You see, there is this conversation that we all have with ourselves, within ourselves and most times I just listen to mine. So, here’s an introduction to the Isio that is; beneath the surface.
There’s my mind: sharp, witty, caustic, 100% Realist. No nonsense. A ferocious reader; likes to acquire knowledge, highly opinionated.
And there’s my soul: soft, kind, maternal, nurturing, and forgiving. She is the lover, the spiritual one, the deep thinker, very empathic.
And there’s my body: which is where I come in, this vessel, experiencing life. The voice of the mind and soul. Likes beautiful things. Does not like driving, does not like traffic, absolutely detests saliva, sweat and yucky bodily fluids, loves laughing, exotic food and pretty much is concerned with the more mundane things of life. She is the everlasting referee between the caustic mind and the sensitive soul.
This is Isio.
Isio Knows Better is an attempt to capture the shocking and highly entertaining conversation within myself. Now I must say that these conversations happen in various languages, in any situation and underneath a poker face and a hidden smile.
“You say you don’t like Ibo boys, but you keep dating them.”
This statement stopped me straight in my tracks. I had gone on a 15-minute non-stop tirade about the many injustices that had plagued me since I had the misfortune of meeting and loving (until I did not) every moment of a certain Igbo man. I was horrified. I shrieked, “GOD FORBIDDDDDDD!”
She calmly listed names. Likers, the liked and the “likees”. Now my throat went dry. She was right. We ended our phone call. I needed to process this.
Yup, God does have a sense of humor afterall. It is said that you attract that which you condemn. For me, it must be Igbo men.
“Ehennnn, Papa God, I see what you are doing o, I don see ya hand. Hmmmmn, papisko papisko, Alpha and Omega, okay o, well done. I will soon start shouting that I hate Arab Money, make you for shock me with plenty Arab money na. As you don decide say na reverse psychology level we dey so…” I chuckle my urban prayer to God. You see, he is not just my creator, he is my padi, and we have this “thing”. He is awesome.
I think of the bestie’s words as I flop onto my couch. “Ouch…” I grimaced. I had landed with more force than expected. Rubbing my sore behind, I mused.This does NOT sit well with my idea of self. I know myself.
So what exactly does this mean?
Does this mean they are so amazing and irresistible? I grudgingly refuse to accept this… Okay fine, they can be amazing- sometimes. I chuckle to myself… Even my closest male friend was Ibo. “Delta-Ibo” he refers to himself. “What does that even mean?” I whine in exasperation. This was not a new argument. “Your name has the “C”s, the “K”s and the “U”s. It sounds Ibo to me.” He gives me “the look”. I drop the topic.
Does this mean I actually do not “NOT LIKE” Igbo boys? So, really, WHY do I seem to attract them? The alternative truth is that perhaps I DON’T love myself as much as I think.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a tribalist. I am thoroughly on the fence on that one. When I read of the hate/tribal bashing amongst the major tribes in Nigeria, what I think about is what would happen if we had another civil war forcing Nigeria to split and we were all forced to go back to our states of origin. Seeing as I am neither Yoruba, nor Ibo, nor am I Hausa, what would happen to this Urhobo woman if the country did split?
I imagined packing my ‘load’ back to my father’s village in Ughelli, Delta State. I imagined endless village meetings, making starch for my “battalion” of uncles when they come to do the Wanogho family meetings at our house. I imagined trekking a ‘great distance’ to go buy Milo and milk.Splitting is probably a bad idea.
My Soul kept nagging me to confront this truth about myself. This whole like-not-like-Ibo-Men-issue. I ignored her for months (well, at least I tried). She would not rest until I confronted every truth about myself. She felt it was important for me to figure this out. That it is important for one to know one’s self. Every beautiful, ugly, dark, scary, glorious or yamayama thing about yourself. That this is the secret of peace. Go within yourself. Check yourself. In the words of writer N.L Walsh, “If you do not go within, you go without…” she sing-songed through my consciousness. Get lost jo! But since I KNOW you cannot get lost as you are Me, I will confront this.
I don’t actually dislike Ibo men. I just say it because I’ve had the most… well, unpalatable experiences (comparatively) in relationships with Igbo men. In fact, I have been singing this song for so long that I didn’t realize I was surrounded (ironically) by Igbo- brothers.
