Yesterday morning, I was looking at my blog stats for the year 2016 and Na Man You Be! jumped at me. I wrote the post when I lived in Benin-city, not long after my ex-boyfriend had to claim we were engaged just so I could rent the flat I was living in (yes, he was ex at the time and still one of my closest friends). I shared the post to some friends on WhatsApp, I didn’t even read it until Nnamdi asked me about the post, so I went to read it.
Recently, someone on Facebook made a post about a man who had bought a car for his wife and his mother would take the car without the wife’s permission. His wife had issues with the whole thing and complained to an internet agony aunt. As expected, many of the male respondents sided with the mother-in-law and the husband, and saw nothing wrong with their actions while the females instinctively understood the woman’s point of view.
Last Thursday, I noticed that my tablet’s screen was dead. It was on, I could hear the beeps from notifications but it refused to come on. I called the airtel number on it with my phone and it rang, in the dark. I was slightly worried but tried not to let it affect my evening even though I scouted the room for a place to charge it, even though I knew the battery was at more than 60%. Before we left for home that night, the light came on and that was that. Continue reading →
“Chai I no even dey Lagos”
I was chatting with a friend who came into Lagos two days ago and wanted us to see and after tying ‘chai’ my phone predicted the rest of the message. I smiled as I realised how often I must have typed those words in that sequence. I have travelled every month this year- more than once in some months (May was epic) and all these trips have been within Nigeria- why am I not global now? Chissss *in Charles’s Okocha’s hypeman’s voice* Continue reading →
The first time I watched a video of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I was struck by the number of times she would prefix her sentences with “I think”. A few years later, I was at her workshop and again, I was struck by how she never said anything without saying “I think” first, even on the most ordinary things, even in spaces where she is an authority. She would always use that prefix and after a while I was upset by it (see what I did there). Why did she always have to absolve herself from being definite with her opinions? Why didn’t she cut through certain bullshit with “you know what, this is what it is” and end the matter?
Eventually, I would come to understand why it was necessary to create that distance, she is a human being whose words are prone to be twisted, misinterpreted and even outright lies ascribed to her. I have long since stopped wondering why she is such an easy target; she doesn’t say things we haven’t heard before or thought about, neither is she rude or uncouth in passing her message. And no, it is not the fault of bloggers and newspaper headlines, if we stopped reacting to a particular topic- it would stop being news.
If I hadn’t watched the video of Ms Adichie’s interview with Trevor Noah of The Daily Show yesterday, I would have thought that she decreed a new law preventing men from opening doors for women- from the reactions I saw this morning. No, I am not going to pretend to understand how asking people to be kind to everyone regardless of gender and using opening doors as an example is suddenly the worst thing in the world. Or how asking that the weak be saved first regardless of gender is a now a crime, I’m sorry my brain circuits would not survive the power shunts required to make the connection.
The truth is, she shared her thoughts on chivalry, watch the video or see the transcript on Farida’s wall. Everything began with “I think”. Unless we are saying she has no right to think or that her thoughts are suddenly binding on all of us. She can go on a billion talk shows and tell men not to open doors for women- as people are implying she said, it will not change anything. The men who want to open doors/ stand up from seats/buy assurance for bae, will still do so.
You can still be anything you want to be, a feminist, a feminist who loves the patriarchal privileges, a chauvinist, a woman who believes that women were put on earth as afterthoughts and to be foot mats to the kings- men. I have always distrusted chivalry and romantic gestures, call me unromantic if you like but I value kindness and tolerance more than anything. Ulterior motives scare me every time.
I’d much rather be with a man who is kind to everyone and is unromantic than one who is terrible to others and fantastic with me, romance will always fade, friendship might wear and chip and crack but kindness is constant. I’m more interested in how my man treats his younger sisters than in his pampering of me, if he is a bully to them… I should fucking expect to be bullied with time. My friend ‘Vester, lights up when he’s talking to his sisters, it almost makes me want to be one of his sisters even though I do not want more brothers and my feelings for him are not even sisterly to start with. But this is Adaeze and these are her thoughts and not binding on anyone.
