Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where are all the men?

I remember an evening, so many years ago. It was around 6, and everybody else was inside my grandmother’s little house. Behind my grandmother's house, was an old hut, with an old lady in it. I used to be so afraid of her because she allowed her goats sleep in her hut with her. All her goats had names, and the black goat shared mine with me. That evening, I stood outside watching her herd her goats into her living room. She smiled a toothy smile at me, and said "My husband built this hut, with his bare hands". She pointed out the few huts left in the compound, she knew when they were all built, whose son or father or husband had built it. She slapped her hands on the walls, "good, strong walls, cool in the heat and warm when cold".

Strong walls, built by strong men. Men that provided for their families with their bare hands, working on farms, fishing or hunting. They provided for their families and when the huts leaked at night, they climbed on roofs and fixed the holes. When things needed to be lifted, they bent their backs and carried loads of unthinkable weights. Many a time, you would see them lifting a woman, an old relative or sick child on their backs. They were men of honour, men of their words. They stood tall beside their families and God save you, you come near their loved ones, they would fight to the last and protect their women and children.

Now, here we are in 2009. The rules have not changed, for us, the women. Do you still cook, clean and wash his clothes? The answer is probably yes. The rules for you will never change; you are the care taker of the home. You will bear his children, feed them and take care of them when sick. You will feed him too, and take care of him and his family too, when sick. You will slave away at the kitchen for his favourite meals and fulfil the one duty he begged of you on your wedding night, that you will never refuse him when he comes to you at nights. You will scratch his back when it itches and rub his feet when it aches, you will do all this with a smile on your face, because, your role, you will play to perfection. That is what he expects, that is what society expects.

Here we are, in 2009 and how the rules have changed for you men! Oh, I do not expect you to build anything with your bare hands, but perhaps, is it possible that you could roll over some paint on just a little section of the wall where your mechanic left his dirty hand prints? Oh my, I don't expect you to climb rooftops and look for leaks, but could you just fix a blocked sink? It is not so hard you know, you just turn that white pipe anticlockwise and remove all the dirt and viola! the water will flow easily again. Some light bulbs need to be changed, is it too much to ask of you? But most of all please protect me. I do not expect you to go about brandishing machetes or cutlasses but when the nights are dark and I need a strong shoulder to lean on, please do not shake like a jelly fish, let me know I can count on you and you are my man.

2009. Nothing has changed for women but a lot has changed for men. Forget about those men of your grandmother's stories that fought with bravery at battles. They no longer exist, what we have now, are pencil pushing men, more likely to run before you even shout for help. Their hands are softer than yours or your babies, their backs straighter than any model’s, their fears, greater than ever before.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

10th wife will not be my portion!

Women don suffer finish for this country oh. Chei! Imagine, if a whole president’s daughter, a young woman, born into a family of wealth, imagine if she self, agree to be fourth wife of old papa, then wetin the rest of us suppose do? No hope for us. Na to begin marry man wey dey over eighty na! We go come be 10th wife. God forbid bad thing! It is not my portion!

The amusing part is that the two principal characters involved in this debacle are men of great power. A president and a governor. A father and a husband. One, thought it fit to marry away his young daughter and the other, happily accepted a young wife. What is my problem, you may ask? After all, in their religion it is totally acceptable.

My problem is that as a woman in this country, I no longer feel safe. If they can treat their “own” in such a manner, then what about the rest of us? If they see their own daughter as “property”, then how do they see you and I? We must be under the category of “recyclable garbage”. I am not even sure we might make it to “recyclable”, we might just be rubbish.

What our leaders fail to realise is that they are the examples we have. They are the people that we look up to, to lead us. The kind of choices they make in their lives affects a whole nation. What kind of message are both men giving other men in the country? Next thing you know, all these old papas will be happily chasing school girls all over the place. After all, if their president thinks it is okay then why not?
No, I do not feel safe anymore. If anybody should ever ask me to visit Aso rock, I shall decline. I advise all young women to keep away from Abuja. That place does not seem to follow the norms of other societies. I am afraid our civilisation may be at risk. We seem to be going backwards and with great speed as well! Before you know it, we shall become “hunters and gatherers” again.

It seems our leaders are bent on convincing us that they live in another world, too far away from ours. We want leaders that live in the present century. We want leaders that understand the important role women have in the society. As long as we have leaders who do not understand this, I am afraid we shall never be able to rise in this country. As long as we have a leader who thinks that marrying a fourth wife is a priority in these hard times, then I am afraid this country is doomed.

P.S:Meanwhile all these governors self, dem dey take woman matter pass government work oh! Na wah.


The Petty Man

Many a man's reputation would not know his character if they met on the street.
- Elbert Hubbard

Wonders shall never end. I am never surprised anymore by the way people embarrass themselves on the pages of newspapers. Last time, it was the son of Obasanjo who aired his dirty laundry in public, now it is Alec Godwin, ex-husband of the singer, Kefee who has decided that the public deserves to know all the little inconsequential details of his marriage. Na who tell una say we dey interested?

