By NBF News

Would you forgive a cheating wife was the question we put to firebrand lawyer and human rights activst, Barr Festus Keyamo. And his response was eye-opening, jaw-dropping but first he tried to contextualize it, like the lawyer he is. Excerpts…

We must understand the context within which we can place forgiveness in marriage. One, refusal to forgive may mean that you hold a grudge against her for life, and each time you see her, you want to hurt her back. That is one aspect of refusal to forgive. The other aspect of refusal to forgive is that you will not take her back into the marriage but you can let her go and say well I hold nothing against you, that is the second one.

And I will adopt the second one. I will not hold anything against her but I will let her go, I won't take her back. And believe me, I say this from the bottom of my heart, I can hold no grudges against anybody forever, I will just let you go. The point is that, when I'm really, really angry with somebody, or when somebody hurts me especially the opposite sex, it has never crossed my mind to say I would really want to do something to hurt the person. I would only let go. The only thing about me is that I will need to get the person out of my mind, out of my life.

What sins can a woman commit that would make you say, this thing is over?

They are only two, every other thing I forgive. Infidelity and being fetish.

Every other thing, I let go. In case of infidelity, I won't say I want to get back at you or hurt you. I will just let you get off the marriage plane. You just have to go, just leave but I won't hold anything against you, so that I can live my life.

What makes women cheat from your own perspective?
There are many reasons, if you pin it on one, you are wrong. For some of them it's in their blood to cheat. I have seen a woman that her man provides everything for; the husband even stays with her, lives with her, satisfies her or at least tries to. She has the cars, she has a home, everything, but she still cheats. I've seen it happen in my profession. You know we get to hear and see a lot as lawyers.

Another reason women cheat is money, which is the simplest one. They see somebody outside who can give them money, and for some men it's their 'trip' to sleep with other men's wives.

The other one is the woman who wants to get back at her husband, that one is very common. My husband cheats, so I will also cheat. In fact one woman told me the other day that she had found the solution to heartache in her marriage. Her husband was cheating her. I asked her what she meant by a solution. She said she has her own boyfriend.

That each time the man was going out, she was also dressing up and going out. That when the husband came home late, she'd have finished her own too by then. So if he was too tired to make love to her, it was no skin off her nose. That was his business. Then she said before then she used to rant and rave but now with her new solution, she feels better, and when the husband comes back these days, she welcomes him and asks him what he'll eat and all that. She said after some time, the husband became worried, and he asked her, why she is now so happy. And she replied, so you don't want me to be happy? Of course, the husband became suspicious and started staying at home, and would suggest they spend time together. But it won't work out for many people like that, because if you manage to escape your husband's eye, good luck to you because the philosophy of men is, 'if you catch her, she is in trouble', if he catches you, you are in trouble.' So it's only one person in trouble at all times.

Why do men indulge in extramarital affairs?
Sorry to say, it's part of their nature, it's just natural. I think it's been like that even from Bible times, even before Jesus Christ came. We never had a situation of women marrying two men, men have always been marrying many wives from the Bible times/Jewish times. So I don't know why we are making so much fuss about it these days. Despite all the efforts they've made in Europe to make it a taboo to cheat on your wife, you can see the newspapers everyday what has happened with Tiger Woods, Ashley Cole, John Terry. Maybe we have not faced the reality of the situation, if it is true that men have always been marrying two or three wives even before Jesus Christ came, if it is true that the Moslems allow marrying more than one wife, if it is true that Buddhism and other religions allow the marrying of more than one wife, then who is trying to redefine the concept here? I think it's just a modern trend that is trying to redefine it. And as you can see, that trend is even fighting a lost battle in the sense that no matter how much you try, it just refuses to go away. It shows that there is something very, very natural about it.

What I'm saying may sound strange to readers but I'm just looking at the facts. I'm not talking from sentiments, or trying to pose as a defender of women or pretend. I'm just being honest about it. If it is such a taboo why do women go after successful men, when they know that those men are married? When men will not go after successful women that are married. It is rare to see a man pursuing a successful woman who is married, everybody knows her husband. Men are usually afraid to do it.

You won't see them pestering her, bugging her line, even if it happens, it's at a minimal level because everyone would keep observing her. But the reverse is the case with women and then people blame the men, no. Why do women stalk men who are successful when they know the man has about three wives already? One hundred of them will line up to be the fourth, why? What kind of pressure are they putting on the man? You want him to be God? Well, he is not.

Are you talking from experience?
No, I'm not going to personalize it. So, women should first of all, before calling those men dirty men, they are calling them dirty men because someone has come to steal their own. That same woman who is a 'dirty woman', who is trying to break into the man's life and drive away the wife, girlfriend or the fiancée, guess what happens, when that woman breaks in, she now calls other women who are trying to do it to her dirty women. She now disallows other women to get in when she did the same thing to get the man. So it's a debate that I think the world should be open about.

