I have to say that this conversation only comes up in certain societies because of cultural and religious beliefs. It is quite a common discussion among friends who are Nigerian, American and some parts of Africa. It is less so among European friends. I have recently noticed that the more equal the society, the less this conversation. So, let’s have a discussion. Should women pay the bills? Should women contribute in a relationship, within the home?
As an aside, I have friends who have told me that if they went out on a date, and a man did not pay, or split the bill down the middle, that relationship was over before even starting. The logic is that the man should show his spirit of generosity and show that he is able to provide. Would you, a lady, continue to date a man who takes you out on a first date, and expects you to pay your way?
Before embarking on any kind of relationship, partnership or marriage, it is absolutely important to consider one’s outlook to life, values and belief system. If you are quite conservative and believe in the theory of hunter-gatherer, then it would make sense to find a partner who shares your views. Such a person probably believes that men should provide, women should nurture, and so right from the onset, the roles are split down the middle for you, the old school way. Please find someone who shares those same values. However, if you believe that times have changed, and women are just as smart and driven as men, then find someone with whom you share those values of equality and balance.
I was chatting to an old friend recently, and he told me that his wife had recently been promoted in the international Supply Chain company that she worked for. I was very excited for them, but in the same breath, he was concerned about the area in which they lived which was not the safest. Surprised, I asked him why they had not moved since his wife was earning at senior manager level. He laughed long and hard, and said she kept her money to herself. Although I always say, to each their own, I could hardly mask my surprise. Why do we build careers if the fruits of those careers do not benefit us and our loved ones?
I had a video call with a favourite cousin recently, she had just returned home from work, and in the video, I saw her husband sitting on the sofa reading the papers. The kids were running around the living room. She had worked late because of an end of the year audit, and upon her return, she had to hang up because dinner had to be made, laundry had to be done, the kids had to be fed and put to bed. Her husband said a cheerful hello to me and went back to his paper. She didn’t look too pleased that he did nothing, but this was quite normal. Everything that had to do with the kids and the house; cooking, cleaning and organising, after school clubs, were always left to her. Again, I say to each their own, although I could hardly mask my surprise. Why do we have families if all hands are not put on deck to look after the kids and the home?
Personally, I was raised to understand and believe that the basis of all relationships should be equality and fairness. I do not believe that one party should have any power over another; be it financial, sexual, physical or emotional. Of course it is not a perfect world, but this would be the ideal situation, where all parties chipped in according to their strength and capacity, not only in finances, but in the process of family life and raising a family. The party who earns more, should naturally contribute more to provide a nice standard of living for all parties, the gender notwithstanding.
By now, you have probably heard about the media personality/vlogger Toke Makinwa’s breaking news. Her husband cheated on her with a woman who is now pregnant for him. Neither party has released a statement confirming or refuting the story. For the last two days, there has been twitter and instagram fuelled frenzy going on regarding the Toke and Maje marriage.
The couple dated for 12 years and have been married for just 1 year and a few months. Personally, I think this is sad and the couple should be left alone to deal with their problems, or lack of, because we all might just be speculating.
However, I believe that there is a reason why this is such big news here. Toke is an “it” girl who has truly worked very hard within the Nigerian media circuit. She hosts an early morning Radio show on Rhythm FM Lagos, and hosts a regular weekly vlog which discusses relationships primarily on youtube. Beyond that, she hosts events, and is now a brand; many commercial brands have signed her up as an Ambassador. She’s gorgeous, hard working, and quite fun to watch and listen to.
Toke is a brand and thus literally every event she attends, every endorsement, every media or tv appearance ends up on social media and on blogs. This is good for her business, because in such a short period of time, she has become a household name. This means she works hard, hopefully she smiles to the bank. But this visibility in a young woman who is neither an actress nor a singer, is one which Nigerians seem to love and hate all at once. You will see why.
