Before you start reading, let me warn that this is a long story, and if you do not read to the end, you may not fully get it. Amaka Munonye is a Nigerian resident in BC, Canada and in the process of getting a divorce from her Ghanaian husband. At this stage, all you read are from her side of the story. Their case is in court and she is afraid that if she keeps silent, she may lose custody of her children. She has shared the following story on her blog and I've been asked to help publicize it. If you know anyway to help, please do, or leave a comment in a respectful manner. Beyond that, I believe this is a story many women stand to learn a lot from. Thanks.
*Names have been initialed to protect third party privacy.
I am writing you this letter because I need to be heard. I have been the prisoner of a horrible man for almost fifteen years now. I have been trying to get away from him practically since I met him, and even more so in the past four years. He has taken over my life, and now taken my children away, and I am at a loss for what to do. I do not want to be forced into making any rash decision that would impact my kids forever, and I certainly do not want to end up in jail, as my children need me to raise them; but I really am desperate, and I am at my absolute wits end. I do not know what else to do. I have decided to make a public appeal. Maybe someone will hear me and come to my help, because I really need help. The Canadian justice system has failed me many times, and even now, continues to fail me. I am hoping and praying that someone out there will come and rescue my children and me.
My name is Amaka and I work in Medical Laboratory Science. I am a BCIT Alumnus. I am also the mother of two fantastic children, a nine year old boy and a seven year old girl.
My ordeal started in when I met their father, C, in Nigeria in 1997. I was a third year medical student at the University of Nigeria Enugu and I had been forced to withdraw from school because some members of one of the many cults they had there wanted me to marry their leader. After many attempts to make me do their bidding by offering money and all kinds of enticements failed, it became by force. When I still refused they tried to kill me. My father had a few of them arrested but I left the city for my birth state of Lagos, and even now I am not sure what happened to them.
I was unable to go to any other university in Nigeria, because shortly after I started to make arrangements to enroll at the University of Lagos. A friend, I will call him Fubsie, came to let my family know that if I attended the University of Lagos or anywhere else in the country, the cult members would have their revenge on me by killing me. Now in retrospect, I wonder if I shouldn't have just let them kill me then, because that would have been better than the suffering I have had to endure for so many years after.
My Father and I started to make arrangements for me to come to Canada. I had worked at a hospital for about three years transcribing all their paper records onto the computer, (floppy disks for storage as I recall), and the Canadian High Commission accepted three years of medical school and another three years of work experience, among all the other requirements that I needed as enough to qualify as a skilled immigrant.
C came to my father’s house, according to him, to look for my younger brother and sister. He said he was a Pastor. Now I will tell you something about the “Pastors” in Nigeria and in so many parts of Africa. The huge majority of them are not Seminary graduates like we see in North America where a pastor has to undergo four years of training after high school and then make their way up through the ministry before being ordained as pastors. No, in the vast majority of cases in Africa a “pastor” is somebody who wakes up one day and decides that they have “heard the voice of God”, and that they have received a calling. Therefore they gather two or three people and start a “church.”
I asked him where his church was, and he said he did not have one at the time, that he used to have one, but closed it and that he “gave the congregation to another pastor”. I was always baffled by that, as I couldn’t understand how you could give a bunch of people to another person. The day he came to my house the first time, I was at home with my youngest sister. The two people that he said he'd wanted to see were not home. He wanted to wait for them, so he sat outside to wait. I offered him some cold water and after he had drank it, he started to ask if I know about God and Christianity and all of that, and I said I grew up Catholic etc. and that we'd gone to church. I said we had also gone to church a little after my immediate younger sister had suddenly died, but that was about it.
From then on, he would come every single day and spend time with whichever one of us he happened to meet, teaching us “bible study.” My father actually ran in to him a couple of times, and threw him out on both occasions, saying that a man who has no job has too much time on his hands, and that nothing good ever comes of it. My father said to him both times he saw him “what kind of a charlatan are you? If you are a pastor, go and pastor somewhere. My home is not a church; don't even let me catch you here again. Go and get a job, lazy fool.” C always replied “God bless you sir”
I kept on with my job and my arrangements to relocate to Canada. I also started to be interested in becoming a Christian, so I would not only go to Church with C along with my sisters, but I started to go to another church on my own. I liked the thought of this big and powerful God who was also a very loving God. I became a Christian and started to go to Church. My real problems began about a year after I had started to go to Church. When I would attend church with C, it would be to a Church called Firebrand Assembly and when I went by myself or with my sister we would attend The Redeemed Christian Church of God. I was a brand new Christian, and knew next to nothing about it, but I wanted to learn. I continued at the same time to await the results of my application for my Canadian papers.
