Marriage fixer prophet

I thoroughly enjoy this Tedtalk Nairobi by Caroline Mutoko, my take on it is what I hold dear – women of today must play their part to build a future for the coming generations of women. Leaning in, as Ms. Mutoko puts it is no longer enough, a lot was fought for before our time, hence many things were a lot easier than it was for women before us.

One thing that I notice in a place like Nigeria is that often in times the most courageous women look the other way when other young women were being lead astray especially when this is done by a self-proclaimed men of God – we watch and get confused internally as we sure know the end is disaster but chose to be quiet because speaking out to enlighten the women of the likely consequences might hurt the ego of the men.

Take for example the case of a group of women being made to think getting married to men they barely know is the best option for their lives because their prophet says so.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend shared a clip of a church program that looks like a scene from a Nollywood movie, a few young men in the congregation who wanted a partner were in a queue, young ladies in the congregation who are supposedly desperate for  husbands were asked to line up behind their preferred men – the prophet said he was going to ‘marry for some people for this church… I will sponsor all the marriage in one day,’ hearing this statement, the congregation cheered.

In the end behind each man, there are a few women, some up to 7. Men were instructed to take a look at these women behind them, mastered their faces and after the service, they need to introduce themselves to their choice – this all done during a church service.

I am only learning of Prophet Jeremiah Fufeyin of Christ Mercyland Deliverance Ministry for the first time. Watching a few minutes of his church service online, he is charismatic, loves dancing, people seem to believe everything he says.

So many things are going on in Nigeria that we brushed aside but in the real sense is social malice with serious consequences. The practice whereby a religious leader declares himself as the ‘marriage fixer’ is the genesis of a bigger problem in the Muslim north today. It all started with the religious leader, now in many parts of the northern states, the state government takes it upon themselves to see that all women must be married, so they paid for the marriage to be a third or fourth wife to someone they barely knew. And in a couple of years after a child or two, they are back on the market waiting for the government fix, and those children are often thrown in the streets, hence we have Boko Haram replacement so easily. Kano alone has over one million street kids.

Now in the south, just as we love to copy just about anything that is socially awkward from the north i.e pilgrimage in place of schools/hospitals, we are doing it here, in the name of Jesus as opposed to Allah – but in the end, it is bound to have the same outcome.

Here I wondered, where are the mothers in this church were they thinking of their prophet erratic behaviour? If one has to pick a pick a husband like one does fruits in a bazaar paid for by a stranger prophet – after the marriage with no job to fend for oneself, what will be the end of this?

Both potential husbands and wives in this clip are educated, at least up to secondary school perhaps even higher. If this happens in the north, we say they are illiterates, so we the southerners and educated – why do we keep copying the same ill-fated lifestyle?

Correlation between this story and Ms. Caroline Mutoko’s Tedtalk? Not much, I just think women who learn to invest in self would work towards getting a job to fend for self first, then life partner will eventually come if that is what they want. Being treated like a cattle whereby anyone comes to take a pick isn’t the way to go even if one is in a religious congregation.

The debate over abortion and contraception in Africa

The unwritten rule that we need to agree with fellow Nigerian women or unlook and shake head when the argument do not have head or tail. Well, in the case of safe abortion and the need for more education on the use of contraception, I found Ms Obianuju Ekeocha points of view very interesting (let’s just put it that way).

Ms Ekeocha says Nigerian women do not need abortion/contraception, all that they want is food and safe drinking water. She argues that western countries subsiding contraception on the continent is Ideological Colonisation – learning everyday.

I saw a clip online somewhere of women with placards chanting they don’t need abortion or contraception backing Ms Ekeocha claims – unbelievable.

Ms Ekeocha lives in Ireland and is a devout Catholic –  that explains quite a lot. Even with that it is well known that hundreds of Irish travel to the UK and Europe every year for abortion due to various reasons. 

The irony of this is that while abortion is illegal in Nigeria, abortion is actually still accessible even in small towns, they carry high risk as they are performed in an unregulated environment so we have many unfortunate cases of needless deaths.

Wouldn’t it be great that we have safe and regulated clinics where people can go without intimidation?

Abortion tablets are readily available in Nigeria markets – people self medicate, many of these drugs on the market are generic and entered into the market through back doors without passing through drug regulating body, NAFDAC.

