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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Nigeria's self styled open marriages

A traditional marriage ceremony (Nigeria)
A man’s wife is his possession. She is part of his investment. He believes that by the virtue of anointing her as his wife, he has elevated her status amongst her peers and accorded her a respectable position in society.

No matter how he treats her, it is around her that he builds his empire and nurtures his desires and hopes for the future. The fruits of his labour are expended on his wife and the fruits of their loins, with the belief that they will be the joys of his old age

 No matter the circumstances or situation of their relationship, whether good or bad, this oftentimes does not erode her value or undermine her position in his home and life. For as long as she remains the chosen one, she is expected to be out of reach for other men. Being a Mrs is no mean tag. 

An exalted position such as wife, must also come with its demands and responsibilities and one of them, if not top on the list, is fidelity: the resolve to preserve one’s self and body to the service of another. 

 Though this is supposed to be mutually binding on the two, man and wife, African culture, tradition and the assumed and accepted polygamous nature of the male specie, make this more binding on the woman, than the man.
  In fact, the Holy books seem to affirm this position. The Bible admonishes women to submit to their husbands while the Qur’an counsels that they guard their husbands’ secrets. Even moral and societal values, and health considerations compel it upon the woman, that she stays faithful to her husband. 

 Women found wanting in this regard, no matter their social status and rating, usually fall from grace to grass. Men consider it a slight on their manhood and a short change on their investment. Most find it difficult to forgive such women and the consequences are sometimes grievous or even deadly. 

 However, this position now appears to have changed over time. It is now almost a daily occurrence to hear chilling confessions of various shades of infidelity from and about married women. 

Many of these stories leave one’s mouth gaping and mind confused. There is the tale of a woman with five children in Oke Ira, Ogba, Lagos State, Nigeria who ended up confessing that only two of them belong to her husband. One being for the husband’s younger brother and two for her lovers. 

 The cat was let out of the bag when the lover insisted on taking custody of his two children. Refusing all pleas from the woman, he went straight to her husband and divulged the sordid details. A similar scenario played out in Meiran area of Alagbado, on the borders of Lagos and Ogun states. 

Olusho, spiritual leader of a white garment church, in one single blow lost his wife and two children to one of his rich patrons. His wife on being caught in her web of lies, decided there was no point denying herself and two children of the luxury their biological father could provide for them any longer. 

So, rather than plead with Olusho to cover her misdeed and shame, she simply organised a haulage vehicle and with the support of her rich lover, moved out same day despite the intervention of neighbours and elders around. Olusho’s spiritual ministry came to an abrupt end. 

In another case, a young man narrowly escaped being convicted of child trafficking and perjury by the American immigration authorities. On the graduation of his first child from high school in the UK, he figured that he could work out a cheaper deal with his college expenses since he is an American citizen and the boy also holds an American Passport. 

So, he filed all the necessary papers. 

 Everything was perfect until a DNA test to prove paternity revealed he was not the biological father of the boy. To save his neck, he was forced to reveal that his marriage to the boy’s mother ended when he discovered she was carrying a pregnancy that was not his. 

 Without a sense of remorse, she confessed that the pregnancy was for her boss at the office and moved out of her matrimonial home, relocating to London. 

 A few years after, the first of the other three children was discovered not to belong to her husband as well. The teenage boy also turned out to be the biological child of the same man, her boss who fathered the last child. 

 However, more intriguing in this drama of infidelity are the men who are privy to the shenanigans of their wives and turn a blind eye to them.   

 Every time, I come across such stories, I marvel at the level of depravation and immorality that must have gone into such an alliance. Several reasons have been postulated for such developments which to my understanding bothers majorly on finance and material gains and self centeredness. 

 Few have to do with saving public image. For, what is left to be salvaged in the public image of a man whose wife’s sexual escapades with other men is no secret?

  Is he protecting his wife or his children, or simply pushing off the day of his eventual spiritual and physical death? Stories of men who connive with their wives to conceive children by other men and claim ownership of such children also beat my imagination. 

 For me, this is the height of self deceit and should the cookie crumble, the man still remains the ultimate loser. 

 The children, no matter their level of disappointment, will still know their mother as such. One of such stories that springs up in my mind is that of a man who after becoming a “born again” Christian decided to seek restitution. (Whatever that meant to him!) He allegedly woke up one day and summoned his wife of over 30 years of marriage and their three children to a meeting where he spilled the beans.

The three children, the last, an undergraduate and another, already married, were not his. They were arranged by his wife for him to cover his shame and inability to father a child, many years ago. 

Now that he had been set free of all burdens and shame by his heavenly father, he no longer felt a sense of compulsion to keep such a thing secret anymore and so, wanted to set the records straight with the truth. His wife should tell him and the children who fathered them. 

 Thereafter, he would seek forgiveness and permission from the man to continue to play his fatherly role on the children. Naturally, the children took sides with their mother and denounced their father’s actions, even the church was not on his side, for his queer manner of restitution. 

Such an arrangement to my understanding is a no brainer on the part of such a man, and a win-win situation for the woman who got an unlimited access to jump into bed with any man of her choice, conceive pregnancies outside of the matrimony and openly raise them with another man’s sweat. 

 Even then, emerging trends point to the fact that Nigeria is gradually catching up with the West in what is termed as open marriage. An open marriage is a union where the partners are permitted to have sexual relationships with other partners. 

 The terms of what is permissible for the two is often spelt out and the partners adhere to these rules. The plus side of this arrangement is that the partners get to enjoy the benefits of two worlds. 

 First is the respect and social status that marriage provides and the other is the freedom to explore their sexuality without actually rocking the boat. While this may not actually be a common or detailed trend in Nigeria, what is true and now gaining ground is a practice where the husbands pretend not to know about their wives extra-marital affairs but bask in the benefit that such relationships offer. 

 A distraught married woman whose husband was deeply and openly involved with another married woman sought audience with the woman’s husband with the hope of resolving what had now become an embarrassing situation for her. 

 The man patiently heard her out but his response almost knocked her off her feet. He trusts his wife completely and has no problems with her relationship with a man he considers a great mentor in their lives, he insisted. 

 If she has problems with her husband, she should go and address it and not drag him into her war. All her evidences and plea to help save her marriage were discarded by the woman’s husband. 

 Many men who have identified where their breads are being buttered, courtesy of their wives generosity have learnt to look the other way, if only to sustain the lifestyle they have or to remain in their imaginary social status. 

 It is no longer an abomination to know that your wife is unfaithful. If the benefits or proceeds from the relationship are worthwhile enough, knowing the man can only be icing on the cake as the guy can also get something on the side for himself if he plays his cards well. 

 Another category of open marriage in the Nigeria of our time is one where the wife is not into the affair for material or monetary gains, but for personal emotional fulfillment. 

 These couples are usually rich or powerful members of the society and have an image to protect. Many reasons may be attributed to this, such as the sexual inadequacies of the man which tend to result in extra-marital affair(s) by the woman. 

 In a situation where the wife is discreet enough about it, and the family name, business and connections are not affected in any way, some of these men willingly look the other way these days. 

 More so when the men are no saints themselves. Once, in a conversation with a male colleague who is in his second marriage, he informed me that he could never divorce his wife on the basis of infidelity since he is guilty of same. 

 According to him, should he walk in on her and her lover, he would excuse himself and walk away, focusing more on her good sides. He insists this was a mistake he made with his first marriage and has vowed not to allow such a little thing ruin his happy home ever again, now that he is wiser. (Hmmm! Aren’t some of us just lucky?)

   -Courtesy Vanguard Media

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