One night I attended a night vigil prayer with Chris. A night vigil in Nigeria, and a lot of Africa, is when people go to a church usually on a Friday night, and spend the entire night singing and praying until about 6am the next morning. It is a very common thing and at the Redeemed Church when we went that night there had to have been at least 50,000 people. It was my first time at the place we went to. It was called the Redemption Camp and it belonged to the Redeemed Christian Church of God. They had the all night program once a month. We got there at almost 8pm, to beat the crowds I was told, and before the prayer service ended, at about 4:00am, he said we had to leave, or else we would get caught up in the throngs of people trying to leave after 6am.
I pointed out to him that my father's compound would still be locked and that I would be unable to get in. He said it would take at least an hour to get back to my home, and that we could wait outside until about 7 am when I could be let in. I agreed as I didn't see why not and we left. However, it was 4am and it took us only about thirty minutes to get to the front of the estate where my family home was. What I had not thought about was that the estate where we lived was gated and the gateman was prone to wandering away to sleep somewhere else. I came in to the car and yelled towards the gatehouse where I was hoping that the gateman would be “Al Hassan, it’s me Amaka, please let me in” for over 15 minutes. He was nowhere to be found.
At about 5 am C said look lets go to my house, I will wait in the car, and you can stay in my room until 6:30, when I will bring you back. I thought nothing of it. I had known him for over a year at this point, and there had never been the slightest inappropriate move from him. I had a boyfriend, Uche, and would actually tell him everything about Uche and me. He eventually, after about seven months of going to church and being a “new believer” had convinced me to break up with Uche, because it was sinful. It was fornication to be sleeping with Uche when we were not married he said all the time. I eventually did break up with Uche. At this point, C had never made any sexual overtures towards me, he was a pastor and I never even saw him as a remotely sexual being. I think about it now, and my innocence and naivety just astound me.
He used his key to let me into his room. It was a simple room with a single mattress on the floor. I stayed inside, asked him to please call me at 6:30 am, and he went outside. There was no power; it was dark and abominably hot, so I undressed to my half-slip and bra and covered myself with the bed sheet, there was no pillow, and fell asleep. I had never stayed up all night before that day. I was rudely awakened maybe 45 minutes later by a naked C forcing my legs apart at the knees. He had simply unlocked the door with his key and come inside to attack me. He proceeded to rape me.
I was very asthmatic at the time and I went in to a severe attack afterwards. It was still dark, and he couldn't find a light to look for my Ventolin inhaler which I carried everywhere. I was gasping and crying, and having a panicked asthma attack and just in total shock! I said “hospital, hospital!” He also appeared to panic. He got a light finally and we got my inhaler, but it wasn't helping. We rushed to the hospital, where I was given the usual slow push Theophylline injection. It was almost 830 am by the time we were done at the hospital. I said just take me home. He knelt down on the floor, started crying and begging and said it was the devil that had caused it. That it was because God had done great miracles that night that the devil had to use him to attack me. I wasn't having any of it.
He took me home and I told everyone that he was never to come to the house again. I also told my sister what had happened and we all steered clear of him. We also told our gateman never to let him into the house again. I went to Firebrand Assembly and told the pastor's wife Mrs. Ayo Amaso, what C has done, and she said she had nearly warned me to be careful, but that since I didn't come to the church with him all the time, she assumed that I was not that close to him. I stayed away from him no matter how many times he would waylay me when I was entering or leaving the estate. If I was walking somewhere, he would walk alongside me; tell me about unforgiveness and how unforgiveness was a sin, and how none of my prayers would ever be answered if I did not forgive him.
It was constant harassment. I had already been stopped from going to school by some men, now another man had raped me, and was now forcing me to forgive him. I was very angry. He would come to the hospital where I was transcribing the files, and would wait the whole day. When I took the bus home, he would be on it. I could barely take a breath without him being there. He continually harassed me about my unforgiveness. He told me he had already confessed his sin and that he had been forgiven, and that if he died today he would go to heaven, but that I was not forgiven and would not be until I forgave him. He also said that until I forgave him, that I was not to bother to say any prayers as God would not answer any of them. I was not forgiving, therefore I could not be forgiven any sins and none of my prayers would be answered.
Now my greatest prayer was to come to Canada to finish my education, and I was secretly terrified that if my prayers did not get answered than my life would be over. I would not be able to go to school ever. I was the most confused person alive. After about five months of him trailing me everywhere, I finally just gave in and told him that I had forgiven him, but that I would never go anywhere with him or be friends again. I kept going to the other church and continued to live my life and he finally stayed away.