My niece’s roommate was only 17 when she got pregnant in the university, she bled for days before she was persuaded to go home so her parents could look after her. My niece knew it was abortion because the drug sachet bought from a chemist was found in a bin.

A good friend of mine at 23 also took abortion tablets that was readily available on the market, she nearly lost her life. She stayed at the hospital for over a year as the drug did a lot of damage to her internally. She was survived but lost her hearing and started limping afterwards.

Wouldn’t it be great if abortion tablets can only be bought in medical outlets that are monitored?

The argument about western imposing their ideals of contraception on us Africans does not add up. Does that mean that a married woman can only be intimate with their husband/partner to procreate? Even when people preach abstinence, what we have on our streets is a good indicator of what has happened behind doors.

Talking about side effects of IUD, Implanon and other contraception methods – sure, which drug doesn’t come with likely side effect warnings? Isn’t this why we have so many options so people can choose what works best for them.

Admittedly, contraceptive options in Nigeria are quite few, some are not tested properly – if we have a problem with options presented by the west, why can’t we invest in research to determine the best for our people.

Isn’t the purpose of abortion/contraception to prevent unwanted births? Why would anyone want to live in a world where women are forced to carry to terms pregnancies they do not want?

Abandoning children because of disability or accusation of witchcraft is not unusual in the south of Nigeria, some as young as 2 years old. If we are a country with such a moral high responsibility to populated the world, why do we have communities alienating their children once they had them?

Interesting also is the fact that the argument is all about why we must having children especially in a country where fathers are allowed to walk away with no one imposing child support on them – where is the child’s right?

Sankofa

At a training session with a fellow Nigerian. The lady was quite passionate about Nigeria, she hopes to return home after her retirement to set up a practice with her son – she would love to give back in her own way.

Hope is good, it is hope that has kept us still believing in a country crumbling on itself, that one day enough people will realise nothing will change without us changing our focus.

I enjoy meeting people from different parts of Nigeria especially when talking about important social issues, to learn if things are done differently in their parts –  we are all in the same boat, enough of us just don’t want to acknowledge that much.

The lady is from Edo and in her 50s. Her age is relevant here to show how little has changed over the years.

Conversation started on the ‘others’ and their rigid views of the world. In the end I was glad we both agree everyone has a role to play to steer the country in the right direction – we have been made to finger-pointing for way too long that we don’t pay attention to our own closest neighbours who aren’t necessarily acting in the best interest of all.

Take education for example, from long time ago, southern Nigeria have embraced western education – this much we are always eager to point out, however for the last 30 years quality of our public school education is on downward spiral, this is obvious on our streets.

Not funding public education means a sharp rise in private schools which many people could not afford  – can we from the south, the ‘enlightened ones’ blame the north for that?

Just because a group decides keeping people around them ignorant by denying them any form opportunities to be independent thinkers, should we continue to do the same even when we are well aware of the consequences?

Perhaps the best way to see this is to stop worshiping those who are elected to represent us at the top. We should hold our representatives (from the south) to accounts and stop taking them seriously when they are pointing to the ‘others’ as the bad guys.

And the self-appointed messiahs who we know are not acting in our best interest need to be shown many instances where they have failed to support us.

Gender issues is a good example here, the GEO bill was raised to highlight many key areas where Nigeria women today are still being treated as a less of. The bill was raised by Senator Abiodun Olujimi, a southerner, it has faced many backlashes and now being shelved collecting dusts.

When GEO bill was being discussed last year, the only strong and loud opposing voices we heard were from the northern religious leaders – which I actually appreciate, at least we know what we are working with.

In the south none of our outspoken christian leaders spoke, they all kept quiet as they prefer not to be identified as the one who oppose GEO bill – I am sure there are plenty of bible verses to back up their preference.

My new friend is religious, far more than I am. Gender inequality is one subject that bothers her too, here she shared her experience of a church in Nigeria where there are handbooks for women and children to guide them as they navigate this sinful world. This church has no handbook for men as they were born to know all from birth and women from babies to old age must be guided by those who didn’t need to follow guidance handbook – how interesting.

The above is the view of many Nigeria christian leaders on women ability and reason their view on gender issue is hushed.

