Nigerian Men And Their Foreign Wives: A Rejoinder
Francis Kizito Obeya
I just read your article on the gamji website and I must congratulate you on your keen observations. Some of the words brought a smile or two to my face. I must confess that the “oh baby, oh baby” part had me chuckling with laughter. However, I have undertaken to write this rejoinder based on my knowledge of the Nigerian community in certain parts of the United States, girls (both American and Nigerian) and my views on the world as a whole. At this point in time with what I have seen of American life I can understand why people who have gone before me return home to uphold their traditional way of life. I can understand what the great Fela meant when he declared “I no be gentleman at all o/ I be African man original.” While I am on this subject sabella , I would like to declare out rightly that I am not a gentleman (so excuse my mannerisms.)
If you grew up in Nigeria, you will understand where the macho ways of the naija man comes from. We are brought up to be aware of our responsibilities. We are expected to adopt a ‘take charge’ attitude to life and so from childhood we learn as boys to go out there take risks, get in fights, know our territories protect it and every other person on it. That is why our brothers’ fights are ours and we frown when intruders begin to display unwanted interests in our sisters. In basic terms, the upbringing of the average African boy is to bear responsibility, become a leader and be the head of his own household. I bet the same must apply to his Asian brothers and males in other places where tradition is still respected and upheld. Nigerian women complain and mock the authority of their male counterparts and they try to measure them against their western counterparts with high expectations which even the average white man cannot meet. Sabella, you talk of western values, globalization and modernity as if they are attributes that Nigerian men must swallow without question hook, line and sinker. I do not accept this. I don’t subscribe to the belief that anything that is a product of westernization is all good and anything that is cultural or African must be discarded or conferred with expletives from Soyinka’s “Lion and the Jewel.” I have nothing against a people’s belief if it is acceptable to such people and I refuse to see a reason for change just because we are in a bid to do “Mr. Follow follow.” You seem to disapprove of practices such as levirate marriages, polygyny , bride wealth, matrilocal and patrilocal ways of life. To even think that such practices are monopolisti cally Nigerian shows your dearth of knowledge in world cultures. What then will be your conclusion if you go to Utah and discover men who are married to more than one wife? Wanna talk about bride wealth? Try and find the reason behind bride wealth before you speak against it. Many Americans who have come to marry in Nigeria are often pleased to pay the bride price and it gives them a better appreciation of their wives. I would rather pay a price for the girl I love than have her for free. I can always get a free girl at the nightclub. You should learn more about your culture and explain it to your foreigner friends instead of denigrating it because they condemn it. What the average American does not understand, he learns to despise. As for issues like kissing, abortion and sex acts (exotic or erotic?) don’t even go there. Even Nigerian girls are uncomfortable with public s how of their sensuality and remain private about their sexuality. Contrary to what you may believe not every white woman is a Paris Hilton in the bedroom. Sexual behavior is still under research and no particular race can claim to be experts in the knowledge of appropriate bedroom culture but that is another story.
It is rare, I admit, to find a Nigerian father publicly show affection to his child. It is also scarce to find him doing the same to his wife. Does that mean he loves them any less than his western counterpart loves his family? I doubt it. Different people have different ways of showing their feelings. Again no race can lay claim to being experts at love and affection. I grew up under the tough love of my father. When I misbehave he did not spare the rod, when I do right by him, he had his way of showing his approval. All the life’s lessons he drummed into me serves to teach me everywhere I go and despite his sternness I have no doubt today that my father loves me most fanatically. He didn’t have to spoil me with candy nor bribe me with money to do my chores; he wasn’t so crazy about being the ‘nice guy’ as long as he did his duty as a father, teacher, advisor and coach. He didn’t kiss my mom i n public nor follow her to the market like a houseboy either. But he stood behind that woman every step of the way, taking care of her needs, seeing her through school and taking her side in all fights not caring who is right or wrong. He has never said it but she needs not doubt if he’ll be there should the worst happens because she knows the answers even before she thinks the question. That is the African father. He sees his wife growing fat as a sign that she is well fed and happy and does not push her away or spend precious family money at the gym to reverse an irreversible process. The African husband may not say ‘I love you darling’ so many times a day but he knows he feels it in his heart and his wife knows too. She is not an insecure woman who must be reassured that all is well everyday before she can go and face the world. One thing the Nigerian woman needs not worry about is if she will ever become fish bait when she becomes pregnant. How many Nigerian men have you known Sa bella, who will kill their pregnant wives and hide their bodies in a refuse dump?