About a month after I had told him I forgave him, I got invited to Ghana for my interview at the Canadian High Commission. I was absolutely petrified; I was convinced that I hadn't got my prayers answered until I had forgiven Chris. I know now that it was simply the wheels of the Canadian Immigration process taking its usual slow times, but at that point I was just in fear. I talked it over with my sisters and we all naively thought it must be the truth about God and Christianity and that C knew what he was saying about God. We were convinced he was truly a strong pastor and that it was the devil that had tempted him like he said. The next time I saw him on the street, I told him all was okay, and that I had completely forgiven him, and that I would soon be going to Canada if all went well.
He asked me to give him some money to say some special prayers for me, and I gave him a thousand naira; about the equivalent of two days’ pay for a casual laborer. I also asked him to go to Ghana with me for the interview as a strange sort of good luck talisman. I went, was successful in my interview and I returned to Nigeria. I had to get my medical exams done for immigration purposes, and I went on to do that. The results of medicals were out after about three months. Things suddenly started to progress really quickly and by June of 1999 I had to return to Ghana to pick up my Immigrant Visa. It was like a dream come true. I was finally going to Canada! Every day was a wonderful day!
I kept on planning how I was going to go to school, how I was going to work very hard and get a first class degree, because I had heard that in Canada, if you got a first class degree, all your post graduate education would be free. I also started to plan how to pay back the Canadian government for giving me a new chance at life. I contacted the ambassador’s office, but was told that they could not accept any kinds of gifts. I was told that there were many ways to serve in Canada, and that I could join the police or the army, or the Public Service of Canada, which I wasn’t sure what it was, but I promised myself that I would find out. I also promised them that I would never be among the people that took money from the government…welfare I later found out it was called.
I was no longer enemies with C by this time, but I made sure I was absolutely never alone with him. He came again to Ghana with me to pick up my visa package; it was only an 8 hour drive by road. He has family in Ghana, so he stayed with them while I stayed at a guest house. The morning when he came to pick me up to go back to Nigeria, he said that he had to tell me something. I figured I was safe at the hotel, and if I screamed people would hear me. He said “I'm not touching you, but I have to tell you, that you and I slept together since you became a Christian, and that means you have a sexual covenant with me. The only way you will ever be able to be free of this is to marry me.”
I looked at him as though he were a lunatic. What he was saying seemed so outlandish to me that I started to laugh. I said Chris, you're a Ghanaian, you're not educated, you cannot read or write properly, you are poor as a church rat, you have no job, no prospects, can you really imagine my parents allowing me to marry you?” I said don't worry, when I am in Canada, I will send you some money and you will find a nice girl from Ghana to marry. I told him I was not interested in marriage, and I was going to school in Canada. He went in to the bathroom, then came out and grabbed my wrist. I had already started to scream, but what he did was to take a sharp blade and make three quick cuts across my wrist. He then brought out his wrist which was already bleeding and pressed it to mine. He said “I have put our blood together. Now not only do we have a sexual covenant, we also have a blood covenant. Our bloods have been mixed together.” I just sat down on the bed and stared at him as if he had suddenly sprouted another head. I was in shock.
He said “the only way you can ever break this is to marry me, or else you will never be free. If you try to marry someone else after this, or if you sleep with someone else after this, one of you must die.” Now I had been going to Church in Nigeria, and had heard all the kinds of dire warning about the evils of entering into a blood covenant. I knew nothing about the dynamics of it; all I had heard was that people usually died from it. I was terrified. I left C and returned home to Nigeria by myself. All the joy just went away from my relocation plans. My parents and siblings were baffled by the change that came over me. I just told them that I was really unhappy that I was leaving home.
I said to my father when he kept pressing, “Daddy you know how you like my soup and my beans. Who is going to cook for you like me?” Who will run all your errands? You know I am your son in a dress, who will do all your banking? He said, I will come and visit you, so don’t worry. I cried all the time from the sorrow of what C had done, and my poor family just thought that I was sad to be leaving them. I was sad about that of course, but I felt that the blood covenant had cast an evil pall over what should have been at that point the greatest joy of my life.
I left to Canada soon after and arrived on September 19, 1999. I was twenty-six years old. I decided I would start a new life, get an education, and forget about ever being with a man if it meant I would die. I decided I would cross that bridge if I ever came to it. I decided I would tell people I was already married so that no one would want me. That way I would be safe and also keep any potential suitors safe. I soon started to work in Canada, started to attend Church and started to make plans to return to school. I tried to get in to the University of British Columbia UBC, but nothing would transfer over from Nigeria.
