Saturday, April 6, 2019 6:12 pm
By Nehru Odeh
Linda Ikeji, millionaire celebrity blogger, wears many caps. Not only is she the most successful blogger in Nigeria today, she is a status symbol, everyone’s dream, a go–getter and role model to not just the youths but also a living testimony to the fact that regardless of one’s gender or background, one can achieve whatever one aspires to by sheer dint of hard work. To sum it all, she is what the French call femme independante ( theindependent woman). And she lives up to her nouveau riche status, flaunting her wealth and making news as swift and easy as she feasts on stories and gossips. Ironically she is also a ready fodder for gossips. Still, she has some bragging rights due to the fact that she has broken new grounds not just in the media. But also in the Nigerian society.
Ikeji courts controversy as she romances gossips. She once tweeted, “I might be single but I sure can buy anything that brings happiness including ANY MAN.” That tweet set the internet on fire and elicited reactions from Nigerians. Reacting to that statement on Nairaland, a Nigerian said: “I guess you will buy a man that will send you to your early grave because the last time I checked money can buy man/husband but it can’t buy love/joy. Another said: “You can buy a man and manipulate him but can never give you or have an everlasting love. Not even if you use juju to reprogram him.”
Just like a fairy tale, she became pregnant and posted the pictures of her baby bump on her blog to celebrate it. Things seemed to be going well and good for this uprising social media star when, three months after delivered her son, a feat shecelebrated by purchasing a Bentley Mulsanne worth one hundred and eight million naira, she dropped a bombshell. In an emotion–laden letter to her fans, she revealed that the relationship between her and the son’s father, Sholaye Jeremihad crashed into smithereens like a fragile glass. “Unfortunately he and I are a completely closed chapter,” she said.
But Linda didn’t close her own chapter. In that letter she waxed philosophical trying to expound her belief in love: “The ideal thing would be to find a man you love, who loves you back and gives you stability, get married, have kids and raise a family, not being a single mum or a baby mama. I was 37 years old at the time I conceived and if I want to be honest, my age played a role in me allowing myself to be pregnant out of wedlock. I don’t want to be having kids in my 40s or struggling with fertility later in life. This wasn’t the plan but like I said before, life happens. You just have to find a way to make the best of what life throws at you. And so for any young girl this means anything to, I am truly sorry. I am not sorry I had Jayce, I’m just sorry I didn’t go about it the right way.”
Then she went further to say “But you know, despite this crazy love experience, I still believe in love and I believe in happy endings and I can’t wait to one day, God willing, have my fairy tale ending. The father of my child is the only man I’ve given a chance to in 6 years. I swear. I’m not really a relationship kind of girl. I’m more a career girl. I can go for years without a man. I’m one of those women who don’t need a man to validate their existence but biko, I’ve done the single life enough in the past…”
Of course, Linda still believes in love, (in her words) “despite this crazy love experience”. She still believes in love in spite of what she went through by falling in love with a man who left her love unrequited. She still believes in love in spite of the quandary she has placed herself by loving. She still believes in love even as she feels she has disappointed the youths who look up to her and see her as a role model. But what has love got to do with her predicament? Was she a victim or a prey? Was she the architect of her own misfortune? Was she trying to live up to the expectations of society and in the process shot herself in the foot?
As I write this piece, raindrops are splattering and dripping on my window panes, after a downpour, and the fragility of the glassed window panes, as a metaphor for love, comes to mind. As I write this piece, the ageless Tina Turner’s multiple Grammy Award hit song, What’s love Got To Do With It is playing in the background, and the lyrics When a heart can be broken strikes a chord. Many a lass, out of sheer experience would tell you they don’t believe in love, not because they don’t believe love exists but because their hearts have been broken several times. But John Paul Sartre, the French existentialist philosopher, in his magnum Opus, Being and Nothingness has a different idea of love, which may sound strange to some people but is in sync with what many, including Linda, has experienced.
First let me start with what Sartre in his book calls Bad Faith, which Linda has in enormous proportions. Sartre believes bad faith comes in when an individual negates themselves by trying to be what they are not, by trying to be what society or the social situation expects of them ; or simply put, by trying to live up to the expectations of others. In her letter, one sees vividly Linda trying to explain to her fans and society the reason she did went into that ill-fated relationship. ”The ideal thing would be to find a man you love, who loves you back and gives you stability, get married, have kids and raise a family, not being a single mum or a baby mama. I was 37 years old at the time I conceived and if I want to be honest, my age played a role in me allowing myself to be pregnant out of wedlock. I don’t want to be having kids in my 40s or struggling with fertility later in life. This wasn’t the plan but like I said before, life happens,” she wrote.