So why has Maje cheated on her? There really is no known cause of infidelity in marriages, there is a long list of potential factors. Infidelity in relationships could be seen as high blood pressure in humans. Sometimes there are certain pre-dispositions, perhaps not exactly genetics in this case. These predispositions may have to do with individual values, society’s expectations; including abhorrence or acceptance of certain behaviour. There is also the question of consequence or lack of it.
Nigerians are very religious. One who does not pledge allegiance to a faith in Nigeria is in a minority and is often ostracised. The non-religious in Nigeria is considered weird and suffers proselytism. However, Nigeria is also a society where religious beliefs are separate from values. It is a place where moral standards and family values quite commonly apply to only women. The world is an excellent place to be a man, but an even better place is Nigeria.
Suffice to say, the feeling even among some women and many men (at least if the tweets are anything to go by), is that Toke is responsible for her husband’s infidelity because she was at events all the time. Apparently, Toke also partied constantly, and was not available to Maje. He loved and respected her so much that he channelled his “missing her” energies into impregnating another woman. He could have done something more honourable if she was not available; leave respectfully. She had that career before they married just over a year ago, so he knew about her brand.
She probably feels a sense of shame at this time, but one can see why. There are people are mocking her on social media. The cheat should be the brunt of these jokes not the wife (although there have been a few angry women on his instagram comments sections). She is also double mocked for hosting a vlog where she discusses how to find and keep a man, how to spot a “side-chick”, and the types of men to avoid. Never mind that most of her vlog posts are girl next door-chatting-to-my-girls satires. So yes, she is responsible for her lot in life, she must be mocked, and perhaps in her next life, reconsider having a career. But even doctors can become infected. Oncologists are sometimes diagnosed with cancer too.
I wonder then if all career women, including surgeons, new resident doctors who work impossible shifts, broadcasters and journalists who have to chase down stories, or politicians and activists all have unfaithful spouses? I wonder if researchers who often travel to present papers, or conduct significant bodies of research have been presented with news of the pregnant ex? Perhaps international development experts, bankers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, in essence women with demanding careers who are shattering the glass ceilings, all have trifling spouses?
How about women? Do women with husbands who have been working in these careers for the longest time possible cheat on their men? Do we can blame their husbands for their lack of availability? I was irritated by calls to her to become more available to Maje because it fosters a sense that somehow, we know it all. We are insiders in their routine, in their home. That we know their story. But I was even more put off by the gentle chiding of him by both women and men alike regarding the use of condoms. Does condom use mean it is no longer infidelity?
“Couldn’t he have used condoms? Did he have to get her pregnant,” one tweet questioned.
The video above is one of Toke on a panel discussing men and cheating. In analysing her thoughts and views, it is clear that she urges restraint in telling a woman that her husband is cheating.
“It may ruin your friendship, because the woman does not want you to know what goes on in her home. She will probably stay with the man,” she says.
She reflects briefly on an experience she had where she confronted her husband (then fiancé) on rumours of “someone else”. So what does this mean? Did she see this coming? Was it something that had occurred in the past that she had forgiven and moved on from?
The condoms statements on twitter bothered me the most. Is this an acceptable norm in society? Just as long as you do not get caught? This story should not be so important but it has become so. This is because it has triggered a conversation that we did not have before. A conversation about careers and women and fairness in the narratives that will become a legacy for our children.
I believe it could certainly mark a fundamental turn in how Nigerians perceive what is good and what is not when women are involved. Could this mark the turn of the tide where women are accorded the same level of humanity as men? I may be dreaming, but it may well form the foundation or the quick start to how we perceive women or society’s treatment of and perception of both sexes. Does a double standard exist? Absolutely. Can we see past our sentiments and recognise a fundamentally flawed psyche?
Invariably, it will be left for Toke to decide if she can move on. She must decide whether to carry on with him or to move on with her life. I have a feeling that she will heal and bounce back. She seems to be doing so already, appearing on radio this morning. Hilary Clinton seems to be doing alright; she could be President of the United States. If she wins, the man who cheated on her will be standing beside her at the inauguration. He will be former President and First Man. Hillary Clinton describes herself as “arguably the most humiliated woman in the world”. When asked about recovering from the Monica Lewinsky saga and forgiving her husband, she said “forgiveness is hard”.
