Opting Out, Pulling Out And Discussions About The Reluctant Dad

In an ideal world, separated parents would just get on with it without any hard feelings or difficulties in communication.

 

Even before the recent exposè by the mother of his first child, Shola Ogudu,  we all suspected that Wizkid had more than a touch of arseholery about his person. His vicious half of the long-standing riff with Davido1, his use of sexually violent language in reaction to Linda Ikeji’s admittedly stupid and malicious reports about his living arrangements, his failure to show up for concerts without apology and the occasional slip in interviews demonstrated that his arseholery is very much informed by Nigerian-style sexism.

I think we ignored (for the most part) his little pop-ups of nastiness because of his talent, his unstoppable rise and his contributions to bringing ‘Naija to the World’. However the 10-page instagram post, which I have not read in its entirety, seems to reveal that he is or can be a cold, sneering, arrogant, narcissistic (Look at me now! I’m famous! I TOLD you the world – and you! – would bow at my feet one day. HA HA HA HA!’) man who uses his ex-girlfriend’s requests for financial upkeep and emotional support for his son to wield power over her, rarely sees his first son and is oblivious to the hurt it would cause the child to see him fawning over his other children in the circumstances.

Unfortunately, having listened to friends and family, read stories on social media and worked in the past as a court clerk for a family law practice, some of his behaviour is not uncommon. It is  probably many an embittered separated father’s fantasy to be able to tell a despised ex-partner  to sod off on a regular basis.  How many men, people, would love to do that with no apparent  consequences?

Some of it however, like his efforts to prove that his son (4 years old at the time) was not gay are so sociopathic and incredible that all I’ll say is this. If you are a Christian and you believe St Paul’s teaching about the fruits of the spirit and the extended version presented by some pastors, this would be a fruit of the kind of pathological homophobic ‘spirit’ which  exists in Nigeria. I doubt very much that it is any part of God’s plan.

The commentary to all the sensation and drama included the typical accusations of Shola trying to trap because he is or was rich (I believe he was a 19 year old struggling musician when she became pregnant but I could be wrong) or that she shouldn’t have had a child if she could not afford to care for the child without his help.

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That last little gem was from feminists and sexists alike and ignored the fact that (1) he has an obligation to pay for the upkeep of his child  (2) it is very difficult, even in countries with free education and health care, to raise a child on a single income.  In fact this particular woman has done very well for herself considering her age and qualifications. (3) if married women’s incomes drop when they have children, what do we think happens to single mothers who don’t have Dad to hand the child(ren) to now and again?

I could go on but suffice it to say that a lot of the criticism strays from a sensible caution to women that, in reality, they are likely to bear the brunt of unplanned pregnancies in Nigeria to presupposing that Shola alone is to blame for the pregnancy and is predominantly responsible for the child.  Wizkid, it seems, should permitted to opt or dip in and out as his career demands.  Despite  being left with the care of the child and therefore less time to make any money, she has been labelled by some a gold-digging, manipulating, layabout  who expects Wizkid to pay for her existence.

Other people (the sensible ones) agree that Wizkid is really not trying but moving from the specific to the general, even with the best intentions, it is difficult bringing up a child with someone you are not with, who you may not like, may have had an acrimonious split with and whose motives you do not trust. Heck, what with parents being two completely separate human beings, it is sometimes difficult to co-parent a child when you are married to the person you love (I’ve lost track of whether the right phrase is ‘co-parent’ when the couple is together or whether it is reserved for separated parents?).

In an ideal world, separated partners would just get on with it without any hard feelings or  difficulties in communication. Both parents would have no interest in or feelings for the other which are unconnected to the welfare of child. Some of the debate I have seen does not acknowledge that this sometimes does not happen. I have mad theories!

