LINDA IKEJI: THE IRONIC WEB OF SOCIO-RELIGIOUS VICTIMS AND VICTIMIZATIONS

…Gossip sells, sex, sells, a seeming downfall of another is game to some people. Empathy is scarce, Love is often over simplified, and the interpretation of love is often tainted with personal sentiments and ambitions. Love as would be referenced here would be both the parental and the romantic types.

Why has the popular blogger, Linda Ikeji been trending since she told her side of the story about her relationship with one Jeremi, her pregnancy and birth of her son Jayce.Without prejudice to any of the individuals involved, Linda, the alleged father of the baby, Sholaye Jeremi and the innocent son who is oblivious of the circumstances surrounding his existence, let’s look beyond the headlines and the channel-noise. Let us look at why amidst the economic and political upheavals, an innocent baby is thrown into a cacophony of noise and self-righteous if not intrusive judgmental analysis.

I had restrained from making comments on this since Linda announced her pregnancy amidst speculations of her marital status and inquisitions about the identityof the father of her child. Expectedly, with a status of the queen of blogging in Nigeria, a Linda would be news any day whether she tows the regular or irregular routes of societal expectations. So the hullaballoo over the paternity of her unborn child then waned while she was away to have her baby.

Then last week, she again stirred the hornet’s nest when she formally introduced her son to the Social media world. She did not stop at that, she told the story of the journey that earned her a son, she talked about the alleged father of her child and how everything is over between them but expressed happiness over her son.

If a Linda was in doubt about the feelings of both friends and foes over her life,her blogging business, her attitude to wealth or lack of same, her judgmental actions over other ladies that had children out of wedlock, her attitude to a man’s financial class, her vulnerability as a woman despite her financial independence, the internal conflict of what she desired and what the society expected of her, her feminist struggles or lack of same, her longing to be loved etc., the reactions of the social media world to her piece almost answered all these questions and more.  

However,I intend to look at the social and religious variables that surround the whole story of the birth of an innocent boy by two consenting adults.

LINDA:

Her rise to fame was partly helped by society and its expectations of what is good behavior. Her blog blew over a period because it had gossip about sex, love and the lives of the rich and famous. She is a woman in a man’s world. She made money and largely lifted herself into independence in a patriarchal society. In an environment where independent women are seen as threats to the men, she got financial independence but obviously lost out on social romantic relationships. She must have been in conflict with identifying who really and truly loved her and who just admired her as a fan. She still needed to be loved, she is human after all and she sought and assumed she found love at a point. The society does not approve of her initiating a relationship, so she had to wait to be wooed.

It was therefore not surprising she found the fact that the alleged father of her baby claimed he never heard of her before their meeting very attractive. She reveled in the anonymity that provided. She had become an unwilling prisoner of her wealth and fame. Ironically, a man in her shoes would have had less difficulty getting into relationships or even marriage. So she was both a beneficiary of a social system and a victim at the same time. She had to celebrate her pregnancy on the social media because if she comes up with a baby without doing that, tongues would wag. She could have afforded to go off radar and surface with a child. She had to prove she carried her own child.

The new social mantra of ‘baby mama’ has been elevated to a purely female sense of ‘irresponsibility’. No one wants to hear the story of any lady who gets pregnant out of wedlock. Ideally and socially, men are expected to propose marriage. But the society that blames the ‘baby mama’ never has the patience or empathy to hear the full story. More often than not, the ladies were involved in consensual adult relationships and the men often even coerce the ladies to get pregnant as a precondition for marriage. Some renege on the agreement. Some ladies have been failed by birth control pills and because of religious orientation avoid abortion. Some baby mamas were victims of abusive relationships and opted out even with pregnancies.

In asociety where there are no laws to protect the women or force men who father children to own up or pay child support, the men get away and the women bear the burden alone and are shamed too. It is alleged that Linda dissed some of the baby mamas and more than that, she preached celibacy and condemned sex outside marriage. Mnnnnhhhhh…

By allegedly condemning other baby mamas, she stood on societal hypocrisy that see women as the sole cause of fornication and adultery while the men go free, she never dug in to find their stories. She reveled in blaming the victims.

So caught in the same web, she needed to have a relationship and expected the societal script in her head to work in perfection. Then an alleged Sholaye came into the picture and things did not play out as planned and she in her words, ‘fell pregnant’ and things did not work out and the baby is here but she claims she has cut all ties with her baby’s father.

Then the curious angle, in talking about the man, she referred to him as being a billionaire but living in a three bedroom rented apartment. The question is,why the denigrative description of where he lives? Love is supposed to know no class or age and is supposed be unconditional. But my hunch is that she had to prove to society that she was more comfortable than the man but was that truly necessary? Referring to his three bedroom-apartment, (in a possible comparative term to her Banana Island mansion) saw her on a virtual societal high horse.

RELIGION:

Over the weekend, Linda takes her son for dedication in a Catholic church and there is outrage as some people are questioning the propriety of an out of wedlock child being dedicated in church with both business and political big men in tow. Some are questioning why the church should allow her type of dressing in church and even accept for her child to be dedicated. Really?

The Critics are falling back on the retrogressive dogmatism of innocent children being denied certain religious or social rights because of the circumstances of their birth. Methinks it is wrong to punish an innocent child for what society terms indiscretions of the parents.

