LOUD WHISPERS: That Letter

A few months ago, one of my young friends on Facebook did a post which read, ‘If you could ask Erelu Bisi Fayemi a question, what would that question be?’. She did not tell me she was going to do it, I just came across the post by chance. By the time I got to read it, there were at least 80 responses with as many questions. I decided to humour everyone and proceeded to answer all the questions. One of them was from a young man who asked, ‘How can I find a supportive, intelligent and loyal wife?’. My response was, ‘You need to be willing to be a supportive, intelligent and loyal husband’. This thrilled a lot of the readers, especially the women of course.

Last week, there was the news of the resignation of the Special Adviser to the Ebonyi State Governor on Business Development, Mrs Emerald Udeakaji. In her resignation letter dated December 30, 2020, according to her, she was resigning for family reasons. Part of the letter reads, ‘My resignation is borne out of family issues. I have given my 100% loyalty to this government but my family is tearing apart. The bible says, ‘Woman be submissive to your husband’………. I have to go back and study my scripture very well. In obedience to these scriptures, I decided to resign and save my marriage…..’. Choice is a core feminist principle. I therefore respect Mrs Udeakaji’s decision to resign in order to spend time with her family. I have no problem with her making this choice and it is most certainly not my place to disagree with it. What I have a problem with is Mrs Udeakaji’s letter writing skills. She is entitled to make choices about her political career but I find the words and rationale she used in her letter troubling. Many women make similar decisions, to take a break from work in order to focus on their families. With so many women trying to fulfill their dreams and aspirations, struggling to get a decent education, find a job, start a business and make something of themselves, it is heart-breaking to read that she does not deserve to have these dreams fulfilled because by doing so, she might be in breach of some tenets of her faith interpreted to suit a particular agenda. Some people are of the opinion that Mrs Udeakaji’s reasons have nothing to do with Mr Udeakaji’s displeasure with her political appointment, it is more to do with the fact that she is unwilling to comply with her State Governor’s choice of a new political party. What better way to wriggle out of making a political choice she was fundamentally opposed to other than to invoke the familiar excuse of needing to be within the four walls of her marital home?

If Mrs Udeakaji truly needed to leave her appointment to spend time with her family, she should simply have used the line, ‘I need to spend time with my family’. Full stop. No need for a long story about what being a Deaconess entails. Invoking the ‘S’ word was totally unnecessary. ‘I need to spend time with my family’ covers so many reasons why women make the choice to take a break. It could be caring for young children or grandchildren, a sick spouse, dependants with special needs and so on. It covers spending time with an aggrieved spouse in order to restore communication and trust. It also includes pandering to the ego of an unsupportive, unintelligent and disloyal husband. This simple line works for many contexts.

This letter is not a good message for the thousands of Deaconesses (my younger sister is one) who still manage to go about their careers and balance their family obligations. Or should we now expect these women to also have an epiphany that their careers are at odds with their religious beliefs? Should employers of labour now brace themselves for a mass resignation of Deaconesses in their employ? Should interviewers or Human Resource Managers now design a new form which includes the question, ‘Are you a Deaconess or planning to become one?’. The letter also means danger for female politicians. Is Deaconess Udeakaji’s letter now going to become a cautionary tale for girls and young women who have political aspirations? With the number of women we have in elective office so infinitesimal compared to that of men, do we now take it for granted that our less than 5% of women in the National Assembly will plunge even further? Will political party leaders now require female candidates who are married to bring a letter of permission from their husbands? Political appointments usually end up being the saving grace for female politicians. Should we now expect the Presidency and State Governors to instruct their female political appointees to attach a letter of acceptance from their husbands to their impressive CVs? Nigeria’s new female Ambassador designate to the United States who has two Bachelors degrees, two Masters and a PhD should please take note.

Mrs Udeakaji’s startling revelations are also not good for the image of Mr Udeakaji, the supposed beneficiary of her sacrifice. Many people will praise him in his presence for having such a ‘humble’ and ‘submissive’ wife and make him feel proud of his good fortune. Your wife gave up a senior political appointment because she wanted to respect your wishes? You are such a great man! I have news for him. These same people will snigger behind his back and pray loudly or silently, that their daughters should never end up with someone like him. Even the worst of misogynists do not want their own daughters’ dreams crushed and their spirits broken.

If it is true that Mrs Udeakaji wrote the letter to cover up her real reasons for leaving office, then she has failed to live up to the expectations of a woman who is supposed to be an outstanding Christian role model. Right from when we were children, we grew up hearing our parents say, ‘Tell the truth and let the devil be ashamed’. In 2 Timothy 2:15 we are told, ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth’ and Ephesians 6:14 states, ‘Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place’. Mrs Udeakaji could just have told the Governor, ‘Thank you for all you have done for me, but I do not agree with you’. That would have been truth and integrity, worthy of a Deaconess. Hopefully, one day, Mrs Udeakaji will let us know the real reason why she resigned a position I am sure at least a hundred other women would have taken.