The world should not demonize men who have two, three girlfriends or who cheat or have other wives. There may be something unusual, socially unacceptable about it but there's nothing demonic about it as they are trying to do to Tiger Woods. It's something we should be open about or be realistic about, let's debate about it. If it has been happening in Bible times, then what's the debate about it now?

You're a successful man, so have had such experiences…

I've not (laughter).
Who is your ideal woman?
Beauty, brains and body. Though it's difficult to get all of them together. But that's the ideal woman for everybody.

When you say, body, are you talking in terms of size?

Ha, ha, ha (laughter)! You're looking for your headline.

Or being endowed both in front and at the back?
You mean Oshodi oke and Oshodi Isale! It depends on the shape really, whatever the size. People have specifications, that's what men call it, they say, 'that's my spec', the slim one is my spec, or the fat one is my spec. But don't forget that for men who have the slim ones as specs, you may see the slim one and not like her, maybe because she is not well shaped, just a bean pole. And some would say, I don't like fat women, but you could see some women on the big size but well shaped. So it really depends on how the shape comes within that size.

But the shape does not remain the same after a few years?

Yes, that's why men need reinvigoration (laughter)…! That's why they need to see different shapes and sizes…

Considering that you are a very busy person, do you have time for romance? Do you give flowers, cards and all of that?

No. I don't give flowers. People think that is what should be associated with romance but that is European romance, they are getting the concept wrong. Romance in the minds of our young people now would be giving of flowers, dropping of beautiful cards and all of that but that is European concept of romance. The African concept maybe different, so it depends on the concept you're looking at. For example in Warri, you like the girl, you could be telling her, 'you dey craze', your papa, but you like her. You can be saying, 'see hin big head, come here', yet you like the girl. Or it could be, 'you dey make yanga for me o, but you know I dey dig your own, come here, you dey craze? That's Warri concept of romance, teasing her, 'psyching' her, telling her jokes, and all that.

On the other hand, the British are very strict, they can't trip their girlfriends, they can't tell her jokes. They are at dinner for about an hour, and they are talking about serious issues. You just see them bending over candle lit tables, talking serious issues, they are not breaking out in peals of laughter.

But here, before you're with the girl for about ten minutes, she is already holding her sides, reeling in laughter saying, 'abeg, abeg, no kill me'. That's our own concept of romance. And that is my own concept, the African concept, there's never a dull moment with me. Even if I don't go out with you or send you flowers. When you're with me, there's never a dull moment with me, because privately, I'm really light-hearted.

So you can't take her out?
No because in the first place you may not really want to be seen outside, if you're a private person. You may lock yourselves up, maybe from morning till evening, watching films, gisting talking about everything together, and that is even more romantic because the more you go out, the more distracted you are, you're not having the quiet and quality time to size up each other's psyche. It's when you're together privately that you can do that.

Given your experiences, what tips would you give for a successful marriage?

Am I really the right person to answer that? Because everybody knows that my marriage has passed through challenges, it's all over the papers.

But from your experiences, you should be able to counsel.

Permit me the modesty to say I'm even in the right position to talk on this because presently in this office, we have about 50 divorce cases. And so you can imagine the number of situations I've been exposed to, and upon that I have my personal experience.

In marriage, when you read anything in the papers of what the man is saying about the woman or the woman saying about the man, he is this, she is that, so long as they were married once, ignore what the two of them are saying. It was in their individual attitudes that they got married and gave birth to children. So if it didn't work out along the line, they should spare the public the details, they should go and sort out themselves. There's no scandal if it's between husband and wife, even prominent and famous people have problems with their wives, Italian prime minister, French president, Nelson Mandela divorced Winnie when he came out of the prison.

What is scandal is when a man goes to rape an under aged girl, or goes to carry a prostitute. So the point is, it all boils down to compatibility, nobody is the devil and nobody is the saint. If you listen to the man, you'll see the woman as the devil, if you see the woman, you'll see the man as the devil, because each of them would try to paint the other party bad. So the first principle is to learn to be compatible.

Learn to love those things that are good about her and live by those things. And learn to make those things that are good about her overshadow her weaknesses. And vice versa, there must always be good and bad sides. These days I find myself having to counsel women that come to file for divorce, and by the time I finish talking most of them go back home scratching their head and asking, 'do I really want this divorce?

Unless the situation is very bad, when your soul finds it intolerable to live with that person, you can't be killing yourself. No matter what people say, it is the two of you that would be left, the third parties would not be there. Listen to the song of your soul. If your soul tells you to leave, then leave. Don't let anyone decide for you. The children will be fine, people will tell you because of the children stay or don't stay. You know what, they told me the same thing, the children would always be fine.

God will take care of them. Because some of the greatest men and women have come out of broken marriages. It's not a criteria. And some disastrous people have come out of monogamous families, children of the same mother and father of late wealthy parents are fighting over estates. And I've seen people from polygamous homes, different mothers acting as one. From my experiences, if you don't understand the other party, don't go into marriage with the person.

Do you believe in Magun?
No I don't, it's all rubbish.