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with this lady, it is nice to chat with a religious Nigerian whose sense of reasoning is not clouded by tribal or religious sentiments.

While there are enormous work for Nigerians, we can not continue to pretend all is well when the oppression is coming from our tribe or our preferred religion – if we can not see unfairness in the way we are being treated with the so called ‘our own’, how can we ever be united to fight for against external forces?

 

Sankofa “You must reach back to reclaim that which is lost in order to move forward”

Cerebral Palsy

The story of Oluwalonimi (Nimmy) is hard to ignore, the first question that popped to my mind after reading the story was, where are the parents of this child?

Nimmy is a 4 year old girl with cerebral palsy. Nimmy’s parents hired Bisola Abajomi-Ojo, a registered physiotherapist to work with the girl three times a week.

Nimmy’s mother, Bukola Ayinde did her homework, like many women in her shoes, she read a lot about her daughter’s condition. Travelled with her family to Hungary for a month with her child all so she could learn how to better help Nimmy live a normal life.

She got to know Bisola Abayomi-Ojo through reading a church magazine – if one could not trust a referral whose name appears in a church magazine in Nigeria, who else can one trust?

I am not particularly sure why Ms Abayomi-Ojo was this nasty to the little girl. She seems like an informed person, who is aware of challenges facing disabled people in Nigeria. Even the girl’s mother said she thought Abayomi-Ojo was her friend given how she related with the family on the progress of their child.

What did Abayomi-Ojo do wrong – sometimes in 2016, she made a visit to Nimmy’s school for a physio session. During the session, it was just Abayomi-Ojo and Nimmy in the room. The school has a CCTV camera in the room. The whole time that she was in the room, she was on her phone. Nimmy, given her condition fell off the chair several times, at one point, Abayomi-Ojo tied the girl’s hands together – all of these were done in a hurry, she seems to be preoccupied with her phone throughout.

There are video clips online clearly showing all of these including hitting the girl whose parents are paying lots of money for ‘professional’ help. How sad can one be?

After the school showed the clips to Nimmy’s parents, they were clearly devastated but wanted to handle the case with care, eventually they got Nigeria police and Registrar of Medical Rehabilitation Therapist Board involved.

Getting justice through normal routes in Nigeria is difficult and can be frustrating to the point of withdrawing the case.

Only few weeks after Nimmy’s abuse at the hand of a well paid and trusted physiotherapist was reported, Abayomi-Ojo left Nigeria for the USA, now doing her masters.

Child abuse is not unusual as Nigeria goes, but for authorities to push aside a case of an abused disabled child in the hand of a trained professional is another rock bottom, even for Nigeria standard.

If Nigeria middle class can’t get justice on a case like this with proven evidence, what hope is there for more than half the population?

I am glad that Nimmy’s mother realised she is the best person to look after her own child. She has decided to write about her experiences and sharing it with Nigerians – I think this is crucial. Often, we rely on success stories of raising disabled children in the west, reading from people within the country is very important and hopefully will lead to government paying more attention to paediatric needs.

There is an ongoing petition urging the USA to revoke Abayomi-Ojo’s visa so she could go back home to face consequences of her action, only few more signatures from justice loving people from around the world to reach 10,000 target.

I hope justice prevails in the end.

Women and hair

With all the sorry stories about Nigeria lately, it is uplifting seeing women taking care of business that is theirs.

I am quite pleased to read about the work of African Hair Summit, they are working to promote beauty of African hair amongst many other worthy objectives. I like that the event was well attended last year, this is going to open up long due conversations amongst women within Nigeria. 

As a mother of two girls, I often forget that the older my girls grow, the more assertive they  become so now they ask for reasons I don’t allow them to use relaxer. The relaxer question is easy to answer because it damages hair.

My girls are in primary school. I know that kids talk and ask one another questions they are curious about during playtime, so if a 10 year old was asked why she applied relaxer to her hair, what could she say to her mates that will not translate to ‘my hair is not good enough?’

Sometimes last week, I was trying to get my daughter ready for a school trip so I asked which hairstyle she’d like to do given it is a full week away. Out of nowhere, the girl flipped, for a moment I thought the spirit of Yemoja has entered. She was upset saying nothing she did ever worked.

