Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
The subject of this week’s What She Said is a 23-year-old Nigerian woman who was in a toxic relationship with a man who did all he could to keep her with him, including stalking and blackmailing her.
Where did you meet?
It was December 2019, and I was 22 while he was 27. He’s my neighbour — we live in the same street. My aunt had a shop just in front of my house, and he used to come to the shop a lot. I personally didn’t notice him until, one day, I caught him staring at me.
I was going to buy suya, and he followed me. He picked up his pace and caught up with me. There was some small talk, he paid for my suya and bought me extra for my family. We exchanged numbers and that was pretty much it for that night.
Do you live with your aunt?
I don’t live with my aunt. My dad converted our security post into a shop to support her. So I see her everyday because of the shop.
What happened after he paid for your suya?
I think he called. I’m not sure. But we eventually started talking.
He was actually in a relationship at the time. I had heard tales about his babe, how she used to break things and stab him. I don’t believe all that anymore. I think they both got a thrill out of whatever their situation was, but from the outside, the girl was painted as a blood-sucking demon.
He made it seem like he was stuck in a helpless situation with his babe and didn’t know what to do. Like a foolish woman, I went to play messiah, telling him he deserved better. I should have just kept quiet and gone my way, but that’s basically what got us talking.
When did he break up with his babe?
A month or two later. I’m not the smartest with matters of my heart. So when he started preaching love to me, even though I was just out of a failed relationship and out of therapy, I went with the flow.
However, I told him I couldn’t date him if he was still with his girlfriend. He ended things with her in a very immature and impulsive way. This caused drama because the babe became FBI and found out he broke up with her for me. She threatened to fuck me up.
For context, the babe was also close to my aunt. She felt my aunt pimped me out to him, even though my aunt really didn’t have anything to do with the relationship. She just gave me a few pats on my back.
I don’t know what he went to promise her, but she eventually cooled off.
Do you think you were pressured into a relationship?
I wouldn’t say I was pressured, but at the time, I was winging everything in my life. I hated being alone. I would date just about anyone for companionship. I was always in one relationship or the other. People around me got tired because most of the relationships I entered were quite stupid.
I can’t say I’ve ever been in love — I may have gotten fond of the people I dated but never felt love. I didn’t know them well enough before jumping yakata into the relationship. My relationships were so wack ehn.
I never loved myself enough, I guess. I allowed people into my life, and it was too late before I realised that the quality of people you allow into your life tells on the quality of the life you live.
So wait, did you have any feelings for him?
I don’t think I had feelings for him. I think I enjoyed the times he was nice to me. I didn’t have boyfriends before that were that nice to me; he always wanted to keep me happy until he was angry.
What was the relationship like in the beginning?
He was thoughtful and nice. It didn’t take long for the insecurity to start though. He wanted to check what I wore, where I wore it to, who I was talking to. He would seize my phone abruptly from my hand while I was using it. He even became friends with anyone I knew, just so he could know my every move.
He was the absolute worst when we fought, but he’d become Prince Charming when we were good. I slowly realised that his ex may not have been the only demon. Just as fast as I got in, I wanted out.
How did you get out?
It wasn’t easy. We started fighting about dumb things. My friend, let’s call her Mary, realised the guy was probably obsessed with me. She mentioned it, but I brushed it off. I tried to end the relationship so many times, but he wasn’t having it. I mean, he was (and still is) my neighbor, so everywhere I turned he was there. I noticed at some point he was cheating. Guess who he was cheating with?
The toxic unbearable girlfriend he literally begged me to help him out of dating. LMAO. I confronted him the first time, and he lied about it. I kept calm and became more observant.
Then I found out he rented an apartment for the babe very close to my house, even though I begged him many times to move out of the house he was staying in because I felt too many people were in our business. He kept saying he didn’t have money to rent a new house, but he had enough money to rent for her.
He was going to her house every day and lying to cover it up, saying things like, “I want to go to bed early” or “I have to go for a meeting.” Everything was a lie.
One time I broke up with him because he had the nerve to compare me to her. He said she was more understanding. When I left him, he actually told someone to monitor me around my house. I knew I was doomed.
Wow. What did you do next?
He begged and did so many nice things that made me foolishly go back. I don’t know why I did. I didn’t love him; I never did.
The relationship wasn’t better after this. It was one day of being super nice and days of toxic rubbish. He started to act like he was tired. I thought this was time to leave, and he would let me. I sincerely thought he loved her and was just using me. I was wrong, I was so wrong.
