by: Juliet Ikegwuonu

If you are reading this, you are a new bride. It wasn’t easy but you cleaved through the horde of scantily dressed ladies to become Chief’s 4th wife. I doff my gele.  

However, the hustle is far from over. Not every Abuja girl successfully navigates the turbulent waters of upward mobility, but under my tutelage, you will go places. 

First off, give him a son. Not just any son, his first son. Sure there will be other toddlers littering the wrong side of the marital blanket, a couple of daughters stashed somewhere. There always are. But don’t worry; they shouldn’t be a problem. This task of giving birth shouldn’t be left to chance. There is a man at Kwakwaba park. He understands these things. For a price, he will give you a little something to ensure your womb produces sons. Three healthy sons should do it. 

It will do you well not to antagonize the first wife. The old viper can sink her venom into Chief faster than you can open your legs. Dey your lane!

Guard your wedding certificate. The original belongs to you. If your husband asks, get him a photocopy. Never. I repeat, never lose it. Laminate it. Keep it in your metallic box and put the locked box under your bed ready to be whipped out at a moment’s notice. You have come too far to be displaced based on mere formality. That piece of paper is what differentiates you from the women he buys apartment rooms for in Kubwa. Don’t lose sleep over these other women: many came before you, and many more will come after you. 

Invest in items of clothing. Yes, my dear, nothing screams power more efficiently than tasteful clothing. At any time, you should have three asoke: at least one from Dubai. It won’t do for one such as yourself to be seen wearing lace that everybody has seen. Tufiakwa. It shall never be your portion. If the recession is too bad, go to Agbado. They sell quality imitation lace. You won’t know the difference. You might need to befriend the saleswoman so she will give you a good price. The cost will pinch, but in the long run, the lace will pay for itself. Then you can also get an aso ebi with your husband, to wear to wedding parties and funerals.

Don’t allow your unmarried friends to visit you. They want to shoot their shot with Chief in their tight pants and jiggling buttocks. Instead, meet them at the new bar down the street that caters exclusively to the upper middle class. Pick a seat at the corner facing the window where the lighting highlights your makeup to perfection. Offer to pay the bill and watch their green eyes take in your gaudy engagement ring and imported lace. They will hail you “Madam fire-fire,” and ask if you have any formula: perhaps a magic vagina. To which you will give your i-beta-pass-you smile. Promise to hook them up with some Alhajis in oil and gas. Then pick up your expensive iPhone and pretend to make a call to the local government chairman. That will show them that you are no longer on their level.

Invite your husband to your room, and after a vigorous session on the imported silk bedsheet, tell him of your desire to open a business: a boutique or a provision store, something to keep you busy when you are pining for him. He will like that. Then calmly suggest a store in one of his two-storey shopping plazas. Feeling indulgent, he will grudgingly give you a store. It won’t be the good ones on the ground floor, probably the ones closest to the restroom. This will frustrate you. But rein in your emotions. With a few chess moves, soon, you will be in charge of the whole building. But you need to strike early, while your breasts are still pointing north and the sight of your skin doesn’t remind him of overripe bananas. 

If you cannot cook, get a girl from the village, one of those quiet and hard-working distant relatives with heavily accented Yoruba. People will know she is your house girl because she is always two paces behind your family carrying the heavy loads. She must be plain-faced and on low cut, or better still, ugly. The last thing you want is a forbidden fruit right under your husband’s nose. It won’t be the first time a village girl has taken over the house- remember what happened to Mama Bisi. She will bathe your children, feed them, clean up after them, take care of the house, and on school days, she will man your shop. She will even wipe your buttocks if you ask. Do not hesitate to correct her with your backhand if she so much as complain of fatigue. That will send fleeing the spirit of laziness.  Still, you must learn to cook your husband’s favorite dish. You don’t know when it might be needed to put out a simmering flame. 

Familiarize yourself with your in-laws. Send them gifts at Christmas. They are a suspicious bunch. A trailer load of charm will not be enough to win them over. They are vicious and spiteful but they might one day be the only thing standing between you and a divorce suit. Locate the matriarch. She is the one that sways the herd. Help her pay her children’s school fees. It never hurts to have a familiar face in the other camp. If she likes you, she will let you in on family secrets and alert you to the scent of other women.

Brush up your English. Practice the basics for when your husband invites his colleagues home. Learn to be a charming hostess. Don’t embarrass him. Don’t let him forget that he hit the jackpot with you. Know when to blend in and when to stand out. Occasionally, you may need to make a speech or represent your husband at an event. This will boost your popularity and solidify your position. If you become influential enough, you could go into politics. Many woman leaders of political parties started with far less.

You will know other housewives. You will meet each other frequently at parties where you will begin to swap notes. They are easy to spot. Like you, they will adorn the arms of a man three decades older, appear in glittery clothes, smile the most and utter the least words. They know all the good gossip. They also know how to dispose of the blogger questioning your son’s paternity. You will share a few giggles with them but they will never be your friends. With each exchange, they are sparring for the top position in your social circle. If your husband is not the richest, you might need to endure more than a few barbs. 

Your looks are your tools in the trade. Don’t let them fade away. Take trips abroad to see Asian doctors for a little fold and tuck every few years. But never as long as nine months. You don’t want to fuel the rumor mill. 

If you must, take a lover. One of those young ambitious men that grace your husband’s parties; preferably married. Someone with as much to lose as you do. You alone shouldn’t be burdened with the task of maintaining secrecy. Steer clear of the artsy types! They are as predictable as NEPA. Young lovers are the best cure for melancholy. Their streak for adventure and staying power in bed will revive your youth and keep the glow on your cheeks faster than a shot of Botox. Keep him on a retainer for when you are out of the city. He will become more valuable when your husband can’t even get it up to take a piss.

Get a signature smile. One that doesn’t bring out your wrinkles but draws attention to the little dimple on the left cheek and the teeth you travel abroad twice a year to whiten. This might warrant practicing in front of a mirror for hours. Do not despair. Once it is perfected, you have a default expression for uncomfortable situations. It is this same smile with which you will read out the tribute at your husband’s burial, just before you take the next flight to England with your share of his estates.

If you do all these, I guarantee you won’t need to write a memoir to keep afloat. 

See you at the top.

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