12 years of one’s life is a very long time. Whatever reason Maje had or not, for being unfaithful, Toke is unequivocally, the victim here, the “injured party”. He should be ashamed and remorseful for what he did. He deserves a Tiger Woods type of shunning. The other woman deserves shunning as well, she very well knew he was married. Perhaps he didn’t quite think she was good enough to share his life properly, why else did he marry someone else and return for a dip in the pond?
Hopefully Toke will find succour with family and friends and decide what she can live with.
Every Ghana-must-go bag has a story. It’s usefulness and fame in Nigeria arrived in late January 1983, when the President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, held a press conference and ordered all immigrants without the right papers to leave the country within a few weeks. There were over two million people; one million were Ghanaians, and the rest were from a mix of other West African countries.
“If they don’t leave, they should be arrested and tried, and sent back to their homes. Illegal immigrants under normal circumstances, should not be given any notice whatsoever. If you break a law, then you have to pay for it”, he said in a statement.
According to Aremu in the African Research Review (2013), this statement was greeted by a barage of criticism from the international community. Most of these immigrants lived in Lagos and had arrived during the oil boom of the 1970s. News travelled like wild fire and there was a lot of fear mongering in Lagos, rumours had it that once the deadline arrived by Feb 2, 1983, civilians had the right to confront aliens living in Lagos. Fuelled by the rumours of the Lagos treatment during the civil war, within a few days of the announcement, two million people packed what they could into “Ghana must go bags”, a large and deep bag characterised by its chequered appearance. There was massive exodus as immigrants travelled west towards Seme border; the only exit to Ghana.
Hundreds of thousands camped out at the Seme border as they waited to cross over into the tiny country, Benin where they could find a ship to cross to Ghana. The water was not the prefered means of transportation, but became compulsory because the military head of state of Ghana at the time; Jerry Rawlings, had closed the road borders between Ghana and Togo. This was a common precaution among military rulers to avoid coup d’etat and to keep control of its state. In order to avoid a refugee crises on its hands, Togo in turn had closed its borders with Benin Republic. Thousands of Ghanaian refugees were stuck in Benin by its borders with Togo. Finally after a few days of camping by the borders playing Bob Marley tunes and roasting yam and meat by the roadsides, Ghanaians made the rest of the journey back home. Jerry Rawlings opening the border between Ghana and Togo was the catalyst Togo’s Gnassingbé Eyadéma needed to open its borders with Benin, allowing free flow of refugees to their home in Ghana.
About two decades before; in 1969, it had been the turn of the Government of Ghana to banish Nigerians and other immigrants. According to Awumbila et al of the Centre for Migration Studies, University of Ghana, in Ghana, the expulsion order was known as the Alien’s Compliance Order. This saw the expulsion of a large number of immigrants from Ghana. The order required all aliens in the country to be in possession of a residence permit within a two week period. The order earned Ghana the displeasure of West African Governments especially Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Niger, Mali, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso whose nationals were mostly affected. In both countries, this banishment of immigrants was a decision fuelled by economic and social difficulties, for which foreigners were held responsible. In Nigeria, the economy was suffering and elections were approaching. Thus politicians hoped that the expulsion will prove popular with the voters. Another round of immigrants expulsion took place in Nigeria in 1985 on a smaller scale.
Now there are better diplomatic relations between all west African countries through the ECOWAS free movement accord. In addition, countries signed up to and most ratified the United Nations General Assembly resolution 45/158 of 18 December 1990, on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. In summary, the primary objective of the Convention is to raise respect for migrants’ human rights. Migrants are not just workers, they are also human beings. The Convention does not generate new rights for migrants but aims at securing fairness and equality of treatment, and the same working conditions, including in case of temporary work, for migrants and nationals. The Convention depends on on the vital belief that all migrants should have access to a minimum degree of protection. The Convention recognizes that legal migrants have the validity and lawfulness to claim more rights than illegal migrants, but it stresses that even illegal migrants must have their fundamental human rights respected, like all human beings.
