This is a true life story of a son of peasant who burbles into troubled waters in his bid to date a lady clearly beyond his means; reports GBOYEGA ADEOYE.
Margaret works for a foreign embassy in Lagos. Her mother is Igbo while her father is Dutch. I met the beautiful, light skinned and lovable lady at a cocktail party one misty night, late last year. The party was attended by several ambassadors including a onetime American envoy to Nigeria; Walter Carrington.
It was a great event. Having been in Lagos for years, I have learnt to shed the toga of peasantry.
And like other enlightened guests that dominated the party, I was in fine suit, held my cup the manner of theirs, gesticulated, nodded majestically to guests and even tried to speak phonetics.
The atmosphere was charged. Guests discussed freely without barriers. After chatting for fifteen minutes with Margaret, I knew where she belonged. On occasions, for instance, she tried to correct the manner of my pronunciation of certain words. When I told her I liked “Mercedez Benz,” she quickly told me the correct pronunciations. Again when I said “eke a living,” she rudely corrected that the word was eke (I:K) and not eke (the way my people from Ekiti will call lie). I had no option than to restrain my anger; the option was to talk less, which I did.
Surprisingly, Margaret graduated from a foreign University. She had a lot to say on elitist but abstract issues that elated her so much but I wished she should skip. I had to leave the party on time so as not to miss the last ‘BRT’ bus at Obalende.
I got home furious. Toba, a.k.a. ‘Bulldog’, my elderly cousin had eaten all the remaining poridge beans and garri and was “lying in state” in the seating room, asleep or pretending to be.
The fourth week after our meeting was Margaret’s birthday. She was on the line, inviting me, even after I had thought I should forget about her and cut my cloth according to my size. But infatuation got the better part of me and I picked the call with a promise to be available.
The event was a great night of music, wine and gist. It was as if the world would not end. Local and epicurean dishes were on display and I made sure I ate enough to cover my dinner. From my calculations, the outing was profitable. I spent N1000 to and from Victoria Island, courtesy of the BRT bus, but had a good lunch and dinner which I guessed refreshed my system throughout that week.
Lots of ladies came to the party. All, including the young men, were from rich homes, except me. Anyone would know that. The men wore jeans and T shirts marked with crazy inscriptions. The ladies, put on mini-skirts, Elizabethan gowns, corduroy trousers and fashionable sneakers. I was the only one with ‘Aso Oke.’ In the ensuing discomfort, at some points, I felt I should sneak out of the room. I was also the only one that could not dance accurately to the chain of funky music.
After a while, Margaret came to me and gave me a peck. I had thought she wanted to eavesdrop something into my ears. I stood rooted to the spot, my head, imaginarily swollen with my hair strings standing apart. In the strange-land I found myself, I wondered in bewilderment if the moisture of her peck would ever dry on my cheek.
Our familiarization continued for three months when Margaret invited me to visit her family home.
But Margaret had complained seriously about my manner of dressing which she said was flabby. “I want you to look smart and yuppy”, she had always say. After visiting her for a month, she had asked me “Don’t you have jeans and T shirt?” And I lied in the affirmative.
So, in preparation to visit Margaret’s family house, I was already abreast with how my outlook should be.
And trust Lagos for always meeting the needs of all classes of dwellers. I tucked N10,000 neatly in my pocket, thinking of heading for Oshodi market to select some smart dress that will meet Margaret’s expectations. I found myself beaten by the infatuation bug and was completely in fantasy. With N10,000, I could pick a jeans trouser, a T-shirt and a cap.
Margaret’s request had reminded me I had not worn jeans for over fifteen years.
However, I got a pair ofjeans trousers, a Versace T -Shirt, with “Homeboy” boldly written on it, a cap marked “Kango,” and hurried back home. Her words: “You must dress like a yuppy; my family loves smart dresses,” kept recurring in my senses.
I rushed into my room on getting home to see how I would look like in my new attire. I wore the jeans, T shirt and the cap and rushed at the mirror standing at a corner of the room. What I saw was ridiculous. I did not look like the ‘yuppy’ or a ‘homeboy’ fellow in the imagination of my beloved Margaret. My stomach was protruding while my buttocks shot unnecessarily backwards. I tucked-in, but it was worse. At best, I resembled a village footballer.
The next day, I was at Margaret’s family home. I had removed the disturbing skimpy dress and was now in native Adire. To myself, I looked freer and better. Their house was magnificent; the rug as the pristine whiteness of snow. I could feel the aura of the Biblical paradise.
Margaret came out of her bedroom, made a catwalk, and sat close to me. Her parents later joined us. The father greeted me and few minutes after, discussions ensued. The father discussed the pastime at the secondary school days. Margaret and her parents were talking about life in Dutch secondary schools, dart playing, games and horse-riding. They spoke with nostalgia about some authors like Mark Levis and Vaughan Curtis. They spoke about holidays in London, Sweden, Dubai and even Santiago in Chile.
I felt extremely uncomfortable. While they spoke about such things, I was thinking of my own pastime: wrestling at the tropical forest at break time, chasing rodents, jumping from one mango tree to the other and even the popular bojuboju (hide and seek) game.
Suddenly, Margaret asked me: “Have you been abroad before?” “Hmm well, I’ve been to some countries,” I said. She probed further. “Which countries?” I retorted with hesitation “Dubai, Ghana, Togo and Mali”. The light in her elated eyes blurred in a flash. I noticed her mother winked. After about two hours of depleted chatting, I had no option but to ask for permission to leave.
I took a Lagos commercial bus and got home late. ‘Bulldog’ was furious that I did not take him along. I told him he should wait to meet Margaret who had promised that she would visit the following Sunday on the condition that she met my house quiet and free from the usual “ten in a room” kind of Lagos situation. I left an impression that my apartment was always quiet and free of human traffic.
