Messages, Misogyny and Nigerian Entertainment: Part 1

 Chimamanda Adichie once said that feminism is not a cloak that she puts on and takes off as the circumstances suit. I’m afraid that when it comes to enjoying Nigerian entertainment, whether its comedy, films, music, or blogs, I often have to take that cloak right off, put it aside and cover it with another cloak, for good measure.One thing I hear a lot, in response to Nigerian feminism, is why do they have to be so angry, rude, unpleasant? My question is this: Is it possible to be a Nigerian feminist and NOT be angry.  So much of Nigerian entertainment (and virtually everything else) has a gloss of the most blatant sexism that, let me tell you, unless I take off that cloak, I’m foaming at the mouth half the time.
Just for the heck of it, I’ll take a deep breath and try to narrow down the things that make my blood boil into a tidy list.
1. The gold-digging narrative. Comedy and comedic music are especially guilty of this. Apparently, a woman will be the most appalling bitch until you ‘show her the money’ at which point she will turn into the sweetest thing who will forgive you and give you anything. When I say woman, I don’t mean ‘good woman’, of course. A good woman, upon setting eyes on you, will apparently sell her siblings to put you through school so you can reward her by marrying her and keeping her in the background for the rest of her life, but that’s another topic.My thoughts on this? If there is a high incident of gold-digging among Nigerian women (and I’d like to see the statistics please), it’s for 2 reasons – the Nigerian economy has been messed up for a long time and pussy is easy to sell. You better believe that if dick was as easy to sell in Nigeria, these men would be balancing it on their heads like Olajumoke the bread seller.What makes me so bitter is not that very few people acknowledge the role men play in these transactions. It’s the fact that if a young woman decides to work hard at university and her job to make her money, there’s a high chance that she will be subjected to so much sexual harassment (what’s the penalty for that, in Nigeria, I wonder) from her lecturers, employers and company clients that she might be left wondering whether it wasn’t just easier to sleep with that rich married man in the first place.

2. The use of hoe/slut/pom/karashika/Jezebel (the born-again version) and other variations. Those words have become meaningless nouns to describe a range of women from a paid sex worker to a woman who annoyed you at the bus stop to a woman who has exactly the same morals as the man calling her a hoe. It’s an age-old tactic to demonise women, justify bad treatment of women, keep the ‘Madonnas’ separate from the ‘whores’ and to get other women to buy into the division, as long as they get to be the Madonnas . It started with witches in the Middle Ages and got down to bitches. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Eldee, in a recent twitter rant, called Amber Rose and Kim Kardiashian hoes (actually he said ‘hoe ambassador’ which I thought was rather clever) but in reality they are just women that seem to have normal sex/relationship lives but like to, for some reason, put their naked bodies on blast. Lesson: It doesn’t mean anything, those words are just used to scare women into ‘behaving’.

3. Don’t get it twisted. Some women will act the damn fool for no apparent reason. In Nigeria,  when a woman acts  crazy, not only is she labelled for life, society immediately identifies an imaginary pack of women, who all apparently behave the same way, and labels them accordingly. The woman isn’t just a bitch – she’s one of them ‘bitches’. When a man behaves terribly, he’s a ‘work in progress’ and ‘God is still working on him’ because you know ‘anything is possible with Jesus’.

4. Male celebrities who loudly and repeatedly insist they want a hard working woman, how they can’t stand “laziness in a woman” and how she should bring something (usually money) to the table. For a while, I couldn’t really figure out what irritated me so much about these statements. I don’t actually buy into the whole idea that the man is the main ‘provider’ in a marriage or relationship.Apart from the implication that women are naturally lazy gold-diggers (see above), what bugs me about this statement? Reading an interview with a popular Kenyan actor who has made similar statements, the light bulb suddenly flicked on. He was asked if he could cook and he said no. No. Without apology or explanation. So what does he expect to be doing so while his wife is out there hustling for her half of the moolah and she calls him. “Honey, I have a late meeting, could you give the kids their tea and put them in bed” – “Ah, but you know, I can’t cut onion without you…..”There are 2 things going on here. Firstly domestic work, usually the domain of women in Nigeria and the rest of the world, is being devalued. It doesn’t matter how well she keeps your home and your children and how much that enables you to be the successful person you are, if she isn’t earning, she’s a leech. Secondly, you want her to continue her traditional female role (I mean you may help out but the home is her ‘responsibility’), and then somehow go out and have the same earning power as you have. Bonus point: You want her to be financially independent while you remain domestically dependent.Some (must always remember to say ‘some’) of the guys have a really good gig here. They get to shame women for being poor or gold diggers while ignoring the factors that keep women from making money – less job opportunities, getting paid less for the same job, sexual harassment or coercion at work, hours spent on doing all the domestic work. And also! They’ve decided that domestic work isn’t worth anything while carefully avoiding it themselves! Hurrah!

