I KNEW I'D BE FINE WITH GBENGA
Lara and Gbenga
Their marriage has been a helluva pleasant union that was definitely made in heaven. Lara George and her husband, Gbenga continue to show that a couple can have it all - a successful, intimate marital relationship that delivers dividends on their business front too.
Though they may not have been customers of the old Equitable Trust Bank, yet the pay off line of the bank's television commercial, 'partnership that works' applies to Lara and Gbenga's union, every way you look at it. They have defied the general belief that showbiz marriages never last more than the first few years.
When Sunday Sun met them recently, their conviviality towards each other was so infectious. Excerpts…
You seem to effectively juggle your music career and the homefront without losing balance. What is the secret?
Well, it has been very interesting and I try to find ways to make everything intertwine somehow. I am very blessed in that I have a husband who I actually work with in the same office. We both run the company, So Forte Entertainment, which is a distribution company and this has helped us. He understands my industry and the work I do and because he is also very involved, it actually helps so I don't have to do a lot of explaining about a lot of things because he is there most of the time. So while we are working we also try to catch up on being husband and wife as well. I would say that for us business, marriage and parenting all intertwined. I also try to make sure that everything is sorted on the home front as well. He is flexible and that makes it easy for me.
Most times when a couple works together, there might be moments of marital frictions. How do you deal with such instances?
Definitely that is bound to happen, the Yoruba say that as close as the teeth and tongue are, sometimes the teeth will still bite the tongue. When such situation arises, we trash it out. It can be very difficult at such times that is the truth because when normally you wouldn't have gotten as upset because of the emotional involvement, you can be even more upset than you should be because maybe you have also added another matter that happened at home to the issue.
But one thing that I realize that really works is whether in or out of the office, I just realize that the longer you keep an issue, the worse it gets. It is always best to try and sort it out as quickly as possible. Because if you don't, by the time you wait an hour, the matter would have grown root and children and all kind of legs over the place. So one principle I find that really works is that the earlier the better; solve it as quickly as possible; it just makes life easier.
So what makes your husband unique?
My husband is a very special person. He is the kind of person that when he walks into a room, he lights it up. He can't be in a place and you would not know he is there. He is extremely sociable, very amiable, everybody loves him and he is also a very focused person. I think one of the most interesting qualities that I saw in him before we got married was that I looked at him and I thought this guy really knows what he wants out of life. He is not one of those guys who sit and laze around; he is a goal getter.
I like to call him my make-it-happen man because he has got the most fantastic business development ideas. Those ideas just pop up at the strangest times and then you see him going after it and just making sure it happens. So, I looked at him and said to myself: 'if I marry this man, I am going to be fine.'
What makes your wife unique?
Okay, Lara is an extremely wonderful person. She is one thing a whole lot of people don't know. If she wasn't an architect or a musician, she would be one of the greatest comedians in the world. She is an extremely funny person, very happy to be with. She just has a way of cracking people up but you just have to call her out because she likes to remain indoors but once you call her out, she is all over the place. She is a wonderful and fantastic friend and she is what I will call a 21st century administrator, she just has everything going on. She knows how to put everything together, a wonderful help.
And she cooks so well too?
If I leave everything to Lara then everybody running a restaurant and hotel will have to shut down, because there won't be any need to eat out.
So you don't eat out?
We have to because she would want to or else I would end up leaving her in the kitchen and not achieving any other thing she has to achieve. She loves eating out but I love having her food.
So how do you keep her satisfied?
Lara is very outgoing and family-centred. She likes it when we put everybody in the car and we are out. Again, she loves what she does, Music to Lara is everything and I am grateful to God that I have also been able to allow her to be all that she can be on her way to where God has called and as long as she is within this environment, she is very happy. She is doing her music and business and also loving her family.
And you don't have problem that she is in the limelight and you are in the background?