But in that book Sartre sounds a note of warning in the opening lines of the chapter entitled Bad Faith. “The human being is not the only being by whom negatites are disclosed in the world; he is also the one who can take negative attitudes with respect to himself.”. In another instance, he says, Consciousness is a being, the nature of which is to be conscious of the nothingaess of its being.” Linda, by trying to get into a relationship by all means because at 37, time was running out and she wanted to live up to the expectations of society, she negated herself by falling in love with a man who wasn’t ready for marriage and in the process get impregnated out of wedlock, a “sin” she believes she has committed and the reason for that explanatory letter.
For instance, Sartre says, “Take the example of a woman who has consented to go out with a particular man for the first time. She knows very well the intentions which the man who is speaking to her cherishes regarding her. She knows also that it will be necessary sooner or later for her to make a decision. But she does not want to realize the urgency; she concerns herself only with what is respectful and discreet in the attitude of her companion …”
Sartre says again “If he says to her, ‘I find you so attractive!’ she disarms this phrase of its sexual background; she attaches to the conversation and to the behavior of the speaker, the immediatemeanings, which she imagines as objective qualities. The man who is speaking to her appears to her sincere and respectful as the table is round or square, as the wall coloring is blue or gray. The qualities thus attached to the person she is listening to are in this way fixed in a permanence like that of things, which is no other than the projection of the strict present of the qualities into the temporal flux. This is because she does not quite know what she wants.”
Still, what’s love has to do with it, when a heart can be broken? asks Tina in that hit song. Sartre believes Love is one sure way one negates oneself because when you fall in love, so to speak, you are putting your freedom on the line and are also removing the freedom of the other, your so-called loved one. Sartre believes love is a prison, which many won’t accept because over years society has made love and therefore marriage a social institution and we have all being socialized into believing that it is the norm. But many have had their fingers burnt because of that. Linda fell in love with Sholaye, got pregnant and put her freedom on the line because she wanted to hook up or get married. In that letter she even states their differences.
“There were times it was very intense and we talked about a future together, and there were times that I couldn’t figure out what exactly I was doing with this guy. We were not suited for each other. Totally different lifestyles. And there was the problem of my fame. I walked away from this man a million times and he came after me a million and one times. No matter how much I pushed him away, he kept coming back and me, because I couldn’t find anyone else, I kept going back. Lol. So I was basically going back to my ex because I couldn’t find anyone else. *sigh*.” One can see bad faith being played out vividly here. In spite of their differences, Linda still went on with the relationship. Sholaye, on his part kept coming back because he felt he was “in love.” But while Linda was ready to put her freedom on the line, in spite of those differences, Sholaye was not. He cherished his freedom. That was why when Linda put their relationship in the public space, Sholaye frowned at it because he is “a private person.”
The clash between Linda’s propensity for the public life and Sholaye’s love of the private life is very obvious here. “I was just thanking God for finally sending me my own man when all of a sudden we were no longer talking to each other. Later he would tell me what scared him off. My public life. He claims he’s a private business man and didn’t want the attention being with me would bring to him and I told him I understood and we went our separate ways. We tried to get back together in 2016 but it didn’t work out so much so we separated again but stayed in touch (mostly him to be honest), stayed friends and that was how our back and forth started.
Still those lines What’s love got to do with it when a heart can be broken keeps recurring. Linda, in a bid to get married to Sholaye, fell I love with him and was ready to sacrifice her freedom and reputation. But Sholaye wasn’t ready to sacrifice his freedom and private life. In the process Linda got her heart broken literally into smithereens, while Sholaye walked away a free man. What really has love got to do with it when a heart can be broken? asks Tina.
Linda is guilty of bad faith, as postulated by Sartre, because she did everything she could in order to be seen as responsible, and in that process, negating herself becoming what she is not. She ,just like most of us, is guilty of bad faith because all her struggles, labour and drive have been geared towards attaining a certain position in society. She has been trying to build an image and be seen in society in a certai light. And that explains the reason why in her letter to her fans she wrote: “For years I’d hammered on how much I was looking forward to getting married, having children and building my own family and I believed God was going to come through for me on that one, but I have come to understand that we have no control over what life throws at us no matter how much we plan, pray, or work. And we also have no control over the actions of other people towards us.”
So rather than vilify Linda, we should see her as a lady doing all she can to be seen in a certain light and not only be accepted by the establishment but also be seen as responsible. Linda saw love as an escape route and she got her fingers burnt. That desperation is the reason she committed a mistake. “My mistake was I should have walked away when the relationship became a waste,” she said. Her experience should serve as a lesson to the rest of us, who romanticize love and see it as a sure way to paradise on earth. Sartre says in Being and Nothingness that love is an act of giving away one’s freedom.. Sholaye, on his part, saw that relationship as a form of entanglement, a prison, a forfeiture of his freedom, which every lover must give in order to be taken seriously. That was why when Linda made the affair public, he frowned at it, saying he was a private business man. “He claims he’s a private business man and didn’t want the attention being with me would bring to him and I told him I understood and we went our separate ways,” Linda wrote.
Nehru Odeh, journalist, poet and writer, is the author of The Patience Of An Embattled Storyteller.