Now every Nigerian and Ghanaian know what a Ghana must go bag is. We have all used it, so have our mothers and for some; grandmothers. It is quite popular worldwide and is used for laundry and to store beddings or even as holiday excess luggage in many countries in the world. But specifically, in Germany it is “Tuekenkoffer”, which means the Turkish suitcase. In the United States of America, it is called the “Chinatown tote”. In Guyana, it is the “Guyanese Samsonite”. In Ghana and Nigeria, where the bags are celebrities and the most recognisable signature of “movement” it is known simply as the “Ghana must go” bag.
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Before I start, I must apologise in advance for what may change from a benign post, to a rant about moral obligations, double standards, and equal rights. This title speaks to my initial idea for the blog post, I have now written about so much more.
Today I decided to blog about an “epidemic” which seems on the increase in Naija. Have you noticed how it is now quite common place for men to cheat on their wives? If you go into the clubs or just regular fish and drinks gardens in the evening, you see scores of older rather unfit (although sometimes youngish) men wearing wedding bands, hanging around with younger women and the body language tells you that this is no family or blood connection. They don’t even hide it anymore. A good friend of mine spent Valentine’s day with her girlfriends (they are all single) at an entertainment centre, and apparently, one girl came up to them sobbing uncontrollably. Her boyfriend stood her up, they were supposed to spend valentine’s day together. Obviously this was a “side chick” who had been played. In the course of consoling her, this man’s photo came up and he seemed to be in his late 30s.
“Is he married”? My friend asked her
“Yes, he is. But his family is in Calabar”, She said
The girls just looked at each other, and bade her farewell and godspeed. Here was a side chick who knew she was with a married man, and felt entitled. She also felt it was ok because his family lived in another city. In other words, she was the non-Calabar wife. What exactly did she expect? I wonder if she expected anything different when she got married herself.
I have spoken to many men about this issue of cheating on their wives, and the answer has always been the same; men are polygamous, you do not get married planning to cheat, it just happens, the temptations out there are too strong, the wives are not supportive and are too materialistic, they need an outlet, etc. I often ask them if their wives know, and the answer is always the same; there have been close shavings, but the women always let sleeping dogs lie. I ask them if they know that it is wrong, unjustified and smacks of a lack of integrity, disrespect for their partners, and a gross let-down of their children. I ask them how they would feel if their wives did the same, the answers are usually varied, but have the same theme.
“Abeg Anne go and rest, it is a man’s world, men are polygamous na, that’s African culture”
“Ha how can she cheat on me? Women are usually faithful and supposed to look after the family. If my wife cheats on me, she’s gone the minute I find out”
“You know women attach emotions to sex, that’s when your real problem starts. To a man, a side chick means nothing. That’s why it is not good for a woman to cheat, because that means that you have lost her”
“How can you even suggest that? Are you becoming western or what? If a man takes care of his family and has an affair, as long as he takes care of his family, it shouldn’t matter”
“Well my wife is still number one, I don’t joke with her. I make sure she doesn’t lack anything”
“There is a lot of temptation out there, you may not want to cheat on your wife, but these single girls will not allow you to rest”
All these responses left me feeling amused, particularly the second and the last one. Our society is still a very unbalanced one, what is good for the goose, is certainly not good for the gander in Nigeria. Men are quite egocentric and expect submission, it is almost as though women have not come fully formed, and are lesser beings than they are. You think we do not feel exactly what you feel? We do, but do we act on it? No. You think I do not see all those hot men? They are everywhere; in the banks, in the restaurants, in church. Chai. Have you seen those types?
