His Gambling Addiction Broke Off Our Engagement

March 24, 2021

As told to Toheeb

I’ve been thinking about talking to a gambling addict for Naira Life for some time now, but I haven’t found someone who’s willing to share their story yet. Two weeks ago, while looking for people to interview for this article, a lady reached out to me. She wanted to tell me how she broke off her engagement with her fiance because he was a gambler. It’s not the Naira Life I’m looking for, but it’s the closest story I’ve gotten. So I had a long conversation with her and wrote this story.


Jide* and I didn’t hit off when we started talking in 2012. We met on a social media group for prospective university students, and we were trying to get into the same university. On the group, we argued about something, and I thought his response was rude— I didn’t think we could ever be friends or that he would become the man I wanted to marry. 

A few weeks after our spat, he got my BBM pin from a friend and texted me to apologise, which I didn’t see coming. We made up, and so our friendship began. We eventually got admitted into the same university we applied to, and we remained in touch in the following months until we resumed school. While nothing romantic was down the line, I thought he was really interesting. 

 We were in our first year the first time he told me he liked me, but I was in a relationship at the time. Things changed less than a year later. ASUU went on strike, and we got closer during that time, having more interesting conversations and texting more than usual. I had begun having issues with my partner. I was beginning to realise we wanted different things. I broke up with my partner in January 2014. 

Jide still wanted more, and he didn’t hide it. He continued to ask me if I would be interested in a relationship with him. In February 2014, we started dating. 

I liked Jide, but there were so many things I was oblivious to in the following years. 

What I did know, however, was that he wasn’t as religious as I was. Also, he had a fraught relationship with his family. I’m big on family and religion, but I didn’t think they were dealbreakers. Besides, he knew how much I loved acts of service, and he pulled his weight in the relationship. When he graduated from university in 2017 — a year before I did — we had become so ingrained in each other’s lives and getting married was already on the table. 

He served in the north and was hoping to be retained by the company he worked for. I had no plans to relocate, but I was open to the idea. We were going to get married after all. But he wasn’t hired as a full staff, so he returned home. 

***

I graduated from university in 2018 and got a job immediately. I studied a medical-related course, so there was an internship waiting for me. After that, I went for my National Youth Service. I was working and had a steady flow of income, but Jide had nothing. The jobs he got offered so little, so he didn’t take them. 

Everything was set for us to get married. The only thing that remained was a job.

He finally got a job at a bank in the middle of 2019. He was accepted into a trainee program. As part of the requirements, he was supposed to get 10 new customers for the bank and had a target of ₦2m. He got 10 people to open accounts with the bank easily, but the problem was the money to put in these accounts. Family members helped, but he was still short of his target. 

This was where I came in. My parents had opened an account in trust for me when I was young and had been putting money in it. I was older and had access to it now, so I took ₦700k out of the account and gave it to him. I wasn’t going to tell him about the money, but I thought the job was slipping away. Also, I got a friend of the family to loan him ₦200k. The plan was simple — he would spread the money across these accounts to meet his target and return everyone’s money when his appointment into the trainee program was confirmed. 

When it was time to return the money, he didn’t. There was always some excuse about how there was a problem with the accounts and how he would have to go to a bank branch to sort it out, but he couldn’t because he risked losing his job if he missed a day at work. It didn’t make sense, but what could I do? 

The family friend that loaned him ₦200k was on my neck to return the money, and when I couldn’t bear it anymore, I paid that debt myself. Now, Jide owed me ₦900k.

The trainee program paid him ₦50k every month, but he said he couldn’t pay me out of it because of his financial responsibilities. His dad had died earlier that year, and he claimed his family now depended on him. According to him, he was paying his mum’s medical bills and also paying his younger sister’s school fees. This didn’t make sense because his older brother and sister had good jobs. But when he told me that they weren’t pulling their weight, I believed him. 

On some level, I resented them for putting so much pressure on him. 

Every month, he always called me for money even though he owed me close to a million naira. If his mum wasn’t sick, something else always came up. I wasn’t earning a lot — I got ₦19800 from the federal government and ₦25k from the hospital I worked at — but his obligations were costing me a lot of money. At this point, I was getting irritated, and I felt guilty for it.  