We all have our platforms where we share our thoughts, some of us make a dozen posts daily across social media where we talk about the same things over and over; Buhari, Assurance, Sex, Money, Saraki- whatever we please and nobody tells us how our own is too much or how we put our mouths in things that are not our business. Most of all, we would not tolerate people coming to tell us what to talk about, or what matters while our thoughts do not. It’s not hard to extend that courtesy to CNA, to wait to watch a video or read the transcript to know what she’s talking about before going on outrage rampages or speculating silly theories about her mental state or her marriage. We do more for pastors and politicians…
At the end, Ms Adichie in her speeches, interviews and books, does the same thing we all do every day- share her thoughts. Until she gets into the position of making laws and edicts that affect our lives, let’s spare our outrage for those who actually make the decisions that affect us.
Some days ago, I stumbled on a twitter thread about pharmacists and never finding a rude pharmacist. Despite the overwhelming support, something worried me immensely as I scrolled through tweets from young people from across Africa.
A good chunk of respondents- many of them women, agreed with the initial tweet but added a troubling rider- pharmacists are judgmental when they come to get contraceptives and morning after pills. While I am not the mouthpiece of pharmacists around the world, I can say without fear of contradiction that this is not true.
The implication of this thought process bothers me, many sexually active women already have a hard time convincing their partners to use the easiest method of protection- the condom. Yet, these women still leave the purchase of this contraceptive in the hands of people who do not want to use It in the first place and many joyful accidental discharges occur.
Even in a hyper-critical, hypocritical society like we find in the towns, cities and villages of Nigeria, the sexually active woman owes herself the duty to protect herself from Sexually Transmitted Infections and unplanned pregnancies by using the tools available. For the life of me, I can’t understand why women carry the burden of shame when they want to get protection. The average Nigerian man would walk into the store and buy his condoms and even engage sales staff on his choice(s) to be sure he gets the best for himself, while the woman he is going to use it with, is too shy to even look at condoms on the shelf?
Sadly, she is the one with the most to lose. Very few things are as terrifying as counting the days after Lady Flo delays her monthly visit or the horror of finding two lines on a urine soaked strip. So why let nonexistent judgement stand in the way of peace of mind? Terminating a pregnancy is still illegal in Nigeria and even if it weren’t, the process is not soaking garri in cold water with peak milk, sugar and groundnut.
I have had hundreds (yes hundreds) of terrified young women approach me with long stories that end with ‘I missed my period and I want to get it back’. Most of the time they are alone, carrying their burden while Bobo goes on with his life with some quiet concern about the whole thing- if she is lucky, she is more likely to be told to ‘carry your cross’. The babe would wander far in search of a solution and will end up spending at least ten times the cost of contraception on a termination. Let’s not even go into the dangers that can arise even when a professional is involved. Is the almost non-existent shame and a little (often imaginary) gossip worth the cost of it all; in money, time and mental well-being?
Anyway, anyone who sells/provides contraceptives would not think it is extraordinary that a woman wants to protect herself, emergency contraception (morning after pill) are fast moving drugs which an average pharmacy can sell at least two packs a day, while other contraceptives sell even faster. In one month, there would be at least a hundred purchases of all kinds of contraception per pharmacy/supermarket. Your purchase is not special, it’s not memorable, it’s not unusual, not even if you are the holiest Mary Nweje.
So dear sister, ain’t nobody got any interest in judging you. Nobody is smirking because you’re getting contraceptives, and if they are… So fucking what?
These days, writing dey tire me. But this thing I have to talk about.
I read Buchi Emecheta’s The Bride Price when I was in primary school, with Akunna, Ma Blackie, Nnanndo, Chike and the rest becoming good friends, and were realer to me than the people I attended class with. When the book ended with Akunna’s death, I wept. It was the first time I was crying over a fictional character, it broke my heart that she would suffer all that to be with an Osu man and not even get to enjoy the happiness that love offered. But it did not occur to me that the Osu in the book was a real thing.
Just before I resumed school to start JSS3, I was answering one of the past questions booklets of Lagos state JSCE that my father had furnished me with, when I saw a question that struck me, I did not know the answer.
In which state can the caste system be found.
