Never say never!! – Yetunde Arebi
Several years ago when I had to develop content for The Human Angle column, which was published in the Tuesday and Thursday editions of the Vanguard Newspapers, I was not very sure that I would be able to get enough information for the scripts. The objective was to share with readers, stories on human experiences from all spheres of life.
How do I get people to tell me their personal stories or those close to them? So, I devised a plan. My very first few respondents were my family members, close friends and colleagues at the office. The topics were diverse, ranging from sex and sexuality, marriage, in-laws, relationships, health, growing up, raising children, the economy, the nation and national issues, you name it.
Within a few months, I had a huge pile of stories to pick from and boy, the responses from the public were mind blowing. Members of the public were writing in to share their similar experiences, share their views and offer advice on the subjects of discourse, or to initiate story of their own. For weeks, I could sit back, not writing but editing and publishing stories sent in from readers.
As a young, naive, writer, many of the stories seemed so incredible, I would sometimes think they were fabricated. I soon realised that what I knew and my perception about issues and events was limited to my environment, experience and exposure. There was in fact, a great deal happening in the world that I had no idea of and could never have imagined possible. My doubts about the authenticity of the stories I published were put to rest when I began getting feedbacks from some of the respondents that I had embarrassed them by publishing their identities along with their stories. The subjects of the stories were either no longer their friends or threatening to deal with them.
There were no threats of law suits, since I could insist that I had never met the complainants and so could not have written about them. But I realised that I owed the respondents the responsibility of protecting the confidence reposed in me. Thus, I began altering the identities of the subjects or declaring them as anonymous while maintaining the content and context of the stories. If you want to claim damages for any story, you would need to first prove that you are the subject and the story is indeed about you.
I soon discovered that though the Nigerian society prides itself as a very chaste and religious people, a lot of good, bad, ugly and deadly things go on behind closed doors and the assurance of anonymity could bring out the beast in most men and women. Thus, when I heard that Nigerian women were condemning the results of the survey allegedly conducted by Durex, a leading world manufacturer of Condoms, which rated Nigerian married women as the most promiscuous in the world, I laughed. I doubt if there is a society embedded in hypocrisy and enshrouded in double standards such as ours. We are a peculiar people with double or even multiple lives. In Nigeria, Bi-polar disorder is not a medical condition but a way of life.
I often meet people who ask me if some of the stories I publish are true and how I get them. My answer? From people like you. A family friend once asked the same questing and a few weeks after was calling to ask how I got the story I published that week. He said it was about his father who’d recently died under mysterious circumstances in the arms of his young wife.
The family was accusing the poor woman of foul play, despite the fact that the doctors had declared that he’d died as a result of a heart attack. He insisted that my husband had given me the gist until I brought out a letter sent in by a one of the deceased’s children. He turned out to be his younger brother. Such is the nature of accusations and counter accusations and claims on many stories. Sometimes I have been forced to publish reactions from the other parties just to allow them have their say also.
One of the most incredible stories involved the family of a colleague right here in Vanguard. The story was so big I had planned it for six editions. The guy at the centre of it all had walked into the office and even verbally recorded it of his own volition. I had published the fourth edition when this colleague came to ask where I got the story I was serialising from. I shared the details with her and she was shocked. She confirmed the story and its harbinger but wondered why he had chosen to publish her sister’s dirty linens in public through a medium he knew his in-law works at. Such is the mystery of life. Me, I completed the story oh!!
Over the years, I have come to also realise that you find the most juicy of stories in the most unusual places, the markets, salons, buses, especially the Molues and long buses. It was in a bus that I heard the gist that a popular Yoruba musician could play the guitar with his penis, and that he does it at private shows for extremely private viewing, which is why he is loved by the rich and famous. (na gist oh) And if you want the most salacious stories, just assure your target that their identity is secure. So, once in a while, when I receive messages from readers asking if a story is true or condemning it as untrue, my response is simple, ‘thank you for reading’ because there is no point telling such a person otherwise.
