In my active days in the newsroom, we used to talk about going to Afghanistan, not in the physical sense but by avoiding trending issues in the land, and making stories of events in farflung places. Today, I want to go to Afghanistan in my offering here. Perhaps it would be my own therapy for the indescribable insecurity assailing the nation. The talk about restructuring now resurfacing as though it was new only becomes even more forcible because of the reign of guns in the land. I would rather distract myself, and my readers, with commentary on the news of the impending divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates.
Bill Gates’ meteoric rise in the league of men of means has become legendary. Although he has long stepped down from holding the mantle as the richest man on earth, reference is still made to him in the league of the richest men in the world. My last check showed that he was still high on the ladder. The Internet literally broke when the money man, Gates, and his wife, Melinda, announced they would go their separate ways. They announced this through their verified Twitter handle where they said: “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple.. After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made a decision to end our marriage.”
They, however, noted that their charity foundation would remain intact. They pledged to continue the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, known to be one of the biggest such foundations in the world, spending more than $50 billion in the past two decades in combating poverty and disease.
The current list still has Gates as the second richest man with $129.2 billion asset, coming behind Bernard Arnult and family with $163.7 billion. The Facebook inventor, Mark Zuckerberg, comes next to Gates with $111.6 billon asset. The list goes on with Warren Buffet ($99.8b), Larry Ellison ($98.5b), Larry Page ($96.1b) and Mukesa Ambani ($77.3) in that order. Gates stayed on top of that list for a long time. As Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, would say, getting on top of that list is difficult, but remaining there is even more difficult.
Bill Gates has managed to remain on top of the rank of richest people in the world but he has found another list he can hardly stay in, the list of married people. Arguments abound that marriage is hardly an achievement. People have different perceptions of marriage. Dangote, who has consistently held the flag as Africa’s richest man, has been married twice and divorced as many times. He reportedly fell in love with the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s daughter, but the girl turned down Aliko’s proposal for marriage because Dangote’s daughters from his previous marriage were her friends. Dangote has found it hard to find love again. This article is not about Dangote who may have decided to marry his business, and stay with his three daughters and adopted son. This is about Bill and Melinda Gates whose 27-year-old marriage is on the verge of collapsing.
In a rather terse statement, the couple said they have found that they can no longer grow together. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bill and Melinda Gates have been on the matter since 2019. On May 3, 2021, the couple issued a statement on their verified social media handles and said, “We no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
The implication is that a couple should grow together, but there seems to be a tendency for most marriages to develop largely on a parasitic level in our clime. Women are subdued in marriage, and they become dependent underdogs. The society has given them a psyche that makes them withdrawn and dependent, although that is increasingly changing. Can a Nigerian woman married to a man in the status of Gates, even by our local standards, have the courage to agree to a divorce on account of incompatibility? Her family and friends would say that extraordinary powers are at work in her.
It would be unthinkable that the wife of a Nigerian millionaire would willfully agree to a divorce, in spite of whatever atrocities the man would have committed. I know of a lady whose sister, married to a millionaire, is in a toxic marriage. She told me that her sister would have opted out of the marriage but for “the society” and her family. Even the Bill Gates matter aroused press probe.
A report said Gates has been taking long weekend holidays, once every year, to spend time with his ex- girlfriend, and Melinda knew and agreed to it in their marriage contract. Melinda was reportedly aware of the arrangement since 1994, and has since complied with it over the past 27 years. The arrangement gave Gates the freedom to see his 70-year-old lover, Ann Winblad, every year. This was said to have partly influenced the divorce arrangement according to Walter Isaacson, a reporter for Time magazine, who disclosed this in a biography of Gates. According to the article, Gates and Ann Winblad met in 1984 at a conference. Ann is a software entrepreneur. We wait to see if Bill will go the whole hog with the 70-year-old woman. Bill is 65. Another report said Bill has business relations with people whom Melinda did not give her consent. Bill has since denied the report. Whatever made them decide to part ways, it has become clear that marriage is no function of the size of your bank balance, as many erroneously hold.
Some women have the courage to turn down offers, if they smell a rat. Dangote reportedly proposed to the daughter of the late President Yar’Adua. The lady turned down the offer on the excuse that Dangote’s daughters were her friends, stating that the marriage could damage their friendship. She moved on to become one of the wives of one governor in Nigeria. Dangote did not also take advantage of his religion, which permits him to marry more than one wife. He has not found love yet. In our clime, it is inconceivable that anybody would turn down an offer from Dangote. Someone did.
Dangote also quit his first marriage because he was too young, about 20, when the wife was chosen for him. He later found that, to borrow the language of Bill and Mellinda Gates, “They could not grow together.”
Marriage is beyond money. We have seen from the two case studies that commitment may be that strong ingredient that makes for a lasting marriage. No one is infallible, which is why people remain committed and continue to forgive their spouses when they err. They grow together, in spite of their inadequacies. Such unconditional love can only be rooted on a spiritual background.
(This article would have been
published last week )