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Omonike Omuya: You Have the Right to Remain Silent

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dreamstime_l_40738392It is hard not to react when someone is saying something about us that insults or misrepresents our person. Something in us will want to get in there and set the record straight, clear up our name and put the person in their place. It is especially tempting and even necessary when that false narrative is becoming our reality and other people are beginning to interpret our actions and respond to us based on allegations and assumptions. Driven by the rumor mill we feel our world spinning out of control and find ourselves always wondering what people have heard and if it is the reason behind their actions or inactions.

Oprah Winfrey has spoken of a time when she called Maya Angelou to complain about what was being said about her in the press hoping to get a sympathetic ear but her mentor only listened and then pointed out that she was not the person being referred to by those comments. “You’re not in it” she said, as if to say there is nothing about you in those comments or that’s not you or that’s not about you.

The mere fact that someone says something with your name attached to it does not make it true and the very fact that what they have said about you isn’t true tells you they do not know you well or know you at all. So you do not need to bother to explain yourself to a mere stranger- a common outsider who isn’t in the picture of your life.

The thing about explaining is, it betrays a need for approval. It tells the person that you are bothered by what they think of you. In the safety of the appropriate relationships, this in itself is not bad. What is bad is this explaining that gives too much information to total strangers who have no right to know, no basis to judge and no value to add. Strangers who will treat the tragic events in your life as bullet points in a fact file, more concerned about being current with the newsfeed of your life than genuinely interested in your wellbeing through those events. Outsiders who will treat your tales of woe like any other entertaining reality TV series, staying tuned for episodic releases and live updates on social media and feeling entitled to comment on the plot of your story. Frenemies who will listen only to turn around and use what you have said against you.

The funny part is, people know their place. They know they don’t deserve your explanation so they hit where it hurts- your pride, your name and your honor- to get you to offer it to them to validate their importance in the name of vindicating yourself. They will say anything to get you dishing juicy details including equating your silence to guilt and your self restraint to weakness.

Manipulative friends and relatives know how to get your goat, how to misconstrue, to mix the true with the untrue, to find the fire by tracing the smoke, to call up everyone else but you just to pressure you to submit yourself to their interrogations explain yourself if you want the heat to subside. But they only want cheapened privileges they cannot earn and free intimacy they can neither sow nor should reap.

Where everything you say and do, can and will be used against you, you have the right to remain silent. When you give people the underserved explanation they are looking for, it not only justifies their invasion of your privacy but rewards it.

Granted there are cases where some kind of response may be in order. Maybe to change a dangerous narrative that is putting you or your kids in danger or your livelihood and reputation at risk but if we must explain let it be detailed to the extent of the depth and quality of our relationship with the person we are explaining to. So that we unburden and entrust ourselves most to those we know and those we owe and least to those who in the real sense neither know us nor care about us and therefore should not have a say or sway over our decisions.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Omonaikee creates media content on print, online, tv, radio, social media and for events. Her work has been published in Cosmo, Bella Naija, Ynaija, Imbue Magazine, Metropole, +234Next magazine and True love west Africa. She blogs at www.omonaikee.blogspot.com.

37 Comments

  1. beyyyyy

    May 2, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    so tiwa savage shouldn’t have spoken out? After being accused of infidelity and neglecting MARRIAGE in NIGERIA?
    boo you

    • Tola

      May 2, 2016 at 7:53 pm

      I don’t think some people read the article through. She said that if you must respond let it be in order and with as much depth as necessary. Some just want to hear more gist from you not because they care. Their ears itch for gossip which to them is sweeter than honey. They just want to keep making comments about your personal affairs and sometimes in your ignorance you keep feeding them more. Everyone will decide how far they want to go with their circumstances as far as the public is concerned.

    • Kadara

      May 2, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      Madam writer how about you take your own advice and remain silent since you have nothing sensible to say . You madam are an opportunist trying to reap from another woman’s sad moment. You say her replying shows she was bothered by what people were saying about her. Duh , it seems you’ve forgotten that her livelihood depends a lot on what people do think of her . Who will buy the album of someone that’s been labeled a whore by her own husband? Someone who’s mother has been labeled a witch that has turned her father into a mumu? Which company is going to have such a woman as an ambassador particular when her popularity drops ? So yes it absolutely matters to Tiwa’s brand what people think of her .
      Also responding is not just to clear her name but to take the power away from a bully. Teebillz put up that drama to try and destroy her since he believes he made her. He’s the type of man that when he believes he’s going down will try and take everyone down with him. Tiwa had to come out and expose him for the manipulator that her is , now he has no more power over her. His type love playing the victim so it’s necessary to show the world What he really is.