Jide finished his trainee program in December 2019 and was promoted to full staff. His salary also increased from ₦50k to about ₦130k per month. This was supposed to be the moment everything got better, but it got worse. I continued to bring up the accounts he opened a couple of months earlier and the money he owed me. But he said that he couldn’t access those accounts yet. Again, I believed him.

Things started to go downhill in January 2020. I was at work when he called me and started crying over the phone. He said he had a confession to make and would like to tell me to my face. We agreed to meet the following day at my house.  

When we met, he first made a big speech about how he wanted to do right by me. Then said something about how he was in trouble and needed my help to get out of it. Finally, he went, “I’ve been gambling, and I owe some people money.”

He told me that he started gambling after he finished his NYSC in 2018 and was out of a job. He had been borrowing money from his friends, and now, he was in more than ₦250k debt. 

It was quite a revelation, but I gathered myself. The first thing I did was to grab my laptop and create an excel sheet. I got the details of everyone he owed money and made a plan about how to return their money from his salary. I was going to be in charge. The plan was to keep his interactions with them to a minimum. 

That’s what we did in the first and second months. When he got his salary, he sent the money to me and I contacted the guys he owed and paid them. We cleared half of his debt in two months. I also signed him up to a free anti-gambling support group online and started reading up on psychotherapy, so I would know how best to help him. For the first time in a long time, it felt like we would actually make it. 

***

Our families met each other officially in February 2020 to talk about our wedding plans. I was applying to schools abroad at the time and the plan was that if I got the offer, we would do a small wedding ceremony before I travelled. That didn’t happen because I didn’t get the offer. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was a blessing. 

In March, the pandemic forced his employers to cut his pay, so we suspended paying back the money he owed. One morning, he called me, crying over the phone again.  He said that his friends were threatening to embarrass him at his place of work, so he took a ₦200k loan from a co-worker to clear that debt. I didn’t know what to make of that. His debt profile kept rising. I could’t believe it.

Things came to a head in June. I got a call from his sister. He had been arrested by the police on his way from work for violating Covid-19 curfew. His family sent some money to him, but he was asking for more. When I called him, he said he was in the back of a police van and needed ₦30k, which I sent to him. 

His sister was livid about what happened, so she lodged a complaint at his office. The bank launched an investigation as to why he was at work when he shouldn’t have been. What they found culminated into a tipping point that made me doubt everything he ever told me.

The bank found some inconsistencies in his work. But the biggest thing they found was how he had been gambling with some of the bank customers’ money. He’d call them to tell them that they were eligible for an investment opportunity, and because he was their account manager, they trusted him. He would then send them a payment link and ask them to authorise the payment. He got away with it for so long because the money wasn’t running directly through his account. When the bank found out, they fired him. 

The bank didn’t take further actions against him. One of those people he scammed arrested him, but he was released later. They agreed that his family would sell their home to offset the debt he owed. 

More information started to come to light. I found out that he had been lying all this time about sending his family money. They never asked him for anything. Also, he had been asking one of my brothers for money and making it seem like I knew about it. There were other revelations too, and I realised I didn’t know a lot about him. 

My parents took this harder than I did. I mean, this was the man their daughter was going to marry. They called his mum and told her that the relationship was over. That’s what I wanted too, so I broke off our engagement.

After he lost his job, he was at a low point, sought out help himself and got a therapist. When the therapist heard the whole story, she insisted on speaking to me. I offered to remain in contact to get him through it. The therapist had told me that he was suicidal. 

But I couldn’t. It was almost like I didn’t know him anymore. For starters, he was unapologetic about the mess he made. He was only sorry that he got caught. Also, he would call me randomly to make money demands even though he owed me money. He was being manipulative too, trying to make it seem like my parents broke our relationship and not all the things he had done in previous years. At the end of the day, the decision came down to me choosing between my sanity and the money he owed me. I chose my sanity and cut him off. 

It’s been a few months since all of this happened. Right after it happened, I couldn’t bear the thought of a new relationship. In November, I met someone, and things are going really well. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if we’d gotten married when we wanted to. It would have been messier, but I know that I would have used everything I had to leave the marriage. It was a good thing that everything came to light when it did, and I’m happier for it.

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Toheeb Lanlehin

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