In an interview published by “The Punch”, dated 31st Jan 2009, this man thought he was doing himself and his family a favour by telling us intimate details of his failed marriage. How petty can you get to give such details? Lest I forget, this man is supposed to be a serious Christian; the son of a Pastor, in fact, he met his ex wife in church. What do you have to gain by revealing details of your personal life? The intention must be to try to tarnish the image of his ex-wife. Surely, a true Christian is not supposed to be that vindictive?

Pettiness is so unbecoming and Nigerian men seem to be the masters of losing dignity the moment something does not go the way they plan. However, it is not only Alec that is guilty of this crime. Many a gentleman have become agberos overnight. I remember even back then in secondary school, I was always baffled by the fact about how easy a young boy would confidently call an ex girlfriend “ashawo".

Many times, I listened with annoyance as the so called ex boyfriend would tell his guys intimate details of his relationship and of course reveal secrets the once "love of his life" told him in confidence. I have watched that scenario unfold many times as a teenager and I have always thought it was because they were young and did not know any better.

However, I now have reasons to believe that a lot of GROWN Nigerian men act like immature fools in situations such as these. Somebody should tell Alec Godwin to keep his skeletons in his closet because we are not interested in seeing them dance!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No reward for the lazy man

History has been made and I am glad to say that I was alive to see a dream come true. It is not everyday that one gets to see two million people come out in support of a president. It is not everyday that one gets to see millions of people brace a freezing weather just to see a man sworn in as president. I have defintely never seen such public support in my entire life. I would love to think that our independence day must have been like that. Perhaps it was like that. People taking to the streets to dance and welcome a new era of freedom from the colonial masters. Perhaps they too, ignored the weather and came out to show their support for change. Perhaps there has been such a thing as public support in this country. However, if there ever was such a thing, I would not know. In all my years alive in this country, I have never seen it.

That is why I was so jealous. Yes, throughout the ceremony, all I felt was an intense jealousy for the American people. How come, they can achieve all that? Why can’t we do the same? How come, they can choose their own man and we can’t? How come, they can see lively debates between opponents, and we can’t? How come, they can see their presidential candidates work hard in earning the people’s trust and we can’t?

I asked myself all those questions and unfortunately, I could not think of any good reason why we too, can not have the same in this country. Do we not deserve it? Surely, we have suffered enough in this country to start demanding changes. I too, would love to line up for hours and cast my vote without fear. I too, would love to hear inspiring speeches from the candidate I have chosen. I deserve all that and more from this country.

I refuse to have low expectations for this country. If the Americans can do it, then we too, can do it. Abi dem get two heads? They are human beings just like we are. They are no more special than what we are. They wanted change, they worked hard for it, and they got it. That is all there is to it. Without doing the work, we shall never get the rewards. There is no reward for the lazy man.

Worthy to be praised

“It is better to choose the devil you know than the one you do not know” that is what my mother used to say when I was a child. It just meant when faced with two extreme situations, choose the one you know you can handle. Basically, choose “the familiar". While my mum's proverbs were usually about life and philosophy, my father's proverbs were usually about morals "cut your coat according to your size", "don't behave like the joneses", "birds of the same feather fly together", etc.

Being brought up by two people who had strong principles in life meant that I too developed rather quickly, a strong sense of right and wrong. Another favourite of mine, from my mother, was "don't paint the devil on the wall" which meant do not be negative about the future. But this article is not about my mother, or my late father, or being raised by them.

It is about the fact that we have somehow forgotten why we praise people in this country. Do we praise people for achievement? For being a role model? A stand up citizen? For being a hero? For a job well done? Who is worthy to be praised?
I was never praised without a reason as a child. To get praise, I had to do something that was worthy to be praised. Good grades in school, or being helpful in the house, or being kind and decent to all those around me. Nobody praised me if i was naughty or being intolerable. The rules are simple enough. Do something that is worthy of being praised, and you shall be praised.

However, the people we “praise” in this country continue to puzzle me. Now, I do not know how others have been brought up, or what their own parents told them, but the fact that we continue to not only accept corrupt human beings but also praise them, shows very clearly how baseless our values in the society have become. Before we adorn human beings with all sorts of crowns on their head, can we not ask the simple question, “What exactly have you done that is worthy to be praised?”I am constantly astonished about the way we so easily praise dishonest and corrupt human beings in our midst.

Yet, those that live honest lives are seen as “weak”, unable to hustle for their share of the national cake. That is what the small minded would think. Unable to understand, that there are so many people still in this country that hold fast to principles and morals. The same ones we were ALL taught as children. These people are the ones that still keep our hopes for a better Nigeria alive.

