Tina’s marriage to Otunba was the envy of their circles, social and political. In church, she was a reference point on what a good wife should be. She dressed elegantly always without exposing any part of her body believed to be the exclusive preserve of her husband. She was respectful and respected. Otunba was a loving and doting husband and father. For a busy powerful and wealthy Yoruba man, he made uncommon time for his family. They went on holidays together. He attended social functions with his wife. He even made church vigils occasionally with his family. So, when Tina started coming to church alone, it was not long before people started reading meanings into the development. When Otunba started arriving parties with his friends, not his wife, the low-tone gossips started getting bolder. Then Otunba stopped attending church altogether.
‘He’s a politician and businessman, maybe he has joined a cult’
‘Or he is taking a new wife.’
‘Why would he take a new wife? Madam Tina is a beautiful and dutiful wife.’
‘What if he wants more children?’
“Why? He already has four.’
‘Maybe he wants more sons. Tina has three girls and only a boy.’
A lot of people made Tina’s business theirs, out of envy, if you ask me. But I did not become worried until Otunba did not travel for summer or Christmas with his family. He travelled at least three times last year, alone, yes, to the best of my knowledge. What is worse, Tina and the children did not travel at all. She is also losing weight and that elegant luster. Her face is drawn and the pretend smile and cheerfulness slip very often. She started spending more time in her supermarket and at home. Indeed, one can safely say she was withdrawing from society.
Otunba eventually opened up. And don’t ask me why and how I got him to talk. That is a book waiting to be written or a movie waiting for Netflix soon. But Otunba’s story was a sad, shocking one.
‘Tiwalade is not my son!’ He simply blurted it, with all the pain he could push into the short sentence.
How? Tiwalade, the only son, the heir, the handsome calm brilliant Daddy’s right hand man. Why? How did he know? While all that ran around my brain, I kept my trembling lips sealed. A DNA test required to process Tiwalade’s admission to a college abroad was what took the lid of Tina’s deepest and darkest secret, ruining a once loving home and beautiful marriage. But how come Tina is still living under Otunba’s roof and bearing his name? Otunba’s explanation of his silent but deadly anger is even more shocking than the whole bizarre episode.
‘How I escaped a cardiac arrest or stroke is still a miracle.’ He narrated his discovery. ‘I was numb for days. It is still a nightmare I wish to wake up from. I mean, look at the boy, does he look like he’s not my son? I have loved him long before he was born. After three daughters, I was beside myself with joy when the scan revealed that we were finally expecting a boy. And when they handed him to me, I shed tears of joy and told him, as if he could hear me, I will love and protect him with everything until I close my eyes in death. I prayed for him from the depth of my heart, only to discover years later he is someone else’s son, that another man saw my wife’s nakedness long enough, intimately enough, to impregnate her. But how was I going to throw out the boy into the street and tell him his mother was a lying, cheating, deadly daughter of Satan? How would the girls cope if I threw out their mother? How would I explain it to the world?
‘I decided it was unfair to punish the boy for a sin two Judas Iscariots committed. I decided to keep my promise to the little boy the nurse handed over to me 15 years ago. I promised to protect him and that is what I will do until I die. As for Tina, I will punish her for the rest of my life. I have stopped eating her food or sharing her bed. She can greet me but I do not have to respond. She has lost all perks and privileges of being my wife. We will keep up the front as much as possible for the public but she is no longer my wife. She is nothing more than my children’s nanny from the day I got that DNA result. She knows all the sides of me that others do not know or see. She knows better than to cross the new lines. She will not leave this house or remarry. If she does, the consequences will be dire.’
One night, one stolen afternoon, a few bites of the forbidden fruit is all it takes to ruin a good thing. I am still sad for Tina, Otunba and all the children. It’s sad to watch all the love and warmth that once was in that home disappear in a whiff of unfaithful smoke. What made Tina go swim in another man’s waters? Why do married women go for walks bare-footed on foreign soil? Who goes sky-diving without helmet? In simple terms, why should a woman fertile have unprotected sex with a man who is not her husband? Not that I endorse wives having sex with other men but their husbands , at all, but if you must go swim in another pool, is the smart thing not to wear swim suit, at least? These women who leave evidence, lasting undeniable evidence all over their marriages, what do we call them, careless, foolish, naïve, mean or what? They break hearts, homes, ruin futures. It’s sad and unfair to all concerned. I know women who had been caught with their fingers in the cookie jars all have one explanation or excuses for this grievous sin. The lamest of them all being ‘ the devil pushed me or the devil used me’. Oh well, we never get a chance to hear the devil’s side of the story, so that’s that.
But no excuse is good enough for the mess created each time a woman ‘mistakenly’ donates one man’s child to another. The innocent child, the product of the wrong dive in the wrong pool, suffers. The woman may have ‘done it’ only once (and once is all it takes, anyway) but she suffers the consequences for the rest of her life. The man hardly ever recovers.
The real cousins of Delilah and titled Mrs Lucifer are the ones who marry one man and all the children belong to their lovers. What kind of women are those ones? Do they intentionally set out to slowly kill their husbands or what? How do they sleep at night? What do they feel each time their husbands hold lavish christening ceremonies for babies fathered by other men? The day I read the story of a celebrated sportsman from a neighboring country whose wife generously gave three children that were not his, I felt like putting a hole in the woman’s head. Really, there should be a limit to stupid adventures.
Men are fragile, very fragile. Forget all the brave front they put up. Discovering that one of the children is not his is enough to send a man over the edge. He could go into depression, turn to the bottle or drugs or unleash his venom on every woman who crosses his path. When it comes to emotional strength and wherewithal, men are at the bottom of the food chain. Poor folks, those ones. A woman can move on with her life, career, hold on to her marriage even after her husband has impregnated his secretary or the neighbour’s daughter. Women, we are built to last. Men, they just fall apart once you touch their thing. I’m not by any means saying infidelity by men is better than infidelity by women. A cheater is a cheater and all cheaters are liable to ruin lives. Just that women handle it better.
In all, this Luciferic trend of finding Okon’s children in Ojo’s homestead should be condemned. Women, all women of good conscience must speak up against it. Women must guide against it. If you are married, please let your pool be available only to and for the owner of the pool. Fine mama, if you are still in your child-bearing years, do not take any foolish risk. Forget science and all that talk about the sperm’s inability to live beyond 72 hours. Some men look all urbane and meek but they fire mean bullets. The kind of bullets that would shake a womb and dislodge all installed contraceptive gadgets. Err on the side of caution by ensuring all bullets fired are friendly fire, home-based ones that you can explain even if Oga insists he has hung his boots. Do not, I repeat, do not leave yourself unprotected in enemy territory. And if by any chance you find yourself in a bad spot, you may follow a certain journalism rule: when in doubt, leave out. Please do not ask me to explain further.
Funke Egbemode can be reached on [email protected]