I had learned about the Indian Caste system and Mahatma Gandhi in social studies class and in the books at the school library (that library was awesome), but I had never heard about caste system in Nigeria. That evening, I asked my dad about it and his answer shocked me, the answer to that question was Anambra and in fact, the entire South East.
Was he talking about Osu as I read in The Bride Price? He confirmed that he was. He went on to tell me the history of that pervading evil, the differences in points of origin- those sold into slavery and those dedicated to gods. Actions that were centuries old, marking generations with the invisible stain that cannot be washed off.
Hasn’t civilisation brought any change? I wondered. Not necessarily, was his answer. You couldn’t go about calling people Osu/slaves or you’d get fined heavily but marriage to ‘freeborns’ was still off limits and a person from an Osu family couldn’t aspire to certain positions in the land.
When I asked my mother about it, she flatly replied “It’s a stupid thing.” I did not press further; by the time I was five I already knew my mother never talked about anything she considered stupid. I thought it was stupid too, extremely stupid to judge and discriminate against a person because of what his ancestors went through centuries in the past. It sunk to the recesses of my mind, pushed down by the pressures of becoming a teenager and the general arseholery of life.
From time to time, something would happen to remind me of the idiocy of the caste system, from Nollywood movies, to my friend from Enugu state who told me that if a person from their hometown chose to marry an Osu despite warnings, that person’s family would organise an elaborate mourning ritual for him/her and would act as if she/he was a ghost if they saw them afterwards. It was perhaps one of the most terrible thing I had ever heard, what broke my heart was that my friend didn’t even see how evil it was. It was normal, just another day in paradise.
With social media came a window into the minds of people, that no generation in history has ever enjoyed, the hidden and open vanities, vapid inanities and the most puerile flights of fancy of the human mind; laid bare for anyone to wade through. Igboist group perhaps is the headquarters of everything social media is- the primus inter pares of modern-day interaction, the pulse of the thought stream of the Igbo youths in this age.
Whenever I find Osu posts on Igboist, I get terrified by the comments. The comment section there is generally terrifying, especially when gender issues and child rights are discussed. In the case of Osu, what terrifies me the most is that a people who have succeeded in throwing away most parts of their culture that are beautiful and inspiring, continue to hold on to evil with relish.
“It is our culture and there’s nothing you can do about it”
Today, someone shared the picture of a young man who was rejected by his intended in-laws because he was Osu. His picture was accompanied by his words in which his anguish shined through, stark in its intensity. I cried for this handsome man whom I did not know, for the young woman whose dreams for the future have been punctured by a cruel fate. I also wept for her helplessness, it’s easy to tell her to hold on to him regardless but how does one let her family and history go because of a man? The thought of it is an instant nightmare inducer for me.
I wasn’t disappointed by the comments on the post, I knew where I was and what to expect from Igbo youths. I just felt sorry for us. In a world with technological leaps occurring every five seconds, with the things our ancestors considered miracles, hell! Even the things we thought of as impossible ten years ago- have not only become our reality, they are rapidly turning into past triumphs as newer technologies spiral out of labs and company showrooms.
We do not even work on the old technologies our ancestors developed to adapt to an unforgiving environment or map and document the flora they used to heal themselves. Instead we grab their hate- the dregs of their vomit and lick it up. Who did this to us? Who did we offend?
Sometimes, I wish I could pump the words and music of the maestro Bob Marley’s One Love into the hearts of the stiff necked, to those pushing the agenda of hate and stupidity in the name ‘awa tradition and customs’. But it is Redemption Song that we need the most.
“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery,
None but ourselves can free our minds.”
Our forefathers built chains and bars and prisons in their ignorance, why the hell are we still clinging to them? Why do we forget ‘Onye aghala nwanne ya’ in the quest for money and yet remember to twist our lips in disgust and shout “Osu bu ajoo mmadu?” Christian and hip when it suits you and Traditional and rigid when it’s time to hate, umu Igbo ibem, I hail una.
Because I am Igbo, because my children will be Igbo- even if I marry a man from China. I will not be silent as we continue to recycle and repackage hate and idiocy to the ones coming after us. My children will not wonder if I tacitly support this or think it is even half sane to think this way. I will show them these words, a little over eleven hundred words, their answer will be there.