MEN are the strongest allies when protecting their philandering interests. Alex, an industrialist in his 60s recognized his first son’s potential as a businessman when he made brilliant success of his secondary school exams. Getting him a place in one of the universities abroad was a doddle. As soon as he finished his masters degree in business admin., Alex asked Francis, his son, to join the firm. “I was very happy to,” Francis said “as I’d helped several times when I was on vacation.
“I was 25, the whole world at my feet when dad put me in charge of production, a department I’d always worked with from time to time. We were a family of six children and dad worshipped the earth mum walked on. A close knit family, we always shared each other’s success and pain.
The day all this changed, I was in dad’s office, discussing very thorny problems when he left me to things and hurried to an appointment he had earlier. Still engrossed in figures, I absent-mindedly picked up the phone when it rang and a female voice purred: ‘Hello darling workaholic. When are you showing your face here? Betty is anxious to show off the things you brought back for her from your last trip.’ ‘Excuse me’, I said, confused, ‘who exactly are you?’ Oh, ‘I’m sorry’, said this cultured voice, ‘thought the MD was still in his office. Could you tell him, Sola, his wife called?’ She then rang off. She obviously thought I was an ordinary member of staff.
“I felt as if someone had hit me in the stomach. Of course, I guessed straight away that, Sola, the ‘wife’ was my dad’s mistress. But who was Betty? It took a lot of diplomacy to find out that most members of staff knew Sola as my dad’s second ‘wife’ and Betty was their daughter. That was when I realized a serpent had entered the garden of Eden my family lived in. Poor mum, she had left a promising nursing career to raise us kids. How could dad do this to her? To us? Over the years, he’d drummed it into his children how important it was to be above board and to be fair in how we deal with other human beings. Definitely, deceit was a sin as far as he knew. So where do we all go from here? I’m petrified thinking of confronting dad, not to talk of putting mum and my siblings in the picture. It would destroy the happy family we now take for granted …? I told Francis I would give his problem a thought.
Then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t give the answers all of the time so I asked a few people. Yemisi, a married mother of three was the first to voice her opinion. She told me: “My first word which goes to the ‘baby’ graduate “is, he ain’t seen nothing yet! I find it difficult to believe we still have such a perfect gentleman like his father in Nigeria.”
“Apart from being a successful businessman, he caters well enough for his number one family and still loves his wife after almost thirty years of marriage. For this alone, he deserves the ‘Best father of the century’ award. He again tries as much as possible to keep his affairs from his family. This I believe he does not intend to keep from at least his first son for too long. If not he would not, have asked him to work for him knowing very well that his mistress visits his office that often.
“I think this man is a father in a million. Though it is bad enough that he has a child outside his matrimonial home, but then let us search our minds and see. How many fathers have such affairs and still keep a happy home? How many men after thirty years of marriage still respect and love their wives that much? Not very many men have we known to deny such a story to a son they educated, clothed and fed.
“If we all compare our family lives with this man’s (I don’t mean the newly married or those who are five years old in the biz) we would realize that this gentleman deserves an applause from us all. His advising his children to behave decently does not make him a hypocrite, after all, experience they say is the best teacher. So, I consider this man who has been in this type of mess the right person to advise the young ones.
“To the big ‘baby’, I say grow up – and talk more to your old man about his ‘problem’. He needs your advice as much as you need his. I also wish you to write and publish your own love story after 30 years of marriage. In the meantime, you should let a sleeping dog lie. When the time comes, you will be the one to tell and also give your old woman the heart to bear the shock of a supposed betrayal…”
Justice’s male view is typical. He is 46 and a lecturer. According to him it is not a sin to get involved with another woman and rent a house for her while one is having an already well-established married home, provided one has the money. Polygamy is an indispensable African custom which we inherited from our ancestors. In the traditional society, a big man such as Alex is supposed to have not less than 20 wives. Polygamy is an inherited African cultural institution and it must continue to progress despite modern civilized habits and religious propaganda.
“The fact that he advised his children to observe strict religious principles and run away from immoral and a scandalous behaviour does not mean that he himself is innocent. He wanted his children to live up to standard and have a promising future.
“In my opinion, I would strongly advise the son not to tell his mother, but to try and be very friendly and intimate with Sola and his father, helping them sometimes to iron out their differences. The son would be termed absurd and unreasonable, if he instantly hates his father and Sola because of this. He will be a prodigal son, if he tells his mother. He must follow this advice, because he himself does not know which girls he would end up with in his search for marital bliss.”