Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction: Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Are the genders at war? I don’t think so. Nigerian women in Diaspora love Nigerian men. I can attest to this. They are fiercely protective of us, and they take good care of us too. Woe betides any African man that will deny this. Any single man in the house will say the truth and shame the devil and must admit that these sisters will go to any length to land a reasonable one amongst us. We love them too; the moment I spot a salacious African damsel: I connect. I protect, hire, promote and elevate them wherever and whenever I can find them; I associate with them wherever they can be found. It is not my fault I have more female friends than male, you can call me a Casanova for all I care – it is just my “sexual preference”, yours remain a matter of conjecture. So putting aside the diatribes and the shenanigans I shall attempt in this article to disrobe the African relationship from my perspective. It is mine, and mine only; and I take full responsibility for its content.
In discussing African relationships or Nigerian ones in particular previous writers have ignored a number of factors when they express their consternation with the state of these unions. Of course, more often than not the image of a primitive man, with multiple stupid wives and children to match fully armed with spear and girded with loin cloths is what these writers perpetuate. Quite to the contrary however, the African relationship has evolved over the years. It has changed to the dictate of modernism; yet it has provided a solace to a society that is badly in need of one. Changes have been gradual and rightly so; it has put stability at the center of its metamorphosis not change for the sake of it as many will advocate. But then, these later day advocates coming either in the form of evil western feminism or bold faced acculturative manly sissies, will not fail to perpetuate certain misplaced stereotype. What are those factors that we misjudge, overlook or are unkind to when we perpetuate the stereotypes about African relationships?
The first factor of course is the role of love. Love will make a lion become a dove; it will make a woman indulge her husband the burden of modern day home maintenance and man toil day and night to keep roof over the head of his head and those of his family. Love will work wonders, but some people have chosen to ignore that. May be these people believe that Africans don’t marry for the sake of love, or they still imagine that arranged marriages are the order of the day; as far as I know, compatibility and to a larger extent love is still an important factor. Either you like am or you no like am. In addition to this are the fruit(s) of these union i.e. children. People choose to remain married to a chauvinist, feminist, hell raiser or whatever you might call his lazy bum ass because of their kids. It is what it means to be selfless and is the ultimate beauty of the African relationship. The peace and wellbeing of the kids is a very important factor that people in African relationships don’t discard to the dismay of the American based spinster looking from the outside inwards. Of course expediency and choice also plays an important role whether anyone chooses to remain in or opt to be in a relationship with the “evil” African man with loin clothes or not: fact is, men are not that scarce after all. And for the umpteenth time- will the feminists amongst us claim that the women marrying these “animals called men” have no choice of whom to marry? It is my devil not yours- get yours! (Apologies to Obugi)
Indeed, I shall continue to insist that gender equality is not only alien to African culture but is actually an exclusive preserve of the middle class. The upper class man need not get into argument with a daughter of Eve over who brings in the pay check, or who cooks, or who drops the kids off at school etc. He can simply pay for it and hire someone to do them for you Ms. Lady. On the other hand, the poor wretched lower class man is too busy thinking about what to eat and his wife is thinking about how to put the minimal food on the table to give serious thought to the issue of equality. Equality to the poor man is like someone discussing promotion with an unemployed graduate applicant. Wetin concern agbero with overload? Certainly, the question for centuries for Greek philosophers was what is the definition of happiness? How can poor Nigerians be happier than stunningly rich Americans? The answer lies in the Holy Book. In it the prophet says: “For Contentment is a great gain”. Happiness is equal to contentment – and if we all become contented with what we have without comparing ourselves with lagbaja or lakasebe then we will have every cause to be happy.
The truth of course is that in life no one gets what they deserve; we get what we negotiate. Since this is so, the onus remains on you to communicate your requirements effectively before you marry that man or woman. Do not live in the fantasy either, that they will change when you get married. If he does not help with kitchen work while you dated, the odds are that he will not help when you get married. If she is the “my money is my money, your money is our money” type, chances is that she will not change when you get married. Communication is the key here, and it should be done openly and honestly as you can before you sign the dotted line with or without a prenuptial agreement (let those who have ears let them hear). Honesty is prerequisite as well; not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the honorable path to follow. Don’t hide your desire for a sissy man before you marry him; let him know you like to boss your man around. Don’t hide your desire for a foot mat either, let her know you like your women stupid. It is a free world; chances are that you will find someone whose desire is compatible with yours. You might lose one hot looking feminist sister or a Denzel on the side, but I can assure that Lord of heaven who sits on the throne of righteousness will reward you with a fine looking ride or die chick or a mumu guy who cares less about such things. Insha Allah.