To be continued…

 

Tracy Ofarn

 

Bisi’s Wedding Diaries

5 October at 07:50 

As today marks exactly 30 days to my wedding, I will be doing 30 things to be grateful for. Today, I am grateful for #airport. I never thought in my life I would spend so much time at airports, neither did I know that the world will be my oyster. Coming from #Mushin, we were made to know that people like us can only dream. I am happy that like the dream of getting married, airport has given my dream of world domination wings to fly. #gaymarriage#30daysofthankfulness

6 October at 11:57 

Day 2 of 30 days to my wedding of 30 things to be grateful of. On the 6th October 2004, I sat on that sofa with Funmi Iyanda and I came out. She gave me the opportunity in no patronizing nor condescending way to tell my story. On that day I learnt the power of truth and authenticity. I learnt that life is what you make of it. I was a 29years old boy, just graduating from university with a prominent role in ‘Roses and Thorns’ a soap series on Galaxy Television. I lost everything after coming, but I gained today. Life was preparing for a journey beyond my expectations. In 29 days, I will say I do to a man I have come to find solace in his arms. #gaymarriage#30daysofthankfulness #newdawnwithfunmiiyanda #comingout#lgbtcomingout #authenticity #ido

7 October at 08:42 ·

Day 3 of 30 days of thankfulness of 30 days to my wedding. In 2014, around about this time, a friend sent me an email to a link to a fellowship program. I have applied for a couple before then and I have always been rejected. So when he sent me the form, I looked over it and ignored it. It will be another rejection. Two weeks later, my agent called me and said she saw a fellowship that she thinks will be great for me, it was the same fellowship. I told her I am not interested. She pushed me and I told her they will not pick me as I am not good enough. The following week, I was at Funmi Iyanda’s and she told me about the same fellowship and she was like ‘I am also a fellow of similar program with same organisation, I can nominate you’. She made me see why I should at least try.
So I went home and spent the night filling the form. I sent it to my agent who read it and made some corrections and add more information. She was angry that my low self esteem has made me leave out very important information. We sent the form and waited. A big part of me was waiting but the doubting part of me just kept telling me, get in with life. Few months later, I was in Berlin with my agent when the email came. I couldn’t open it. I thought it was rejection, but she did and screamed for job. I have been shortlisted. I was not happy, i felt it was just prolonging my rejection. Few weeks later, I did a Skype interview with the team in DC and few weeks later I received another email. I have been selected.
I became a fellow of @aspeninstitute and #aspennewvoices. It was a journey that changed my life. I started having platforms I never thought of in my life. I started having access to people that will look at me and instantly believe in me and want to help me make that dream come true. Through the fellowship, I was trained by @mothstories and then I did #tedxberlin and I have travelled around the world. I have written a lot of articles and became friends with @caitlynjenner and many more.

It feels so surreal when I think about it. It is this reason that today, on my 3rd day of thanksfulness, I want to thank the team at Aspen New Voices and my fellow fellows for believing in me.

10 October at 10:34 ·  

Day 6 of 30 days to my wedding of 30 things to be grateful for. Today I want to be thankful for my childhood. Many times we concentrate on the now and forgetting the journey it took to get to now. The laughter, the joy, the pains and the tears. My childhood was not perfect and I am happy it was not, but it was a journey I am proud of. I carry my joy and pains on the sleeves but most importantly, my childhood taught me what matters in the world. The essence of compassion, love and empathy. I learnt that sitting on the fence was not a neutral act. That silence is not golden. That boy can not and should not always be boys at the expense of girls. That I can play with dolls, pink dolls, pain my face and catwalk. Yes, sometimes I get beaten for it, but the hard headed boy I was, my passion and not the rejection was my childhood driver. As a loner, growing up in my head and in my world, I hardly make excuse for my action. I was thought to say sorry when wrong and never to say it unless I am sure I am wrong. I spent my childhood being a child and maybe that’s why, as a adult, I am still a child. Get angry like a child, smile like a child, think like a child, eat like one, sleep like one, and perform like one. I am Peter Pan but with the vision of an adult. Dear Ademola, Ojo, Kazeem, Iyanda Alimi, thanks for making the adult that is Adebisi Ademola Alimi. Next month I will marry my husband with the spirit of a child, will laugh with that spirit, enjoy the moment that my childhood has spent 41years preparing for my adulthood. In the presence of my friends, families and loved one, with shine on my face like a proud child, I will look into the eyes of my lover and say; I DO! #equalmarriage #samesexwedding#gaymarriage #ido #childhood #growingup

11 October at 11:55 · 

Day 7 of 30 to my wedding of 30 things to be grateful for. I want to celebrate everyone of you that has refused to turn a blind eye to bullying. Be it sexism, homophobia, racism, fatism, shortism and any other horrible isms out there that makes other look in the mirror and hate themselves. You bravely has given many people the courage to see another. You might not know this, but it is true. Every time to put a bully in their place and hug their victim, you have touched a life with love and compassion. Making life worthy is not in the amount of money you invest in it, but the amount of love. On social media a lot of people think it is their responsibility to invade other people’s space, call them names and tell them out to live their lives. I have been a victim of that. Many times I really would love to log off and delete my profile but gosh! You guys will not only stand up to these insecure people who wants to use other as a source of self confidence, but many of you will send messages and ring me. Today is to you. Thank you.
That is why I am begging you, that come the 20th of this month, join me and @glaad and other millions of people in the world as we say NO! to bullies. Turn your page purple in honour of people who lost their lives because of insecurities of others. You never know, you might just be saving the life of someone, destined to make the world a better place. Once again, to you all! Thank you #spiritday #spiritday2016 #ido #samesexwedding #gaymarriage#equalmarriage

Cooking 101

First the beer

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Cut the chicken

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Fetch the spices (Note: There is no such thing as overspicing)

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Soak your plantain in blended tomatoes and rodo overnight

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Top up your beer as you suddenly realize you can’t abandon this shit halfway

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The most important part of cooking is keeping the cook lubricated – Chris Bankole

Season chicken

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Don’t worry about getting your fingers dirty

Gist about setting up a Mexican Restaurant in Ibadan

Laugh at the fact that you don’t know how to cook Mexican food

Gist about a crooked vegetable delivery man called Ahmeed

Fry chicken

 

There is such a thing as too much oil!

