The burden of high earning female career bankers.
Only Dupe and Cynthia appeared to have decoded the real cause of Ifeoma’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. Ifeoma didn’t respond. She rather murmured to herself “ndi asiri”, meaning “tale mongers” and remained focused and attentive to their branch head’s address.
It was a Monday morning and the first work day of a new month. The branch head, 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.
Having spoken alone for 2 hours, entertaining no contributions in a forum that was supposed to be interactive, she ended the meeting and asked Ifeoma to follow her to her office.
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?” Ifeoma broke down and cried like a baby. Mrs Badmus felt for her.
Ifeoma 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 Ify, as she fondly called her. Focusing on the job, got her the results she wanted.
“Take down this phone number, she is Shade 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 cannot suffer because you married a pugilist?” Mrs Badmus joked. But it was a dry joke to Ifeoma.
“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 ambition and financial independence in a woman. 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 an authoritarian and also an Assistant General Manager, who headed a grade A branch. She also supervises three other small branches. Ifeoma had just resolved the puzzle as to why the woman hated married men. All her friends were mostly divorced or separated.
Ifeoma needed to hitch a ride to Shade, the cosmetologist with Dupe and Cynthia, who had a marketing call 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 wa oh!” 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 doing 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 our courtship days, that it was a taboo in his home town for a man to live off a woman. You babes are even better off as your husbands work and earn money, because mine is an assistant pastor in 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 doing the 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 Ifeoma 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 Ifeoma reveal the true cause of her black eye to her colleagues known for peddling gossips? Never! The whole bank would hear it and she would become a laughing stock. But she must say something. The black eye is not a mere pimple.
“I’m sorry for your ordeals in the hands of your husbands,” Ifeoma started. “Mine was a bit different. I was attacked by robbers on Falomo bridge on Saturday, I mean to say Friday, on my way home from work,” she lied. The two other ladies laughed and kept laughing until they reached the Lekki cosmetologist’s office where Ifeoma dropped off.
Ifeoma could recognize Shade. She was one of the judges when Ifeoma won Miss UNILAG pageant many years ago. The thickness of Shade’s make up and strict dieting had made her look unchanged.
She could not lie to Shade. She told her everything.
“Ikedimpu was my first boyfriend and we got married immediately 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 rainy 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 and how I had been investing my earnings, since he practically bore most of the family burden. I was convinced that his friends must have advised him to start tightening up his financial controls on me otherwise he would lose me. I needed to nip this in the bud before he developed the effrontery to probe further.
“Madam, in the course of my banking career, I have attended many courses on how to avoid being pinned down by a difficult bank customer and on how not to commit to an unfavorable deal. I deployed my skills immediately. I staged a quarrel, gave my husband a few loads of insults, thinking that 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 my statement 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. Just one blow and I woke up at St. Nicholas Hospital,” Ifeoma ended.
But she only came to receive good looks management from Shade, not marital advice.
Ikedimpu had begged his beautiful wife, when she regained her consciousness right in the hospital, for forgiveness and promised not to raise his fingers on her again. But, he did 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.
According to Ifeoma’s husband and those of other high earning career women, the woman should be accountable to her husband in all things including her financial state of affairs.
And the economy is not getting better. Many more men are getting more interested in what their wives earn. They can’t seem to ready to behave like their fathers.
By Anayo M. Nwosu