By Josephine Agbonkhese
Cross River State-born Nollywood Producer and former President, Directors Guild of Nigeria, Fidelis Duker, has been married to Temitope who is of Yoruba extraction, for about 19 years. Duker, in this interview with Woman’s Own, shares his experience amid doubts many Nigerians still hold about inter-tribal marriages. Excerpts:
YOU’VE been married for about 19 years now. How has it been coping with one who is not from your own tribe?
To a large extent, I’ve not experienced the sort of challenges some people claim are faced by people in inter-tribal marriage. In the last 19 years, of course we’ve been having our minor challenges, but they have not been based on or due to where we both come from. In fact, I can say my wife is no more a Yoruba woman but an Efik woman by extension. Maybe the fact that I was born and bred in Lagos is the advantage we have. I schooled in the north as well, so, I think I’ve had the privilege of knowing about different parts of Nigeria. Thus, apart from our language differences, I tell people when they say a particular tribe is bad, that in every tribe, we have both good and bad people.
Culture and lifestyle differences: So far, I have come to realize, among other things, that the Yorubas take it very seriously when their in-laws fail to attend their events, whether the wife is there or not. But from where I come from, the presence of a wife can be taken for that of her husband. But the Yorubas will rather take such to mean that the marriage is going through turbulence. I, however, notice there have been many more inter-tribal marriages lately.
What do you think is the reason for that? We’ve come to a point where we’ve got so close that this country cannot be divided. There’s hardly any family that doesn’t have a member who is married to another tribe. With civilization too, and globalization which now allows people to even meet on social media and get married eventually, people are easily getting into inter-tribal and inter-racial marriages more than before. Coming back to cultural differences, I’ve learned to be very tolerable. In fact, your tolerance level is what helps you the most in inter-tribal marriage.
Talking about culinary preferences, don’t you wish you could eat Efik dishes in your home?
I believe any woman that wants to keep her home will endeavour to learn the culinary preferences of her husband’s tribe. In fact, my wife learned how to cook Efik dishes before we got married. I guess curiosity made her learn them anyway. This makes me not miss my native food even though I’m not very particular about food. Like I said, I grew up in Lagos. Having said that, I believe more that the two personalities involved in any marriage is actually what matters; it’s not about tribe. How well they are able to tolerate one another is what counts in the success of the marriage.
Language barrier is a major challenge in this type of marriage; how do you cope with communication in public places both with your wife and children?
I will start with my own experience. My mother is Edo and my father is Efik. You know you cannot remove that matrilineal power. So, today, I can speak Edo language but cannot speak Efik since mum was always at home than dad. Same thing is happening now with my children; they can speak Yoruba but cannot speak Efik because they are with their mother 24/7.
Is it to say inter-tribal marriage could make a father’s language go extinct?
That’s one of the bad sides to it, anyway. But my sister who schooled in Calabar speaks Efik fluently. For me though, this isn’t really a disadvantage but a factor of what one wants in a marriage. If you want your children to understand both languages, you’ll first of all teach your wife so she understands the basics and can teach them to your children. For me though, I see more of the merits than the demerits.
…and what are those merits?
You learn about other cultures, you understand their language too, you make new friends from that region, you also to a large extent begin to understand how to live as a Nigerian because that is the thrust of the Nigerian spirit. That was why the National Youth Service Corp was formed. That was also why the Federal Government Colleges were established; to enable Nigerians from different parts of the country meet under one roof and be able to learn and understand different cultures and values. The demerits might be what I mentioned earlier: language barrier, culinary, etc.
Your people are exceptionally hygiene conscious too…unlike some other parts of the country. How do you cope with that?
Like I said earlier, every culture has different kinds of people; good and bad, neat and dirty, etc. Even in Calabar, you have people that are terribly dirty. It’s for you to identify what you want when you get married and for your partner to try to meet those qualities if he or she wants to keep the marriage. Even within the Yorubas, you have people who are very finicky about hygiene. I always disapprove of ascribing a particular trait to a particular tribe. My wife, in the last 19 years, has taken very good care of me without letting me lack anything I want. She’s even very supportive.
If you were to marry again, would you go for a Yoruba woman in person of Temitope?
Yes, I will go for her over and over again. Living with her in the last 19 years has been one of the most interesting and enjoyable part of my life. There’s not been a day where family members, colleagues or friends have come into our house to settle our issues. We are also seen at functions together.