She loves her hair, she says. Why is the outburst if hair is not the problem?

Background – the day before, we were talking about getting hair done, so she went online to get hair style inspiration. She liked this. She thinks the girl has the coolest parents ever to allow that hair style. I think the hairstyle looks cool too but I think it is more appropriate during summer holiday.

I have just realised that while my girls seem to agree when I give reasons they are not ready for some style yet, it is only temporary, every holiday we tend to go over the same topic all over again as there is always something new in town.

I am excited for this hair summit, and really hope that as time goes on there will be more interested people across the country. My girls are always quick to remind me of friends and family who allow their kids to have hair extension, then I have to explain that each family is different, I wore low cut throughout both primary and secondary years and most importantly hair politics in Nigeria is on a whole different level from the west.

I don’t want my girls’ hair to become the only point of reference. Even their dad was amazed to read all about black hair talk that now the only thing he has not learned is to braid.

By the way, now I am learning to hear the girl out so we meet in the middle. She likes Willow’s hair so we did cornrow to match – everyone is happy. She later told me she will be careful not to get hair wet, I don’t even know where she got that from so I said she is allowed to get her hair wet everyday, if friends are dunking their head in water, go ahead and do the same because it is fun, dry it off like everyone else.

She smiled and gave a big hug.

People seem to think mixed race kids don’t have black hair wahala, I laugh at this because being mixed race is even trickier as whatever they do or don’t do get measured against which part of them they are most proud of – silly world.

I am really pleased to see that there is growing enthusiasm around opening up conversations on our hair. Adults can and will continue to do whatever they are so pleased with their hair, having said that, children need avenue where they can learn more about their choices and to embrace what they have without having to drag other race into the conversation.

There is a hair event coming up in August organised by Curly Treats, I love this, we already know our hair is a big issue, it is our job to make it easier for coming generations. 

The clip here is from Nigeria African Hair Summit last year. It is nice to seen celebrities getting involved.

A Nigerian Aunty

Rape is a serious case in Nigeria but we seldom talk about it, victims don’t report due to costs of involving the police or even the fact that victims likely to be shamed for reporting.

Mrs Michale Matthew in Lagos is one of those aunties that we all need close to us. The kind of aunty who perhaps have read enough about rape to know that preventing it happening is the best gift one can give to young girls. She bravely stopped a group of secondary school boys from raping their female classmates in broad day light.

The story goes that Mrs Matthew was just leaving her office with her son while she noticed the commotion around her workplace, after enquiry she was told that the group were there making noise ready to take turns raping their mates in broad day light – where is the pride in that?

Mrs Matthew being a good Naija Aunty could not bear the thought of just ‘minding her own business’ because as I also believe, it is all our business to set good example. Anyway, she was appalled to see school kids just finishing their final exams breaking laws with no concern about possibility of any consequences – those who were not participating are busy filming the ‘show’.

In the articlewe can see the girl’s skirt already torn. Apparently, this rape has been going on for a while as of right of passage after final exam. 

Not only did Mrs Matthew foiled this criminal act, she also led the girls to the bus stop so they are safe to return home. She also collected enough information about these guys, follows through with reporting them to the police.

A few of the boys have now been arrested and are helping to smoke out others. The original post on this incidence as narrated by Mrs Mathew is something that would make any parent shiver a little. While she was helping these girls, her own son was there witnessing her mother, going out of her way to prevent violence and rape – what a great way to show by example.

Rape in schools is not limited to Lagos alone, it is in all of our regions. A couple of weeks ago, an Osun University student was boasting about raping his female friend because she ‘wouldn’t let him’. A few people talked about this online but I doubt any arrest was made.

As citizens with no real power, we can only report and echo one another’s voices, it is the job of officials to investigate and bring criminals to book, if we ever want to see end to violence against women in our society.

Since Nigerians now celebrate both UK and USA Mother’s Day, the more the merrier I suppose –  this is to Mrs Matthew for her courage and for being a good Nigerian Aunty!

Keep it on the chin and bear it

Why are some people ever so critical of Nigeria government? I suppose knowing that Nigeria can do a lot better is enough reason to keep poking the officials, they often tune out the voices anyway, but until they pay attention, poking it will be.