The other day I was in my other best friend’s house. We were there with her husband’s people. Laughing and dining. I was in my Warri babe element. Gesticulating and mimicking and descriptive. Then they start extolling the virtues of marrying an Ibo guy.
“I am sorry o, and apologies in advance, but MOST Igbo guys treat their non-native girlfriends/wives BADLY!” I interjected.
Ehhhh! Ewoooooo! Chineke! Heeeeeeey! The confusion and uproar was instant. The party erupted into a series of shocked activities. Like something from a Nollywood movie. I am sure somebody jumped up and put his hands on his head with his mouth agape. Another must have bitten his fingers and leaped from the sofa to the middle of the room. It was dramatic. It was epic. My friend and her husband were laughing hard.
Uncle Nnamdi, the oldest, a chieftain from one of the more prestigious Igbo families says that this is a first he has heard. That many women usually wish to marry into the tribe because of the legendary ways their men take care of their women. The others nod in affirmation. He vows that I will marry one of them and that he WILL personally find me one… (He turns to my “date” and apologies. The poor Yoruba guy had gummed his yansh on his chair since and seemed to be half enjoying and half frightened by the spectacle).
Now it was my turn to leap from the sofa (Nollywood Style) and snap my fingers as I swung my hand across my head in the famous God forbid bad thing gesture. They all laughed heartily. My friend is on my side. She tries to explain. Still they insist that for that I MUST marry a good Ibo man who would make up for the ugliness the Ibo ex caused. They begin to discuss suitable sons…social status and pedigree was highly considered. They did not want me to suffer.
Well, there was the one who loved and punished me consistently for years. My biggest sin was that I reminded him of his ex fiancee who broke his heart.
There was the one who was telling me his life’s history. How he had always loved me from afar but would want to marry an Ibo village girl… To say I was flabbergasted was an understatement. I told him it was highly arrogant of him to assume that he was someone I would want to be married to in the first place. It was only rice and stew, not starch and banga. Perhaps you should have asked me “if” I wanted you first. He kept malice with me and deleted me off his BBM.
Then there was the one who stalked me. From London to Lagos. Perched outside my place. He would sit in his car for hours just to see me walk by. Then angry messages on my cell-phone. Didn’t I see him wave at me?
(Of course I didn’t, weirdo. It was raining and I didn’t realize the stalking had reached that level).
One minute he is sending me stinkers, the next he is concerned for me and worrying if London wasn’t too cold for me. “Have you taken medicines? Don’t catch a cold baby… I’m sorry I was angry the last time… PICK UP MY CALLS YOU F**KER!!!!” Just my luck. Of all the people on TV he had to get fixated on, it just had to be me this one chose.
Then there are those ones who will date a non-native, but will rather go “home” and marry someone from their tribe to please their families. And they would come back crying to you about it. Thankfully, this has not been my experience, though I have seen it happen more times than I could count.
So here it is, my darling Soul, after reflecting I do realize that I don’t dislike them at all, in spite of every unpalatable experience. After all, every person is different and each tribe has its stereotype true/false that other people believe to be true. (Don’t even get me started on Urhobo stereotypes).
Now I believe that God just used it to teach me that there should be no prejudice in one’s heart. By bringing me different versions of the very thing I had condemned (as friends, colleagues, lovers and villains) he was teaching me to let go of my personal prejudice and see people for WHO THEY ARE while they are in my life, and deal with them accordingly, not what I think they would be. See the person, not the tribe.
But Father Lord, just in case you REALLY are into this reverse-psychology thing, just to be clear, I really, thoroughly, completely and passionately HATE Arab money o. And while we are at it, let me just say that I think having a multi-million Euro beach house in Sardinia is utterly disgusting. But seriously, if you insist that I am honest with you about things that just piss me off, know that those skyscrapers that will be built in Eko Atlantic City just break my heart and fills me with vile- bitter, green bile. I shall be wanting 5 of those properties anyway. Okay, 50 or 55. I need to keep these things close to my chest so they don’t annoy other God fearing people. Thank You Father… yes, yes, I love you too.
Love and Gratitude.
Isio Wanogho is a top-model, TV Personality and entrepreneur. She is conversant in five languages and has 12 years of experience in the Nigerian entertainment industry. Isio, popularly known by her brand name Isio De-laVega, captivates audiences with her signature wide smile and relatable, quirky personality which endears her to many. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @isiodelavega