The American Microsoft giant, Bill Gates, was once the richest man in the world. Now the fourth richest he is rated by Forbes billionaires rich list as having worth billions of Dollars. He is munificent, gentle and an elder statesman. He speaks softly and looks every inch a handsome rich man, any lady's dream husband any day anywhere. Gates demonstrates how money cannot change a man to the extent that he plays god or becomes a problem for the society to manage. He comports himself responsibly engaging in charity donations through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with an endowment of some $50 billion.

Bill Gates, 65, who co-founded Microsoft, is one of the richest people in the world worth an estimated $124 billion! A staggering amount of money in the account of one man. Employing over 1,600 staff members in offices around the world, the Gates Foundation gives away roughly $5 billion each year in areas like global public health and development. Africa has benefitted immensely from these donations.

If every billionaire would behave like Bill Gates then megalomania, egoism or haughtiness would become a thing of the past in our challenged world of immorality and sin. But not every big man is like Gates for obvious reasons. Money has a way of turning a hitherto good man into a monster, a junkie or an insane case. The more money flows in the more uncontrollable a man could become thinking himself invincible or immortal.

SOC Okenwa

Bill and Melinda Gates had married for blissful eventful 27 years. They are blessed with three grown-up children. Lately it appears the marriage has become irretrievably broken to the point of no return. In a statement the wealthy couple made public recently announcing their divorce they made it clear that they were parting ways because they believed they could no longer grow together as a couple in the new phase of their lives!

For the average observer there could be more to the consensual separation than the Gates were making public. There could have been years or months of conjugal tension leading to the decision.

They first met in the 1980s when Melinda joined Bill's Microsoft firm. And began dating soon after. They got married in 1994 on the Hawaiian island of Lanai. Both Bill and Melinda had visited Africa mingling with the poorest and wretched of the continent with little or no complex.

Before Bill married Melinda (now 56) there was this reported 'special' arrangement that allowed the husband to maintain an annual liaison with his former ex, Ann Winblad! That is, yearly, Melinda would allow Bill to go frolic with Ann anywhere. If that did not amount to spousal abomination then it surely qualified for redefinition of marriage (for better-for worse) as we know it.

High-profile divorce by power couples is not a new or unusual thing. Whether it happens in America, Nigeria or elsewhere marital bliss turning sour has been with man from time immemorial. But it goes beyond that. What sustains marriage? Understanding of both parties in richness or poverty or fame or money? Infidelity, poor communication or recklessness in words and actions could lead to marital break-up. Lack of money could play a role as well. And parental or friendship influences could be another source of marital woes.

Nigeria does not fare any better in terms of marital blues. In Kano millions of divorce cases are recorded and Lagos witnesses a whole lot of marital clashes which often lead to judicial interventions and dissolutions. In the south-east there are cases of divorce but we must admit here that these are rare. Marriage in Igboland is so expensive that divorce is last in any couple's priorities even if domestic differences arise more often than not.

There is this resurgent cases of high-profile and low-profile divorces lately. It is no longer a class thing. The marriage institution has lost its natural appeal; it has been bastardised. People now marry for purposes of convenience rather than true love. Yet the truth is that marriage without real love as foundation is bound to collapse with time.

It is no longer a taboo hearing about husbands 'raping' their wives or wives 'raping' their husbands! Daily tales abound about marriages hitting the rocks. Celebrities are the worst culprits. Corrupted by wealth they seek to 'taste' other sexual puddings outside wedlock and when their spouses get wind of their sexcapades they plead for forgiveness in the name of 'love' or for the sake of the kids. Some even blame it on the devil!

In the entertainment industry in Nigeria (especially Nollywood) you often hear or read about marriages collapsing like packs of card. Due to one irreconciliable difference or another the couple decide to go their seperate ways. Some men and ladies marry and remarry as if failed marriage deserves a trophy! No one regrets anything but everyone seem happy that days of inconvenient togetherness are gone for good.

In the magistrate or customary courts you hear about husbands or wives pleading with judges to dissolve their marriages for one feeble reason or the other. While the man could say that the woman was beating him up at night for coming home late or that the Eve was denying him sex for years the woman could marshall the argument that the man was a drunkard or compulsive philanderer who took no care of the children.

If it were in Nigeria, given our hypocrisy and religiosity, Melinda would have been prevailed upon to stay strong in the marriage even if her feelings were hurt. You hardly hear about this kind of dissolution of marriage concerning a moneyed man like Gates. Marabouts, Pastors, prayer warriors and other diabolical means would have come into play manifesting themselves in spiritual warfare!

Whatever must have led to the Gates' divorce is not yet known publicly. But their separation is one divorce in gold! Every party is a 'winner' or so it seems. And both parties appear glad to end the conjugal journey with their heads held high. No recrimination, no jealousy, no ill-will, life goes on. As life goes on, however, so there would be more marriages and divorces. Let true love triumph over the untrue one dominating our lives.

We are not going to weep for Bill or Melinda since their divorce is consensual. We would rather weep for the institution of marriage which over the years had suffered enormous abuse at the hands of the Adamic elements. We would remember the Bill/Melinda marriage while it lasted for the millions of Dollars the Gates Foundation had generously pumped into the anti-polio campaign in Nigeria. Millions of lives have been saved through their financial largesse and interventions.

May Bill And Melinda Gates live long!

SOC Okenwa
soco_abj_2006_rci@hotmail.fr

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