When Derin* married her campus fellowship friend-turned-love interest, politics was the last thing she saw in their future. She talks about why she decided to follow his lead, fearing for her children’s safety and other challenges when you’re in the public eye.
This is Derin’s story, as told to Boluwatife
When we met, Debo* was a mild-mannered church boy. We became close friends, and soon realised we had similar dreams, We were simple people who just wanted to do business and serve God with our finances.
He proposed marriage to me soon after I graduated from Lagos State University in 2011. We’d actually met there, in the campus fellowship I joined in my second year. He was in his finals.
We got married in 2012, and had two kids in succession. We didn’t lack anything. His real estate business was growing steadily, and I was into retailing female fashion items. We’re both quite entrepreneurial, so the long-term goal was to build a business empire. We’d own multiple businesses and support the church financially. And we were on track, until politics entered the picture.
I should mention that all through our years of friendship and brief courtship before marriage, politics was never in the picture. No reaction to national issues or conversations gave the tiniest idea that he’d someday be interested in politics. Business and church had always been his priorities. We were — and still are — very religious, so we just focused on God guiding us through the way and blessing the works of our hands.
Then in 2016 — four years into our marriage — people started coming to him to talk about politics. He had become quite successful in real estate, which meant he had access to an impressive network of people. They told him how much real impact he’d make if he were part of the people making decisions that affected the nation and even the business sector. He relayed their suggestions to me, and I wasn’t in support.
Everyone knows politics is a dirty and often violent game. I didn’t even think he was seriously considering it till he woke up one day and said he would become a card-carrying member of one of the popular parties. I kicked against it. This was a party known for thuggery and corruption, but he assured me he wasn’t actually running for office, he was only joining. According to him, there was no way to make light take the place of the darkness in our society if the light decided to cower away. I had to agree.
He eventually became fairly active. He’d attend their meetings and conventions, which seemed to triple in frequency as election season drew closer. His weekends became filled with party activities. I hated it, but I could do nothing except pray for him and hope his interest would end with becoming a member. It didn’t. He came home one day in late 2018 and said he felt God was leading him to contest in the 2019 elections for a federal representative seat in his hometown.
This was a big shock for two primary reasons. One, we weren’t in the habit of making significant decisions without agreeing as a family and seeking God’s approval together. Two, when did running for office enter the picture? We had extensive talks about it, and again, I agreed though I wasn’t so sure about it. He’s my husband, I have to follow his lead. Apart from the somehow-ness of politics, I’m also not a big fan of begging people to “Please, vote for me”. There’s this desperation attached to it that doesn’t sit well with me.
He picked the form and started campaigning in earnest. The first hurdle to cross was the party primary elections. I think two people from his party were also seeking the party’s ticket. The campaigns meant he had to leave our home in Lagos a lot to oversee things in his hometown. I also tried to attend some of the campaign efforts.
I wasn’t as involved in the campaigns as he was because it really wasn’t my thing, and less attention was placed on the spouses since it was still just the primaries.
We had to start moving with armed police officers though, because joining politics automatically opens you up to more eyes. We also had to take down pictures of our children from social media just to be safe. Our finances really took a hit during this period because most of the campaign efforts were out of pocket. Most of which involved providing relief packages for his constituency, refurbishing a water distribution system, and all those small small monies here and there to community heads to boost popularity.
These tactics seemed to work because he became something like a household name. According to his team on the ground, his campaign materials were everywhere and the people knew his name. He was like the people’s favourite to win the primaries.
Then one day, the party leaders called him aside and suggested he entered into some sort of covenant with them so they’d be assured of his loyalty if he eventually got the party’s ticket and won the House of Representatives elections. It already sounded diabolical, and my husband refused. He assured them he had the party’s interests at heart and that they could take his word for it. They obviously weren’t pleased with that response because after he won the first primary election, they cancelled it due to some “irregularities” they noticed and slated a date for a re-run.
On the eve of the re-run, they came out to say they didn’t want an election again, stating that the party stakeholders had appointed someone to represent the party instead. That’s how my husband’s ambitions ended.
I’m somewhat relieved, but it feels like it’s just the start of his political career. He didn’t run in the 2023 elections, but we’re already in the public eye. It means I can’t tweet anything I like or even go to the cinema alone for a late-night movie, and I’m still concerned for his and our children’s safety once in a while.
I know 2019 won’t be the last time he’ll try to run for office, because I sense how uneasy he feels about the state of the nation. His favourite line now is, “We need godly people in government.” He may not run now, but definitely when the political landscape changes for the better. For me, I’m just prepping myself to pray for and support him when the time comes.
*Names have been changed for the sake of anonymity.
NEXT READ: I Hate Spending My Own Money