Let us start celebrating those that earn their living doing an honest day’s work. Let us celebrate those that still dare to stand up and do the right thing. For the men and women in Nigeria who will probably never see a morsel of the national cake.

For those whose futures are dependent on their own abilities and not who they know.

Let us celebrate the teachers, the nurses, the doctors, the journalists, the ordinary people who work so hard for their daily bread.
Let us celebrate them because they are the ones who show our children that there is still pride in hard work.

Let us praise them, because they are worthy to be praised.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Na only Abuja get street light?

I have prayed to God to enable me start this year with a positive attitude but this country will not let me. Every day, as I read one story after another, my cynicism and pessimism slowly creeps back in.I have read a lot of stories during my time writing this column. Stories that have alarmed me so much that I began to doubt the sanity of our leaders. From Madam Etteh’s massage beds to Ibori’s air conditioned prison cell, many stories have been too good to be true.

However, this next story is the one that made me exclaim, “tufiakwa! Una don craise finish for dis country!” As usual, I was reading my daily dose of Nigerian news (a task that many Nigerians must have abandoned, if not, they will be out protesting at this very moment) when I saw a story in the Vanguard titled “Aliero denies move to power Abuja with generators” dated 9th, January 2009.

In this article, it seems the minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, was trying to deny statements which had formerly been given to journalists about powering Abuja streets with generators. He now attested that it was not “the whole of FCT” that will be powered with generators.

First of all, who was that human being that thought that using generators to power the streets of any city was a good idea? Who brought up that harebrained idea and who were the others that actually listened to such stupidity?

Such an idea is an insult to my intelligence and to the people of this nation. It’s very clear that using generators will not solve the problem in the long run. We all know that. Case closed. However, because of the necessity to function as a society, we have all been forced into accepting generators as if they are the norm of the society. It is not normal and has never been. We are polluting our environment seriously and blatantly wasting the earth’s resources because of our laziness in solving this problem. When countries all over the world are investing strongly in the conservation of the environment, Nigeria is doing the opposite. Again, we insist on moving backwards. Abuja is situated in the right area where solar energy can actually be considered as a means to solving the electricity problem. Yet, did anybody come up with such an idea? No. We hate to see the utilization of resources, we rather squander them. The earth that has given Nigeria so much is to be raped and abused as we want.

If the government goes ahead with this ridiculous idea, I would love to see who benefits from such a contract. Who shall supply the generators? Who shall supply the diesel? Who shall build the generator plants? In fact, I want to know who will supply the “pure water” for the labourers as those plants are being built. I have no idea how all this is supposed to be cheaper than investing in improving our own electricity.

Have you ever heard of the capital of a nation, powering its streets with generators? This nation baffles me. Most of the Niger-Delta is engulfed in darkness, hospitals are almost non-functional because of the lack of power supply, and this is the priority of the government? Street lights in Abuja? I understand the need for the capital of the nation to be safe for its citizens but surely we can come up with a better solution?

Using generators to power street lights is just a short term solution. The problem of electricity in Nigeria has to be solved once and for all. As long as we keep falling back on generators, Nigeria is not ready to move forward on this issue. I implore the government of Nigeria to show more determination and strength of character on this matter. I strongly believe this problem can be solved if we pursue it relentlessly instead of relying on the usual half measures we so easily succumb to.


In the mood for something else...

It is 2009! Unlike many people in Nigeria, I did not spend the first hour of the New Year in church. No sir! I prayed a silent prayer at home and happily danced my way into the New Year. I was still in this mood when a good friend of mine called to complain about a New Year message delivered to the women of Nigeria on N.T.A by our first Lady. Apparently, the message had been that they (the women of Nigeria) should “obey their husbands”. In the mood I was in, I was determined not to get upset by such a message. I am trying to be optimistic about my country. That is my New Year resolution. I am sure our first Lady did not have a speech at hand; perhaps she was caught off guard? Or perhaps it was just too hard to say something to the women of Nigeria? Maybe I should give it a shot? See what we can come up with?
Nancy Reagan once said “A woman is like a teabag. It's only when she's in hot water that you realize how strong she is”. You have so much power in your hands and yet you do not know it. You make up 50% of the population and yet, you walk around as if you are a nobody. You have been fed lies for years and these lies have scarred you. Your soul has become weary and you now drag the burden of these lies with you.
Yet, you are the same woman who they said would never go to school. You are the same woman who they said would never be able to vote. Would never drive a car, fly an airplane, go to space. You are the same woman who they said would become worthless with age. You would be a nobody. Useful only for keeping their food and bed warm.
Is it not time, my dear sisters that you take your rightful place in the society? Is the water not hot enough now for you to show your true strength? Is it not time to...

I would have written more but then the government would have to pay me for my efforts. After all, shebi dem get people wey dem dey pay to write speech? Abi all of dem still dey on vacation?