The recent marriage of Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to Lara Fortes five years after he lost his first wife, Clara, to cancer generated a lot discourse in the mass, social and online media. The discussions ranged from the sensible to the absurd. Some questioned his decision to remarry; others why he married a foreigner and some why he married a much younger woman. Some others had issues with Oshiomhole's complexion vis-a-vis the wife's. And did I read the "beauty and the beast" comparism? Some alleged that Oshiomhole's children were unhappy about his remarrying, even though some of the children attended the wedding, while one source quoted one of Oshiomhole's sons as calling the father's new wife a gold digger.
The burden of limelight is enormous. Widowers remarry everyday without raising dust; older men marry much younger women and they are commended for taking steps to recharge their old dying batteries. Nigerian men have been marrying foreign women since we came in contact with the outside world and it has become acceptable. When I got to Igbo land for the first time in the 80s, one of the cultural shocks I got was the large number of men married to taller women. Taller wives and shorter husbands were not many in Urhobo land where I grew up. Oshiomhole does all these and he is called unprintable names. Well, those knocking their heads on the wall can continue to do so while Oshiomhole savours his new found love.
My concern today is widowhood and remarriage. The last thing any happily married person wants is the loss of a spouse. This is not because the spouse or marriage is perfect (which spouse or marriage is) but because they have found some consistency and pattern and they are settled. They just want to get on with life. Death of a spouse becomes a major setback. Where both lives were intertwined, it leaves a massive void and life can easily become empty and meaningless.
There are no easy decisions when widow(er)s decide to move on. If they decide to stay single, they can get lonely and depressed or constantly fall prey to the opposite sex. Should they decide to remarry, they go into new relationships with all the potential heartaches and disappointments. They have to get used to new spouses who might be totally different from their late spouses to whom they have grown accustomed. A friend still links her father's sudden death to this reason. "My father would still have been alive if he didn't marry that woman," she alleged.
But it is not easy for many of these widowers. Some remarry to continue to meet their sexual needs within matrimony. Many remarry because they cannot cope with household chores; they do not know how to run water for their bath or prepare a simple breakfast of tea and bread. They were thoroughly spoiled by their late wives. Many widowers are aging or have health challenges and sometimes need assistance only wives can conveniently provide. Some are retirees who just want company. Do not forget that the primary reason for marriage is companionship. Generally many widowers of all ages remarry for varying reasons.
But it is not so with widows. Many widows in their 50s and above never remarry after the death of their husbands. Remarriage tends to be more difficult for them. Many are still emotionally attached to their late husbands and simply refuse to remarry. Some do not remarry because no serious suitor has come for them. Some have three, four or more dependent children. How many men will accept the responsibility of children who do not theirs? Sometimes the man wants the woman, but not the children. What is she supposed to do? Throw them in the gutter or ship them to relatives who will turn them to house helps and second-class citizens? Some cherish their new-found "freedom" and want to stay unmarried. Remarrying means dropping the late husbands' family name and some do not want to break that connection, sometimes out of love for the late husband or for the sake of the children. The challenges widows face on whether or not to remarry, including unfair practices against them, go on and on.
What widow(er)s need from family and society are love, support and understanding. If you cannot give them these, at least leave them alone. It is understandable that children and family of the late spouse want to protect his/her interest, but the surviving spouse has a life to pick up and live. Some of these family members also have personal, selfish and ulterior motives. When I hear people call the new wife to a rich widower a gold digger, I often ask whose gold is being dug here. If the owner of the goldmine is not complaining why are you swallowing pain killers for his non-existent headache?
The way I see it, if a widower remarries he has a responsibility to protect and take care of his dependent children from the previous marriage. But whether his grown up children who are now independent share in his inheritance or get financial support from him is entirely up to him. It is not an entitlement, although I advise that they benefit from his estate. I further advice that a widower who is remarrying gives the inheritance for the children from the first marriage inter vivos (while he is still alive) to avoid family feud between the children and the wife (and her children) after he is gone. This is especially so if the wife or the children have a winner-takes-all mentality.
Whether as a contract, covenant or sacrament, every marriage ends the moment one party dies. Should widowers/widows remarry or stay single? The final decision rests with them, na dem wear the shoe, although it would be nice if they consulted, or at least informed, their children and close family members before remarrying.