WHEN A MAN IS 60, HIS WIFE SHOULD BE MORE PATIENT WITH HIM
He is known to Nigerians as Ebino Topsy, but his real name is Chief Ebenezer Babatope, former publicity secretary of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). The cerebral politician is one man that is at home with several issues.
Though a veteran politician and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he would not hesitate to tell you that he is a 'complete family man' having been married for 38 years.
Just recently, Babatope, Nigeria's former Minister of Transport, had a close shave on an Aero Contractors Abuja-Lagos flight, when the Boeing 737 plane had difficulty landing at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.
As he recalled in an interview with airport correspondents, Babatope said it was such a harrowing experience he prefers to forget. The onetime firebrand publicity scribe of the defunct UPN for once chose not to dwell on political issues, but bared his mind on love, sex and marriage. Excerpts…
Perception of love
Love is a very important aspect of life. But the definition of love in Europe and outside Africa is quite different from the concept of love from the African point of view. The Western European culture accommodates core Christian virtues. The African culture does not stand against deep Christian and Moslem values but it also accommodates the uniqueness of the African way of life. If you go to the Greeks, I think they call it agape.
When you are married to a woman or you are married to women, there must be the existence of love between you. Why marriage is collapsing today is because of lack of understanding between the parties in the relationship. Any marriage where there is understanding, the marriage would succeed. It is when the parties do not show understanding of developments and situations within that marital life that the marriage would have a problem. But if either of the parties shows perfect understanding to the marriage, the love becomes solidified. What I am saying is that we are operating an African culture.
For example, our forefathers, many of them had even 10 wives and above but they managed the situation very well to the point that all those women, even though there could be issues of superstition and jealousy or whatever still lived with one another peacefully. I would advise that those who are showing love must show it in a way that it must accommodate each other's vices and virtues.
They should also be prepared to make sacrifices. That is what the African culture is all about. If you conduct a survey of African men on the streets, you will find that about 85 to 90 per cent of them do not subscribe to the Western and European culture of one man, one wife but it does not mean that they hate their wives. All I am saying is that there should be understanding and when that exists, there should be affection and deep interest in the affairs of the parties to the relationship.
Having been in marriage for about 38 years, what do you think is the role of sex in marriage?
Sex is very important. In Africa, we believe in family life. In Africa, you must have children and that is why many of our women who do not have children are so sad about it and in fact, the level of societal expectation may lead them to either die or having problems. But under the Western European culture, having children means nothing to them. I have an English friend who told the wife that-don't ever tell me that you are pregnant, if you say you are pregnant, I will break the marriage and I will never see you again.
That is their culture but in Africa here, if a woman does not have children for her husband, automatically he becomes a societal outcast. That is very sad and we must change that attitude. So, apparently in Africa, sex is a very important aspect of marriage because it is through sex that you have children. But having said that, you get to a particular age and the urge for sex begins to go down. If you are getting to age 60, you can start to have erectile dysfunction.
So, what do you do about that? So, the understanding that I earlier talked about would now have to come in. Your wife has to give you understanding and encouragement that you will outlive the dysfunction. The world in Western Europe has invented many drugs and toys to make up. One of the drugs is Viagra and all kinds of drugs but they say if you take it so much it comes with its side effects, which could even lead to your death. When a man gets to an age when he can no longer perform as a man, does he need to worry if he already has children? But if the man does not go and take Viagra now, the marriage may collapse because the woman may not show him understanding. But when you take too much Viagra, it could affect your heart and the person dies. Sex is important and part of the African culture but it requires the understanding of the parties involved.
Can you forgive a cheating wife?
It is a pity but it depends on the circumstance when you talk of a cheating wife. Quite unfortunately, the society is made up of a way that a man if he decides to be making love all over the place, there is no computer that requires what he is doing. So, apparently, it will be difficult for a wife to know that the husband is cheating. And if a man decides to go outside the matrimonial home to have relationship with other women resulting in children, then it has gone beyond cheating and if the man says these are my children, it has gone beyond cheating.
The woman at home must understand. But when a woman cheats so brazenly and openly, of course the man has to run for his dear life because it is quite unfortunate that our society is made up in a way that the woman does not cheat on the husband. But when they cheat and they are covered, no problem because the man does not know. When they do it and the man knows, that man must suffer the penalty. The woman would have to go. But I do not subscribe to the view that a man catches his wife cheating and he therefore uses a knife to go and kill his wife.
No. Under the law, you will be guilty of murder and you would be prosecuted for it. But again, a man that decides to go outside his matrimonial home, I am not supporting it but if the man says yes, I have children with this women, there is nothing anybody can do about that. The wife must show perfect understanding and when that happens, the man must not only reciprocate the understanding but should make sure that he appeases his wife and makes the wife to understand that what you have done does not mean that would be detrimental to the welfare of that woman.
Economic downturn and marriages
It is true that poverty is also a factor in the cases of divorce or crises in marriage. That will be limited to the downtrodden. It will not be something you can stretch to the elite because poverty to the elite can be defined in many ways. Among the elite, what leads to breakdown of marriages is the lack of proper understanding between the parties. But among the downtrodden, poverty is the major factor that leads to breakdown of marriages. This is because when a man is unable to provide for his wife and children, the tendency is there for the woman to say let me go to a place where I would get better treatment. But for the elite this is not the case. It can't be poverty and even if it accounts for it at all, it is just about 15 per cent.