How long had you been dating at this time?
Maybe six months.
What happened next?
I confronted him about the rent, sleeping at her place and everything else. He denied them and gave a speech about me allowing people to destroy the beautiful thing we had. Which beautiful thing? Mad people full this country.
Anyway, I stood my ground, and that’s when I found out that my aunt knew all along that he was cheating and even used to talk to the babe. I was basically a fool. Everyone around me knew he was still with her but never told me.
My aunt still encouraged me to “Fight for what we have”. Whenever we had a fight, he’d call through her phone, and she’d make me talk to him. Meanwhile, she knew all along.
Did you confront her about it?
I did. She told me to come, let’s sit and talk like women, rada rada oshi. I didn’t go to sit down to talk anything.
I blocked his numbers and blocked hers too and anyone that wanted to beg for him.
After this, I travelled for a bit. He found out where I travelled to and actually followed me to the state, but he didn’t know exactly where I was. He tried to reach out to me through his useless friends that were also cheating on their girlfriends and wives. I blocked all of them.
It was during this trip that I got a message from a random number on WhatsApp. It was a video. I played it, and there I was, naked. I had never sent him nudes before, so I was confused. It was only later that I figured out that we’d had a virtual sex call a while back — I was naked, and we were actually rubbing one off — and he’d probably recorded me as we were doing it. In the video, his face was dark and conveniently not recognisable. His next message was, “Let’s talk.”
I told him to go ahead and do whatever he wanted, I still wasn’t going to talk to him or hear him out. His reply was, “Calm down, I have 3 more.”
I didn’t realise how much of a lunatic he was until that moment. I was slipping out of his reach and he was desperate.
When I returned home, I got lawyers involved. I reached out to anyone I could for help. I was scared. He wouldn’t stop. Every time I blocked him, he’d just text me on another number. He tried his best to get the name of my hotel from my cousins, but they also didn’t know. He even tried to decipher the location through my pictures.
What did you do next?
I had to tell my mum. My mum got mad and confronted my aunt.
Wait did your mom know of the relationship before?
No, she didn’t. She suspected and warned me, but I always told her I turned him down.
My aunt found out I got a lawyer and ran to tell him that they’re coming for him. I found this out through my cousin, who was the only person looking out for me. She was close to him too and always told me things she heard. When he found out that she was actually helping me, he confronted her and told her he’d get boys to stab her all over her body and drop her corpse at my gate.
Wow. That’s sick.
Things became even more heated that I had to run away from home. I travelled out of town without telling anyone. The next few weeks were the worst. My parents were worried. My mom was crying herself to sleep. I couldn’t sleep. I felt I was being watched. I was losing weight. I had several suicide attempts. My friends were the best then. But my family? They were the worst. My dad almost disowned me.
When my dad found out my aunt’s role in the entire thing, he locked up her shop. Then my ex went into hiding. The police got involved, and the whole street was talking about me. Some family friends called me and told me to just go home.
When I returned home, the guy decided to sue me, my mom, my dad and the police for infringing on his fundamental human rights.
On the other hand, my uncles got involved and basically said they didn’t give a damn about the rubbish I got myself into but that my dad should open my aunt’s shop and deal with his badly-behaved daughter.
Did it actually go to court?
Yes. But it’s finalised now — we settled out of court. We both signed undertakings not to reveal any videos or pictures (he claimed we exchanged videos).
One thing this entire thing has taught me is that family is a social construct, made up to deceive you into thinking that because you come from the same bloodlines with someone, the person will love you or owe you some form of loyalty. It’s all a lie. My friends are my only family.
Does he still live in the neighbourhood?
Yup. My aunt is back in her shop now, and she’s very much still friends with him. I know his pride will not let him leave.
I want to leave, but to where? I don’t have money for that. My parents won’t answer me, so NYSC is my only way out.
Do you feel like you learned anything from this experience?
I can’t believe how much I’ve grown from what happened. Focusing on my spirituality helped the most. I’m learning to love myself every day. I’m also learning not to accept rubbish from people because of my need to love and be loved.
I don’t know if I’ll ever want to date or marry or any of that rubbish society shoved down our throats. I’ll be 24 in a couple of months, and I’m just starting to know myself. I’m excited about the future and what it holds; I know it only gets better. I’m almost glad I went through this. it was a wake-up call for me to watch the things I feed my soul