By Anayo M. Nwosu
Only Dupe and Cynthia appeared to have decoded the real cause of Ekwutosi’s black eye which was very visible even with her heavy makeup. They were dead sure that Mazi Ikedimpu would have done it.
Their convictions were borne out of experience. They were both married.
Dupe would not wait for the meeting to end before she sent an SMS “kpele oo ” to her banker colleague. Ekwutọsị didn’t respond. She rather murmured to herself “ndị asịrị ” meaning “tale mongers” and remained focused and attentive to their branch manager’s address.
It was a Monday morning and the first work day of a new month. The branch manager, Mrs Ayo Badmus needed to inoculate her staff with the monthly fear factor, the fabricated ongoing management performance audit, and the need for all staff to improve performance or be sacked. The sacking gale in the banking industry had put in the fear of God in even an above average performer.
Having spoken alone for 2 hours, entertaining no contributions in a forum that was supposed to interactive, the branch manager ended the meeting and asked Ekwutọsị to stay behind.
The branch head was very direct. “What did you do to your husband to warrant this kind of ferocious beating that nearly cost you your eyes?” Ekwutọsị broke down and cried like a baby. Mrs Badmus felt for her. Ekwutọsị was her best performing marketing staff. She ordinarily wouldn’t have intervened owing to her policy not to get personal with her direct reports which had worked for her but for her likeness for Ekwy as she fondly called her. Focusing on the job got her the results she wanted.
“Take down this phone number, she is Sade my cosmetologist. See her now to help you manage your face till your wound heals. She will also give you matching sunshades. You know that your work can’t not suffer because you married a pugilist?” Mrs Badmus joked. But that was a dry joke to Ekwutọsị.
“If I should advise you, use the same template we use to analyze prospective bank loan applicants to check whether your husband is still the best fit for you. I did mine years ago and took a walk. Our men don’t like ambitious and financially independent women. My former husband nearly killed me before I ran away. Don’t tell me the story, I can’t judge, you know all the facts, judge the matter yourself. You are the most intelligent lady I have ever met. I have not told you this before but it is true. Resolve the matter in your favour. I can pay for your one year accommodation if you decide to quit. The bank can’t afford to lose you. Have a nice day!” Mrs Badmus concluded expecting no follow up questions.
Mrs Ayodele Badmus was authoritarian. As an Assistant General Manager who headed a grade A branch, she also supervised three other small branches. Ekwutọsị had just resolved the puzzle as to why the woman hated married men. All her friends were mostly divorced or separated women.
Ekwutọsị needed to hitch a ride to meet Sade, the cosmetologist with her colleagues, Dupe and Cynthia who had a marketing calls in Lekki. The bank was yet to purchase a status car for her following her promotion to managerial cadre.
Dupe opened the topic. “Nne na waooh!” She started. “I know it is money matter. In this recession, no man would just ignore the earnings of his bank manager wife. I knew he would react after your promotion from deputy manager to a manager last month. I didn’t want to be beaten ooo. I just tendered my new payslip after the promotion to my husband and urged him to decide how my salary should be utilized. Thank God the profit bonus payment is not included in the payslip. That’s the only money I control but any day he finds out, I will apologize and submit that one too. There is no shame in that. Nobody will kill me for money,” Dupe concluded caring less if anybody was listening or not.
“Mine was different,” Cynthia said. “It took several beatings and a near loss of my first pregnancy for me to realize that my husband was dead serious. That was a man that told me during courtship that it was a taboo in his town for a man to live of a woman. You babes are even better off as your husbands work and earn money but mine is a assistant pastor in a pentecostal church. He sees me not as a helpmate but a subordinate. He likes telling me that he is the head of the family and should be the one of spending. He knows all I earn since he has a mysterious friend in our bank who tells him what and when we are paid. God will judge him,” Cynthia concluded.
The stories of her colleagues bewildered Ekwutọsị because she thought that all was well with them. She thanked God that her own was not that bad. If the slap was not so thunderously conveyed with the huge biceps of Ikedimpu her husband, nobody would have known.
But wait, a minute she thought, “could the idiot have slapped me for the second time if I didn’t faint?”
Ego set in. How would Ekwutọsị reveal the true cause of her black eye to her colleagues known for peddling gossips?
The whole bank would hear it and she would become a laughing stock. But she must say something. “The black eye was caused by slap by robbers on Ikorodu Road traffic”, Ekwutọsị lied hoping that her branch manager never revealed the truth to anyone.
“I’m sorry for your ordeals in the hands of your husbands,” Ekwutọsị started. “Mine was a bit different. I was attacked by robbers on Ikorodu Road on Saturday, I mean to say, Friday on my way home from work,” she lied with wavering voice. The two other ladies laughed and kept laughing until they reached the Lekki cosmetology office where Ekwutọsị dropped off.
Ekwutọsị could recognize Sade. She was one of the judges when Ekwutọsị won Miss UNILAG pageant. The thickness of Sade’s make up and strict dieting had made her unchanged.
She could not lie to Sade. She told her everything.
“Ikedimpu was my first boyfriend and we got married once both of us secured good jobs. I took to banking while he got employed in an oil firm. It has been so rosy until his company was bought over by the Chinese and his earnings were halved. He never asked or inquired about what I earned or how I spent my money but would always enjoin me to save for the raining day. He was the man of the house in words and in deeds as he always catered for the major expenses like the school fees of our two kids, rent and those other things men do.”
“Trouble started when I was promoted to a manager cadre last month. He called me for a meeting and demanded to know how much savings I had made and how I had been investing my earnings since he practically bore most of the family burden. I was convinced that his friends had advised him to start tighten up his financial controls on me. I needed to nip this in the bud before he developed the effrontery to probe further.”
“Madam Sade, in the course of my banking career, I have attended many courses on how to avoid being pinned down during hard negotiations and on how not to commit to an unfavorable deal. So, I deployed my skills immediately my husband broached the topic. I staged a quarrel, gave my husband few loads of insults thinking that it would scare him off but I was mistaken. This man told me to get prepared on Friday night as he needed to catch a sleep.”
“At exactly 10pm on Friday last weekend, my husband reintroduced the topic. Then, I knew he was serious. I told him point blank that real men did not look at their wives’ earnings and that he should change job if he needed to earn more. I don’t know if I finished telling him that he was not my parent, that he didn’t pay my school fees and as such had no right whatsoever to audit my financial affairs before I felt a bomb explode on my face and I woke up at St. Nicholas Hospital,” Ekwutọsị ended.
But she only came to receive good looks management from Sade not an advice.
Ikedimpu had apologized to his beautiful wife, when she regained her consciousness right in the hospital. He begged for forgiveness and promised not to raise his fingers at her again.
But, he didn’t not promise not to inquire into her finances.
She was too afraid to ask him to include that in his pledge of no-dos.
For Ikedimpu, the wound inflicted on a mad patient in the asylum during treatment is never a sign of wickedness but that of love and concern from all. He reasoned that the slap was corrective not punitive.
According to Ekwutọsị’s husband and those of other high earning career women, the woman should be accountable to her husband in all things.
Many intelligent and hardworking wives in high paying professions are caught up in this web of their husbands’ devious attempts to control their finances. It’s even worse when the man spends her wife’s money on other women and his relations who hate the wife.
Divorce or separation has been the time tasted reaction of concerned women to maintain their sanity or avoid being killed by their husbands for refusing to turn in their monthly sweats. Others have coped by lying about their earnings hoping that God will understand.