      I hail Tiwa for speaking up in a society that teaches women to keep shut even when a man is butchering them .

      Madam hypocrite where was your write up to Teebillz when he was ranting . You , Charles Novia and the rest of the opportunists why didn’t you write to chastise Teebillz then? He is a man so he should be allowed to rant and destroy Her life right and she should just take it lying down because she’s a woman!

      I kept waiting for people to rise up in her defense when Teebillz and the public were dragging her through the mud yet you lot turned a blind eye . Probably joined in calling her names Sef, saying she frustrated him into talking Abi. Well since no one defended her she has decided to defend herself and did an amazing job of it.

      When your own husband drags you and your family through the mud please feel free to remain silent and show us how it’s done . For now this is not your life or your decision so just shut up

    • Anonymous

      May 2, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      I have never commented on bellanaija before but because of you i decided to, the way God will bless you ehn for this your comment you would be surprised i didn’t even finish reading the article sef it just sounded like b.s not everytime silence sometimes open your mouth and speak your truth, again kadara God bless you jare ????

    • GraceOfGOD

      May 3, 2016 at 9:59 am

      Good morning Madam,

      I just want to react to your STATEMENTS => “Madam writer how about you take your own advice and remain silent since you have nothing sensible to say . You madam are an opportunist trying to reap from another woman’s sad moment. You say her replying shows she was bothered by what people were saying about her.”

      NOWHERE did I READ the name of Tiwa here, NOWHERE. Did we READ the SAME article at ALL? I personally FOUND this article GREAT because I used to JUSTIFY myself TOO MUCH and at the END they USED it against me.

      And have you READ these statements from the AUTHOR => “Granted there are cases where some kind of response may be in order. Maybe to change a dangerous narrative that is putting you or your kids in danger or your livelihood and reputation at risk but if we must explain let it be detailed to the extent of the depth and quality of our relationship with the person we are explaining to”.

      There the AUTHOR said there are EXCEPTIONS and we should CHOOSE WISELY what infos to GIVE OUT and to WHO. I know you are ENTITLED to your OPINION and I RESPECT that RIGHT but Madam I think you did not understand the MESSAGE. Have a GREAT day and stay BLESSED 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Cesc

      May 2, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      This is a well constructed, well thought our article and there are a lot of good points to take away..

      However this does not apply in the Tiwa situation and hence this article was published with very bad timing..

      Keeping silent can sometimes apply to situations whereby people/ colleagues / acquaintances / online followers /even friends make insinuations and/or assumptions about things going on In your personal life/family/work/marriage etc all in a bid to extract information from you. Information they probably intend to use as gossip fodder/gist. Then in that case, by all means keep silent and just do you.

      In my opinion. Tiwa made the best decision for her brand and her peace of mind.

      However maybe a written statement would have sufficed instead of those painful visuals which will most likely stick for a long time even after the story has died down

    • Morolake

      May 3, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      I feel so sorry for the writer, very poor timing for this post. I wish she had waited a little longer before sending it in, the message is almost lost cos of the whole T & T wahala.

      Pele.

  2. diamondx

    May 2, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    First time i’m commenting on this issue but enough already with this tiwa and tunji wahala. Enough of the milking ! I’m not a die hard tiwa fan but her predicament hurts me.

  3. kalalllalala

    May 2, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    this writer is clearly one of those women who want everyone to know that they are not feminists and that they are submissive and ‘i dont have female friends cause they are too stressful.’ disgusted

  4. Cheekie

    May 2, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Ohhhhhhhhhh please,with all due respect ma’am kindly get your inspiration to write from some other source.. We all know this article has T n T written all over it…Whatever you wrote is easier said than done,and it’s not applicable in all cases..Some situations may require you to walk away and stay silent,whilst some require you to speak out. Enough already with being subjective as opposed to being objective…

    • "changing moniker"

      May 2, 2016 at 11:49 pm

      Did you read the article? Because that’s what she said.

  5. aproko

    May 2, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    and this one just crawl out of shell

  6. Halima

    May 2, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Nice piece. Toke, Dabota and Linda should read this. I think people often bash them on this blog. Bellanaija don’t hold on to my comment like yesterday. The truth needs to be said

  7. Laila

    May 2, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Puhleeeeeeez!!! Are you not one the strangers now using Tiwa’s situation for mileage? Lets get this. Tiwa has cracked the ceiling. There are just too many marriages in Nigeria today resonnating her story. From that interview,alone, you cannot begin to imagine just how many young women are silently refusing to be stampeded. What Tiwa did may seem like media hype today but Lord knows, even the men have taken note. Stop making this about relative silence. Tiwa’s case is clearly that of emotional, economic abuse and domestic violence.