He or she is either naive or ignorant as a result of their limited exposure just like I was many years back, or is simply trying to be mischievous. Even the Bible acknowledges that there is nothing new under the sun. There is nothing happening now that has not happened before, you have just never heard or witnessed it. Years ago, many of us used to wonder if all those weird stories on late master story teller, Kola Olawuyi’s Radio programme, Nkan mbe were true. Some others even condemned them as being impossible.
Today, the story is different, he has been vindicated by all the revelations of vicious events and people unfolding daily around us. Husband killing wives for money, parents selling children for material gains, neighbours unleashing terror on one another, relatives beheading each other over stupid things and even for nothing at all. Stories of sexcapades, orgies, BDSM activities, perversions of all kinds to mention a few. Yet, someone still sits somewhere and sends messages saying something is not true?
Well, this brings me to this story I stumbled upon at a small gathering many years ago. He was a friend of my friend and after introducing us, he’d begged him to share his funny story about his ex girlfriend who turned up as his brother’s fiancé. Roaring with laughter, he initially feigned reluctance, calling his friends who joined in the laughter wicked people.
Assured that I never publish people’s identity, he decided to tell me the sordid details of how he saved his older brother from marrying someone he described as an ‘ashie’ (a wayward or promiscuous girl, or a little prostitute). His story remains one of the most complex and twisted stories of self centeredness I’ve come across. A couple of years ago, I heard a similar story on a Radio talk show and concluded that, indeed, the world would never be free of wicked people. So, I will call this guy Segun, his brother, Gbolahan and their babe, Teni.
“We met at a friend’s bachelor’s eve in Ondo State. We’d gone to haunt for girls at their hostel with one of their lecturers on discovering that there was a shortage of girls at the party. After persuading them to join the party instead of “jonesing” all night long in their rooms, we were able to get about 10 girls and Teni was one of them. I liked her immediately, and I guess the feeling was mutual as she didn’t hesitate when I asked her to join me in my car. At the party, I wasted no time in letting her know my feelings and she obliged.
Two of my friends also got her friends. I was a manager at a furniture manufacturing company in Akure, then. The relationship was short, lasting just over two months. But it was action packed. Together with the other two couples, we went everywhere, visiting clubs and attending parties. She soon began assuming a wifely posture, always coming over to my flat for the weekends and later, she would pop in anytime during the week as she liked. At first, I enjoyed it all because it provided me a cook, wash man or woman rather, and someone to warm my bed on a regular basis.
But I soon got tired of the whole thing as it was cramping my style. Moreover, my friends had started making fun of me. My nice time soon turned sour so, I began dodging her by cutting short her weekend trips. I stopped leaving my keys where I normally kept it for her, so she couldn’t come in when I was out. I cooked up excuses for why she could not come to my office as well. Soon, I found someone else in their college. It was not a serious affair, but it helped to get rid of Teni as soon as she found out. I never knew that Teni and I would come face-to-face, four years after.
When I began hearing stories about my brother going out seriously with a girl named Teni. The description really fitted that of my Teni but for the fact that I couldn’t fit in the latest details about her. She lived in Ondo with her parents though they were indigenes of Owo. My family is from Ondo and my parents reside there too, though I never lived at home while I worked there. Sometime after my affair with Teni, I was transferred to our head office in Lagos and lost all tracks of her. Initially. I saw her a bit after we broke off. We had run into each other at a few parties and I also knew about her affairs with two or three other guys after me. There were no hard feelings as we were adults. After my transfer to Lagos, my brother too, as fate would have it, was transferred to Akure, Ondo State.
Brother Gbolahan was a banker, and this Teni too, I learnt, also works with one of the new banks in Akure which was where they met. Brother Gholahan and I are step-brothers, born of the same mother. This I am sure was why Teni could not connect our identities. Brother Gholahan’s father was my mum’s first husband. She bore him two children (brother Gholahan and another girl) before his death. She later married my father and had three children of which I am the second. She now lives in her own house, while my father too lives in his with his other wives and children. Teni and I had never had cause to really discuss my family while we were dating since the affair was not serious enough to warrant such details.
Hmm!!The dead and the living are about to meet next Saturday!! Do have a wonderful weekend!
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