Marriage and Family

December 14, 2019

Illusory sense of ownership and entitlement

By Francis Ewherido

In many cultures in Africa, before you can call a woman your own, you must have paid her pride price.  Then the white man came and added court marriage and Christian marriage as other routes to calling a woman your wife. Other than that, you are just a boyfriend even if you co-habit.

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Marriage does give some sense of ownership and entitlement, even if it is exaggerated. This sense of ownership and entitlement has been transferred to other relationships like boyfriend/girlfriend and co-habiting partners. In real sense, it is just an illusion. But it is emotionally strong enough for those in it to claim ownership of the other person in the relationship.

It is this sense of ownership that fired 19-year-old Orji Ifeanyichukwu to pour petrol meant for generator (Oh, GENCOS and DISCOS) on 24-year-old Alabi Tolani and set her ablaze. What was her offence? They are lovers and co-habit. Tolani was allegedly a prostitute and Orji was one of her customers. He liked her, took her in and told her to quit prostitution. Of course, she did not and he found out. That was why he sent her to an early grave.

At 19, Orji should be in school, not “camping” a woman. Sometimes when you advise young people to leave relationships alone and concentrate of planning and building a solid future, they feel you do not want them to enjoy themselves. Man/woman relationship is complicated.

Even those who have been in it for decades are still in school trying to understand it, not to talk of a 19-year-old. You made a prostitute your lover and told her to stop prostitution. Did you find out what led her to prostitution? In many cases, the reason is pecuniary. But some in the course of prostitution find other “benefits” like the opportunity to sleep with men of different sizes and shapes? What about the kick of not knowing who is going to turn up next and the “package” he is coming with? Life is a mystery. You never know what gives people a kick or pleasure.

Again, the young man at 19, will have the vigour of youth, but not experience. She was older by five years and that is significant at that stage of their development. Even if they were age mates, the girl would still have been more experienced, not to talk of having five years on him. The lady might be enjoying his youthful vigour, but still craved the experience of older men. It might even just be that she particularly enjoyed being with one of her customers because he did things to her that the other customers could not even imagine.

One of the dangers of having had many sexual partners previously is that you might have been with some of the best and you always try to benchmark your new partner against them. If you are not resolute, you slip back into the past like the lady did. It might also just be a case of “you can take the pig from the slum, but you cannot take the slum out of the pig,” and the young man is certainly too inexperienced to comprehend this.

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Anyway, he lost his cool due to her “infidelity,” drenched her in petrol and set her ablaze. When I saw the video, I knew the girl was not going to survive. Our society has no safety nests for such people to survive. There is no health insurance, the hospital might demand a huge sum as deposit before they admit her or the hospital staff might not give her the required urgent attention. Some health facilities might even ask for a police report before treating her. She stood no chance. The lady died.  The police said Orji will be charged to court for murder. He will probably be convicted. Sad, very sad.

We all have a lesson to learn from the plight of the young man. The Bible says you can be angry, but do not allow your anger to lead you to sin. If I may add, in our secular world, do not allow your anger to make you to commit a crime. We live in a very tense environment. There is tension everywhere, including our roads. Before it gets messy, learn to withdraw. If someone hits your vehicle and your vehicle is comprehensively insured, snap his vehicle showing the registration and walk away. Your insurance company will repair your vehicle and it is left for them to pursue the negligent third party if they choose to.

For us men, do not transfer your frustration to the home front. After the madness in the office and the outside world, let your home and family be a refuge, a source of happiness. If your spouse has a sharp tongue, reduce incidents that lead to arguments and pull out before they escalate. In the last few years, we have witnessed cases of husbands and wives who killed their spouses. Do not allow anger to truncate or derail your life.

I have never been a fan of co-habitation. I feel young women, who co-habit with men to whom they are not married, cheapen themselves. If any man wants you to live with him, let him, at the minimum, go to your parents and pay your bride price. That shows commitment and seriousness. For the woman, that is also class. A man does not even know your family, the next thing, you move in with him. How on earth do you think he will respect you when you have sold yourself for kobo-kobo. Maybe, if Orji had paid the bride price of Tolani, he would have had more respect for her.

He would not have set her ablaze like a goat meant for isi-ewu and asun. Young ladies should learn to place more value on themselves, they should also show respect for the families they came from. Give your father the honour of giving you out in marriage. That is style and class, notwithstanding, how much the ceremony costs.

Finally, young people must change this mind set of ownership and entitlement that currently pervades their lives. It is stunting their growth. Specifically in relationships, if you are not married, you cannot treat him/her like your “property.” Na rent you rent am, you no own am. Even for those of us who are married, na sense we dey use. I remember when I paid my wife’s bride price, the bride price was N60, but I was only allowed to pay N55.

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I will never be able to pay the balance of N5 because all the people who were present at the ceremony must be present and put on the same clothes. At least 15 of them are dead and it is now impossible to bring everyone together! This gesture is symbolic: it means “we are only giving you our daughter in marriage, we are not selling her.”