The worse thing you can do in a relationship that is over is hang on. Even when all the signs and red flags are there that you need to move on, staying might just be a death sentence because you can lose yourself, your sanity, your worth, become suicidal, bleach your skin for validation, subject yourself to abuse and equally worse, end up with a sexually transmitted infection/disease (STD or STI). This is the message that it appears Nigerian media personality and relationship guru Toke Makinwa tries to get across in her new memoir titled ‘On Becoming’ which she released on Sunday, November 27, 2016, at a launch party at The Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria.
While I am yet to read her memoir, my reading of her introductory chapter and excerpts made available to the press tells the story of a woman who was with a man for fourteen years (twelve of which she dated him), married him and realized he was nothing short of the scum of the earth. Makinwa’s memoir, as represented to the public, is packed with her sensational account of an addiction to emotional pain i.e. her co-dependency in a very toxic relationship with her ex-husband, Maje Ayida (Ayida), who from her version of the facts was emotionally, psychologically, and verbally abusive to her. According to Makinwa, Ayida cheated on her too numerous times to count, stood her up three times at the wedding altar, impregnated his ex-girlfriend Anita Solomon (Solomon) while still married to Makinwa, and equally worse, gave Makinwa an STD.
For our purposes, here is a pertinent excerpt from her memoir:
“He had given me an STI in the past. He’d returned from a trip once and we had sex, and a few days later I was itching.
I went to the doctors and they prescribed medication, but when I asked Maje about the infection he denied knowing anything about it. I went through his phone and saw a conversation with Anita where she complained that she had being itching.
This wasn’t news to Maje, more like an update that she was giving him on a situation that he already knew about.
He asked her what the doctor’s report said and what was prescribed.
I knew I would be putting myself at risk if I closed my eyes to whatever he chose to do on the side. So I went back to putting all my attention into my work.“
Makinwa admits her decision to stay with her ex-husband had a lot to do with a terrible self-image. She further claims, from excerpts in the book, that her ex-husband’s preference for his light skin ex-girlfriend during the years she dated him made her bleach her skin for his validation. She also claims his ill treatment of Makinwa almost drove Makinwa to commit suicide by drinking/thinking of drinking Dettol, a cleaning agent.
Let me say a few things on her story before delving into the legal liability issues present here.
First, I think this is a story about two emotionally unhealthy people who insisted on forging a relationship that should never have happened. The result, needless to say, is the birthing of more emotional toxicity, damage and devastation. Without casting any judgment on the two, we all, on some level, can relate to being in emotionally unhealthy relationships or know of people who are. Indeed, I hope if you are currently in an emotionally unhealthy relationship, Makinwa and Ayida’s story gives you the courage to move on.
Second, while I am very sensitive to the courage it took Makinwa to write her memoir, the truth is Makinwa was not a victim in her relationship with Ayida. In my view, a big part of healing has to be owning complete responsibility for our actions. It is an incredibly tough thing to do but is very empowering, liberating and draws us closer to truly becoming better versions of ourselves. Owning responsibility for the right or wrong choices we make including those who we choose to mate with, says our happiness is not conditioned on others validating us but on us validating ourselves.
From some of what I have read so far, including the marketing and promoting of the book, I do not see that clear ownership of responsibility on Makinwa’s part. Perhaps it will come later. Makinwa’s story, in my view, shows a woman with issues that run very deep and diverse and that has nothing to do with her ex-husband. It points to a woman whose self-esteem was already very low prior to Ayida. Indeed, she shares a story in her book of deep traumatic loss of her parents in a very tragic accident, as a child. Her loss deeply affected and had an overall impact on her relationship choices, including choosing a man who suffers from parallel insecurity issues and very low self-esteem. That loss and properly grieving it, in my view, is what Makinwa needs to focus on because it will continue to affect her choices towards “becoming” what she is truly meant to be.
Third, earlier this year, Toke Makinwa filed for divorce from her Ayida who cheated on her with his ex-girlfriend and impregnated his ex-girlfriend. While there is a clear establishment of cheating, by virtue of fathering a child out of wedlock while married to her, the bigger question is whether Makinwa’s claim in her memoir that Ayida gave her STI/STD is true. This is where we get into the legal shenanigans of writing a memoir.
Folks, when you write a memoir, especially where what you have to say involves other people and their lives, you have to be concerned about the way you characterize these persons to ensure you are not slapped with a lawsuit for defamation and invasion of privacy.
While Maje Ayida may seem like the scum of the earth who no one should want to associate with, given the highly embarrassing and somewhat shameful details now in the public domain about him, there are some legal rights he may still have.