I used to know a cook, fantastic guy, nasty when sober, nice when drunk – Chris

Chop tomatoes, rodo, onions

Blend

Let the chicken simmer

drink some more beer

start to clean up

Discuss – Where do jobless alcoholics get money to buy alcohol and other existential questions

Fry the pepe

 

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Add one cube of knorr and a teaspoonful of salt

Leave spoon inside the pot

Parboil rice (shit I forgot the picture!)

Drink some more beer

Touch spoon which is hellishly hot

Scream

Drink some more beer

Start clearing the kitchen

 

Realize this shit is no joke

drink some more beer

Discuss painting houses, past, present, future

Would you describe the labour you put into painting a house as intense as the one you put into cooking a pot of jollof rice?

Realize you’ve been staring at your empty cup, horror!

How do Cooks do it?

How do women who work nine to five, come home and do this?

Remember you’re not even in your own cramped up, nepaless kitchen

Remember how useful kitchen gadgets are, how marvelous running water, electricity and a huge zinc are

Start frying dodo

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Realize you’ve been at this for over one hour

Swear like a sailor

Throw rice in the pepe

 

Discuss Death – everybody dies

Discuss A woman’s place is in the kitchen

Seriously?

Discuss spending two hours in the kitchen to prepare food for five people

Promise death to the next person who says ‘housewives’ do nothing all day

Come closer and tell me how a woman should do all the cooking…

  • Ayodele Olofintuade

Kissing up to Kiss Daniel – A review of Mama

The adulation and objectification of Women (aka Shorty, Ukwu, Waist, Ada, Mama, Baby, Bebe) in the hip-hop industry, is a daily subject that masculates the musicality of the masculine artists in this genre.

Once a vixen got lectured on the visibility of misogyny in the hip-hop industry and was asked how it feels to be the subject of hyper-sexualisation and objectification. Well, all she wants is her money and this of course, aligns with the feminist theory of Bodily Autonomy, as long as she is of age to decide what she wants to be, video vixen or rocket scientist, all join.

But then this could also bring about the question: How does one differentiate trying to fit into the image of the woman as a sexual objectfrom when a woman is sexually empowered?

Usually, when a woman is not being sexually objectified in the music industry, she is depicted as Miss Needy; the beggar who sticks to a man because of money or Miss Bitchy, the woman who uses her sexual wiles to take everything a hardworking man has spent all his life gathering. This has been delineated in songs like PSquare’s Chop My Money. Atimes the woman is portrayed as this totally innocent person who has absolutely no need for material wealth, but only NEEDS to be loved. This is encapsulated perfectly in Davido’s ‘Aiye’ – she no wan Ferrari, she no wan designer, she say na my love o!

Whether she’s an angel or a bitch, the woman portrayed in almost all the songs, produced in the Nigerian music industry, is almost, always IN NEED of something,

But, this is not about PSquare or Davido or any other artist that may or may not have contributed to the longevity of misogyny in the music industry.  This is about Kiss Daniel and his ‘single hit’ called Mama.

This Mama, who is a reflection of a built beauty; tall and thin, silky and smooth skin, seamless straight hair and hair-extensions, becomes the role model of the African woman. You must take note that she is not only unconventionally perfect, she is also always available to use her perfect body parts to make you feel better about yourself. She is not thinking, well… nobody expects her to think . She is a thin thing begging to be entertained, but then she doesn’t say it, she should be seen and touched, but not heard. So, she uses her sexualized parts to paint an ideal picture, where she fits in perfectly as an object; an object that is desired because of her nudity and the beauty she had to nearly kill herself to attain.

Women’s depiction in musical videos doles out expected behaviour for the woman, just like the stereotype that stands taller than the true story. A good woman is the woman who cooks all, and not the woman who knows all. She should be primed and neat, reserved and hot for her lord only. And for Kiss Daniel to really know if this woman cherishes him or not, all she has to do is wash his plate.

He is the seeker, she is the prize. Although he has seen all the qualities he needs in her (being that marriage is the ultimate reward a man can give a woman), she still needs to wash his plates in order to prove her worth, and also fetch water.

The reason Kiss Daniel emphasizes these two very important domestic activities is because nothing shows love than for a woman to shun all gadgets like dishwashers and pipe borne water in favour of drawing water directly from a well and hand-washing all HIS dishes.

To be Kiss Daniel’s Mama, biko my sister, fetch water for him and wash his plates!

Where Kiss Daniel veers off from the usual narrative that’s the staple of the male dominated Nigerian music industry is that he did not put her in a position of NEED, in this case, Kiss is the supplicant and she the one doling out the cash.

She can afford to buy him an Infinity. She is not a lover in need. She is not Miss Dependant, she is Miss Independent.  .

Adichie avers that masculinity is a hard, small cage, and men are placed in this hard small cage. The truth remains that strength ought not to be measured for any gender, and Kiss Daniel notes that he can be in captivity. This song is noteworthy because it stands out in this one aspect, although it fits in, with every other narrative that seems to oil the wheels of the Nigerian Music Industry.

And with this glowing review, Kiss Daniels might get bolder and admit, one day, that his ‘Mama’ doesn’t necessarily have to handwash his underwear to prove her love to him.

Or P-Square might end up singing –She can chop my money,She no wan chop my money, Cos she got her money

Peace out!

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Ada Chioma Ezeano

A brief conversation with Mandy Brown Ojugbana: … we are masterful, spiritual, and all powerful beings…

From the Editor’s Desk: In 1986, around the time Nigeria was reinventing hip-hop and reggae to suit ourselves, the way we have always done, Mandy Brown Ojugbana burst on to the music scene with a remix of Taxi Driver (Taxi Driver – Mandy Brown Ojugbana) – an highlife song originally done by Bobby Benson in the late sixties and turned it into an instant hit that had people of all ages and convictions moving their bodies to its rhythm.

taxi driverBefore the Blackky’s and the Ese Agese’s and Mandators was Mz Ojugbana, a sixteen year old who was rubbing shoulders with the greats like Mike Okri and Majek Fashek.