Firstly there is the issue of feelings. I am not sure when they ended their relationship but their texts to each other seem very emotional, especially the ones from her. It is not clear whether she just wants a more cordial relationship where he doesn’t bark-text orders at her, she feels that pleading with him and trying to appeal to his conscience will make him actually perform his duties and would make her son feel less abandoned or she wants something more. I would be very surprised if it is the third, especially with his other children, and the fact with each new partner, he moves further and further away from his local dating pool. However one cannot underestimate the social, religious and cultural factors that would encourage her to keep trying to revive a relationship with her child’s father.

Wizkid, on the other hand,  claims to be emotionless but seems to be very resentful of her presence, upset with her, even and punishing her for something. You get the feeling that he wants her to just disappear but is simultaneously deriving some kind of perverse pleasure from her distress.

I can’t deny that a part of me wants Shola (it feels presumptuous to call her by her first name but I’m not going ‘Ms. Ogudu’ my way through this piece like some kind of court reporter for the Vanguard Newspaper) to abandon all attempts at friendliness or even cordiality and be more business-like but I can’t say what effect that would have on Wizkid, her or her child.

This is I suspect not unusual. Even with all intentions of being unemotional, you are likely to be affected by someone you have had a close relationship with. You will be hurt when they are being deliberately hurtful and you may even misinterpret them when they are not. You cannot take a pill and make yourself feel nothing.

On the actual co-parenting, even couples that live together have different views on how to raise a child. However, they at least have the opportunity to discuss and dissect each other’s views. They have enough access to each other to understand where the other person is coming from, if they choose to make the effort. When they are not living together it may be more  difficult to understand why the other person is taking the stance that they are. With the potential for argument,  they may not have the time or inclination to sit down with the ex and dissect their views.

Their priorities are different, as well.  If you are living at home with the child, the home, bills, education, clothes etc are staring you in the face; forcing you to take notice. You notice when the heating goes off or the air conditioner is on the blink or when junior is running around in too-short trousers. Things like that are a bit more remote, I would imagine, when you live away from home.

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Take the example of a (fictional, more amiable) pop star and his ex-girlfriend and child. He may think it is better to invest money in a business opportunity on the basis that it may pay off later making everyone better off. She is aware of domestic needs that have to be taken care of now. He has to take her word for it. He may be distrustful or just not trust her judgment. They never have the chance to have an in-depth conversation about it. It’s difficult. One party often ends up feeling short-changed even though both parties feel they are doing their best. You also have factor in that the non-resident parent may have another home, partner and even children to be concerned with.

Another example is hearing through the airwaves that pop star dad has earned so and so for a concert or other deal.  He may know how much that deal is worth in real terms and how much he gets to take home and how much he has to pay out. All she may know is what everybody knows and what his management wants the world to know in an effort to increase his hype and therefore his value.  I’ll just add that like every other sensible person out there I believe that his child support payments should be commensurate to the paying parent’s wealth; conversely, the courts and I agree that if the paying parent is a low earner, they shouldn’t be driven to destitution by the requirement of an arbitrary level of support.  What I have seen is men who are so indignant that any money paid will pass through the child’s mother’s hands and may be used on some things that indirectly benefit the child like energy bills, rather than things that the child uses directly, that they refuse to work.  It’s a sad, angry world out there.

Then there is the thorny issue of the man who thinks that the woman should have had an abortion and is resentful that she did not. Abortion is not an easy topic for me but I think practically and in terms of the balance of harms, the woman should choose. I also recoil at the idea that a man or even society can demand that women have abortions for any reason. Firstly, having an abortion is an issue fraught with emotional, physical and practical difficulties and secondly, just no!

Forcing a woman to abort  is at least as subjugating as forcing her to carry a pregnancy through. It may not be technically fair but she should choose in this imperfect scenario. And a man ought not to be able to opt out of caring or providing for the child just because he doesn’t agree with her choice because they are both responsible for creating the baby. It’s not as if she gets off scot-free. She is likely to be left with a lion’s share of the care as well actually birthing and nursing the child.