I follow a lot of them on instagram too o. All they do is close business deals, work out and take photos of their bodies. Their bodies make me want to sing “Imela chineke m ooo”, drop out of postgrad school, and cook for them all day long. In high heels and lingerie of course. They are so hot that I want to cook all the dishes my mother taught me, like ofe onugbu, nsala, ukwa, abacha, coconut rice and pepper soup. I feel like adding a twist to all the dishes; cheese, just because I can grate those blocks on those abs, then take my clothes off very quickly. But do I do that? Mba nu. Do you think I don’t want to have Bible study with that assistant pastor all day, everyday? Look, he has a lot to say about the Lord and he looks good saying it. I must find out what lipbalm he wears and the aftershave. Dear husband, I don’t want chapped lips or “townsend” perfume on you. Pastor Gaf’s lipbalm and aftershave are your possession and keys to the holy land.
I have been told that I am a feminist; no arguments there. Why are we so afraid of that word? Why has it been demonised? According to the Oxford dictionary, It simply means the “economic, social and political equality of all sexes”. I think this is fair, do you regard yourself as superior or less than any other human being? Do you regard yourself or anybody else, regardless of sex, as undeserving of the same opportunities? I think God is a feminist as we are all created in his image and likeness. So are the gods in traditional African religion; think about what you have read and heard about the roles of Ani, Idemili, Yemoja, Oya. Sometimes I worry that the advent of new religions in Nigeria and the subsequent interpretation has stripped us of all fairness and objectivity, with the verse about “submission” consistently quoted halfway and taken out of context.
I blame my father for my views hahaha. I was raised to believe in equality and to hold myself and others accountable for mine or their actions, regardless of sex. We were raised (boys and girls alike), to be able to cook, and clean, and carry heavy things up flights of stairs, and change tyres, and be compassionate and empathetic all at once. I was 16 before I realised that it was unusual for a Naija husband to wash his plates after his meal, to wash his clothes by himself, to help his wife out in the kitchen while she’s making dinner, to cobweb, dust family photos, take the thrash out, and also be home at 6pm unless both of them were out together. Forget all those fake late meetings and constant hanging out with the mistresses, missing the vital family time.
My friends were shocked when they spent extended time at the family home and saw this. Ah it was already too late, that was my worldview, that everyone chipped in, that this was a partnership full of love and laughter and accountability and equality.
I took this worldview to the university and I still remember my first serious boyfriend. He was a great looking “corper” from Ilorin. Bros invited me to his flat one day, and this ensued.
“I bought ingredients for bitterleaf soup, come and cook”, he said
To which I responded by staring at him in shock. He carried on.
“If you are worried about staining your clothes, you can wear my boxers and singlet,” he said, while reclining and chilling with a football match on.
When I didn’t budge or take my eyes off the Readers’ Digest which I was reading, he carried on.
“Oh you don’t know how to cook? Ok, come, you can do this one.”
I followed him into the room where there was a mound of dirty clothes including jeans and the like for yours truly to wash. I went into the living room, chuckling to myself. I picked up my handbag, and like Lot, I never looked back, poor guy. Now tell me, who raised this man to have such expectations that a girlfriend was his housekeeper? O gini?
Anyway, enough digression. I have theories around why married men cheat on their wives and why there are such saintly expectations of women. I shall share these soon enough in my next blog post. I leave you with a thought; it is time that women started picking up some of the bills and helping out financially around the house, and ask the men to pull their weight domestically. I wrote a post last year titled “Should Men Pick Up All The Bills”, there, the comments and opinion came to 50-50, some thought a man should look after the finances of his family solely, others felt women should contribute, my theory is that a partnership brings about accountability, open and honest communication, and reduces the chances of infidelity in marriage.
Unfortunately, it looks like women are now beating men to their game; your wife going to fellowship and bible study three times a week, or going for school run 30 minutes before the time, and attending all those weddings in asoebi, may be enjoying other less ideal activities. This is just something based on a survey for the most unfaithful wives in the world, carried out by Durex, which found Nigerian women to be the most unfaithful wives, emerging in first place out of 35 countries surveyed. It seems we have now overtaken Thai women who were number one in 2012 and last year. Is this true? Could this actually be happening? Why are the tides turning (besides the temptation on offer on instagram :-)?)