My dear wife,
I can understand if you would not want to see or hear from me. You are justified. I know it is difficult to understand why I left home without informing you or anybody else, so I would not ask you to attempt the inevitable.
I write to ask you to see things from my point of view.
I write to apologize. I have a lot to apologize for.
There are few things more humiliating to a man, more degrading and demeaning, than impotence. I do not mean that literally; I thank Allah that Sani and Hauwa have spared me from such embarrassment. I’m talking about the feeling of uselessness and incompetence a man feels when issues escalate beyond a level he can handle. I am talking about how futile and puny one’s efforts can seem in the face of wave after wave of disappointment. I’m talking about the feeling of emasculation that has accompanied me in the last few months. I’m talking about how difficult it is to hold up my head among my peers.
I’m talking about being ashamed of having no money, having no respect.
I love my family. Allah has blessed me with a family, and it is something I do not take for granted. I remember how lonely it was growing up as an orphan, and every morning when I say Fajr, I thank Allah for companionship, for the warmth of a family, for a place I can call home. I love my family, and that is why I feel bad. I worry for Sani and Hauwa. They are brave and understanding, but I cannot shake this shame that mocks me, that accuses me of failing them. How do I teach Sani to be a strong, proud boy if he can see and hear the scorn I receive every day? How does Hauwa learn not to beg, not to rely on people for her upkeep, if as her father I cannot buy her textbooks and those colorful hijabs all her friends wear? It is a pain in my heart when I think of how my children sleep hungry each night so they can have a little food to eat before school. I cry inside when I see Hauwa patching uniforms.
I am sad that I was not able to provide for my family. I am unhappy that, in spite of all my efforts, things have not improved. You know how hard I’ve tried: the night-long prayers, the interviews, the endless applications, the risky journeys, the stint as a taxi driver. I know it embarrassed you, seeing your husband at the wheels of a taxi ferrying children from the school you worked in. I felt bad myself, believe me. The desperation that drove me to do that something I’m not proud of, and I hope never to experience it again. But that is not what shamed me the most, that is not what filled my heart with pain.
I am not bothered in the least about the snorts of outsiders, the pointed fingers of neighbours, the wagging jaws of fat, wrinkled matrons who use me as the evening’s gossip. I had expected ridicule, and had thickened my skin. What I didn’t expect was that you would take their side. I thought you would understand that a man has to do what he has to do to support his family.
I have forgiven you, but I have not forgotten what you said and did. Although I love you, I cannot forget.
It is not my intention to rehash those events. You have a conscience to do that for you.
I vowed to myself that I would do whatever it took, and I meant it. My vow was reinforced when Hauwa had to spend a week at home because she couldn’t afford to go on an excursion with her classmates. My resolve was doubled when I found out that Sani was visiting Mallam Isa’s madrassa to ask him for money. He may be my father’s uncle, but I don’t want my son near him. When I left home three months ago, it wasn’t because I was running away from my problems. I am not a coward. I left home to fulfill my promise to myself. You see, a man can only watch his family humiliated for so long.
I will not explain my decision or try to persuade you that I was right. Like I wrote earlier, a man has to do what he has to do.
I don’t know when I will come home or when I will see you again, but you and my children are always in my heart. I have not forgotten my family. When I work in the sun, I think of you and how you are trying to make ends meet. When I buy a meal, I cannot enjoy it, because I worry whether you have eaten or if will sleep hungry. I have a phone now, but I don’t like using it. it reminds me of how you had to sell your phone so Hauwa could buy her medicine.
In this letter, I have enclosed a cheque for N500,000. It is all my savings over the last three months. Please use it to buy some clothes and food for yourself and the children. Get Hauwa her medicine: it is dry season now, and you know how the dust makes her fall sick. Pay the rent, buy Sani his Chelsea jersey, buy something good for yourself. Buy a phone and call me, my number is on the flap of the envelope. I will love to hear your voice. Spend the money. I wish I could do more, but insha Allah, I will send you money every month.
Don’t worry about me. I am okay. I cannot tell you where I am now, for reasons of security, but I am fine. I only ask that you pray for me, for Allah’s protection and guidance, and that He brings me back to you soon. The stories you have heard about Boko Haram are true. If I knew they were this terrible, I would never have joined the JTF. But they needed engineers, and the after the humiliation I have endured, ko sisi ne sunna bada zan karpa, in rufe miki asiri. Now I understand why they pay so much. I am not afraid of Boko Haram. Only Allah gives and takes life, but I ask you to please not forget me in your prayers. That is more important than anything else you can do for me.
I’m out of paper, so I will end here. Give a hug to the children for me. May Allah keep us till we see each other again.
Danladi, your loving husband.