However, I do acknowledge the ill-feeling that a man can have, when this decision is taken out of his control. Yes he should have been more careful with the protection.  They both should have been but the argument that if Wizkid did not want a child with the incumbent permanent relationship with the mother, acceding to her every request in exactly the way she wants him to, he should not have had sex is dangerously close to the one that says Shola should not have had sex or had a child if she was not prepared to be abandoned by him (and a little postscript note, from my memories of sex-ed, ‘pulling out’ is not the contraceptive miracle that some people on social media seem to think it is).

It’s a difficult situation. I myself am in a position where I am financially responsible for someone who I feel made a series of avoidable and unwise decisions that caused the current situation (and I’ve failed to help out with a sibling’s child but that’s another story). I do not think that this is comparable to Wizkid’sand Shola’s situation by any stretch of the imagination. The only similarity is that at some point you have to pull yourself together, do what you can and stop being an arse. I think I spent far too much time being resentful and grumpy about my situation. The other difference is that a child is involved – the only party who is truly devoid of responsibility for the situation – and a reality which cannot be wished away, no matter how badly a parent acts, and which should be the priority.

So, in conclusion, I’m annoying. Just kidding. In conclusion, it is difficult to take care of a child, whether or not you are in a loving relationship with the other parent.  The fact that I can never escape or even take a break from parenthood occasionally fills me with panic.

It is probably more difficult to co-parent when the romantic relationship with the other person has broken down.   I acknowledge that past experiences, hurt and feelings cannot be instantly erased. However, the right thing to do is decide to focus on the well-being of the child. I say this but I can’t imagine how difficult it is for someone to decide to do the right only for the other party to continue acting like a Wizk…I mean, a dolt. Even if that is achieved, it may still be difficult and fraught with miscommunications, differing priorities and hopefully moments of joy and love and definitely memories that cannot be replaced. That’s all really except that Wizkid may still be an arse at time of publication but can choose to have some class and dignity and rise up to the occasion.

1During the said beef, Davido was heard saying things like ‘I heard he doesn’t like me. I don’t know what I ever did to him. I just try to be nice to everyone and concentrate on my music. Well if he doesn’t like me, I don’t like him either. I don’t need him to like me…’ to which Wizkid responded “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Frog Face!’ apparently striking at the heart of Davido’s insecurities.

Without Form and Void by Iain Lovejoy

But isn’t Genesis God’s almighty Word of which every dot and comma is the absolute inerrant truth? Yes, but then again we know too that the Earth fixed in place (Psalm 93:1) or on pillars (1 Samuel 2:8) in the midst of the sea (Genesis 1:9), with a great solid arch over it keeping back the waters above (Genesis 1:7) on which the sun, moon and stars are fixed (Genesis 1:17).

I am a Christian; I believe in God and the Bible, but I also accept the overwhelming scientific, geological and genetic evidence that the Earth is several billion years old and that life on it, including us, evolved from the most basic of forms over those billions of years.

Actually no, that’s not quite true: I don’t just “accept” it as an inconvenient fact to be worked round so I can keep right on believing my fairy stories1: I embrace it as a revelation of God’s purpose and a fundamental ground of my faith.

creation

But isn’t Genesis God’s almighty Word of which every dot and comma is the absolute inerrant truth? Yes, but then again we know too that the Earth isn’t a circle (in the sense of being a circular disc – Isaiah 40:22) and fixed in place (Psalm 93:1) on pillars (1 Samuel 2:8) in the midst of the sea (Genesis 1:9), with a great solid arch over it keeping back the waters above (Genesis 1:7) on which the sun, moon and stars are fixed (Genesis 1:17). The authors and compilers of the Bible knew full well that in describing creation they were delving into mysteries they knew little about. Their purpose was not to write a science textbook but to use and adapt the then conventional description of creation to deal with what the Bible is always and ever about: the saving power and plan of God in the world. If you don’t get too hung up on the standard tropes of ancient Near East creation myths, Genesis 1 and 2 are basically the evolutionary story.