Ms Ojugbana’s music was a welcome departure from American music which had taken over the airwaves in those days and your party was considered incomplete without a track or two from her first album, Breakthrough.

In 1988, at the age of 18, Ms Ojugbana released her second album and almost in the same breath disappeared from the Nigerian music scene.

In an undated interview with Funmi Iyanda on New Dawn, one of the biggest talk shows in the history of Nigerian television, Mandy Brown Ojugbana talked about her need to spread her wings and find herself (New Dawn Interview with Mandy).

And that was exactly what she did.

She attended London Academy of Film and TV, worked with Channel 4 TV in the UK and then returned to Nigeria and worked on Radio and Television for some time.

She presently lives in the United Kingdom and is constantly reinventing herself and changing things around her.

9jafeminista: How did you cope with the patriarchal structure of the Music Industry while you were the queen of pop?

Mandy Brown Ojugbana: There was no perceived structure of that nature, I was completely focused on the work at hand which was touring and creating.

9jafeminista:  Why did you drop off the radar andwhat have you been up to?

Mandy Brown Ojugbana: I started in the music business quite early and was signed up to a record company called Otto Records at 15 or 16. I was working with them when Faze 2 records brought me in to work on another record. .I had been working constantly and needed time to discover myself and explore other avenues. This led me into the world of media . I went on to work in TV and Radio which I thoroughly enjoyed.

9jafeminista:  Were you friends with Tina Onwudiwe?

Mandy Brown Ojugbana: Tina Onwudiwe was more of a big sister mentor figure . I looked up to her and admired her work both in music and fashion. She also used to design outfits for my shows .

9jafeminista:  How did it feel like being a superstar?

Mandy Brown Ojugbana: I don’t think I ever once felt like a superstar, I was living in the moment and doing the work .I have always loved to be in a creative process be it song writing , creating new dance routines . Researching and creating programming for radio and TV.

9jafeminista:  Are there any changes in the way women were treated in the past and now? Any better any worse?

Mandy Brown Ojugbana: Women have always had to fight harder and be smarter for their voices to be heard. I think men are beginning to get the message . We are a powerful force that cannot be quieted.

9jafeminista:  In which ways do you feel all powerful as a Nigerian woman?

Mandy Brown Ojugbana: Nigeria has made me who I am today , being raised in a “can do” mindysociety has given me the tenacity, drive, and confidence to believe in myself and the power I wield as a woman . Even though it appears we live in a male driven society when we look through African history there have always been strong black women, Amina queen of Zaria in the 15 th century , Makeda Queen of Sheba 960BC and Candace Empress of Ethiopia . These were strong warrior queens, military tacticians. We need to remind ourselves as women never to sell ourselves short, we are masterful spiritual and all powerful beings responsible for bringing life into the world. I remind myself as I wake to walk in the light of powerful women both past and present ,in them and there successes lies my strength . Lies our strength . We as women need to band together as a sisterhood stemming our petty quarrels the world is for the taking and we are the takers!

 

Bibi Bakare-Yusuf on Bey’s Lemonade and bell hooks’ critique

bibi
Bibi

Just finished reading bell hooks analysis of Bey’s Lemonade and I am struggling to understand what the attack on her is all about. Even though I have been the subject of a public attack by bell hooks in my mid-20s, I always appreciate her theorising.

In relation to Lemonade, hooks has provided a necessary critique that builds on and expands the scope of the film’s narrative arc beyond just the naming of: black sisterhood of pain and trauma, our power of self-objectification and naming, our continued investment and participation in both the white scopic regime and our excavating of a repressed and liberating Africanity.

hooks’ critique is an invitation to enjoy Lemonade without completely losing ourselves in the saccharine and slick celebration of freedom and black female empowerment. It is very easy to be seduced by the self-styling, the gorgeous presentation of the black female body in pain and in exquisite defiance and camaraderie; and we must be allowed that therapeutic moment of total absorption and sheer pleasure in watching black/female ownership of the means of production, naming of pain and its transcendence.

Lemonade is mellifluous, a sensuous and mesmerizing visual feast. We should enjoy it, without apology. Yet, so that we don’t completely fall, we need to be vigilant about the global status of women who do not have the economic freedom that Bey has or the ability to always participate in the very sensuous commodified fetishsation of the black female body that assures Bey’s own economic freedom and defiance.

Yes, I do think she glamorises violence. But I also believe that there is a space

bell hooks
Bell

fortherapeutic violence. Bey’s anger and glamorisation of violence was just not excessive enough, it is too demotic and sugary. The only excess was the sugar in her lemonade which tamed the tartiness of the lemons (lesbians).

It would have been a more empowering and radical gesture had she performed an artistic death on the cheating man. Abeg, where else can we go if not to the imaginative or the thought murder of our minds to exert bone crushing revenge that would not land us in jail?

Instead, with all her performativity violence and righteous anger, she simply returned to the cosy embrace of the Cheat, an act no different from the demotic.

For me, she therefore lost an opportunity to be truly radical or transformative. At the end of the day, both patriarchy and the heterosexual script remained intact and unworked. Had Bey killed the Cheat, I am sure hooks would have been on her side because she would have read it as defiance against patriarchy and the ‘straight mind’.