Defamation and Invasion of Privacy claims
1. Did Toke Makinwa defame Maje Ayida and Anita Solomon in her memoir?
In her memoir, Makinwa claims Ayida gave her STI/STD, and took a step further to state implicitly and explicitly that Ayida also may have infected his ex-girlfriend Anita Solomon. Such statements, without nothing more, may attract a lawsuit against Makinwa for defamation.
What is Defamation?
Defamation is a false unprivileged statement about an individual that may consist of either libel or slander. The claim of defamation is about injury to the reputation of a person. Libel is defamation in writing, printing, picture or other fixed/permanent form (books, film, radio, television, blogs, social media like You Tube etc.) that exposes a person to hatred, ridicule, contempt, or causes a person to be shunned, or has a tendency to injure his/her reputation. When a statement on its face is defamatory, we say it is “libel per se.” Slander, on the other hand, is defamatory statement made orally or in a less permanent and physical form.
To successfully prevail in a claim against Makinwa for defamation, in Nigerian courts, Solomon and Ayida will have to show:
- Makinwa made a statement that they had STI/STD;
- The statement implicitly/explicitly referred to Solomon and Ayida; and
- The statements were published to at least one person other than Solomon and Ayida, the potential Plaintiffs here.
Since Ayida is a public figure, his case analysis will take into account whether the information published was reasonable and of public concern.
Meeting this three aforementioned factors is not hard for Ayida and Solomon. Ayida makes his money off his name and reputation as a health/fitness expert in Nigeria. In fact, he is currently on a cover of one of the leading publications in Nigeria discussing health/fitness issues affecting women. What credibility or authority does he now have to continue to discuss health/fitness topics when his ex-wife alleges he infects women, his target audience, with STIs/STDs in her book? What health brands will want to work with him? Why would they logically associate their brands with him? Why would the average Nigerian woman charged with the nutritional health and welfare of her home patronize Ayida, or brands that he is associated with after Makinwa’s damning statements?
Makinwa and her team had to consider all of these before releasing her memoir. If she has the evidence to show that Ayida in fact infected her with a STI/STD, then truth is a defense to a defamation claim Ayida may have against her. However, she still has an issue with proving he gave STD to his ex-girlfriend. Further, if the ex-girlfriend sues, Makinwa may have a very real challenge to show that the ex-girlfriend has STD and got it from Ayida.
2. Did Toke Makinwa Invade Ayida and Solomon’s Privacy in Revealing they have STI/STD?
Invasion of privacy is an unlawful intrusion into the personal life of another. There are four ways to invade a person’s privacy: a) through use of that person’s image or name for commercial advantage; b) intruding on the person’s affairs or seclusion; c) publishing facts that place that person in a false light; and d) publicly disclosing private facts about that person.
For our purposes, Ayida and Solomon may have claims against Makinwa, but given Ayida is a public figure who was married to Makinwa, a public figure, he may have a hard time showing that he had any reasonable expectation of privacy in his relationship with Makinwa. Solomon, on the other hand, may be a different story. Did Toke really have to share in her memoir information which suggests Solomon had a STI/STD?
3. Closing thoughts
Toke Makinwa is a very smart and shrewd business woman. If we doubted it, this memoir is a clear showing of how smart she is. It is the ultimate revenge. Unlike Tiwa Savage who spilled the story of her husband to Pulse.ng in a free, very crass and reckless manner (considering she claimed there was an underlying mental health issue her husband suffered from and he did attempt suicide), Makinwa thought this through carefully. After carefully thinking through it, she chose to effectively monetize her pain and almost seems to have the last laugh. How brilliant is it to write such a “must tell” memoir in a country where that is unheard of for women to do? Makinwa has just changed the game and placed many Nigerian men on notice that their cheating ways will be on public display and their reputations ruined if they choose to indulge.
However, I don’t believe her memoir will bring true healing. There is more work to be done and it requires going very deep to weed out all the broken-ness that was there before Ayida, and influenced her choice to date a man like Ayida.
As for Maje Ayida, I believe he needs to take a step back and find himself. He suffers from the same low self-esteem Makinwa does, and listening to him in a prior interview, he does a lot of deflecting. A man who knows his value isn’t about baby mama dramas, or positioning himself, through his choices, to have his family name and reputation dragged in the mud. Ayida needs serious counseling to get past his own broken-ness so he too can stop choosing broken women as partners, and further making his and their emotional injuries worse. Solomon needs counseling too so she stops making poor choices, or getting herself entangled with emotionally weak men.
In the final analysis, it all boils down to what move, if any, on the legal front, Ayida and Solomon will make against Makinwa for defamation or invasion of privacy. I think the economic damage to Ayida is substantial and suspect he will make a legal move. Until then, Makinwa will be smiling all the way to the bank.
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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia. Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine.
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