I made a clean environment and I had chosen Sunday for her visit knowing that the crowd in my apartment would have gone to church. I gave a thousand naira to Bulldog, pleaded with him to keep away his ugly face and peasant tummy from vicinity. He quickly ordered for roasted corn and cocoanut from the money before he departed the flat. He stayed away in a neighbour’s flat.
I had my jeans trousers on and a novel by James Hardly Chase which I was reading. Oh! Yes. Margaret loves music. I searched through the shelves. All I could see were records of Baba Ara, Atorise, Omo Abule, Elemure, Haruna Ishola, Pasuma, Said Osupa, Aiyefele and at best Chaka Chaka and Cool and the Gang. I got, however, Eric Donaldson and Sonya Spence CDs from my neighbour.
Margaret came in few hours later. Good enough, tranquillity was at home. She took a cursory look at the apartment and sat quietly. For thirty minutes, we talked in general; Margaret inspected my apartment, raising complaints about everything: the curtains, the kitchen, the gas cooker. She said my bedroom looked like that of a village king. She also complained that my dinning set was too bogus and out of fashion.
After the complaints, we resumed chatting on the programmes on the television when a bang came on the door. My heart jumped. I jerked the door; it was my neighbour’s child Tunde, who we nicknamed “Mr Pig”. He had come to look at the strange; “Oyibo girl” but I quickly sent him away. Five minutes later, “Kujo”, a former production staff of Daily Times who lives in Ikorodu, Lagos, came in shouting: “Army (armed) robbers nearly kill me today fa!” He was chewing corn with two pieces of coconut gripped on his left hand.
Before I could welcome him, Iya Sherif, my cousin came in. She came with three of her children who insisted on watching Channel 7’s “Nkan Mbe” (a Yoruba programme). And few minutes afterwards, Abejide Kehinde, aka Zuttoo, a friend, came in with his fat girlfriend who requested to use the toilet as soon as she came in. Zuttoo went straight into the kitchen and brought out a pot containing left over beans. Bulldog, realising the house was gradually returning to ‘factory setting’ came in too,went straight to Margaret to introduced himself and then muttered: “with all playsore” (pleasure) as he disengaged to take a seat.
Margaret winked at me and said “I got to go.” I hastily reached for the door to lead her to her car. On our way, the kids were out again, six of them, starring gleefully at us.
When I came back home after she drove away, I met my visitors already mapping out strategies on how to deal with the “intruder”. Bulldog delivered the resolution: “Look the next time we see this kind girl here, we go break her legs, Allah”.
Margaret actually came back two week later. She was furious she still met my flat the way she left it despite her complaints. I had not changed the curtains and repainted the flat as she advised. She did her calculation and gave the bill to me. It was almost N450,000.
Bulldog later saw the bill and barked at me. “Sigidi fe sere ete”; meaning literally that I was digging my own grave.
No one need to educate me that Margaret belonged to the exposed and rich, not to the poor. I stopped seeing Margaret.
Study shows that a lot of broken marriages are anchored on pretences and at times the crave by some bachelors to hook on to ladies of affluence, as a means to climb to the top. The trend is attributed to the prevailing employment situation in the land and poor remunerations, as the case may be, engendered by the dwindling economy.
Pastor Moses Gbolahan Bello, a journalist, counsellor and founder of Fresh Apostolic Power Ministry (FAPM), noted that a lot of marriages have crashed on the altar of pretence and schemes by young men to marry for ulterior motives, rather than for genuine love. According to him, love supposed to be the bedrock of marriage.
Though the clergyman sees nothing wrong in a son of peasant falling in love with a lady from rich home, he posited that such relationship should be anchored on pure love without material attachments. He is of the opinion that a marriage that would last has to put love before all other things, which according to him, are mere benefits of marriage.
“It is unfortunate that the economy has today made a mess of our rich culture and values. Young men now waste quality time searching for affluent ladies to marry. This trend was only common among the women in the past. But with the fall in the percentage of men getting married, a fallout of the prostrate economy in the country, and aided by the surge of development in the Information Technology (IT) sector, our men are getting lazy and now prefer cheap means to make ends meet,” he said.
Pastor Bello, attributes the rise in collapse of marriages and the cases of single parentage across the world to the emerging trend. “Men are becoming idle and the number of grown up, unmarried ladies is daily increasing. Most time, these ladies, out of frustration, go for any suitor in sight. But experience has shown that the ladies often come back to their senses at a point, particularly, after the first child, to realize they have missed the point. Trouble then start. It is either they part ways, with the lady holding on to the child and forge ahead as a single mother while the husband try to pick up the pieces of his life to continue all over again or they keep tolerating themselves in a disjointed relationship for as long as they can cope,” he stressed.
Corroborating the claims by Pastor Bello, Kayode Omopariola, a sociologist, also attributed the rise in the trend to the loss of social values in present days. According to him, erosion of values through Western education and religion, are major cause of the shortfalls currently being witnessed in marriage institutions.
“The major kernel upon which marriage should be anchored is love and mutual understanding, as enshrined in most of African tradition. It is about consent, not only between the boy and the girl, but it carries along the parents and relatives as well. It used to be a sacred alliance that entrenches general legitimacy. Unfortunately, these days, most marriages are being carried out haphazardly without due consents from those that matters. Some churches have not also helped matters as they gradually leave little roles for the parents to play in giving their boys and girls out for marriages.
“The shoddy situation of today, backed by the present terrible economic state, makes the situation worse. Young men are now looking at marriage from all sorts of perspectives. And because the society does not even seems to encourage hard work and due diligence, some men now see marriage as one of the several cheap windows to affluence and good living,” Omopariola said.