Here is the concluding part of last week’s article. Happy reading. Unfortunately, the story is not much different in the case of women who work. Many men tend to turn a blind eye to the contributions of their wives to the upkeep of the home and welfare of the family. Because of their masochistic tendencies and the patriarchal nature of our society, they assume everything acquired and achieved by the family as a unit belongs only to them. This is further compounded by the fact that most receipted payments are made by the husbands, regardless of whether their wives chipped in to augment things or not.
Thus, you have house rents, school fees, family cars, properties, mostly coming with the man’s name only. Wives are relegated to taking charge of the kitchen and everything concerning feeding which are hardly receipted for. Except for the super rich and affluent men, it is difficult for an average income earner husband to beat his chest that his feeding allowance for his family covers to the last pinch of salt. Some have even conceded the job of feeding to their wives and have no idea what this costs. Most women augment silently, ensuring that the family enjoys the “orishirishi” that makes eating a delicious, pleasurable and satisfying experience.
Such is her financial contribution to the family and investment in the building and maintaining the home some men selfishly call ‘my house’. Often, when you have investments or property papers jointly signed in the couple’s names, it is not because he considers his wife as an equal stake holder and partner, such that he would readily hand over half to her if the centre can no longer hold. Rather, it is done to ward off the influence of a third party in case something happens to either of them, but often times, him.
Two years ago, I got a call from Philo, a friend who’d recently divorced her husband, asking me to chip in some money towards her getting a new accommodation. I was surprised because I knew she was living in their own house with her two children. Her husband, Dapo, lives in South Africa. He had relocated there several years ago, leaving his wife and their two girls to manage things out here, while he roughed it out there in pursuit of his career as a medical doctor.
Though he visited occasionally and sent money home regularly, including building the ‘family house’ which my friend and the kids live in, he’d also found warmth in the arms of a SA lady whom finally he’d married. This was where Philo’s problems with Dapo began. After almost two decades of living alone and being father and mother to their girls, Philo had assumed that the completion of their family home meant that her husband would return to the comfort of the little nest she’d managed to build for them.
She had been looking forward to a happy retirement with both of them catching up on lost years side by side, only to be rudely jolted to an unpleasant reality that she had lost her man forever. It was only natural that she would feel betrayed and angry after having her biological, emotional and sexual life suspended for several years, thrown to the dogs without recourse for remorse or empathy.
So Philo had sued for divorce despite counselling from some of us against it. And now, a few months after the divorce, she was begging for money to fund a new accommodation for herself and the children. Her husband was coming to Nigeria with madam from SA and was going to stay in their ‘family home’. Philo was informed that she had no rights to the house because they were no longer husband and wife. To make matters worse, her husband, an only male child of six children, had all his wicked, half literate sisters, who ought to know better being women, in support . An obvious result of ‘egunje’ if you ask me.
I asked if her lawyer was aware of the decision and she affirmed positive. Her lawyer had informed her that since the land papers and everything concerning the house was in Dapo’s name, there was little for them to show as proof in court that that she had a financial contribution to the building of the house, or that it was a family house and not solely his. Getting the house for herself and the girls was almost impossible. I was aghast and wondered if the lawyers had her heads screwed on correctly with the sort of advice she offered. I told her to look for another lawyer as he was not being sincere with her and could be working for her husband. Is a family house about who built it or the relationship binding the occupants?
My friend was 51 at the time she sued for divorce and now at 52, she was being coerced into walking out of a home she’d held together for over a decade. I told her to ignore her husband and his family members and wait until he arrived home to physically throw her out. Then, she could seek court intervention and raise some dust. I was sure that he was only testing her resolve with his threats and would not throw away his remaining goodwill with his children.
Throwing his wife out meant that he was technically throwing his children, who are already of marriage age on to the streets. A bird in hand is worth a million in the skies. His big ass, SA wife was yet to have a child, much more the male child he claims to be searching for. My friend’s husband had visited Nigeria twice since then, accompanied by his new wife and not a pregnancy to show for his unbridled desires. Both times they stayed in hotels and it was reported that he had started building another house.
