When Ike and Olachi wedded and agreed to live together for better for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, it was a glorious day for the couple as they were introduced by Ike’s relatives. Ike had just returned from South Africa and had a glowing euphoria as a foreign car dealer. He had found in ‘Ola’ as she was fondly called, a beautiful, tall, dark and slender lady, exactly his needed specification of a wife. Ike was such a handsome fresh hunk with the looks of an attractive physically, strengthened man. That look signified a good reason a lady should be swept off her feet; at least, to be sure of her daily meal from a-would-be hard-working husband. Both looked good together. There were high hopes when they believed they could work it out because Ike had not found his feet in works that would earn him an honest living. Rather he hid under the cover of a car dealer. Ola was a tigress of a woman. She could be on her feet all day doing one menial job or the other. Remarkably, during the marriage counselling sessions, Ola was taught to be a submissive wife, be humble, kind, and love her husband. She was also taught to welcome all in-laws because the African tradition says a woman should not marry only her husband, but all his relatives. Likewise her husband was taught.
Based on this funny teaching, Ola made sure she provided food from the money she made, ensured they eat through her hustling and striving because both were not properly lettered and were rural dwellers. She was full of ideas, creative and knowledgeable.
She would toil the soil. On the market days, she would buy whatever she could directly from the farmers and then resell, to be able to make her profit. Her gain would stock the house and put food on the table till the next market day. She would relay every point of all her transactions, and hand the remaining money to her husband, in accordance with the teachings she heard. She was a submissive wife personified. Her husband saw her as a God-given wife.
She continued in this struggle to cover up her lazy husband, who was unable to feed her; rather he told the story of how he was a big car dealer in South Africa, but could not sell any from January through December in Nigeria. He paraded himself in this manner for years. His few bold relatives confronted him on non-performance and he replied that his submissive wife would not bother. It became Ola’s responsibility to do everything, including taking care of Ike’s aged parents, for peace to reign in the house. They continued in this type of one-sided love and were temporarily happy until the wife realised her submissiveness was being taken as weakness. On one of the market days, Ola’s elder sister who lives in the city visited her and both found themselves in the market. She obviously looked younger, fresher and more admirable. Ola had grown older out of labouring with her bicycle from the bush to the market and such places where she could find food for their table. Women asked her innocently: “Oh! Did your younger sister visit you?” An unpalatable message had been passed unknowingly and she frowned at it badly. Now, as villagers began to count the months after the marriage ceremony, some eagle-eyed villagers blamed it on her excess struggle as a new wife; some blamed it on other reasons, but the blame for the childlessness in the family was hers anyway. Her husband was not sitting up as expected, especially with his family, to protect his wife’s interest. Careless talks were thrown at her intermittently. The relationship began to suffer a setback; Ola was no longer forthcoming as a submissive hardworking woman. Her hard earned money ceased to become freebies. She began to hide her widow’s mite in her newly opened bank account and joy departed from their union. At any mild argument, she received slaps which led to blows, then into breaking of bottles targeted at her head.
From selling firewood to picking of palm fruits to produce oil for the market, she stood a strong woman. And with time, she began to add one plus one and drank the new wine. She realised fast that her submissiveness had been taken for granted and chose to stand aloof like a sore finger. Mr. Handsome began to run from pillar to post, complaining about how his wife was no longer submissive. He did not bother telling them how irresponsible he had been since the beginning of their marriage. Friends, it is not a wrong motive for a lady to be kind towards her lover.
What is rather wrong is for her kindness to be abused and taken for granted. When a woman gives all that is within her reach in the interest of genuine love; why then would her act of kindness be taken as weakness by her spouse? Naturally, women are not weak by any standard, but they might want to keep calm for peace to reign. The pain women go through to bring forth, nurture and raise a child is a proof that women are no easy ride. When an amazon stands with a loved one, even her family cannot disabuse her mind. When she loves, she becomes totally blind; when she stretches her arms full of kindness to uphold, bless and show affection, she gives it her total best. When she is in a mood swing, either for good or bad, the message registers instantly. And when she is dared, the lion in her raises its head with speed and such hit-backs could be dangerous. Also, women have walked away from such abusive relationships without bothering whose ox is gored. They have got along with other men who gave them happiness and peace of mind. Do not forget that in such cases, a crying mother gets the sympathy of her children and they hide under her wings. That is the nature of a woman. Interestingly, Ola is not alone in this story. Many women are intertwined in submission interpreted as weakness. Not once or twice have women worked against their family consent to prove their supremacy. A sister cried out her heart when she disobeyed her parents in choosing a life partner.
Her parents objected because of the boy’s unacceptable approach, but she insisted; family members zeroed in when pregnancy occurred and marriage was consummated. Within years, all that her parents saw in him began to manifest fast like the words from pastors with demonic influence. She was totally confused and couldn’t stand her husband’s brazen arrogance on her family. She ran helter-skelter in search of love, peace, care and support.
Dear Nigerian men, your partners’ submissiveness should not be abused and taken for weakness. All those men who tell their wives, I will throw you out of my house, such is a wrong statement. Don’t forget you built together. You would not have gotten those children without her. When she toils the land to stand in the gap, appreciate her effort, do not think she is a weak woman.
Show her love, care, respect and discuss your problems amicably. As the head, if you stand on the fake promise of ego, you can never enjoy a peaceful home. This poor relationship does not only exist between spouses, but siblings, colleagues, and family members too. Madams, who think that their house-helps are weak and can take any rubbish, be warned. Do not take a submissive person around you to be weak. He or she can bite at the slightest opportunity. I have not forgotten a popular Igbo song that says ‘Onye akpala nwa agu aka na odu, ma odi ndu ma onwuru anwu’ (meaning do no touch a lion by the tail, dead or alive) Like all other African proverbs, there is a lesson to be learnt from this song.