What was that saying about those who do not learn from their past are bound to repeat the same mistakes – our experiences are there to guide and enlighten us only if we let it.

Every event in Nigeria is another opportunity to turn the mirror inwards to re assess what we see as normal to be one of the many reasons we lag behind – the incident at the burial of Serubawon is one of those golden opportunities.

Serubawon’s sudden death was sad, no argument about that. I read a few tributes dedicated to the senator as I was trying to see what others were saying, predictably it was hard to see if the senator was appointed to be a socialite or public servant.

The state government has opened an inquest to investigate the cause of the senator’s death so as to appease those who are suspicious of the his death.

Is the cause of Serubawon’s death due to known underlying health issue? Or a case of enemy has killed him as many of Serubawon’s supporters believed, time will tell –  good luck to the state with the inquest.

What I found quite disturbing was not particularly the senator’s death but the fact that he was knee-deep into preparation for the next state governorship election,  his supporters’ way of showing loyalty was by turning what should have been a quiet final burial into chaos.

I still remember like yesterday when Serubawon was the governor at 37 years old – this was 25 years ago. And for the best part of the last 10 years he has been senator representing Osun West at the federal level.

Online, anywhere Serubawon gives a speech was for another election. And when that election is won, he is back at the senate.

I know most of our senators at best bench warmers at the senate but I have seen quite a few senators voicing their opinions, engaging Nigerians both from within their constituents to the wider nation. Even when their opinions are heavily criticised, they persist.

This guy, Serubawon did none of this and yet he was thinking of coming back after 24 years to serve another term?

Well, RIP to the dead but I think the joke is on the people of Osun, not on Serubawon.

I know generally in the southwest, we prefer to take it on the chin and bear it all. That has not benefitted us, too obvious.

So Governor Aregbesola has a new mantra Hold your Gov accountable: Here is one for Ogbeni.

At Serubawon’s funeral, a public official was publicly assaulted and this was swept under the carpet as if nothing had happened.

Idiat Babalola is currently the state Special Adviser for federal matters. Prior to that she was a member of House of Assembly and now a state commissioner- nominee. As state politics goes, she deserves to be given equal respect and protection as any others in similar position.

Seeing Ms Babalola being publicly humiliated at Serubawon’s burial should not be acceptable. Imagine the extent the mob would have gone if governor of Ogun state didn’t come to the rescue? What a shame.

I had thought those guys would be arrested and made to write some statement but it seems this event is not big enough to be addressed.

This is the first time I am reading about this woman, she has been in Nigeria politics for a while, her journey to politics is a mirror image of Serubawon’s, watching her on TVC news revealed that much.

Why is Ms Babalola not insisting that the guys who rough handled her in public be arrested?

Why is the state governor not thinking if these guys get away humiliating a public official now, they are coming back during election to cause bigger harm? I think it is not good enough that Ogbeni unlooked this incident, if you want people to respect the state law, then it is only fair to apply it equally to all.

Women and family structure

During 2014 National Conference divorce rate in the country was one of the many serious issues brought to light. Attention at the time was mainly on the northern city of Kano where divorce rate is the highest however, from what I notice in the south customary courts, we are catching up fast following similar pattern.

Take for example the case of Mr Alaba Aigbe, a 65 year old who recently divorced his wife at Agodi customary court on the grounds that she was an adulterer and a witch.

Reading through the press release, the couple had seven children. Adultery issue came about when Mr Aigbe was away for a year to work in a different town. Mrs Aigbe had an affair with the husband’s typist.

Fair enough if the union had run its course due to breakdown in trust and mutual respect.

Here is the pitiful bits:

“In his judgment, Chief Mukaila Balogun, the president of the court, dissolved the marriage and ordered the complainant to pay N17,000 to the defendant for her to pack her load.”

After 38 years of marriage, the couple likely to have built their wealth (house, and other assets) together, the only thing the wife got out was ₦17k to move her belongings?

And:

“Balogun further directed that the defendant should take custody of the seventh child while the husband should pay her N5000 monthly allowance or the upkeep of the child.”

With the little information presented, it seems their seventh child is the baby of the family and perhaps in secondary school. How on earth did Chief Balogun arrive on ₦5k monthly upkeep in a city like Ibadan?

