After eating his dinner, Amadi Jones invited his wife Chioma to his hut for a discussion.
“Chioma, please come and sit down; I want to discuss something very important with you.”
“What is that?” Chioma asked as she sat on a wooden stool.
“The Igwe of our village, His Royal Highness, Chief Ike Ochendo wants to marry Barbara.”
“Marry? But Barbara has not finished high school.”
“Girl child education is useless. My priority is the boys. Barbara will be better off marrying His Royal Highness, Chief Ike Ochendo than going to school. He has more money than he knows what to do with.”
“But you know that Barbara wants to be educated. She will be highly disappointed.”
“She should be very happy for the great opportunity to marry Igwe. He will give her a life of luxury especially if she is able to give him an heir to the throne.”
“I believe you know the secret of His Royal Highness, Chief Ike Ochendo’s wealth?”
“I don’t know. What is the secret of his wealth?” Amadi Jones asked angrily.
“It is rumoured that he used the womb of his first wife to make money that is why she couldn’t bear children. And when he wanted to renew the medicine which he does every three years he used that of his second wife and that is why she cannot born another child after her daughter. I don’t want him as a son-in-law.”
He waved his hand dismissively. “I am not asking for your approval. I am only informing you. She must marry Igwe. He has not only promised to write off my debt but has also agreed to give me more money which will enable me, send Elliot to the university.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I’ve never been more serious all my life. What Barbara needs is a rich and powerful husband like Igwe to take good care of her.”
“A husband? Igwe?”
“Yes. A rich man who has the wherewithal to take good care of her. And there is no better person than Igwe.”
“After what he has done to his wives only a lunatic would want his daughter or any member of his family to be his wife.”
Amadi slapped her. “Shut up. That’s an order. Can you prove your allegations? Or you want to talk yourself into real trouble?”
She was almost dislodged from the wooden stool. Stunned, totally bewildered, she stared wide-eyed at her husband, and lifted a hand to her cheek.
“But I really believe His Royal Highness, Chief Ike Ochendo is not a good man. I don’t trust him.”
“He cannot marry my daughter, I don’t trust him.”
“What the hell are you talking about? I don’t want His Royal Highness, Chief Ike Ochendo to feel you don’t trust him, so be very careful.”
“Remember the Igwe is thirty years older than Barbara.”
“Don’t just bring that up. A man is supposed to be older than his wife. Prior to Western culture, our culture gave opportunities to marriage proposals to minors in many circumstances. Specific marriage choices and arrangements were generally organized by the couple’s parents and betrothal was traditionally arranged when each intended partner was still a child or even at birth. Relationships, exchanges, and alliances formed between the prospective families formed the main points of the marriage decision. And where a family was weighed down by financial burden, like is my case, they might be forced into giving out their girl-child in early marriage to a family with a better prospective future, like Igwe’s. So I am not doing anything strange.”
“But not with that margin. Igwe is a shameless old man who wants to marry a helpless little Barbara, without regard to her well-being, safety, success, emotional make-up, education and survival. In time past, minors could be betrothed to an adult man but she would not live with him until she came of age. Both families and the entire community would know that she was legally tied to the family of her would-be husband. In that case, no other suitor was welcomed; neither would there be any kind of trespasses upon the betrothed girl. But the most important and honorable aspect of this special arrangement was that sexual indulgence was not permitted.”
Barbara started to open the door and then inexplicably stopped, just there holding it ajar, peering into the sitting room.
Amadi knocked Chioma to the ground and was sitting on her. “You have no right to insult the Igwe or question my decision. In our culture, another child marriage is often recorded when a polygamous man passes on. According to law and custom of our people, his young son inherits his stepmother. She becomes his wife. Unfortunately, both may never have sexual intercourse but the widowed stepmother regards and takes the little boy as her lawful husband. Oftentimes, the boy grows up and marries a woman of his choice and age. In case, his stepmother gets pregnant through an affair, the child so delivered is for her stepson not her late husband. So who are you to challenge our culture?”
“I don’t support child marriage. It is sheer evil. The consequences are enormous. It comes with both health and psychological implications. It is a case of a child giving birth to a child. What do you think will happen to her psyche? She will be mentally battered. It is sheer immorality. Any man who derives pleasure in marrying an under aged girl is a paedophile. It is dishonorable and debasement of human dignity. In any case, why would any man give out his little girl in marriage before maturity? ”
“You’re still talking?” Pinning her shoulders with his knees. He tormented her, slapped her, punched her face and pulled her hair. Barbara watched mesmerized, unable to move or speak. She watched her father beat her mother as if she was an enemy. Her mother struggled to free herself, writhed and kicked, but he was far stronger than she and weighed nearly twice as much.
“I have said and I will continually say it that a man who has erection at the sight of a girl child needs castration, not marriage. And yet, a 14-year-old girl cannot vote, or drive, but can be married away. This is perversion. It is morally wrong to even consider giving out a child in marriage. It is criminal to even consider such.”
Amadi seeing that beating had not quietened Chioma, decided to leave her alone. He started to climb off her, hesitated, glancing furtively about to make sure they were alone, then gave her a hard punch again in the face. He bounded up and dashed out of the room to behind the house. A few moments passed. Silence prevailed. He slowed to a walk, smiled to himself, and then disappeared around the corner toward Igwe’s palace.
Chioma sat up, coughing and gagging, spitting out blood. Her nose was also bleeding where Amadi had struck her. She wiped it with the back of her hand, and looked at the blood. Tears flowed down her cheeks. Barbara eased the door shut and walked away, shocked with the treatment her mother received from her father.