By Yetunde Arebi
Infidelity amongst women did not happen on us due to the Tech ages as many are wont to believe. Its roots date back to the days of our grandparents and beyond. The story I am going to be sharing with you in the next two editions happened precisely 25 years ago, in the days of what was known to the Yoruba ‘owambe’ social circle as ‘oko kan o kun cupboard’ which literally means, one husband cannot fill your wardrobe. The deeper interpretation of this is that if a woman wants to be successful in life, she cannot rely on only her husband.
My mother was the first to share this story with me back then as her money was also trapped in the ill fated adventure. It was presented as a combo of gossip/counseling rolled into one, since the victim was a very close family friend. Fast forward to 25 years later, I recently had the privilege to hear it all over again, but this time from the woman in the center of it all.
My aunt, now 71 years old, has a fresh perspective to the events and believes it is worth sharing with us the younger generation so as to help guide our decisions. And why not? Having been widowed for close to 10 years now and a successful grandmother with her own houses and business, time has indeed turned what once appeared disgraceful into irrelevance. I must confess that finally hearing it from her changed my perception of her totally. For the purpose of this publication, I will call my aunt, Ireti and her boyfriend, Branco. I do hope we, women especially, will learn some lessons even as we enjoy the story:
“We met at a party organized by my club as part of our yearly get together activity to usher in the New Year. The club membership comprised of female, small scale entrepreneurs in the quest for economic advancement. We paid annual dues, monthly dues and any other special levy that might crop up. One advantage of being a member was the opportunity of loan facilities and other assistance in the area of business and general welfare.
Over the years, the annual party became a grand occasion where non-members including friends and relations were invited. Branco was invited by one of the members, a divorcee and mother of three children. He had accompanied the lady’s boyfriend who later described him as a very close friend of his.
He was a very handsome young man, gorgeously dressed in an expensive, lavishly embroidered Jacquard material. In fact, he was the centre of attraction that evening and all eyes were on him. Because of his composure he was automatically invited to the high table. After which he donated a surprising amount of money considering the fact that he had no prior knowledge that he would be so honored.
To be truthful, I’d never thought the likes of him could pay any attention to someone like me. It wasn’t that I was a beautiful young girl at the time, far from it. I was a 44 year old woman with a husband and four grown-up children.
Though I still received considerable attention once a while from men, I’d never really thought that anyone would fancy me so much and be serious about it. Branco’s intentions were made very obvious, even to the envy of other women there. I tried as much as possible to ward him off that day, telling him I was too old for such pranks. I’d never cheated on my husband till then. I rebuked him emphasizing that I could pass for his aunt or much older sister.
Branco claimed to have fallen in love with me at first sight and couldn’t just let go without giving a good fight like a man in love should. Branco was all sweet talk, butter and sugar coated. He talked about himself, his businesses and private life stressing that he was a lover of good things, especially women. He dropped the hint that money was not his problem but how to spend it.
By the end of the evening I found myself asking for more time to think about it. Though he stressed that there was nothing to think about as he would never accept a no for an answer, we agreed to meet at a place to be arranged for us by my friend who’d invited them.
Throughout the week, I wasn’t myself, a strange being had taken over my body. I was a teenager all over again, falling in love for the first time, or so it seemed. I convinced myself that husband would never find out if I had an affair or not. He was an exceptionally quiet man who stayed home all day after arrival from the office. He had never had a real push even in his younger days; he was very content with his income, job and the little we had.
His favorite cliché was that whatever he could not achieve; his sons would in their own time. His weekends were spent in the company of his friends in front of one of their houses. There they passed the time drinking, exchanging jokes and catching up on the escapades of the amorous ones amongst them. Of course most of these men were not like him as they owned their own houses, some even had two wives. But this was the life my husband had chosen and I couldn’t grudge him since he was a good father to his children and he never bothered me like many men did to their wives.
My business was around the house too. I had a couple of grinding machines for all sorts of food stuffs while I also had a little buka where I sold food, though we do not really encourage much eating or drinking on the premises. My business, though simple, was a money spinner and I was able to save a little from the proceeds which I’d personally invested in the construction of a house.
It was a secret project known only to my first son and only daughter, because I did not want my husband to have anything to do with it. Besides, I didn’t want him to know how much profit I was making from my business. The initial plan of construction was a four flat one-storey building, but I soon realized that it was too expensive for me.
With the advice and assistance of my childhood friend, I changed the plan. The ground floor was converted into single rooms, two with adjourning sitting rooms, with toilets, kitchens and bathrooms at the end of the corridor. (A typical face-me-I-face-you house.) The idea was that I could rent out the rooms on completion and use the funds to continue the work. My friend had also recently bailed me out with a loan to complete the job. The completion of this building and other money gulping projects were the focus of my mind as I thought of Branco all through the week.
He had told me he was 40 years old, though I knew it was a lie, he couldn’t have been more than 35-37 years old. But he looked quite mature for his age, with a bulging tummy and carriage. By the end of the week, I’d manage to convince myself on why I should date Branco and I couldn’t wait to arrange the meeting with my friend.
The next Friday, it was agreed that we would meet at my friend’s house as I was too afraid to go and meet him in any public place. Branco and his friend who was also my friend’s boyfriend were there by the time I arrived. He brought a Mercedes Benz different from the one he’d brought to the party. He was all over me and by the end of the meeting he was requesting for a more private meeting. For me, it could only be arranged for the middle of the week. Being a business man, his schedule was flexible.
Our meeting point was Ota, outside the Lagos metropolis, which coincidentally was where my unfinished secrete house was. I promptly told him that I was familiar with the area but lied that I had relatives whom I visited regular there. That evening Branco gave me N5, 000 and we agreed to meet later in the week. I was happy that I had met a nice, young man who was also ready to lavish me with money. N5000.00 was a lot of money back then. I’d heard of this type of “money miss road” people but never in my wildest dreams thought I would meet one, not to mention dating one. Branco and I continued to meet at our rendezvous on the Lagos outskirt.
We talked about almost everything under the skies. My husband, my business, my family and friends and my construction project which I told him was a secret from my husband. I told him my plans about letting out the rooms which were almost completed by then. He also told me many things about himself or so I thought. How his business was faring, his overseas partners and the problem of getting foreign exchange for his importations. He never gave more than N5000 at a go, but it meant a lot to me since I’d never even been given a kobo before now by any man.
I believe Branco must have figured this out too somehow. Once, he bought me guinea brocade he’d claimed one of his wives was selling. Another time, he bought Aso-Oke for me when one of my club members was celebrating her 40th birthday ceremony. At parties he would spray me too. These were the only times I got something from him. He would often tell me how unfortunate it was that we met when things weren’t so buoyant for him. The foreign exchange was always his excuses.
Shortly after our meeting, I’d taken him to my site where he’d suggested a few amendments. A week after the first six rooms were occupied, Branco requested for a quick loan of N100,000 which he promised to repay in two weeks once his goods were cleared form the ports. I obliged him because I believed him. True to his words, the money was returned after two weeks. He was very grateful, pointing out that he knew he’d made the right choice on setting eyes on me.
What could he gain from a younger woman he asked? Besides, lovers were supposed to be of benefit to each other. I was glad that I was able to help out when he needed it too. Not long after, he requested for another loan of the same amount and it was returned as scheduled. I had no inclination of the danger that laid ahead of me. And when he requested for another loan of N250,000, I promptly gave him not knowing that I would never see my hard earned money again”.
Hmm!! lets meet here again for the concluding part of this interesting story next Saturday. Do have a wonderful weekend!!