For a while now, there has been a debate on Nigerian social media on whether it is reasonable for single ladies to marry men who earn N50,000 and below as monthly salary.
A particular woman went on to advise spinsters not to bother getting married to such men as it will only lead to frustration and depression.
In a bid to correct this narrative, a Nigerian professor of Criminology, Mike Akinlabi, has shared his own story of how he got married while on a N33, 000 salary and how things have improved for himself and his wife as their married life progressed.
Akinlabi who is currently a lecturer of criminology at the University of New England in Australia, revealed himself and his wife waited for eight years before they welcomed a child and that in all that life has thrown at them, money has proven not to be important in all circumstances. Read his story below
When I met my wife, my salary was N33,000 monthly. That was what I earned as an entry level hire then. Yes, I agree that N33,000 that time had more value than the same amount now. However, to put things in proper perspective, a SIM card around the time when I got married in 2002 was about N20,000. My salary was therefore just a bit more than the cost of a SIM card. I recall that banks actually gave loans to customers to buy ‘handsets’ then.
My wife was in her final year at Olabisi Onabanjo University when we decided to get married. I was 27 and she was 25. I’d been working for barely two years. I didn’t have a car when we started dating but later I was able to ‘buy’ a Volvo 340 DL through a miraculous intervention. The dealer gave me the car and I paid in two instalments- with the first instalment six months after I got the car. I remember driving the car the first time to Olabisi Onabanjo University where she was and she and her friend hitching a ride back to Ibadan from Ago-Iwoye. I slept off on the wheel, veered off the road and almost went off a cliff. My fiancee and her friend were also fast asleep!
I just moved away from my parents home to a two-bedroom flat I rented at Ashi in Ibadan. My rent was N27,000 per annum and the flat was part of 8 flats within the compound similar to a civilian barrack. That was the best I could afford then. We stayed in that N27,000 per annum flat for a long time. We jointly agreed that we should not stay in a house where we can’t afford to pay the yearly rent from a month’s salary or income. From there, we moved to a 3-bedroom bungalow that was N50,000 per annum and later increased to N100,000 per annum. We agreed not to buy things on credit. If we can’t pay cash for it, it means we can’t afford it.
The first time my fiancée (now my wife) visited me in that 2-bedroom flat, all I had was just a 14 inch Sharp television which I bought in the University. I had that Sharp TV for many years even after we got married and only gave it away a few years ago. But my wife saw beyond that television. I had no furniture in my sitting room during her first visit. My sitting room was overlaid with a beautiful wine rug and any visitor had to sit with me on the rug as we watched my 14 inch TV delicately placed on a ‘stool’.
A short while after, I was part of a 4-man 10k per month esusu contribution team and I used my 40k ‘ajo/esusu’ contribution to purchase my very first piece of furniture- a black leather couch- which you see in the attached picture. We were not yet married when these pictures were taken. I cherished the furniture so much that I never sat on it. Only my fiancee (wife) was allowed to sit or lay on it. I remember I bought that furniture from a showroom opposite Group Medical at Mokola, Ibadan.
As we planned for the wedding, a few of my friends were scared for me. They felt it was too early and I didn’t have ‘anything’. My wife was writing her project. I couldn’t afford a ready-made suit for the wedding. I went to Ekotedo where a tailor who was introduced to me sewed my suit and that of my best man, Kola Fabeku. I bought the striped material from Mandillas in Lagos. My wife’s wedding gown was sewn by a young male fashion designer around Agbowo.
I couldn’t afford a new leather box to carry my wife’s items during the ‘engagement’ ceremony so I borrowed from Titilayo Tijani who got married a few months before us. My wife magnanimously put some old clothes in the box. I couldn’t afford the list given to me on a 33k salary. On the engagement day, I locked up the box with a padlock and put the key in my pocket. During the ceremony, they wanted to open it so as to look at the clothes I bought for my wife but I joined them in looking for the key. After the ceremony, I took back half of the tubers of yam I bought and a bag of salt. Our new family needed the food more than them.
We got married and my wife would later go for her National Youth Service. I knew she couldn’t be idle so I saved up some money to open a video club for her. That Video Club called Colours was very popular at Ashi. My wife also did events planning and decorations. I followed her on some weekends to decorate events while I emceed a few. My Volvo 340DL carried potted plants, balloons, tyre rims and other decor items. We kept those items in our spare room. I converted the Volvo 340 DL to a cab in the evening where I plied Sango-Apete axis in Ibadan. When I closed from work, I removed my jacket and tie, put on a fez cap and resumed as a cab driver. We needed the money. Some weekends, I turned it to a charter cab and plied long distance trips. Those were the days when the songs of Gbenga Adenuga were popular. Any passenger in my car turned cab enjoyed those songs.
My wife knew that money alone does not a good marriage make. She saw beyond the present and looked far into the future. I was a dreamer and I still am. I told her about my goals. So she saw beyond my 14 inch television and saw my vision. Never marry a man who has television but has no vision. She knew that if you marry a man whose main obsession are the things he possesses, then get ready to become part of the possessions. A woman should be more concerned about a man’s prospects than his pockets. If he has prospects, he is perfect for you.
Never define a marriage by the size of a man’s pocket but by the largeness of his heart. If he’s good, the lack of money will never diminish his goodness. If he’s bad, the presence of money will never amplify his goodness. A man can be poor in terms of quantifiable treasure but rich in character. Some people are so poor that all they have is just money. I am not trying to diminish the role of finance in romance but that is not the principal thing. A chest full of treasures does not mean a woman will be treasured.
You have to make a choice- either to marry a man who possesses things or marry a man who is possessed- by a beautiful vision of tomorrow. If all you can see is my today, you have no stake in my future. Marry a man you believe in. Equally important, marry a man who believes in you. Don’t marry a lazy man. Don’t marry a foolish man. A foolish man doesn’t think things through. His thinking capacity is low. He makes poor decisions about a lot of things. A foolish man is more concerned about now than tomorrow. Marry someone who has a greater thinking capacity than you. Be more moved by the depth of a man’s intellect than by his financial prowess. Marry a man who values you more than his valuables. But then, by all means, marry based on your convictions. If you desire not to settle for a man who earns less than N50,000, do so without guilt. Each person will live with the consequences of their choices.
We have been through difficult times. My wife and I have eaten white rice sprinkled with just palm oil and salt before. We couldn’t afford to cook stew or even meat. We waited for a child for 8 years. But our commitment got us going. Money is useless in certain circumstances. Money does not guarantee a lifetime of happiness. A lot of rich people will willingly give up their wealth for happiness. The rich also cry.
16 years on, we are not certainly where we were before. I continue to dream and she’s still in love with this dreamer. I told her recently that I look forward to a period where I will take her on a vacation for a whole year- all around the world. That’s my next dream. And it will cost more than N50,000.
(c) Bayo Adeyinka