I bet Chief Balogun has a wealth of experience in this matter. However, I think this is grossly unfair that after 38 years of building a life together, Mrs Aigbe was made to leave with nothing from the life she helped build.

 

The second example was that of a civil servant in Lagos who wanted out of the marriage because, in his own words,  “… wife wants to kill me with children; she is bearing them like rats.”

The couple has six children during 9 years of marriage, he did not trust his wife would get family planning sorted so he wants a divorce.

Is that even a plausible reason to seek for a divorce?

Glory did not appear in court two days ago so case postponed to two weeks’ time.

Given that the six children are all under nine years old, the wife likely to be awarded custody of them all. Who is moving out of the family house? If I were to speculate based on the way things work at home, Glory likely to end up renting a house or move back to her parents’ while the husband stays in the family home.

I hope the court’s president turns down Mr Ayinde’s request. And if the court must grant his wishes, he should be the one to move out of the house and not Glory.

How about if customary courts pay a bit more attention to the children of the divorced couples, then make decisions with care of the kids as priority.

This kind of judgement is a wishful thinking, but fair to me.

On the surface in Nigeria we tend to focus on the north alone as the place that needs serious reforms in terms of children wandering about with no real parental support – this is true, no doubt.  However with the frequent ease of granting divorce in the south without setting out terms that include adequate provision for the children, I can’t stop thinking that our customary courts are mirror image of what has been perfected in the north – wife left alone to cater for children when men stay in the family house and sought for a new mate. Another cycle begins.

According to Nigeria HealthWatch, in Urban Nigeria amongst educated ones such as Ayinde in the south we still have average birth rate of 4.7 per woman – national average is 5.67 – All of these numbers are too high in this age. We are a living testimony to the fact that uncontrolled population brings more misery than joy.

Easy access to family planning and education work.

This to me is one of the many reasons we need Gender Bill to be passed into the law so children of the divorced don’t automatically becomes the load women alone have to bear – good for the family and society in the long run.

Summertime traditions to avoid

This time of the year there are always news articles about FGM informing the public about Africans travelling back home and how some people use this time to catch up with traditions of FGM and labia pulling. Part of this is to give young girls a voice that it is okay to say no to harmful practices that involves their body, also to remind adults about laws of host country.

I read an article about the practise of FGM in Nigeria last year that was quite revealing. What was a bit concerning was that apparently Osun state has the highest prevalence of FGM in Nigeria, and was said to be 76% prevalence – how can that be?

I know that people still practice FGM and that it is beyond religious beliefs or traditions. I grew up thinking there was only one form of FGM. We call it circumcision, my understanding was that it has to do with religion.

Now I know better that not only did circumcision not tied to religion but also that different forms are being practised and with one common goal – stop women from being promiscuous.

We now know this myth is untrue, hence we need more women, courageous women like the women I use here to tell their stories for awareness.

I don’t know anyone personally that was traumatised by FGM because it is usually done within 40 days of birth and usually without children around. If memory serves right it is more like incision or a small cut so they get blood out of the area – either way it is pointless pain.

Reading a story such as this woman, from Swansea is an eye opener. She is from Benin City, she was cut as a baby which is the practice that I once thought was the norm in Nigeria south. However, she said she witnessed all her younger siblings being cut, she talked about witnessing her seven-year old sister being cut at 12 – that is truly traumatic. I know this because I witnessed a 11 year old being cut at Garage Olode in 1992 and I can see why that memory can be quite disturbing.

Here is the twist in this story, she says that intercourse was a painful experience for her both during and after the act. She was unable to give birth naturally and had to have c-section with the birth of her three children – sounds like a torture.

I wish BBC gives more details of the type of FGM she had. At least to enlighten more people.

About my state of Osun, while I do not believe the 76% of prevalence across the state I know that a few town practice this religiously. It was a relief to read that fourteen communities were identified by the state as the place where FGM is in full swing. To eradicate harmful practices like this one, women must lead and throw away shame, knowing that we are shaping the future, so I am glad to read that Mrs Sherif Aregbesola was also in full support and talking openly about it.

Another form of FGM is labia pulling. The UK government is classifying labia pulling as another form of FGM because children involved are forced into it with narratives too complex for their age.