On January 20th, we witnessed the swearing in of Kamala Harris as the first female Vice-President in the United States. She is an inspiration to millions of women and girls around the world. Her husband Doug Emhoff, now known as the first ‘2nd Gentleman’ in history was proudly there by her side, holding her hand. He has resigned from his job as a Partner in the law firm DLA Piper and is now going to be with his wife in Washinton to support her in any way he can. A supportive, intelligent and loyal husband. This is a new one, even for such an egalitarian society, but the American public is learning to deal with it and as young people say these days, ‘they will be alright’. A twenty-three-year-old girl, Amanda Gorman, was the youngest Inaugural Poet Laureate in history to perform at the January 20th US inauguration ceremony, positioning her to be a vital voice for the next generation. The world is moving forward. Why are we so desperately obsessed with moving backwards?

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is the First Lady of Ekiti State, and she can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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12 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: That Letter

  1. Femi Diipo January 22, 2021 at 4:54 pm

    When I first saw that letter, I actually thought it was one of those false documents trending on the Internet.
    We all should have come to an understanding by now that what we really need, desperately need are more women in leadership positions. There’s alot that’s not know about this story, however, this shows there’s still really a long way to go

    Reply
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  3. DSEED January 23, 2021 at 12:37 pm

    This is so surprising. Is likely the woman in question is hiding something. Not in this era and dispensation someone will be quoting bible to suit themselves.

    Reply
  4. Iremide January 23, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Trust me, Mrs Emerald Udeakaji gave too much information than needed in her letter.

    What’s the aim? To glorify herself as a vitrous woman, or make her husband look like a man who doesn’t support his wife’s dream???

    Reply
  5. Tonukari Ochuko January 25, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    Thank you Mrs Erelu Bisi Fayemi for taking out time to share your views on this matter.

    Because of the age and time we live in, it’s almost difficult to believe this story without asking questions; otherwise, it’s a good thing when a woman honors her marriage and family.

    But like you said, Mrs Udeakaji’s startling revelations are also not good for the image of Mr Udeakaji. I agree. For a man that won’t support a woman’s dream/let her turn down opportunities that would benefit the whole family because of his ego isn’t worth it. If the man is the one brainwashing her, she would one day regret this. Some men are jealous of their wife’s success while others are just too controlling. They would stop their wives from working because they are insecure about the people around her. Some men don’t want their wives to have control over money!

    Going by the way Mrs Emerald Udeakaji chose to present her resignation, it appears there would be no need to hire her for any job in the future, since she seemed to have reached epiphany after reading a verse from the Bible. This decision and the way she went about to present it, would surely affect her career in the future.

    It is good for a woman, especially a married woman to find a good job or to aspire to something. It is good for women to work. Men must realize that more money = better life. Why would you ask your wife to give that up? Because of tradition? Because of some sense of pride that comes with being the breadwinner? These days being happy with a comfortable lifestyle matters more than some old patriarchal tradition of a woman being home and doing house chores 24/7 for the rest of her life.

    I am a guy and the story of Mrs Emerald Udeakaji reminds me of how my elder sister was told by her husband to choose between her job and marriage. She never knew the man was only jealous. The whole thing was like war. My sister cried for weeks begging because she loves both her marriage and her job. At the end, she quitted her job and told us that she willingly quitted so that she could have enough time to take care of her family which was a big lie.

    But that was the greatest mistake of her life. Her husband started to treat her and their three children badly. The situation was so terrible that the marriage ended in a divorce.

    But my sister is not someone who gives up. Today, she is a registered nurse in the US and her three children are doing great. The husband has been begging that they should put the past behind and start afresh.

    Mrs Emerald Udeakaji can resign now because she’s financially stable. Some women no like work. They prefer to be given. That’s why when the men hurt them, they would stay and endure everything in the marriage.

    Reply
  6. Judith January 26, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    Nigerian women shaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. They find it difficult to choose a path and follow through with it. It is hard for us to know what we want. We are used to saving face all in the name of keeping the home. Like, what is all this ‘shalaye’ about ehn?

    Reply
  7. shola January 26, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    Madam Deaconess, it is your life. It is your choice but to me, you married the bone of your flesh not the bone of your bones. Keep that intact.

    Reply
  8. Olaniyi James January 26, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    Wahala be like housekeeper o. When women are setting the trend in their homes, changing the world and their men are right beside them your own husband is pulling you back. well done ma.

    Reply
  9. Maureen January 26, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    Madam. Too much info is worrying you here. Too much. Resign and sleep. Listen, you will not stop some of us from chasing our dreams.

    Reply
  10. Johnson January 27, 2021 at 3:16 pm

    We are too backward in this country. In this day and age, a woman is still doing this? na wa

    Reply
  11. Cynthia January 27, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Who her time? Let her go and sleep abeg. If she cannot come out and speak with her full chest. Let her go and rest.

    Reply
  12. Olakunle Olajide February 9, 2021 at 11:39 am

    I think she wrote the letter the best way she felt she could and I believe wisdom is profitable for a man. Politics is a very dangerous game and I won’t even want to fault her for using the S word because I am not in her shoes. There is definitely more to it either from the office or at home.

    Reply

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