By Bunmi Sofola
SYLVIA admitted that her parentâ€™s marriage and the stoic way her mummy yielded her position as the first wife to a much younger and ambitious woman prepared her for the way she handled her relationship with men. Her story: â€œWhen a man suddenly discovered heâ€™s scaled the ladder of success faster than heâ€™d envisaged, what does he do when he gets to the top? Chuck his frumpy wife for a more sophisticated model, thatâ€™s what! And it happened to my mother – a stark illiterate, my father too couldnâ€™t read or write. But he was a fairly successful cocoa farmer and although we werenâ€™t exactly rolling on the laps of luxury, we were the envy of our small town; talk about a big fish in a very small pond indeed!Â We at least had the benefit of a good education.
My father had been on the war-path with the leadership of the local Pentecostal church we attended. He disagreed with the procedure used for raising money and how the money was spent. Things finally got to a head and he broke away to found his own church. A chunck of the congregation from the former church went with him and in a couple of years; his church had ballooned into something he himself never envisaged. As donations kept on pouring in from far and wide he built a mini estate, installed my mother and her children (four of us) in one of the charlets, then got married to a school certificate holder and made her his main wife. His excuse was that he needed an educated ally to go through the books of the church and welcome visitors. I donâ€™t want to go through the rage and resentment we from my motherâ€™s side felt as we witnessed this impostor parade herself as an intellectual. My poor father didnâ€™t know that he was the laughing stock of the congregation who sniggered at the clumsy speeches she always made, riddles with grammatical mistakes, whenever the church had public functions.
I was lucky to have a sharp brain and soon qualified as a lawyer. But I wasnâ€™t lucky in my choice of a husband. Eventually my marriage hit the rocks after five years and two children. The man I had my third child for wasnâ€™t much better, but I was lucky to meet this influential projects director of a parastatal and my life changed for the better. He took care of all my financial needs and was almost twenty years older than I was. It is amazing what some women put up with for money. This man was fat and flabby. Whenever he slept over and I watched him, his mouth so wide open I could see his missing teeth and fillings in some of the rest, snoring away without a care in th world, I felt really repulsed. He was definitely not a sight to light the fire in any virile womanâ€™s loins, but he was kind and generous. Letâ€™s face it, he wasnâ€™t in his fifties afterall, and it must be quite exhausting making love to his wife, me and God knows who else all the time!
When he was retired and went into politics, I went with him to Abuja, the seat of power and through his contacts; I was able to land into the midst of the â€˜heaviesâ€™. I was eventually appointed a special adviser to a top politician. My first class ticket to the gravy train! In the meantime, Iâ€™d reverted to my maiden name while my ex-husband had remarried – twice! But now that I was an â€˜importantâ€™ government official, I quickly changed to my matrimonial name. He had by now burnt his fingers in his business and was always broke. So when I sold him the idea of our possible re-union because of the kids, he jumped at the chance! He is no fool and his calculating brain must have told him that if he played his cards right, his poverty days were over!
â€œHe moved into my official quarters at Abuja and my lover was livid. I re-assured him that my husband was the least of his problems and there was nothing stopping us from carrying on as before. It was an added bonus that he not only knew my husband Ike, heâ€™d given him a couple of contracts when he was in paid employment. Now my husband is a happy man. He drives the best of cars, wears designer clothes and shoes – and has his share of female admirers. That never bothers me – live and let live is my motto. Just a couple of months ago, he had to travel to the far East on one of our â€˜projectsâ€™. When he phoned, Lekan, my â€˜benefactorâ€™ was around and was actually in bed.Â I told my husband he was around on a visit to Abuja and would be leaving soon, did he want to have a word with him? It gives you a sort of power getting away with a murder like that! My husband had no way of guessing that whenever he was out of town, my lover always sleeps over. I never bother to ask him what he too is always up to on his frequent â€˜jauntsâ€™.
â€œI donâ€™t have any idea of when this â€˜second chanceâ€™ marriage would last, but Ike is the least of my problems. He was a very violent and abusive man when we first got married. Now with so much affluence around him, heâ€™s become a gentleman. I know heâ€™s as calculating as I am and we know weâ€™re both using each other. What we have really is an open marriage and as long as both of us donâ€™t rock the boat, weâ€™re bound to come up smelling roses. ..once in a while, I remember my poor mum and how she suffered the humiliation of being relegated to the background because she didnâ€™t have the financial clout to leave. Yet, her courage encouraged me to seize happiness wherever I could – using what I have – money, power and position – to get what I want. . .”
Hugh Grant, the famous British international film star was once asked why he was so sure that women were attracted to money. His reply? â€œBe honest. Suppose you were unattached and some guys you adored were to walk through the door right now. If he could be cloned into one rich guy and one poor guy who were otherwise exactly the same and you were able to choose between the two, which one would you go for?â€ The same question should be put to men too, donâ€™t you think?!