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Thou shall not covet thy friend’s spouse

By Yetunde Arebi

Hi, The Guitar maestro, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey, in one of his evergreen oldies sang about covetousness and why an individual must not take over a friend’s spouse, describing it as a shameful act, which tarnishes one’s reputation. This same act has been described as worse than stealing even by public perception. Perhaps it is because a lot of things have been attributed to friendship. Good friends are God sent. Some friends are dearer than blood relatives. Friendship is based on trust and must be nurtured and protected if it is to achieve the purpose for which it was developed. That many people have benefited immensely from good friendships is not in question. But in the same way, many others have only stories of woe, betrayal and damnation to tell of their friends. Perhaps, it is the fact that we get to choose our friends that makes it more painful to bear when we are betrayed by them. The irony is that no one can identify a bad friend until an evil or harm has been perpetuated by them, by which time, it may be too late.

A friend who intends to steal your wife or husband from you is not likely to give you notice or room for suspicion. In fact, he might even be your closest ally. The term, chop and clean mouth, does not apply in this situation, this is operation total take over. Despite God’s commandment and societal condemnation, the practice just seem to be etching itself into our psyche. Stories of married women walking away from one friend’s arms into another without as much as batting an eyelid, and men who without stopping to empathize with their fellow men, take over their women. In their foolery, they take solace in the famous story of king David and his epic love affair with Bathsheba, wife of soldier, Uriah. They forget that this was an affair that led to the death of the husband and the child produced from the adulterous relationship.

A couple of months ago, I’d accompanied a friend to visit her elderly uncle. It was no ordinary visit but a small family meeting to counsel their young cousin whose wife had just deserted him and their children for another man. Incidentally too, the new man in her life was a close friend of the family. I had tagged along for the gist but what I eventually got was a double barrel. During the discussion her elderly uncle who had also been a victim of such a betrayal added his own story to the package. I was the happier for it, though left wondering how some people could throw decorum, decency and fear of God out of the window for a few moments of desire.

In this edition and the next, I will share with you the experiences of these two gentlemen. If you have a similar experience you know about, kindly write in and share it with us. Or simply share your views on this issue with us via the contacts on this page. Do have a wonderful weekend!!

Pa Shina, (82), retired Civil Servant who lost his first wife to someone he claimed was a “good friend” way back in the 1970s.  

I met my wife in England. It was at a party being hosted by a Nigerian friend. I loved her because she was friendly and a little carefree. She had lots of friends too and a bit of money to spend, as she had a good job. She was not going to school like most people were, though she told me that she was saving up to do so. Soon, we got married after a brief courtship and things were very good between us.

I was still studying for my Diploma when we had our first child. We had planned that when I graduated, she too will go and study something before we returned to Nigeria. In those days, our girls usually studied Nursing, Dressmaking or Catering. After the birth of our second child and I had finished my education, she refused to go to school. Soon, the third child came and then there was no way she could anymore.

I never suspected that she was a wayward woman until the final act. The only thing she ever engaged in apart from partying was bleaching. But this was the vogue among many of our girls in those days and didn’t really mean anything to me. In 1967, her mother died in Lagos Nigeria, and she had to come for the final burial rites. Since we are Muslims, the corpse had been buried the following day. The final burial was to coincide with the first year memorial anniversary and my wife was expected to be in attendance.

We made plans and saved money towards her coming home. We had planned that she would take one of the children with her, but eventually the idea was shelved because of her fears about witchcraft and some unidentified enemies. The cost was also part of our considerations. As the day drew near, one of my close friends too informed me that he was travelling to Nigeria to attend to some family problems. I intimated him about my wife’s journey though they were all aware that she’d lost her mother. We then decided that they should travel together so that my friend could help me take care of my wife. She had persuaded me to allow her travel by sea to save cost. Her argument was that she could use the money to purchase more gifts for the people at home and also enough to spend on the party.

On the day of their departure, I, in the company of the children escorted my wife and my friend off to the port at Liverpool. That was the last time I saw my wife. We met three years later when I came to verify the truth of the matter with my own eyes.

I received a letter from my wife when she arrived Nigeria and another one a few months after the party. She even sent photographs taken at the party with my friend whom she’d informed me took very good care of her while on the ship and had even stayed in touch with her in Lagos. He had represented me so well at the ceremony, she’d informed. In her letter, she did not mention anything about coming home. All she said was that they were going to read the will and she wanted to be around being the only daughter. After this, she stopped writing and even when I wrote she never bothered to reply my letters.

About eight months after her departure, we started hearing rumours that my wife was expecting a child believed to be my friend’s own. London is a small place and so also the Nigerian community, and news whether true or false got around very fast. Again, I tried to get in touch with my wife without much success. Eventually, I got in touch with my younger brother who informed me that it was true that my wife was pregnant but that they don’t really know much about it as she seldom visited any member of my family. She was staying in her family house on Lagos Island, I learnt. I was having a hard time coping with the children and my work. But somehow I managed. I had to take all three of them to a foster parent and only visited them every weekend so I could concentrate on my work.

I found it difficult to accept the rumours initially, but when my friend too did not return to England and they were always said to be seen together in Nigeria, I was forced to start believing the stories as facts. The fact that my friend was not married at the time too, made me come to a conclusion. Then, we heard that the baby had been born and that it was my friend’s family that came to name the baby and that she had also moved into my friend’s house. I had no choice but to resign to my fate.

My friend never tried to get in touch with me. The story being peddled was that the two had become lovers on the ship and that was when she had taken in for the child. It took me three years to plan my home coming. I just had to see her with my eyes. It wasn’t as if I didn’t believe all that I’d been told, it was just that I felt I would be more at ease if I saw them with my own eyes. I found all the stories weird. I wanted to ask so many questions like, how could she stoop so low, what would happen to the children, didn’t she care about them at all. Up till today, I still can’t figure out why she did it.

Just as I’d been told, my wife was pregnant with their second child, and they were also living together when I came home. She broke down crying like all women do when they are caught in the act. It was the work of the devil, she claimed. Their neighbours were curious to know what was going on. I believe that they must have been hearing some gossips too about the circumstances of their so  called marriage. I never set eyes on my friend until I went back to England. That was in 1971, I was still in England when I heard about his death in 1980. She had bore him three children and still lived in their family house.

Later, I heard that she began having problems with his family and she moved out to rent a room in Ijeshatedo, a suburb of Surulere. I saw her a couple of times after I returned home in 1984. As the years went by, she began communicating with the children more often and they were able to make some reconciliation eventually. She has a good relationship with the first child, a girl. The two younger boys are not too comfortable with her, but I know that they are also in touch and do send her money from time to time.


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