It was Encomium publisher Kunle Bakare who introduced Funke Akindele and I years ago.
Meeting in KB’s office, we tried to work out how BlackHouse Media could take charge of her media relations and perception management, at a time when her star was just about to really, really shine.
I can’t remember how or why we ended up not working together, but I know we stayed in touch for a minute before drifting apart. Our paths continued to cross though – as I’m quite well acquainted with both her elder sister Ayo Ola Mohammed, and the man who eventually became her publicist Samuel Olatunji.
So while I can’t say I know Funke that well, I’ve had a glimpse of her world. I have an idea of her fears and challenges, and of her attitude to success. I know who she was, who she is, and who she aspires to be. And her story, just like many of the successes you find in entertainment circles here, is a huge inspiration, a testament to the power of possibilities.
However, when I got the invitation to her wedding last year, I immediately knew I would not attend. Following all the drama surrounding the wedding, because the groom had previously been married and was still involved with other women, It was my opinion that Funke didn’t need this unwanted splash of dirty oil on her garment. Here’s a girl God has picked amongst all her contemporaries, to shower with fame, fortune and unlimited goodwill. Why would she want to use her own hands to throw a spanner in the wheels?
Just like in the case of Mercy Johnson, who went ahead to marry Odianosen Okojie in spite of all the scandals and controversy, I feared Funke was walking into fire.
Just like Mercy, when she continued to walk without retreat, even breaking into song and dance the moment she entered the fire, I understood clearly she must have seen what none of us would ever see. What I, in my myopia, could never understand.
If you’ve ever been in love before, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
That’s what I saw, when I decided in 2003, while still an undergraduate at University of Ibadan, that I’d gather all my friends for a cocktail and propose to my girlfriend; what I saw when in 2005, just a year after graduating, I decided to get married. No one and nothing could have made me change my mind.
I remember clearly some of my ‘friends’ saying behind my back, after the UI cocktail ‘this one doesn’t know what will happen after school, he doesn’t even know where his life is heading, and he’s proposing to woman…’. When I heard the comments, I shook my head and pitied them.
I’m sure that’s how Funke pitied those of us who thought she was making a mistake when she decided to settle with Kehinde Oloyede in May 2012.
Looking back now, especially considering her recent separation from the gentleman, and the controversy surrounding it, I see clearly the mistake I made in criticizing that wedding; the mistake millions are making now in thinking ‘serves her right, she kuku should not have married the man in the first place.’
Everyone has a right to marry their partner of choice – be it a leper, a hooligan, a convict, or, as in the case of Funke, a man with strange marital issues and, erm, an interesting persona. I think everyone has that right and responsibility to make that personal decision, as long as it is not in conflict with their personal religious convictions, and the laws of the land.
My wife chose to date me, agreed to marry me, and eventually went with me to the altar, against wise counsel. I was not particularly a good boy when we met, and many of my friends were sure I would ‘spoil her life.’ I’m sure some of them, like one rascally Doyin Adesida would have pulled her aside several times and begged her to flee. If she listened, maybe she wouldn’t have married me.
And when we married, I was as broke as possible. A fresh reporter at Encomium, with a take home pay that could barely take me half way home, I was a broke ass at best. There were no signs (apart from all the dreams and ideas in my head) that things would get better soon. I didn’t even leave school with a good grade. What’s a 1st Class material, gorgeous multi-lingual Victoria Island-bred young girl doing with such bonafide ‘S’ Man? (where S equals suffer!)
If she were your sister or daughter, and you saw other men with bright prospects around, I doubt you would have advised her to stick with a nonentity like me. But no one dared talk her out of it. She had her mind made up. And just like Funke, she didn’t care what you think. Sorry.
So what happens if few months or years down the line, you realize you may have made a mistake after all? Or you find out that it is actually NOT what you thought it was all along? Do you stay on, killing yourself softly, because you’re afraid and ashamed of what people will say? Afraid to hear the classic ‘Shebi I told you?’ Or do you make a scientific evaluation and take appropriate decisions – In Funke’s case, take a walk?
I suspect Funke and her husband have done the latter, and rather than join the judges and overnight marriage experts, I think we should do what we failed to do when they got married – respect their choice, with the understanding that we’re not in their shoes.
Marriages will always fail. Whether at the Kardashian-Humphries stage or at the Vladmir-LyudmilaPutin stage. And the reasons will continue to vary, from the Okotie unknown to the Ara violence and theAdeminokans’ infidelity. And while a failed marriage is the failure of both parties, it doesn’t make they themselves failures. It doesn’t mean they can’t try again, and get it right. It doesn’t mean those who are still (hopefully) happily married are better or wiser. And it is inescapable that we all, at one point in the course of our married lives, will have that failure staring us in the face. In fact, if those with the seemingly happiest of marriages opened up and told us the truth, you’d see that ‘Adiye’n laagun, Iye ara e ni’o je k’aari…’*
And as I’ve recently, sadly found out, there are many marriages with no soul, no life. Cadavers. Many marriages where the couples are only bound together by children, finances, other responsibilities, and the usual ‘what will people say.’ Many marriages where ‘trouble’ has replaced ‘couple’.
It’s our choice at the end of the day, our prerogative, to decide what’s important – HOW FAR or HOW WELL?
Here, Funke – Cheers to a new life!
*Yoruba proverb, suggesting we can’t see a fowl sweat because its entire body is covered by feathers