In the Olowora neighbourhood in Ojodu area of Lagos State, 64-year-old Innocent Sunday is often sighted, holding black cellophane bags that usually contain two wraps of fufu or a few packets of noodles. He also carries a bag of sachet water popularly called pure water.
At other times, he could be seen washing his clothes or attending to one domestic chore or another, which his grown-up children should have been doing for him. His lifestyle gives indication that something is really amiss; one is left to wonder why a married man who lives with his immediate family would run such errands for himself. The sight of him doing those things always gave neighbours some concern. A little enquiry revealed that Sunday and his family live like co-tenants under the same roof; he attends to his affairs while the wife and the children carry on, independent of him.
Sunday’s wife sells foodstuff in a popular market and they have four grown up children and the youngest is about 18 years. In his younger days, Sunday was a dashing millionaire who commanded the attention of ladies. He spent quite a fortune on loose life with several ladies, and never bothered to cater for his family. His near total absence from home also meant that he did not provide necessary leadership and guidance expected from the head of the household. This continued until he fell on hard times.
Suddenly, he became like the grasshopper that frolicked in the dry season while the ant gathered food for the rainy day. While his mates are reaping and savouring the fruits of their labour, Sunday is wallowing in abject poverty, coupled with rejection by his immediate family. In the good old days, Sunday was a successful freight-forwarder, but spent too much time in the warm embrace of many side chicks. It was gathered from the grapevine that he had permanent suites in 5-star hotels where he lodged with lady friends. While he frolicked with his women, his family pined away in financial, emotional and physical agony. He only went home just to change his clothes and take off again.
Within a short time, he became an absentee husband and father to his immediate family. It took a change in government policy for his once thriving business to nosedive precipitously. Moreover, he was no longer agile, active and handsome as he used to be. It was at this point that he remembered his family, when he needed them most. But they decided to pay him back in his own coin.
Now, pan across to Ngozi Okoh, who was literarily abandoned by her husband because she gave birth to four girls in five years. Amid quarrels, threats and health challenge, her family advised her to conceive again, given that she was still within childbearing age. She did and had another girl. The husband blew off the roof, unable to understand why his wife could not give him a male child. What was his next action? He started hopping from one woman to the other in search of a male child. He was scarcely seen in his home; he disconnected from the family and then cut the cord that held the family together. Shaken to her core, and in pain, the wife made efforts to reunite with the husband, but failed. In that situation Ngozi took his resolute decision in good faith, wiped her tears, and set forth in the task of raising her daughters to enviable heights. Meanwhile, the husband was still in search of the elusive male child. From the blues, he took ill and was diagnosed of hypertension. Not long after he suffered a mild stroke. As soon as he was admitted into the hospital, his live-in lover left him immediately. Unable to manage his situation, Okoh began to look for his family, in tears and regret. One of the daughters welcomed him, but the wife and the other four girls completely ignored him in his pitiable condition.
Mr. Peters from Bayelsa State faced the same challenge when he married five women, had children with them, but left the women to fend for themselves and their children. Each time discussions between one his children, Precious and her friends came around to parental behaviour and attitude, and she was asked to talk about the father, she would respond, “I do not know; we have been absent in each other’s lives.”
In the same vein, Kester would say, “I do not need a father anymore.” Why? Based on what he learned from interactions with his mother and heard while growing up, Kester would say: “My so-called father was just a sperm donor because I guess, if he sees me today, he would not recognize me. I gathered that my father and mother were secondary school lovers when an unwanted pregnancy occurred. My mother delivered me in the midst of shame and regret while her mates were still in school. She began to train me as her only son. When I was of age, my mother’s kinsmen advised me to go to my own family and inheritance since both were from neighbouring communities. I got there and unfortunately met a stiff block from my would-be biological family, especially my father. None was ready to accept me, including my so-called biological father. I toiled and through personal effort became a successful businessman. In the process of marrying, I was urged to take my wife to my father. I simply said no because I do not need a father anymore.”
Consider the case of Bassey Thompson, a staff of the defunct NITEL, who was transferred from Cross River State to Kaduna State. As soon as he hit the city, he hooked up with a lady who moved into his official quarters while his family was waiting in Cross River – as he could not immediately relocate with the family. After one year, the girlfriend refused to leave because she had gone through a series of abortions within the year. She kept asking Thompson, who would marry her after undergoing serial abortions. All efforts made by Thompson’s wife to join him failed. One day, without prior information, Mrs Thompson travelled to Kaduna and went to the NITEL office with her two children. The husband denied them and disappeared from the office. It was the husband’s female colleagues that took them in and sheltered them for the night. She learnt painfully that the husband had separated from her.
On her part, Mercy has sworn that her husband would never know her as a woman because his wealth does not get home. In tears she once said: “Not even a loaf of bread follows him home from year to year, yet he gets dressed every morning and sets out to stand at Berger, where exotic cars are sold in Lagos. Does it mean that something good does not get into his hand, even for one day? If we must live like husband and wife, he must live up to his responsibilities.” Mercy never knew her husband had been supporting a widow and her children somewhere else.
What does one say about a Nigerian professor whose wife is also a professor, but descended as low as having carnal knowledge of the maid his wife brought from the village? Before one could say, ‘Jack Robinson’ madam left their well-furnished apartment in the heart of the city and the maid moved in immediately and began to play active roles. Later, the professor was diagnosed of prostate cancer. While he was being treated in hospital the housemaid-wife carted the properties and ran away. Prof sent emissaries to apologize to his wife; the effort yielded no result. He died in the hospital and was buried accordingly.
What about the case of a man who wedded with his wife and soon after began an active relationship with the chief bridesmaid. The development set tongues wagging. The wife found out after she gave birth. She made noise and threatened to deal with the ex-bridesmaid; her head went down with it and she was buried. The coast became clear and the chief bridesmaid moved in with the man. The list is endless.
It beats the imagination that when the issue of men and infidelity is raised, some people argue that “men are wired differently.” This disposition breaks the heart and home. It must be borne in mind that a day will come when all frivolities of life would disappear and truth would remain the only constant thing. A family that is well built is worthy and beneficial to all involved: father, mother and children. Let’s all endeavour to do our best for our families. The day of reckoning would definitely come for all. Know it that what one sows is what one reaps.