A Linda is sounding almost lyrical referring to the alleged father of her son, saying, “He and I are a completely closed chapter, Sadly for our son Jayce, it’s the kind of chapter that can’t ever be opened again”. In my view, even if both are not having a relationship, the man should not be denied access to his child if he shows interest in being in his life. He has a stake. Linda is probably exploiting the fact that the society she lives in does not protect children seriously. A man that fathers a child must have access to the child so far he is not violent or irresponsible. Financial independence of a Linda cannot substitute for a fatherly love and care. Linda seems to unknowingly be victimizing the child and his alleged father. He must have his rights to paternal love and care. She ought to see the baby’s welfare as priority and superseding her ego or that of the father too.

SOLAYE JEREMI:

Nothing much can be said about a man who has not said his own part of the story. The society must grant him the rights to either speak or not. He is not in  law court yet. However, it is wrong for anyone to take sides based on one stated side of the story. On the other hand,he must not be victimized because Linda has a ‘voice’ he ‘lacks’ in the media. He has the right to choose the type of relationship he wants but now that a child is involved, he must play his part. Raising a child is not about money alone.Trillions do not raise a child, humans do. If he decides to play no part in the child’s life, the child, not Linda loses. But no one should crucify him without fair hearing. He too might be a victim.

BABY JAYCE:

Methinks this child’s innocence has been sacrificed on the altar of ego on the part of the mother. In a world of documentations, he would grow up to read the realities of his conception and birth and the attendant stripping of his innocence. Both parents must work to protect this child and give him the childhood he deserves emotionally and otherwise. He had no hand in their union and did not apply to be born under the circumstance. His interest must supersede the interests and ego trips of both parents. 

VICTIMS:

The Linda story is an ironic chain of societal victims. A Linda rose to fame blogging and partly allegedly shaming other female victims who might not have had the voice and influence she has. She allegedly showed no empathy while sharing their Stories of pregnancy and birth without fulfilling the social and religious expectations of formal marriages.

Ironically,to be married is not like buying grocery off the shelf. The man must propose and be ready to marry the woman yet the woman is blamed by same society for not getting married even when no man proposes and if she proposes, she is scorned as a whore. Some men persuade some ladies to first get pregnant to prove fertility and at some point even abandon both mother and child. The irresponsible man goes free while the woman is demonized and ostracized as irresponsible.

A Linda can tell her story because her popularity gives her a voice, did she spare a thought for the voiceless? On her part, being rich as a woman has made her socially insecure because the men she might love might be too timid to approach her and the ones who are bold enough to approach her she might assume are mere fans or after her wealth. On meeting someone she feels is ignorant of her fame, she acquiesces to break all her own rules of celibacy and no sex outside wedlock probably because her biological clock was moving up. She somewhat compromised her celibacy and no sex outside marriage probably to please the man and may be to just get a baby of her own. These are possibilities.

The man in the eye of the storm has not spoken and so till he does, people must not throw shots at him. He is entitled to his own story and choices too. Being a man in this circumstance must not be an automatic disqualifying or dismissive reason for him to be guilty before being found innocent.

The baby must be allowed to be a baby and given a normal childhood that would liberate him to discover his purpose without being blamed by society for the circumstances of his birth. He had no choice in that.

One positive from the whole imbroglio is that the church with the elaborate and well publicized dedication service must show that it is now ready to accept all out of wedlock babies into the church unlike what obtains in most rural areas where both the mother and maternal grandparents of the child are ostracized and often ex-communicated due to the circumstances of the child’s birth. While marriage is admirable, most single parents never negotiated or expected to be single parents. There are circumstances that force certain situations on most so labeled ‘baby mamas’.

A Linda can now realize that those she allegedly wrote about without empathy and without hearing their stories deserve some fairness and not condemnation.

Marriage is admirable, children should be brought up under the loving environment of both parents. However, life is never scripted and certain circumstances force certain situations on individuals. We must all begin to wear certain shoes to realize where exactly where it pinches.

The same society that blames a lady for being single blames her if she tries to woo a man. The same society that blames a woman for having a child out of wedlock would not be there to help a childless woman in her old age or even provide the joy a child provides. The chain of victim-shaming must be broken and more understanding shown under certain circumstances. A Linda now knows that not all ‘baby mamas’ chose to be in that situation. The world can do with more humanity and empathy under certain circumstances.

Make no mistakes about it, marriage is a beautiful institution that must be encouraged and upheld as it  gives rise to families, the smallest unit of the society, however, pregnancies by its process is not limited to the married. Therefore, any child conceived in or out of wedlock must not be tagged and victimized through to adulthood for an alleged offense he or she had no hand in.

Lindawith her story typifies the web of victims under the socio-religious institutions. A lady is expected to marry at a certain age, no one cares whether she gets a willing suitor that she loves and who equally loves her to propose, but the burden is on her to get married. Being a rich lady even worsens the cases because the man is raised to be the ‘provider superman’ who must not depend on a woman. So even though a man loves a rich woman, he might step back so as not to be accused of gold-digging. It is not for nothing that Linda was excited to fall for a man who claimed he was ignorant of her ‘existence’ then allegedly went ahead to withdraw claiming he could not deal with her fame.

Religion and society are man-made and must acknowledge certain realities that are as old as man himself and realistically and logically deal with situations with more understanding and empathy.  Linda looking back must have understood what it means to be on the other side. Humanity would be better with more fairness, empathy and justice.  In some way too, there might just be some Linda in all of us. My one pence though…

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