Recently, I had cause to thank the Lord for my friend’s lucky escape from a homeless person’s status when I read the story of Mr. Adegboye Onigbinde and his now divorced wife, Anne in the national Newspapers. A former Super Eagle’s Coach, Mr. Onigbide had dragged his wife of 31 years to the courts, seeking to dissolve the marriage on the grounds that there was no more love between them. He gave a list of his wife’s shortcomings while the relationship lasted and his unprofitable financial investments in her businesses amongst other issues.
And though the wife pleaded with the court to throw out the case as she had nowhere to go after being in a marriage for 30+ years the President of the court, Ademola Odunade, directed Mr. Onigbinde to pay a cash sum of N5,000, (five thousand Naira) to enable this woman move her belongings out of his house. While nearly all my ‘friends’ on Facebook and WhatsApp groups debated on why the estranged couple could not forgive and accommodate each other’s weaknesses, considering the number of years already invested in the marriage, my thoughts were fixated on the recommendation of the court. N5,000!! In this economy and after so many years, is this all that this woman was worth? Habah!!
But the Onigbinde’s is not an isolated case. I am tempted to believe this is gradually becoming the norm these days. Another woman, Sarat, suffered a similar fate also in Ibadan when her husband Jacob Ogundijo sought the consent of the court to do away with his 31 year old marriage. Why they now waited till after three decades when the children have been successfully weaned and most of life’s challenges have been overcome beats my imagination.
Should this not be time to look forward to becoming proud grandparents? The time to sit back and watch their investments yield good dividends. Time to retire and raise their feet, to enjoy the fruits of their labour and doing what they love to do most. Time to count their blessings and thank God for all He had done for the family. Alas! this is not the case. 30 years is now gradually becoming synonymous with moving on. To what, if I may ask?
Almost all the cases I have come across and cited here had the fingers of a third party stuck in the pie. Another woman! The wives claim their men have been taken over by another woman but their husbands insist they are bad women. If so, why did you stay with a bad woman for 30 years before finding your voice and strength to seek freedom? Why wait until she is old and unattractive before sending her back into the dating market? Above all, why send her out with empty hands. Even a labourer deserves his wages, how much more, one you once claimed to love and cherish. This is sadism on another level.
Though the Nigerian Matrimony Causes Act of 1990 does not recognise Alimony, it used Maintenance to describe payment of allowance to a spouse, either male or female or the children when a divorce is instituted. The court is empowered to use its discretion in determining what is just and possible based on the income of the spouses. Other considerations include their standard of living, age, ability to work, other financial obligations and responsibilities, so long it can be proved perhaps, as in the cases of these women, that they do not have sufficient means of income to take care of themselves.
The purpose is to ensure that the woman is able to live approximately in the position she has been accustomed to prior to the dissolution of the marriage. This therefore means that it is wrong for any man to think that he can throw his wife out of their matrimonial home, no matter the number of years of the union without settling her and/or the children considerably. In fact, the age of the woman is an important factor in settlement cases.
Contrary to the advice given by my friend’s lawyer, the court has discretionary powers to order for settlement of property with or without evidence of joint purchase, development or funding of the family assets. So, why would a court order a man of Mr. Onigbinde’s status to pay N5,000 to his wife of 32 years to remove her belongings from their home? Pray, which haulage company will charge that amount, or what sort of belongings are we talking about?
It is obvious that our culture of silence as women is at play here. Whatever circumstance a woman may be exposed to in a relationship, she is encouraged to bear all in silence for so many reasons. And when she has been used, squeezed dry like a sucked orange, when she can no longer do much by herself and for herself, she is discarded, thrown into the garbage.
There are many ungrateful women also, but the number of men far outnumber the women for obvious reasons. I believe that there is no way one can tie down a spouse who does not want to stay. Life is about changes, so we fall in and out of love and it is allowed. Yes, a spouse can move on, but he must move on with the fear of God.
Do have a wonderful weekend!!