    And as a woman, you should know better!!!

  8. Cheekie

    May 2, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    I don’t know why this post is rubbing me off the wrong way,making me angry….
    She did what was right to/for her under the circumstances her husband had thrown her in..She wasn’t ‘explaining’ ‘,defending’ herself,she was simply telling ‘her story’ ‘her journey’..
    She may/may not later regret she spilled all(we can argue she should/could have filtered out some things),but she did what was best for [email protected] moment…If she decided not to tow the line her hubby went with,we would still have bashed her and written a post/article on women keeping silent,women turning the other cheek,women being timid/weak,women allowing men walk all over them etc…
    You can never know what your reaction or line of action would be,until you are faced with such… Whatever she did is her prerogative,no need judging what you don’t know,or think you know…Walk a mile in her shoes and let’s see what you would do…

  9. Dolly

    May 2, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    You have the right to remain silent or NOT
    As an adult you choose what to and not react to and if you go anywhere but too far when you react, so be it. Your rules don’t apply to someone else’s period

  10. Tina

    May 2, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Since T&T saga, every goat, fowl, idiot now turn adviser, mtewwwwwww.
    BN if you like don’t post

  11. Jon

    May 2, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Great post.The best have read with genuine advice on this issue,Am a fan of Tiwa.I would have preferred she didn’t give that interview,this beautiful post is very educating,the Lord is there strength,still listening to My Darling by Tiwa.

  12. Cmbo

    May 2, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Nonsense!

  13. See

    May 2, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    I see. When people call you names and deride you, remain silent. Then crawl into a hole and cry there till you die. When you are accussed of things you didn’t do and it matters enough to break your heart, keep your lips sealed and be stoic whilst you break the necks of your offenders in your mind’s eye but wear a bold face in the eye of the public. Don’t speak up for yourself Don’t have your day in court. Crouch in a corner and feel dejected, so that people can say you are mature and you are the bigger person.

    Never again in my life will I stand silent in the face of an accusation. I will say my part and sleep better at night. Never again will the rubbish another person says about me rob me of my peace of mind because I’m pretending to be the better man. I certainly won’t respond to every issue but if it steals my peace, my voice must be heard. And when I have said my part, then I am free.

    But as the writer says, you have the right to remain silent. Be the better man even if it kills you. Tell the public you don’t care about the opinion while you cry under your pillow because you’re too ashamed to show your face over a matter that has enslaved you even if it is a lie.

    If you have ever walked that road, you will know how it feels.

  14. Josephine

    May 2, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Madam Writer, just pray that the unthinkable never happens to you. A woman’s lawful husband and father of her child finished her and her mother yet you have the guts to compare this to random people and media gossip. If she didn’t take such a stance you would be the first one to think silence means guilty as charged. And its not about a need for approval as you state. Its about her livelihood. If she loses her fans and endorsements who will feed her and her child? You???? Certainly not her irresponsible husband. Your article is a disgrace because you condemn Tiwa and not one who went on instagram to destroy. Shame on you.

  15. Kemi O

    May 2, 2016 at 7:08 pm

    If anyone falsely accuses me of adultery, I’ll speak out, shout, and ensure that I say my part; i will make sure my part is heard by all and sundry. Two can play the allegation and accusation game. We should be encouraging more women to speak out and talk about the shackles preventing them from fulfilling destiny and living purposeful lives; nobody was born to be a dummy; no woman was born to live a life of servitude.
    #can’t deal# accidental/emergency writers and columnists#

  16. Adear

    May 2, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    i do agree with the article, in Tiwa’s n T. Joker’s situation, she clearly did not have to respond just because of what people will say; who cares or believed that dude in the first place, is dumb, when the news broke out about his marital problems, his words had no merit. Could not be bothered; How can a man, supposedly an adult, a father, not know his way to the kitchen to make himself food or where to go get food. Mister, you aint working self, even if you are both two people were working – you are not serious! So sick of entitled men, they clearly should not get married. they should stay @ home with their mothers and suck breast. it’s 2016…… that 45 mins detailed interview was tacky, and seemed fake, Because you want us to be sorry for you, but the guy didnt jsut become a nightmare overnight. BS, I feel like something aint right, Tiwa strikes me as a wised up person and a bad actress…. watch them stayed married because this was probably all fabricated drama for entertainment. anyway sha, ask yourself what with Michelle Obama do? I believe is that she ll keep it quiet, if she said anything at all; it will be short and classy, abeg no more about these people,still not listening to the music.