I met a wonderful professor, an icon in the Nigerian society, a doctor who is listed in
Every Who is Who and lists of successful black people, Dr. Godwin Eni and his family. He advised me to forget any schooling I had done prior to now, and enroll in grade 12 and start over. For someone who was half way through medical school already, it was at that point unthinkable for me, and to my everlasting shame, I did not listen to him. Gracious as he is, when I poured all my woes and all I had been through since I had been in Canada to him, when we reconnected two years ago he said “no regrets Amaka, have a positive outlook. Don't look back, only go forward.”
I finally enrolled in Trinity Western University to do a BSC in Biology and I started school. Before very long two things happened; one was that C started to call me. He had got my phone number from my aunt and he started to call me day and night. I started to suffer anxiety. I didn't know who to turn to. My school work started to suffer. I wasn't sure what to do. I just started to call back to explain to him that I'm sorry I can never be your wife, but that only made him very mad. I then sent him $2,000 thinking like a fool that he would back off. He now started to call, not just to harass me and rain insults on me, but also to demand that I send him more money. I refused.
He now told me that he had applied to a Bible College here, and that he had a vision from God, and that the dean of the college's name was Dave. I forget the last name now, and that he would soon be in Canada. I started to slowly confide in a Caucasian friend of mine. I didn't tell her the full story because it all sounded crazy to me, an African, and I wasn't sure just how out of the realm of reality it would seem to a Caucasian. C said he had applied for a student visa and would soon be here. I really panicked at the thought that he would actually get here. He didn’t get the student visa, and when I asked him about it later, saying I thought you said that it was God that had said you were getting a student visa to the bible college? He said he was only joking. I hadn’t yet learned that everything that he said was a lie, and that it was as natural as breathing for him to just fabricate things.
The second thing was that I ran in to an old boyfriend, Nonso, who had wanted to marry me in the past, but my mom even though she really liked him, had asked him to allow me to finish school. He didn't know that I was in Canada. He had come to Toronto for business he said, and a friend had brought him to Vancouver. I ran into them completely by accident when I was shopping at the Metrotown mall in Burnaby. I actually thought I was dreaming when I saw Nonso. He and I went to dinner later that night, but with the fear of the blood covenant that C told me he had me in, I refused to spend the night with him. I did kiss him and make out with him, but we did not actually have sex. He returned to Nigeria soon after, and he would call me from there. After about two months, he stopped calling. I called my sister Frances, and asked her to please go look for him for me, and make sure he was alright, because it was not like him not to call me. About a week later, my sister called me from Logos and said “Amaka, you're not going to believe this, but your friend Nonso is dead.” I asked what happened to him, she said they're not sure, but he suddenly slumped and died in his place. I asked was it an asthma attack?
Nonso was asthmatic too, and he was really careless about his management. He was forever misplacing his inhaler and borrowing mine, and sometimes we would go to the pharmacy and buy six inhalers, so that he would always have one near him. I carried two when we were going out. We always made jokes that we'd better not marry as one of us had to be breathing, or how we would hide an oxygen tank in my wedding dress, or how we would live in a gigantic oxygen tank when we got married. I couldn't believe Nonso was dead, just like that. I started not sleeping and couldn't go to school. I soon became convinced that C had truly done something to me and that Nonso had died for kissing and making out with me. I started to have nightmares about dying, I was so traumatized. I started to answer his phone calls. He asked me to leave school in 2000, and to come to Ghana where he now lived and marry him. I was convinced that if I didn't do as he said, I too would soon shortly be dead. I dropped out from school and went to Ghana.
I married C and not a single member of my family was there. I was in a complete fugue. I knew absolutely no one at the wedding. I think there were about eight people there. One of the two things I can remember about the registry wedding was that at one point I saw my reflection in a window and I said “God, I really hate these earrings.” The second thing I remember was that when I was signing the marriage certificate, I noticed that the “groom's name” said J A. When I asked C who J A was, was this maybe the wrong paper? He pressed my hand tightly and said “just sign” so I did. When I asked him about it later, he said well he had applied for a Canadian visa with the name “C E J,” so he had to change the name so that when I filed for him to come to Canada, his name would not be in the computer, because he had to say that he had never before applied for a Canadian visa. This further compounded my fear and shock. I was dealing with a devil. I said I thought your name was C A, and he said forget it.
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