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Monday, April 22, 2024

My pastor’s wrong counsel led me into a murderous marriage -Survivor

In the age of digital connectivity, finding love through social media has become a common phenomenon. However, amid these online love stories, not every relationship leads to a happily-ever-after.

Today, Cynthia Obaji Okere, a survivor of domestic violence, shares how her Facebook love story unfolded into a marriage that nearly claimed her life.

Cynthia is a native of Onicha LGA in Ebonyi State, and while growing up, one of her dreams was to become a journalist. Despite being born into a humble family, her parents tirelessly supported her education at Ebonyi State University. Upon the completion of her first degree, she was posted to Abuja for NYSC, and immediately after the programme, she secured a position at the Voice of Nigeria radio station.

While in her prime, apart from being very intelligent, Cynthia had a charming beauty that naturally attracted people to her. In 2009, she created a Facebook account where she met new friends. Among them were three young men who wanted to marry her. She said two of the men lived overseas, while one lived in Abuja. Unsure of who to choose, she talked to her pastor, who promised to seek God’s opinion on her behalf. A week later, the pastor said God told him the suitor from Abuja was the right man for her. Although her instincts told her otherwise, she decided to heed her pastor’s advice.

The marriage
While narrating her experience, Cynthia said, “After communicating over the phone for some months, he came to Lagos to see me. The first time I saw him, he was very handsome, calm, and patient. When he introduced me to his family, they all welcomed me. However, I made the mistake of not making any inquiries about him. It was on the wedding day that I discovered the first red flag.

My pastor said God told him the suitor from Abuja was the right man for me. Although my instincts told me otherwise, I heeded my pastor’s advice

“What happened was that after our traditional wedding ceremony, which was done in my village, I noticed that my husband had gone out. He didn’t inform anyone and we kept looking for him. About an hour later, my younger sister saw him on one of our farms.

“Can you guess what he was doing there? Oh yeah! He was smoking Indian hemp! When she told me that, I was shocked. I never knew he was a chronic smoker, and the thoughts of that actually ruined my wedding night.”

Life after the wedding
In most cases, women move into their husband’s residence after getting married, but in this case, Cynthia’s husband moved into her apartment in Lagos. While they were living together, she told him to get a new job, but he refused. She even got some jobs for him, which he declined. So, she said she was the only one paying the bills.

“I used to give him my full salary every month, but he would squander it within a week. There were times he beat me up for refusing to give him money. Despite being a federal government staff, I started selling handbags and shoes to make ends meet. He wasn’t just an abusive husband; he was also an absent husband. During my first pregnancy, I was always sick, and yet, he would leave me alone in the house for weeks. Whenever he returned, if I asked where he had been, he would beat me up.

Until our wedding day, I never knew he was a chronic Indian hemp smoker

“As time went by, I started hearing rumors that he was associating with a gang of nonentities. I’m talking about the category of people that hide in every uncompleted building to smoke and drink excessive alcohol. After becoming high from smoking, he would come back home and turn me into his punching bag. While I was pregnant, he beat me to the point that I was rushed to the hospital. An emergency caesarean section was done to save my life and the life of the baby.”

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Hoping for a miracle
According to Cynthia, her marriage felt like hell. While she was praying continuously for her husband’s transformation, his attitude became worse. Speaking on an incident that happened, she said, “One of my nieces was living with me. So, one day, while I was at work, I had a strong feeling that something was wrong at home. When I called my niece, she didn’t pick up the phone. So I rushed home, and on getting there, I saw her lying unconscious in a pool of blood. We rushed her to a nearby pharmacy store, where the nurse tried to resuscitate her. When she woke up, she narrated how my husband had hit her head with a hammer because she tasted the baby’s food.

“After she completed her treatment, I quickly sent her back to her parents. Did you know that my husband didn’t return home for over three weeks after that incident? At a point, I reported him to his siblings, but he wasn’t ready to listen to anyone. In that marriage, I suffered greatly and even wanted to kill myself. The only thing that held me back was the love for my children.”

I used to give him my full salary every month, but he would squander it within a week. There were times he beat me up for refusing to give him money

The final straw
Cynthia explained that due to her husband’s frequent association with smokers, she rented another apartment in a decent estate, hoping that he wouldn’t find such people over there. However, shortly after settling in, he started identifying some gang members in that area. This time, he even brought them to her home, and whenever she dared to voice her concerns, he would assault her.

“Many terrible things happened in that marriage, but I would share the last one that broke the camel’s back. One early morning, he came back when my kids and I were having morning devotion. When he walked into the house, he told us to stop the prayers. Suddenly, while I was wrapping up the prayers, he pulled out his belt and started flogging all of us.

“I was carrying my second child, who was two months old. Did you know that he dragged the baby away from me and threw him away? Then he pounced on him and was hitting him. As I was struggling to take my baby, he gave me a big blow and pushed me aside. The demon in him was bent on killing me and my children. We were saved when neighbours intervened and held him.

my husband hit my niece’s head with a hammer because she tasted the baby’s food

“This time around, I told myself that I had endured enough. Yeah! My life and the lives of my children were in danger, so I got him arrested. When the police were interrogating him, he said he didn’t know when he did all that. In fact, it was very obvious that he was under a spell. I also reported the matter to the police human rights office, and they served him a restraining order.

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After he was forced out of our lives, he moved to Abuja, where he got involved in a crime and was sent to Kuje prison. I heard he spent three years in prison before he was smuggled to Senegal. It’s been many years now, and I don’t know where he is.”

Surviving as a single mother
Cynthia has been a single mother for over 12 years. Despite the challenges she has faced along the way, she has learned to always turn her obstacles into opportunities for growth. She said it has been a journey of self-discovery and remarkable career advancement.

When asked about the possibility of remarriage, she said, “The profound trauma I endured in my past marriage has etched a lasting imprint on my life. Although I’ve found healing, I’ve resolved not to get married again. I am channeling my energy into nurturing my two sons, who stand as the silver lining amidst those turbulent times.

Although I’ve found healing, I’ve resolved not to get married again

“As a single mother, I have had my fair share of stigma and discrimination, but I have reached a point where I don’t allow the opinion of others to hurt me.

“I share my story to raise awareness about domestic violence and the importance of speaking out. Honestly, no one should endure such abuse.

“So, if you’re in a similar situation, please seek help. You deserve better!”

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