I like artistic or literary deaths as an unwillingness to accept or continue with norms; it is an opportunity to really jam the convention and ensure that all subjugating powers always sleep with one eye wide open. With Lemonade, the power structure is unprovoked and remained unshaken. This, is at the core of bell hooks’ critique, I believe. This is one of the reasons why I think a mother killing her own child in Morrison’s ‘Beloved’, is such a stunning and painful moment in literature, but a revolutionary act, that threatened the core of white plantocracy.

bey
Bey

Bey should have gone all the way jor. And not doing so made the whole thing ultimately unsatisfying for me.

Personally, I believe Bey’s presentation of her autobiographical moment and bell hooks critique of it should be consumed side by side; they are both a reminder that there is still much work to be done in dismantling patriarchal domination and destructive hetero-normativity which Lemonade rightly names and then reconstituted in the family romance at the end.

We need both Beyonce and bell hook’s brand of feminism to continually interact and intersect, this is the only way each can refine and strengthen their position. I am grateful that they both exist.

 

17 Nigerian Women Slaying

 

There seems to be this image of a typical Nigerian woman as being a money-grubbing, marriage mad, religious freak. As most stereotypes go… it’s basically untrue, and today we present to you Nigerian Women who are slaying in the Arts, Humanities, Sciences, women who do not fit into that mold of a typical Nigerian woman. We present our WCWs…

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Dr. Bibi Bakare-Yusuf – Publisher/Feminist
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Funmi Iyanda – Activist/On-Air Personality
Nnedi
Nnedi Okorafor – Lecturer/Writer
Unoma
Unoma Azuah – Lecturer/Human Rights Activist/Writer
Susan
Susan Obehioye – Make-up Artist
pamela
Pamela Adie – Human Rights Activist
Nkiru
Nkiru Njoku – Movie Producer/Feminist
weird
Weird MC – Musician
chimamanda
Chimamanda Adichie – Writer/Feminist
Adunni
Abimbola Adelakun – Writer/Journalist/Feminist
Akudo
Akudo Oguaghamba – Human Rights Activist
Asa
Asa – Musician
Chinelo
Chinelo Onwualu – Writer/Feminist
ayo
Ayodele Morocco-Clarke – Lawyer
Bisi Fayemi
Bisi Fayemi – Writer/Feminist
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Lola Shoneyin – Writer/Convener Ake Festival
miss-saharra1
Miss Sahara – First openly transgender Nigerian, Male to Female

Funmi Iyanda on the Scarcity of Men…

From the Editor’s Desk: Okay ladies, we know that one of the sentences we’ve heard said from childhood, in the over 500 languages spoken in Nigeria, is that ‘men are scarce’… and this is in face of the fact that the Nigerian Population Council busted this myth in the last census carried out  whereby the male population made up 54.9% of the population.

So, really, there are more men than women in Nigeria.

But just yesterday, the amazing Ms. Funmi Iyanda, in about three to four tweets, finally put this ‘scarcity of men’ myth  where it deserved to be, 6 feet underground.

Listen to her…

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“Women are socialized (to be) too invested in men’s fidelity. Spending a lifetime trying to find or keep a man. It’s exhausting, tedious and boring.”

Do men know that women cheat?

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“Men know that women cheat but are not as invested because they are not socialized to define themselves by scarcity of women.”

If men are not scarce then what is?

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“Men are not scarce. A meaningful life is scarce. Pain is part of finding meaning. No one cheats anyone. We own no one but ourselves.

Live!”

…Oh and a final one on being ‘singus pringus’

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“I’m a woman, I’m unmarried.  I’m not a “single lady”.  I’ve companionship. My high status needs no justification…”

No. More. Words.

VIOLENCE AND THE NIGERIAN: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN II

The Nigerian adult graduates from a tertiary educational institute, or takes up a trade. No matter how rich and successful that adult may be, he must be subservient to the military officer’s violent whims and caprices. If for no reason, a military officer parks his vehicle in the middle of the road to urinate by the roadside or chat up an attractive woman, he must wait for the officer to satiate his complaining bladder or coax contact details from the woman respectively. To do otherwise is to risk broken bone and limb, or worse, a trip to a galaxy far, far away.

The military officer has the monopoly of power invested in him by the state, and can do whatever he or she deems fit, rarely with repercussions. If a private thinks a professor with two PhDs has fallen short of his unique code of “respect”, he can ask him to do a few “frog jumps” and if the civilian fails to comply, the military officer may whip some sense into him with the help of his koboko or that most powerful belt, which has the largest brass buckle you will find on a belt, with which he holds his khaki trousers unto his waist.

Time comes for the adult Nigerian to seek a romantic mate; the “need” may arise before tertiary education, the learning of a trade, or after. I know teenagers who were whipped to within an inch of their lives for daring to have “girlfriends” or “boyfriends” while in secondary school. By some miracle, these individuals went on to find spouses. The Nigerian male acquires funds to take Nigerian female out on a date, or dates, secret or otherwise. He “spends on her”, as the lingo goes. Soon, they find themselves at a quiet spot where “things” can happen. Sometimes, it is his parents’ home, his friend’s absent parents’ home, his university hostel room or if he has been smiled upon by his chi, his own home. After spending, spending, and spending, he is told by his peers and society, if you spend money on someone, you have control over their lives.

It is a part of modern Nigerian mores that a woman who allows you to spend money on her, buying her food at fancy restaurants or sundry gifts, MUST provide sex to the spending benefactor; surely, she must know how difficult it is to come by money these days. The Nigerian male takes this peer teaching quite seriously that he corners the Nigerian female at a quiet spot and pointedly asks her for sex, if the delay becomes unbearable. Failure to consent is not really absence of consent, after all, if she did not want sex, she would not have “eaten” his money and come to his house. Her “no” means “try harder”, so they say.