I will now talk about interracial marriages. Nothing gladdens my heart than seeing a couple of different races together enjoying their matrimony or even a brief relationship. It shows that they understand what the world has been trying to figure out ages ago. They tell us that we are just humans and nothing more. They tell us to see beyond the color of our skin and see the humanity that exists therein. God must be having a big laugh when he sees the white man thinking that he is better than his black brother or the black thinking he is better than Latino and vice versa. It is not a thing of favor or service when a black man marries a white woman or vice versa. One does not do the other a favor but we follow these couples with our inferiority complexes and destroy the utopia they are trying to create. A white man or woman brings to their marriage thei r own culture which has to be respected just as the black man or woman brings their own set of values that should be respected. Any side that treats his/her own values as inferior to the other’s should not complain if he is asked by his spouse to discard it. More often than none it is always the black spouse that is the culprit. Many generations of seeing our cultures bashed by other cultures have made us to have low self esteem and loss of self identity. If I was a Nigerian woman, I should be more focused on getting my spouse to know his roots and its values rather than be something he doesn’t want to be. Sabella, I’m sure you are familiar with the age old saying:” when you are in Rome, do as the Romans.” A Nigerian in a marriage with a foreign woman has to have a level of knowledge of that lady’s culture before getting married to her. He kisses her in the morning, noon and night because he understands that to be a part of the lady’s way of life and he does that because he is able, you cannot expect a Nigerian male who is married to a fellow Nigerian female to fawn on her at every growing second and pamper the woman’s ego at every turn of the time just because she is insecure all the time. I bet your father was never seen in the marketplace holding your mother’s purse, clutching and squeezing the woman’s behind as a public show of love so why should you expect some other man to do the same. Everyone knows that white women are very insecure and they need attention all the time. Is that the type of woman my Nigerian sister is? Certainly not! The naija woman is so strong and adjusts to any circumstance life throws her way. She is beautiful and doesn’t need anybody to tell her that. She wasn’t brought up on kisses and stroking (like the family cat) she knows what she wants and she goes for it. Before a woman accepts to marry a man she knows if her man is the stroki ng kind or not and decides if that is what she wants or not. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in romance in marriages and relationships but I don’t really accept that there is a right way to show love and a wrong way. If both partners are comfortable with it, so be it.
You did ask why Nigerian men afraid to turn control over to their wives, why we don’t take our women to the beach, why we don’t buy our women flowers,cards and take them to romantic walks in the park. Very simple answers. Nigerians are not the oppressive monsters you take us to be. We do allow our wives a say in the running of the household and also our lives. There is hardly a major decision a man takes that he does not involve his wife. We do take our women to the beach, go to any of the beaches in Lagos on any good weekend and see what I mean. If I discover that my woman has a love for flowers, I shall buy her flowers but if she cannot tell the difference between a flower and a weed, then I shall use the money for the flowers to buy a good pair of earrings or bracelets or anything that I know she can relate to and portrays my love for her. You see we need to think outside the box on this one Sabella, just don’t swallow oyibo lifestyle simply because you don’t know your own. A Nigerian does not need to go for a walk in a park before he spends lazy moments with his wife. At the end of the day’s work when he returns home and lies on his woman’s laps, they rub minds. The same occurs when they visit with old friends during free hours. How many of your white heroes do that? How many of them even have time for visiting their friends? But if you want to see a walk in the park, go to the park in any Nigerian city and you will see enough. Yours sincerely have seen it in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Owerri and Jos.
At this juncture, I’d like to pay compliments to the Nigerian husband who is a true hero indeed. He has no law forcing him to love his wife except the African spirit of fatherhood and responsibility. He doesn’t need to love his wife because she can divorce him and throw him into the street anytime she wants; he doesn’t love his wife because he is afraid of what would happen if he displeases her. He loves her out of choice. He is responsible for her and he accepts that responsibility willingly. No one who understands the love the Nigerian gives his household dares mock him. Perhaps it is news to you, Sabella that Nigerian men stand by their wives during their times of grief too and it is not only the premise of the woman. As for non-Nigerian women marriage does not always begin and end in America. The reason is simply because Nigeri ans do not only marry Americans but Britons, Germans French, Indians, and Australians and from the world over. If a man does not paint his culture in a good light to his foreign wife how does she learn to appreciate it? I have many Nigerians here who have said all sorts of evil things against the country. Since they do not believe in naija how can they expect a total stranger to believe? On the flip side there are foreign women who have been to Nigeria fell in love with the country and made their homes in it ever since. I shall spare you the details but seek and you shall find. When we take pride in what is ours (instead of bashing it and washing our dirty linens in public) then others will respect it. An Igbo proverb states: If you use your basket for dumping waste soon the whole village will do the same.
I have met a lot of Nigerian girls out here who try to adopt the mannerisms of their white counterparts and I wish them luck. However, I would like to remind these sisters that the difference between a “lady” and her African peer was well defined in the popular Fela song “Lady.” If any girl throws away her beautiful manners, her culture and her discipline, she throws away also her beauty, her self esteem and her respectability. Consequently she becomes a fake since she has propped herself on a shaky foundation. Why should a man settle for a fake if he can lay his hands on the real thing? If I need to make a choice between most of the Nigerian girls I have met so far in these United States and the foreign girls you bet who I will choose.
In conclusion I would like to state that marriage is an agreement between 2 people to live together and treat each other in a certain way. If the partners are happy the way they treat each other, I think outsiders should let them alone. We cannot recommend for a man how he should treat his wife and vice versa. As long as the woman is happy (with or without flowers) I believe the job is done. I also wish to open your eyes to the fact there are two types of America: the Hollywood America where everyone lives happily ever after and the real America where most people are into their second or third marriage (the flowers didn’t work, abi?) So when we set off to import cultures we should be very careful how we insult our indigenous cultures. We should be more for asking partn ers to understand each other and treat each other with love and respect showing these affections whichever way is comfortable with both parties and not screaming discrimination or racism in marriage. Let’s get real, get true and learn to respect our African ways.
Francis Kizito Obeya