Kicker: Singer Waje, radio presenters Tosyn Bucknor and Phoenix, actor Lala Akindoju and marketing professional Lola Talabi have a no-holds-barred conversation on humble beginnings, marriage and staying the long haul with a man.
Pullquote: I mean (chuckling) I’m not going to live in the dark without being able to afford… even if it’s an I-better-pass-my-neighbour generator
PHOENIX: NOT from any kind of formal survey or anything, but you hear so many stories about guys that have wives that have started off with them, or wives that probably even work while he’s in school to pay for his school or to pay for whatever. They start from one room; he makes it big and then drops her for a younger girl.
Waje: I wouldn’t say it’s a bad idea. It’s a no-go area, because if you check it these days women are taking up more responsibilities than they used to take back in the day, when it comes to the family and running the financial aspect of the family. It doesn’t matter whether your husband is well-to-do or not. I was talking to someone recently and the man told me his wife cannot come and tell him that he should give her money for food. Those are things he doesn’t bother about. So it’s not like every three months he says “this is money for this quarter that you’re going to use in taking care of the house, or every month this is the money”. It’s not just a topic of discussion; she should know that is her responsibility.
Lala: That’s a new one. Fundamentally, I think that the values have changed. Life in itself has changed from 15 years ago, such that then, it was enough for a woman to just be with a man that she was sure that he loved her, and was going to be true to her. But now, the men cannot be so trusted like before. It’s not all about love and trust anymore. Love is no longer enough to keep us happy. There are other checks and balances. If 15 years ago, I could live with him for 20 in a one-room apartment and right now I cannot do that, why can’t I do that? A lot of things have changed, society has moved forward. Even he doesn’t want to do that anymore. He knows there’s competition outside; he’s afraid that if he keeps me in one room, someone else will come and sweep me away with a duplex or something.
Now, I wouldn’t say that I would advise my friend at the top of my head to drop a guy who doesn’t have this or that, because no matter how rich a person is now, he still started out somewhere, whether by hook or by crook. So I always like to give the benefit of the doubt, but we have to check, I mean (chuckling) I’m not going to live in the dark without being able to afford… even if it’s an I-better-pass-my-neighbour generator. It’s not a luxury anymore, it‘s now a necessity.
Phoenix: For some guys, it might just be their comfort zone… “She has married me so why do I need to do anything and move out of this one-room.” It might just be, “She’s happy, she loves me as I am, I don’t need to push myself any further.”
Lala: Men tend to get to that point.
Tosyn: I think that it’s like a combination, because one, like Lala said, things have changed. I was thinking that 15, 20 years ago, if the guy were a farmer, the woman would probably be a housewife, so really it was either farmer A or farmer B. But now, the girl is probably earning her own money, has her own car, so it’s changed a bit. Secondly, you also have to think of ambition. There’s a difference between a guy that doesn’t have much now, but is a hustler, or has that hustling spirit, and then there is the one who doesn’t have much and is like a loafer…
Phoenix: Waiting for the old man to die…
Lala: (And) is ‘beefing’ every other young man who is making it…
Tosyn: So you also look at the fighting spirit the person has. I also think that in terms of things changing, it’s not even about money now because if you think about it, the divorce rates are getting higher. Maybe all the things that used to keep people in before like “What would people say? I can’t abandon him”; right now, people don’t worry about those things anymore. So really, if you’re struggling with someone and the person is not struggling and you are doing all the…
Lala: You drop him
Phoenix: To be honest we sitting here generally are making something already for ourselves so it would be hard to have someone come and tell me stories.
Lala: Then the survival instinct too. Waje said something about women working, not just supporting, but being breadwinners in their own rights as well. So the survival instinct is higher. They need to pay school fees and maybe have money to take the kids away for summer, so there is that pressure and you want to marry somebody or be with somebody who can afford these things and you can survive and have a good life because the things that we consider as necessities now, were regarded as luxuries years ago. Sometimes I want to not be quick to judge people who seem materialistic but what do you want them to do? Do you really want them to just go all for love and what her mother did? And what does her mother have to say?
Then and now
Waje: When our parents were growing up, they were taught not to talk much. It was a sign of reverence for you to be a young lady who would sit down and let the man talk and you’re just there. Even if your in-law says you’re coming to live in his house with your husband, you no go talk anything. It’s really not because it’s this generation and that the values have changed and therefore we are not happy, I think it’s the same thing except that our eyes are open to a lot of things.
Phoenix: Also I think it’s learning from the mistakes of the past and seeing these people do it and it hasn’t always worked for them so why should it work for us? In the past it was like they had the community spirit. There was no problem with like five different couples marrying and living in the same house.
Lala: The methods of engagement then and now are different. It was absolutely all right to marry somebody you had no relationship with. Your parents will organise somebody for you depending on your tradition and they will tell you that “I grew to love your father, I didn’t date him.”
Phoenix: That wasn’t really a bad thing.
Lala: The mentality then was, “Look, I can’t go back home, they brought me here. I’m getting to know you for the first time so even the issues I’m having I don’t have choice…” Tosyn said something about divorce rates, there was nothing like that then, so even though I met you two months ago and I’m marrying you now, it is forever and ever. So you beat me and I take it; because we didn’t court, we didn’t date, there was no time for all the choice or I don’t like this, or you don’t do this I’m leaving… it wasn’t there then. It’s all changed.
Phoenix: Having said that though, most women who face these decisions will probably want to do it, because you love this guy, you see his ambition. It’s not like he’s just a layabout. You know it’s a temporary thing. I think the number of girls that decide not to do it will be persuaded by what other people say as opposed to their own personal choice. I think most people would want to do it because they know that things will change. They will be afraid of what their friends will say, what their parents will say.
Waje: Why I disagree with you, especially in this situation when it comes to our generation (is because) I personally feel that any woman who decides to take that kind of step is probably (doing it) because of pressure. Maybe the age factor or family pressure, but I don’t think any sane woman would.
(Full story in Y! September 2010)