Resistance from the female kicks up memories from adolescent past — “I pay for everything for you, so you must do as I say!” thunders parent from ages ago in the subconscious of the Nigerian male. The conditioning of transactional obedience kicks in. Forceful, screaming consummation occurs, and a girl, a woman, is scarred for life, because a parent has taught a boy, a man, that violence wins — all the time. 

Delinquent behavior has since been associated with parenting; it would be difficult to prove otherwise. If one can make bold to suggest that violent parenting renders Nigerian men actual and potential rapists, how is it that women do not become rapists? Psychological experts who have conducted researches into parenting point out commonsensically that male and female children respond differently to authoritarian parenting (in this type, I class violent parenting) and authoritative parenting. A 2009 report titled “The Relationship Between Delinquency and Parenting: A Meta-analysis” (available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2708328/pdf/10802_2009_Article_9310.pdf) posits that “too strict authoritarian control and harsh punishment appear to be linked to high levels of delinquent and antisocial behavior… These negative child-parent transactions increase the risk of setting a child off on a delinquent path that starts in the early teens, entails many delinquent acts and persists far into adulthood.”

The effects of violent parenting are not restricted to those mentioned previously. It leads to a rupture in parent-child relationship. The Nigerian child is raised in an environment where the communication of feelings, and later, as the child grows, ideas, are severely stifled. A report in Psychology Today states that the “use of corrective violence by parents not only injures the child, but also harms the child’s ongoing relationship with the parent.” (Available at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-your-childs-adolescence/201409/parenting-and-the-use-corrective-violence). Statements of ideas by a child of ideas contrary to those expressed by the parent are dealt with by the Nigerian parent’s engagement of the koboko.

Wole Soyinka, in his childhood memoirs, Ake: The Years of Childhood, recalls how Essay, his father, welcomed arguments from the Wole, the child, much to his mother’s chagrin; she preferred the rod. Soyinka’s experience is/was the exception, and few would suggest that the man has not made anything of himself. The Nigerian child learns early that the engagement of reason in disputations is an exercise in futility. Millions of Nigerians are walking the streets with short fuses, undiagnosed repressions and psychological illnesses, unable to communicate feelings and opinions adequately to parents or peers, resorting to silence, vile insults and fists for such expression. An inability to tolerate dissenting views from others becomes ingrained in the DNA.

The irony is that Nigerian laws protect the Nigerian child against physical and mental abuse but these laws are as helpful to the Nigerian child as an analgesic to a cadaver, at least, at this time. Section 212 of the Nigerian Child Rights Act 2003 clearly states that harm to a child is defined as “the use of harsh language, physical violence, exposure to the environment and any consequential physical, psychological or emotional injury or hurt.” The commencement of the Nigerian child’s early relationship with violence also heralds a lifelong relationship with lawlessness because few children are protected by the law enforcement agencies charged with the enforcement of those law. It is my estimate that every adult Nigerian, resident in Nigeria, consciously or unconsciously, breaks at least one Nigerian law per day.

It is imperative to observe that the closest this writer has come to being battered by a fellow adult Nigerian, in Abuja, was in a traffic incident in May 2014 with a middle-aged-looking lawyer, no less, witnessed by individuals who knew him and addressed him by the title “barrister”. The peeved lawyer was angered by my rather truthful remark that in the course of his insulting my person, and thundering at me, “Who are you?!” (a question that sounds most vacuous when mouthed during conflict situations by the Nigerian to supposedly belittle his compatriot), he was spraying his spittle all over my suit. The question was succeeded by two quick shoves to my head from the “learned” man, who was obviously stupefied by my mirthful and guffawed reaction to his brute force — definitely not the response he was either seeking or used to. Fortunately for both of us, he was pulled away from me by other road users, before he recovered his wits, or sought to inflict harm that went beyond my personal dignity.

Thus, I often “objectively” (or as objectively as one may be permitted in such circumstances) postulate that the most violent class of educated Nigerians are lawyers, those professionally charged with helping fellow citizens forego violence and have faith in the law. This theory is supported by countless reports of Nigerian lawyers, prominent and otherwise, publicly engaging in violent displays; even SANs are guilty of this failing, as a quick Google search often suggests. An instance that readily comes to mind is the July 2013 spectacle of the majority leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Honourable Chidi Lloyd, assaulting a legislative colleague of his with the mace of the house. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zX388EnB5I. Mr. Lloyd has a master’s degree in law; the all-powerful LLM is part of the alphabets written at the end of his name, in fulfilment of the Nigerian custom.

Adult laws against assault and battery are not well enforced, so children, the most vulnerable component of our society, really stand little chance of being catered for by laws enacted to protect them. The violent disposition of many a Nigerian lawyer is perhaps a tacit admission on their part that their professional calling offers no hope even to them, so the rest of us who are not “learned” stand little chance. One is forced to recall a case recounted to me by a neighbour in my former neighbourhood in Abuja. An incensed, middle-class wife and mother who lived in the same area before I moved in, armed with a pestle, charged at her ward, child of some distant relative, for not performing a particular domestic chore to her satisfaction. The child was killed instantly. The Nigerian Police was duly informed and the lady was detained, albeit briefly. To this day, murderer wife and mother still roams the street, free as air, as free as Mr. Lloyd, one should add. I was told her biological children were observers to this fatal administration of Nigerian discipline. The ideas bred in the minds of her children as a result of this incident are left to the reader’s conjecture.

