on his laps and gave me a big high five. He even bought me sweets from Iya Segi’s shop to celebrate. He is really nice. Uncle Shola asked me to come to his house. Mummy said I should not be going to strangers’ houses, but Uncle Shola is not a stranger. Mummy and Daddy know him, and they laugh and talk to him. I know they will not be angry when I go to his house. Uncle Shola is acting funny today. He is closing the door and windows. He is asking me if I like him. Why will I hate him? I only hate Satan and his demons. And maybe Godwin in my class. He stole my pencil the other day and broke it into two. Uncle Shola carries me on his laps. He is asking me if I can keep a secret. He says big girls usually keep secrets. I am 5 now so I am a big girl. I tell him I can keep a secret. He tells me I must not tell mummy and daddy our secret. I tell him I will not. I am excited to hear this secret. I will prove to Uncle Shola I am a big girl that can keep secrets. That will make him buy more sweets for me. Uncle Shola asks me to pull up my dress. He says he wants to show me what big girls do. I pull them up. He asks me to remove my pant. Mummy said I should not remove my pant for anybody. But Uncle Shola is talking fast. He is still holding me tight on his lap. I am starting to get scared but I must show Uncle Shola I am a big girl. I obey Uncle Shola. Mummy said we have to obey people that are older than us. Uncle Shola is starting to hurt me. He is putting something in my bumbum. It is very painful. I am crying now. I can’t hold my tears anymore. I tell Uncle Shola I don’t want to be a big girl again. Uncle Shola is not listening to me anymore. He is holding me very tight now. He doesn’t look like the Uncle Shola I used to know. His face is different. I am begging Uncle Shola to leave me but he is not answering. He keeps hurting me. Now he is holding my mouth so I don’t cry out.
This thing is very painful. Blood is coming out of my bumbum now. I am scared. Has my bumbum broken. Uncle Shola is looking strict now. He said I must not tell anyone. That I must make it our little secret. I am crying plenty now. I think my bumbum has broken. I can’t even walk well with it. Has Uncle Shola broken me?
Mummy will beat me if she finds out I broke my bumbum. She will say I like rough play too much. Uncle Shola wipes my tears. He gives me fanta to drink. The fanta is not tasting sweet because my bumbum is still paining me. I go back to the house. I am pretending to walk well so mummy will not know. This pain is too much.
My name is Binta.
I am 15 years now. I am in SS3. I can’t wait to be done secondary school so I can finally be free. Free from Mummy’s many errands. Every time I have to cook and clean the entire house. When I grumble, mummy reminds me I am a woman and taking care of the home is my duty. Billu my brother is so lucky. He doesn’t have to do anything at home. Always running off to play football. Naughty boy. My body is starting to develop. Puberty they call it. I am starting to add flesh in strategic areas. I look at my new features in the mirror. Why is my leg so fat??? I wish my hips were bigger. Boys like girls with big hips. Maybe that is why Kunle hasn’t toasted me yet. Why do I have stretch marks everywhere? Does that mean I will be fat? I wish I had Kim Kardashian’s stature. Girls with flawless skin are so lucky. My own face has lots of pimples and black spots. I started using Carowhite secretly to make my face a little bit lighter. I don’t want to bleach, just to tone a little. Maybe Kunle will notice me then.
My name is Binta.
I am 25 years old now. I am a graduate! I finished from OAU last year with a second class upper in English. I wanted to study law but you know Naija system now. I finished NYSC last month and I have gotten a job in a bank. Mummy calls me everyday now. Every time she calls, she asks if I am praying. I am always praying, I tell her. I know the kind of prayer she is talking about though. She wants me to bring a husband home. I don’t know if I am ready to marry. I really want to finish my Masters’ and get a better job. Aunty Kemi asks what I need a better job for. My husband will take care of me she says.
I don’t want to have to rely on my husband for money. I want to be settled before I marry. Everyone seems to think otherwise though. They remind me that clock is ticking. They say I should not do shakara so that at 30 I don’t end up at Shiloh praying for a husband. The thought of that scares me. I don’t want to end up like Aunty Chinelo that is 36 and still looking for a husband. Mummy says she was facing her career and doing shakara when she was young, and now nobody wants to marry her. Aunty Chinelo always looks happy sha. She lives in a big apartment in Lekki and drives a BMW. Everybody is always gossiping about her. They say her big apartment and big car are scaring men away. I don’t think I want people to be gossiping about me. Maybe I should just say yes to Badi
My name is Binta.
I am 35 years old now. I have been married to Badi for 8 years. We have one child, a girl. I am now a housewife. Badi said he does not want his wife working in a bank. He said women that work in banks are ashewos and the managers always use their bodies to get customers. I tried to reason with him, but when I told mummy she said a wife always has to listen to her husband. She reminds me of how lucky I am that Badi has not married another wife even though I only have a girl for him.
Sometimes I think it is better if Badi marries another wife. The pressure is too much. Just last week, Badi’s mother took me to a prophet that gave me a bath in one dirty river. They said the bath will open up my womb for another child, a boy to be precise. This has become a monthly thing. Every month it is from one prophet’s place to another, looking for a male child. Many times, I wonder how the prophets,in their ‘visions’, don’t see the 3 miscarriages I have suffered after Badi’s many temper fits.
It’s not that Badi is a bad man. I know he loves me, but sometimes his temper gets out of hand and he beats me. He always apologizes afterwards though. He tells me it was a mistake and takes me out or buys me a special gift. No man is perfect so maybe this is my cross to carry. I don’t want a broken home.
My name is Binta.
Today would have been me 45th birthday. I died 7 years ago. Badi lost his temper again. He beat me and left me bleeding on the floor. I was dead by the time he finally came back to his senses. He was taken to court, but his family paid the right people some money and the police let him go. He remarried, and he and his wife have 3 beautiful kids.
I look back now, and I think about how different things could have been.
Maybe if I had told someone about what Uncle Shola did to me, I wouldn’t have had to suffer the emotional trauma and low self esteem that followed me to adulthood.
Maybe If I had resisted the pressure to get married early, I would have seen the signs and not gotten married to Badi.
Maybe if I had left my marriage when Badi started beating me, my daughter won’t be growing up without a mother now.