Gbenga: I am a background person but the thing is that I met her this way; in fact, I met her on a higher pedestal, at the peak of KUSH, I think it will be very wicked of me, having met her that way to now want to turn the table around and say 'no you cannot do this.' It is something she is extremely happy with and I think it is also one of her considerations in her deciding to marry me. I don't know why she did that.
Was it love at first sight?
She didn't even like me. She thought she was taller than me and that I was too skinny and had a big head trademark. I don't know what happened but I was very close to her and was her friend and perhaps she was looking elsewhere until I don't know what she saw and then we carried her and took her to church.
How did you propose to her?
We weren't very formal and I wasn't formal. I am very old fashioned - romantic in the Obasanjo way, I am an Egba man but we had a very good friendship. So at the bottom of our hearts we wanted what wanted to get married. And once I broke out the topic, it was like a consensus at Eden what in Latin is meeting of the mind. We took it up from there and it was something we were both happy to go on with. It was not plastic nor ceremonial, not kneeling on the floor with diamond rings. It was a heart-to-heart agreement.
Do you go shopping and buying groceries together?
The good thing is that she's never going to have another husband again, but if you want to know how it is then I will tell you this: if you are going shopping with my wife, make sure your car has AC because if you sit in the car, Lara will wear you out. I usually cannot handle the long hours of her shopping. I try my best to do a few with her and then go sit in the car to wait for her. She is very nice, she calls regularly asking, 'are you okay' and I tell her that I am fine. And when she was eight months pregnant, she still wore me out. So I don't know how to answer your question if I take her shopping. I rather think that she takes me shopping.
How do you handle finances since you both do something like a family business?
It is not a family business actually. We both happen to be directors in the business. We have three other directors in the business. The business is quite structured in terms of finances; we have accountants and consultants and all other staff who keep the books. We are just salary earners.
Who does the greater share of the domestic chores at home, you or her? Do you help her at all?
I am a high breed Egba man. Under normal circumstances, I probably will expect my wife to do the chores but absolutely would. Like I said it is friendship between my wife and I. I do what I can and she does what she can. For example, I do all of her ironing. And at the early stage of marriage I tried to impress my wife by cooking. Till today, she still says that I burnt the water. I don't know how you burn water.
Is he a great cook?
He is a fantastic cook; he can cook water if that is possible. Let's just say we don't discuss that, it is a no-go-area.
What unique thing does he do for the children?
The children love my husband and he is very good at communicating with them. You see, my son from when he should be crying 'mummy, mummy' was always going 'daddy, daddy' which was very annoying because I don't play as much with our son as he does. Obviously, a child will gravitate more towards that person he can roll on the floor with and all of that. My son's eyes sparkle when he sees his father because he knows that one game would start off.
He is really good with that and I quite like the fact that he is very friendly towards my son.
There is this trend whereby several marriages are breaking up. What advise do you have for couples?
There is this thing I have always believed in and people think I am really extreme when it comes to this particular view. I believe that there is too much permissiveness in our society and not enough openness between couples.
I think that whatever it is you are doing that you cannot let your spouse in on then you should not do it. If you have friends who do things that you cannot tell your wife then it might be better not to be so friendly with such people. It seems a little bit extreme but in my opinion, if you see things from that point of view, I it will help protect a marital relationship because once the doors are open and once trust is destroyed then anything can happen. I think that is the reason for such a high rate of break ups today because society has totally broken down.
What is your husband' soft spot?
No, he doesn't have a soft spot. He is a hard man. She turns to him and asks: Gbenga, what is your soft spot? And he responds: You are my soft spot.
Does he apologise when he hurts you and how does he do it?
He does apologize. Plenty of hurting and plenty of apologizing too, which is okay. There are many men who do not apologise to their wives as a matter of principle. So, I think I am very blessed that I have a husband who actually can be man enough to say 'sorry'.
What do wish to change about your spouse?
I wish he could be more romantic.
Gbenga: That is so personal. I wish Lara would just calm down for me, she should be more patient with me.