    • See

      May 2, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      Seeing as Michelle Obama is the ultimate abi? ‘Ask yourself what will Michelle Obama do?” You will go and die in a hole because you’re pretending to be someone you’re not. When you wake up tomorrow, look in your mirror and ask yourself that question if it suits you.

  17. Daybreak

    May 2, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Why do people think they have the right to tell others how to react to issues? Deal with yours how you want it and leave others to deal with it their way. Can we respect others’ choices biko?

    • Baby gurl

      May 2, 2016 at 11:38 pm

      For 3/4 days since this “saga” started this is by far the most insightful comment I have come across. Who gave us the right to question why T-Billz went off on instagram or why Tiwa granted the interview or even why Nigerians reacted in the different manners in which we all did? Who is walking my shoe with me? Who is walking Tiwa’s shoes with her biko?

  18. Ivy

    May 2, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Rubbish! People only open theirs mouths and advice when they are not the ones wearing the shoe.

  19. Ivy

    May 2, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Rubbish! Some people just give advice even when they aren’t the ones wearing the shoe. When you wear that shoe that hurts, then let’s see how you react.

  20. cleo

    May 2, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    she had the right to remain silent. she had the right to talk. it is her choice not yours.
    when it your turn make your choice

  21. Nunulicious

    May 2, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    Tiwa Savage na my girl and I’m glad she spoke out. There were some revelations she made though that made me cringe and makes me hope it doesn’t hurt her in the long run.

    Sigh. A curious contradictory part of the bible comes to mind: Do not answer a fool according to his folly lest you become like him; Answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own eyes.

    Double sigh. I pray when in the heat of the moment, we have wisdom to know when to be quiet and when to exercise the right to be silent.

    E-hugs to those who may find themselves in such circumstances.

  22. Anonymous

    May 2, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Wow, all these people giving negative responses… for want of a better expression are stupid. You didn’t read the disclaimer at the bottom. Why do you assume she was writing on Tiwa? Don’t worry, when you meet ridiculous idiots that invade your privacy, spread lies and expect an explanation from you, then you’d understand this piece.

    As for me, I’m going to be reading this again like bible. Thank you madam.

  23. Chine

    May 2, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Madam writer…you are one of those suffering and smiling people littered all over Nigeria. Abeg no kill yourself enduring and forming maturity. So what if you re emotional? It’s not a bad thing o. Bottling up hurt makes you more a slave to other people’s opinion. That’s why we have women who get jealous and bitter in their later years. They don’t achieve much because they afraid of being the trouble maker. You are accused of sleeping with other people’s husbands,, you go keep quiet. Mba o.. whether na true or na lie.. we will never know, but we will always wonder, the tunji has done plenty damage… she has to defend herself in her own words. Raw.. Biko why do we now have mouth and brain?

  24. passerby

    May 2, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    BN is getting scarier by the minutes.
    See as una just wash down this writer..
    And I was considering sending my opinion piece.
    Well sha, Marriages are becoming jungles. Don’t let this patriarchal society keep you from saving yourself, or your child(ren).
    There was an opinion addressing that na: https://www.bellanaija.com/2016/04/henry-anumudu-culture-gender-inequality/

  25. larz

    May 3, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Na wa for people oh. How did this become about Tiwa? If you think it was good advice, take it. If not, leave it. I personally don’t see the link to Tiwa at all. It just doesn’t apply.

  26. Chu

    May 3, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Nice article, bad timing. There has been a lot of talk on social media this year. I think this article is more apt for the P Square drama. She did not say don’t release statements but release with caution knowing that majority of the people you are talking to just care about the gist and not your personal welfare so less is better.

  27. blueblad

    May 3, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    That you don’t agree with someone’s point of view does not give you the right to throw insults. The writer has made several reasonable points, pick what is wisdom to you and ignore what is nonsense to you without throwing insults like uninformed people. She did not say you must agree to all or some of what she has written.. Be guided.

  28. SIsi

    May 3, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    As a general principle in life I think this is good advice. Unfortunately as others have pointed out bad timing and a clear link to a situation that is anomaly and fits exactly into your examples of exceptional cases. When someone close to you is trying to destroy you with a very publicly incorrect and damaging narrative please do not remain silet, in fact shout loud.

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