Genesis 1 as an evolutionary narrative

In Genesis 1:1-2, we are not told of a world formed whole in its final form, but one which progresses, in which each new stage is formed from and developed out of the last. It starts with a description of the heavens and the earth at the moment of their creation: dark, formless and void. If you read with an understanding of Hebrew grammar, the whole of Genesis 1:1-2 is arguably scene-setting, not narrative, and one may read:

In the beginning when God had created the heavens and the earth, when the earth was empty and waste, when there was darkness on the face of the deep, and God’s Spirit flitted across the surface of the sea, then God said…“ (my translation from the Hebrew text)

And after which the narrative begins.

The author then deliberately has God halt at each stage and admire his handiwork and pronounce it good, and has time pass before he continues: “and evening came and morning came, one2 / a second / a third day etc”. They describe a continuing development of greater order and higher orders of being culminating in the creation of man. Although the author cannot have known the sequence or detail, he has intuitively seen a progression being played out of ever more complex order which we can now begin to grasp in our study of cosmology and evolution.

Genesis 2 as the fall of man

Genesis 23 must be seen as a companion piece to Genesis 1, not a straightforward continuation of the narrative. The authors / compilers of the Bible were not stupid: they must have known perfectly well that Genesis 1:11-12 had already introduced growing plants and 1:20-22 and 24-25 animals before 1:26-28 introduced man, and that Genesis 2 restarts and reverses the sequence, but they did not care. The new story shifts the focus from the whole of creation to man specifically; the details are conventional.

In Genesis 1’s overall narrative arc, the Eden narrative takes place at day 6 when the developing Earth at last produces man as a conscious, thinking being.

Genesis 2-3 is in fact is the story of Israel transformed and universally applied to mankind. The man (Israel) is chosen to be God’s image in the world, is given a beautiful land to dwell in but is exiled from it (as warned) because he has not obeyed God. If this story is to work as an archetype for Israel, Eden must be, like the land of Israel, a special place set aside (and walled off) for the man, and the man must be a creature chosen from out of the rest of God’s creatures for God’s own special purposes.

fall of man 2

The story tells us man is a creature formed from the dust as a creature amongst creatures, but chosen as a race to be God’s image to the world. When he opens his eyes in understanding looking on creation God has built it as a garden for him, until he falls into sin, when he is thrown back into the life and death evolutionary struggle God raised him up to escape from.

The fall of man in Genesis 3 as a figure for creation’s fall

Adam and Eve eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To truly know and understand both good and evil must be to be able to contemplate both and choose either: to possess conscious free will. The price for this is that life should not be be eternal perfection but a struggle for resources until death (3:18-20) and to continue on in the next generation in one’s offspring, which Eve will now struggle forth (v16) as the mother of all living things (v21).

If Adam and Eve are taken figuratively for not just the first humans but also for infant creation as a whole, then Genesis 2-3 is not just compatible with evolution, it confirms it: it is natural selection, the struggle of life through the generations, that allows free-willed conscious beings to evolve.

(And there is no doubt that, like Jesus’ parable of the vineyard, Genesis 2-3 is a story, figure, a parable: the authors have left a talking snake in it, for heaven’s sake, how much more of a clue do you need?)

The Seventh Day

If we read in the light of the “book of creation”, the natural world and evolutionary theory, in Genesis 1’s overall scheme we are in day 6, and day 7, when God rests from his perfected work, is yet to come. Reading the Bible through the evolutionary lens, I see mankind as God’s image on Earth, ensouled beings capable of knowing and responding to their creator, responding not only on our own account but as representatives and head of the great sea of life from which we emerge. We are the product but also aim of evolution, as Christ is the end product and perfection of mankind. We were made to evolve into an ever-closer connection with God, and to raise up creation with us, striving towards that glorious seventh day when all will be perfected and at peace.

Iain Lovejoy

1 © Someone On The Internet

2 In Hebrew verse 5 says “one day”, not “the first day”

3 Strictly speaking Genesis 2:4 onwards

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