The true tragedy is that the victim of Nigerian parenting does not recognize their victimhood. It is not uncommon to hear adults brag about the beatings they received from parents and teachers while growing up. “I am a respectful, responsible person today because of those beatings! It prepared me for a tough world!” is a rebuttal to charges of an abused past. Like the Tulsi sisters in V.S. Naipaul’s magnum opus, A House for Mr Biswas, they will often recount epic beatings from their childhood. Raising the point that there are individuals who were not beaten by their parents but who also grew up to be “responsible” citizens will be met with scepticism. They will not admit to having prayed that their beater be sent to hell by God, like Adah, the protagonist in Buchi Emecheta’s Second-Class Citizen, often prayed for her adult cousin “who had the heart to cane her for two good hours with koboko” for stealing money for what she regarded as a good cause — the furtherance of her education.

The Nigerian elite actually views mindless violence as the best way to exact retribution from a member of the lower class who has been “disrespectful” in some way. Fela Kuti termed it “power show”. Thus, the Nigerian social class is stratified not only according to access to the usual characteristics of privilege — money, education, power — it is also a configuration of the unspoken privilege to use mindless violence without question. Stories abound of top government functionaries and politicians brazenly employing violence to various ends.

The Nigerian clergy is also well disposed to the use of holy violence, against both children and adults, as evidenced by the popular Pentecostal pastor, with followers in the tens of millions, who in 2012, slapped a young girl for declaring herself a “witch for Jesus” without Jesus’s say-so. There is a video of this most illuminating incident, freely available online, but no law enforcement agency or state government, though empowered by and charged by section 43.1(b) of the Child Rights Act 2003 to do so, has been brave enough to investigate the incident and almost inevitably charge the man of the cloth to court, a man who has been known to brag openly about the affair https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMUWnmW5jPY. As has been said previously, violence, especially against children, is sanctioned by the church, and God. “If you say that again, I will slap you!” a middle-aged ex-colleague of mine, dressed in the sharpest of suits, tie and pristine white shirt, once shouted at another colleague who dared to question his outstanding educational and professional qualifications; office gossip had it he, the threatening man, was once a “house help” who worked hard to acquire formal education. The “house help” (synonymous with “house boy/girl) usually suffers more than the biological offspring of the parent as regards violent parenting. Formal education is no barrier to this kind of behaviour, as it probably is all over the world.

The media is awash with subtle endorsements of violence of the unnecessary kind. A case in point is Wazobia FM, Abuja, the Pidgin English radio station, which I sometimes listen to, eager to keep my connections to the grassroots intact, if not in body, then in spirit. An immensely popular radio presenter, Expensive, a man with a disgruntled on-air persona and an off-air philanthropic flair, often threatens to “break the heads” of his callers to his call-in evening show “Go Slow Parade”. He accomplishes the “breaking” with the sound effect of the combined sounds of glass breaking and an object connecting with the head of a screaming individual of indeterminate sex. There are different variations to this censure of callers making contributions that do not satisfy the expectations of the presenter — a gun shot, koboko whippings, setting a dog, Bingo, on the caller, all with sound effects. It was once my guilty pleasure, listening to these censures but a close confidant of mine reviles the show for this sole reason and has been known to get into an altercation or two with taxi drivers who refuse to turn off the show when he is their passenger. One can only hope children who listen to this radio show do not accept on a subliminal level that such form of rebuke is perfectly legitimate, acceptable behavior. There is a once-weekly, hour long segment dedicated to children who are encouraged to call in and report errant parents and siblings.

One has been tempted to report such “head breakings, gun shootings and koboko whippings” to the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC). Some callers are known to mischievously call in the presenter just to have themselves insulted this way. Would one be getting in the way of entertainment and “good fun” for some because of one’s moralistic qualms by lodging a complaint at the NBC? Violent television shows come on at primetime on Nigerian television stations. Psychologists are quick to point out the growth in crime rates in the South Asian nation of Bhutan when television was first introduced there in 1999; so, a presence of TV violence in children’s lives may have effects that are not altogether salutary on them.

When I was an adolescent, I recall vividly missing out on the historic telecast of the public execution (read state-sanctioned public lynching) of the notorious armed robber, Lawrence Anini, who was executed just a few minutes’ drive from where we lived in Benin. My incensed father, angry at the state broadcasters for televising such news, promptly turned off the TV until he was sure the broadcast was over. The broadcast of this landmark event was pursuant to the then military government’s policy of broadcasting such executions to serve as deterrence to aspiring and career armed robbers. I am not quite sure if the same behavior exhibited by my father was replicated in other households that evening in 1986. Many parents today in the same economic class as he was then would probably be out trying to put body and soul together at that hour, without time to censor what their children watch on television.   

One is constrained to hope for a better day when a truly national dialogue will be embarked on, in Nigeria, about the linkages between violent parenting and societal malfunction. It may be difficult to convince a parent whose expensive leather settee has been ripped open with a knife or blade by an inquisitive toddler that child beating is not the way to go, but a try may be worth it. As a university student, I had a neighbour who was an illiterate bus driver, a Yoruba man whose loud, gruff voice dominated any space his wide girth visited; he looked like he could more than hold his own in any physical tussle. His wife was often tempted to employ the rod every now and then on the man’s large brood of children, but never when he was around. “Don’t you dare beat any child of mine!” he would scream at her, the veins at his neck straining, his body vibrating angrily, whenever such event seemed imminent. His children were some of the most respectful, ambitious children I ever met.

They always bluntly expressed their minds, but in rather respectful fashion. I envied them; as a child, that independence of thought and action was a very distant possibility, as it was for most of my peers. The last I heard, those children were gearing up to go to the university I attended. How did this non-violent father implement discipline? He would scream “omo àle” (that is, “bastard”, for those not familiar with the magical language called Yoruba) at any child transgressor who was the product of his loins. The children’s regular reaction to that two word chastisement was comparable to those of Pavlov’s dogs. When they heard it from his mouth, they behaved, and it was always a quietly amusing spectacle to behold, at least for me. A fight against abusive language aimed at children is another battle, and may yet be a tougher one to wage.

