[INTIMATE AFFAIRS] Japa, Marriage, Sex and Money, By Funke Egbemode

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By Funke Egbemode 
Letty was a good girl who became a good wife but the seasons changed and this once-upon-a-time choir leader, like Lot’s wife, looked back and right before the eyes of her Pastor and in the presence of her bewildered husband, is turning into a pillar of salt. The kind of salt no one wants to touch or taste.
It was all the fault of this Japa syndrome. Letty and her husband, Brandon, had decided that Nigeria, the way it was going, was going to ruin their plans for the future. As it was, their future was becoming more and more difficult to see, like a receding apparition. Rent was tough to come up with. Their two children were not attending the kind of school they had planned for them, yet they were owing school fees, term in, term out. Brandon as a civil servant could only hope for a sprinkle of Naira notes every three years because that was all his promotion fetched.
The couple added two to three and decided that ‘Japa’ was the only available option. They added their savings to loans and sold as much valuables as they could find buyers for and Brandon was off to ‘ the abroad’.
But we all know how ‘Japa’ itself can be like, the difficulties Brandon faced in the United Kingdom was like riding a second- hand Raleigh bicycle uphill a dusty road in the harmattan. One year became three years and Letty found herself really alone . Note that there’s alone and there’s really alone. Really alone is when you are married and sleeping alone, picking all the bills alone and crying alone into your pillows because you don’t want the children to hear you.
It was sad and bad. Brandon didn’t find it easy. Letty soon found out that the Christian walk is difficult when you are wearing shoes designed by lack. In the process of trying to cope, Letty started leaning on another man. Yes, one man who helped pick some of the bills. The guy also made her laugh, called her regularly, picked the children from school and soon, was picking Letty from work too.
Do I need to spell the journey out? You can guess it wasn’t going to end well. It didn’t.
Letty got pregnant now and confused. She will soon start showing  and that will bring with it damning and damaging explanation. How will she explain to her in-laws or children that she got pregnant without her husband? How does a married choir leader explain her pregnancy to her pastor when everyone knows her husband is hustling in United Kingdom. Would she keep this pregnancy or terminate it? Is this the end of her marriage or what? If you were Brandon, would you accept Letty back or with a broken heart just let her and your marriage go? What will be the fate of the children who got caught up in the melee?
If you ask me, I’d say marriage is already a tasking business without you adding the Japa trouble to the mix. Couples who live together year in year out know how much work they have to put in to stay put. Japa is not for everybody and it is not all marriages that are subjected to Japa that will survive it.
For Letty and Brandon, it is not about the marriage breaking or being scarred only. It is also about a baby who didn’t ask to be born into confusion.
So, do you think it is Letty’s fault that this happened? I hear a resounding yes.
‘How could she get pregnant for another man?’
‘ How could she open her legs for another man? ‘
‘She’s a married woman for God’s sake!’
‘ What kind of Christian wife betrays her vows like that?’
‘No, she has to go.’
‘That marriage is over .’
‘ Yes, the church must excommunicate her. ‘
‘She has brought shame on everybody, herself, her family and the church. ‘
Our predictable reactions. If you align with any of those reactions, you must also align with me that Japa isn’t for everybody. You must also agree with the Yoruba adage that states that it is what you leave lying around that the goat eats. Ohun t’a ba fi sile ni enu ewure n to.
In other words, Brandon and Letty should have known that their marriage would become easy prey for predators. Sometimes, a farmland left unused, unattended will soon find itself at the mercy of weeds. At other times, a daring strong man may dare the real owner and vigorously begin cultivating the land.
We must also admit that this side of the Japa syndrome will leave the marriage institution panting. It takes away intimacy and companionship which are at the core of a true union. What Japa couples are not willing to admit is they are now in open marriages. According to Wikipedia,  ‘open marriage is a form of non-monogamy in which the partners of a dyadic marriage agree that each may engage in extramarital sexual or romantic relationships, without this being regarded by them as infidelity, and consider or establish an open relationship despite the implied monogamy of marriage.’
In the case of Japa husbands and wives, there’s no written or discussed agreement of sexual and romantic relationships with other people. It just happens. That evil just creeps in with time, the time created by distance. Putting money above companionship and not considering the long-term effect of japa on marriage is swelling the ranks of divorced men and women.
Look around you and sincerely appraise the lives of couples who have opted for love across the ocean.
I’ll really like to publish personal experiences of those in the living-apart boat. I promise to keep their real names out of print.
However, this does not mean there are no couples who have stayed committed to one another in body and spirit, even with the thousands of kilometers separating them. At least, the wives remain faithful. The men? I can’t vouch for them. They can’t vouch for themselves either. How these couples do the love across the ocean deal successfully is a matter for deep study.
A wife left behind in Nigeria or posted abroad is expected to be faithful. She must be of best behaviour, work hard to send money home to the man she left behind, even. If she dares to go on a date with her colleagues and one of them posts photos or videos, her in-laws and detractors will summon coven meetings to discuss this affront as if it’s a matter of urgent national importance.
Well, as this one-sided society is prescribing closed legs for the women, it pats the man on the back for keeping his fly open.
‘He’s a man now.’
Nonsense. Do women not also have libido? Women need love too. They crave the touch of their husbands. But all I can do is protest, right? It’s their world, according to some unwritten warped law. Men can have side-chicks, even mistresses or Nigerian wife while their wives are hustling or schooling abroad. But a wife must keep her legs close and stay on ice until God knows when. It’s not fair, totally unfair but it is what it is, until God knows when. If I protest from now till I go fully gray, nothing will change.
The summary of today’s homily however is this, if you are not ready for the full consequences of your partner Japa-ing without you, do not do it. Make sure you have all your facts. Hold a honest family meeting where all cards are laid on the table. Will he have girlfriends while she’s away? Will she be able to ‘hold body’ in winter and in summer? Will he wear condom until he joins her? If she must ‘do anything’ can she be discreet? Both parties must be realistic, honest and be ready to forgive all trespasses. Yes, all trespasses because the chances that adultery will show up in marriage when husband and wife live 2,000 km apart is high. Do not just think of  the money angle, the improved lifestyle, the regular supply of electricity and generally living where things work. Japa for couple goes beyond the accent and dollar and pounds. It is not a business transaction.
Marriage, its joy, future and fulfillment side should not be reduced to naira, dollars or any foreign currency. Think deep. Look far ahead. Consider all the angles and truthfully answer this question: is the step worth the sacrifice?