If an illiterate bus driver with no formal education who had never read an academic research paper or studies about the negativities associated with violent parenting could instinctively recognize its ill effects, maybe — MAYBE — there is hope for the yet unborn Nigerian child, if we, Nigerian adults, haven’t destroyed the country irreparably, before they come tumbling into this most interesting and confounding world.    

Bolaji Olatunde is a writer and novelist. His Twitter handle is @BOLMOJOLA. His Facebook page is “Bolaji Olatunde (Author)

VIOLENCE AND THE NIGERIAN: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN I

The Nigerian is a violent person. It is a wonder why “violence” has not been inscribed into Nigeria’s coat of arms, along with other words like “progress” and “unity” and “faith”.
The Nigerian’s relationship with violence begins early in life — you will not get what you want unless you are violent. A severe smack by a Nigerian parent to the person of an unwitting pesky baby, the momentary pause in the baby’s movements, the facial expression of betrayal on the baby’s face, succeeded by an explosion of a combination of cries of pain and helplessness. The Nigerian parent, undeterred, fails to register the protest of betrayal and smacks some more, simultaneously placing a single finger across his or her lips and shouting at the uncomprehending child to be quiet or “chop” more licks of the backhand.
This, is Nigerian Parenting 101, ordained by personally by God (or the Nigerian variant, as cynics are quick to point out), who does not mind the parent taking a bribe here or there, or doing something else not to be mentioned in certain types of company, to take proper care of their baby. Parent wants child to be quiet and will not stop smacking until child is quiet or stops the act that prompted the smacking. The child may comprehend in good time, as the months and years go by, violence’s importance in getting what one wants in the world, and internalizes this most valuable lesson.
Adolescents will however always be adolescents — forgetful breed that they are. Many babies will forget this lesson with the passage of time, some will stand up to their parents, either unknowingly or knowingly (perhaps after they have been told like I was told by a close friend when I was a teenager — “If you’ve not started disagreeing with your parents, you have not started growing up!”) The spanking gives way to full blown “discipline” which some unduly scrupulous lawyers whose heads have been filled with Westernisms may otherwise term “assault”. “I feed you in this house! I pay your school fees! You must do what I tell you! You must agree with everything I say!” is the admonition that accompanies the blows from the Nigerian parent to the now growing child. Sometimes, “I will kill you in this house if you don’t do what I tell you to do!” is the icing on the cake, the real yellow card, which for some becomes the red card and means of quick dispatch to the great beyond. This, is Nigerian Parenting 401, advanced level. These blows are dealt with a wide range of objects — brooms, clothes hangers, the koboko (the weapon of choice of the Nigerian society’s disciplinarian at large called the Nigerian military officer), iron rods and cutlasses (both said to be favoured by some officers of the Nigeria Police Force during “interrogations”), pestles for pounding yam, electric wires, the list is almost endless.

Adolescents can be quick learners too, actually, although they may be quick to dispose of old knowledge. If they have younger siblings, their parents have laid down a wonderful template for bringing younger siblings under control. “That story is not true!” younger sibling says to older teenage sibling. “You dare not disagree with me!” older adolescent sibling rebuts and gives younger sibling a thorough beating for daring to think for himself, just as his or her parent before them. The chain goes on, and may be reinforced when they see parent get into fisticuffs for a thing as mundane as two cars bruising each other, with parent at the wheels of one of the cars, mundane in the sense that reason should always trump force in such disputes. The lesson at this stage of the child’s development is clear — force shall always be better than reason, in the Nigerian scenario. To engage reason is folly, the Nigerian adolescent learns fast.  
The teenager becomes an adult, a man or a woman, after eighteen, or so says the law. This man or woman, will be called boy or girl, until he or she has children because a person who has no children of theirs, or is unmarried, has no mind of his or her own (it is the Nigerian way). One way to escape this denigration is to grow ancient features as quickly as possible. Only old people are permitted the privilege of a mind, and respect, although these features may not earn one stripes with the Nigerian armed forces; violence from them knows no discrimination. Elderly men are known to have been dealt koboko blows from time immemorial, by soldiers, for some offence as earthshaking as parking wrongly, or overtaking vehicles at military checkpoints. 

If the teenager, going on adulthood, is lucky to have tertiary education at a state-owned school, they may meet lecturers happy to entertain views divergent to theirs — a most unlikely event, even for those privileged enough to attend private tertiary institutions where it is widely reported that independence of thought is tacitly discouraged. There is a small respite from violence at this station in life, because many universities make expulsion a penalty for violent students, but as usual, this applies to those who have no godfathers. Elections into student union bodies are not for the faint of heart.

If you an aspirant who is apprehensive of being caught out as a violent individual, you can always have a crew willing to get its hands in the mud on your behalf. In the late nineties and noughties when I was a university student in Nigeria, no serious contender for any office at the national level of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) went to the national convention of that body without an assortment of weapons and charms to physically overcome the other. Many of those who occupied NANS executive positions at the time are now to be found in many political “high places” of today, including the National Assembly of the country. There was cultism as well, not the American brand of fraternities, the type of fraternities that killed difficult university lecturers and fellow students. The number of students who went on to graduate from these schools based on their abilities to muscle their ways through, become absorbed into the workforce due to educational attainments they cannot intellectually defend, and then climb to the top of the ladders of their organisations, corporate and public sector alike, will be an interesting statistic to behold, if an international or local NGO with or without a cause can manufacture a figure that will become the official standard. 

– Bolaji Olatunde