The first time I heard about labia elongation was a couple of years ago. I was excited but not for the reason that those who clicked on that post thought. The post is still the most read on my blog, this just shows how desperate people are to learn about the subject we shy away from.

Learning about African sex and sexuality is exciting because we seldom hear anything. The whole labia pulling was not the most interesting thing for me but the reasoning behind it, although the large part of it was about satisfying men but there are emphasis on the woman’s pleasure as well.

The obvious negative with labia pulling is that it is forced on children at a very early age when they thought adults around them know best.

Here is the other side of labia pulling that I am learning for the first time. The lady in the video below at 1:23 talks about girls using strings to pull their labia for quicker result and during the process, sometimes the flesh pulled with the string. Ouch! This is enough to make any young person goes deep into low self esteem.

Why is the UK getting Africans who have experienced both FGM and labia pulling to share their stories especially traumatic ones? If you live in the UK, it means the government/other tax payers are picking up the tabs of costs associated with these old practices for no good reason.

We can do our bits to take a closer look at what we see as traditions and make informed decision.

Embracing knowledge sharing

 

Learning is fun. I love learning about different cultures including mine, Yoruba culture. There are lots of stories to be told about the past based on artefacts.

I saw a BattaBox video showing us parts of Ooni’s palace today. The whole 11 minutes of the video is informative.

Here are a few areas that are new information I only learn today.

Starting from 3:20 to 6

A woman palm wine tapper:

On the wall carvings somewhere in the palace was a woman climbing a palm tree with igba (strong rope) around her waist. I am aware of men being ademu (palm wine tapper), this is not a job for the faint-hearted as ademu needs to climb high to the neck of the tree to get the juice. Our palm trees can grow up to 20m high, the taller they are, the thinner the tree trunk gets making it harder for foothold, normally I think between 8 and 10m likely to be a cut off for many tappers to be on safe side.

Anyway the important thing I have never heard as part of our history was that women, or to quote the guide in the video Iya ‘Mothers’ are the palm wine tappers in the past.

Isn’t that something? As the guide says, Ifes are known for loving their emu, it is intriguing that Mothers are the ones that brought the juice home.

Is this where Queen Luwoo 1770-1800, the only female Ooni got the idea from? She was known to be a doer. She perhaps didn’t have any problem with men enjoying emu, but Queen’s idea of making men use their hands to do other jobs in the community was not well received, hence we have never had another female Ooni.

History is fun.

Ooni do not ride horse:

Ooni of Ife is called Alesin ma gun, Ooni (One who owns a team of horse but must not ride on it).

On the same carvings on the wall, it shows how Ooni used to travel before cars. There were messengers on horses, these were hunters with specific roles to play on the road trip – mostly to protect Ooni. Many more messengers are on foot with loads of Ooni’s belongings. And a few  had the trusted role of carrying Ooni seated in his special chair.

Now I wonder if there was a story behind the ‘Ooni must not ride a horse’ belief. Was there a time in the past that a Ooni fell off a horse and the said Ooni thought it was too difficult to grasp the sport of riding and just thought if he could not ride a horse then no Ooni should?

I would love to know the real reason behind this ‘ban’, even if to laugh it off. Past is what it is, not sure it should hold us captive forever.

Here I hear someone saying, that is why we don’t show the world stuff, people ask too many questions.

The last but not the least.

On the video, it is 7:56 to 8:50

Adé Arè – Oduduwa’s Crown 

Arè crown is said to be same one worn by Oduduwa, the first Ooni of Ife. There are so many different versions about how Oduduwa came to be and when and from where, let’s just say, long time ago.

In today’s Ife, Ooni wears Adé Arè once a year during Olojo festival. So Ooni looks like this

It is commendable that such a piece has been preserved for centuries. Now, one thing that I have always thought of is the weight of Arè crown. Each year during Olojo festival, emphasis is always placed on the weight of the crown and the Nigeria newspapers have never agreed on the actual weight, I have read 70kg, 75kg and I gave up on it when one newspaper wrote 100kg last year.

Now, the guide at 8:23 says the crown weighs ‘two bags of cement’ – as funny as this statement sounds, now I think this is probably where the said Nigeria newspaper got their weight of 100kg from, Nigeria cement bag comes in 50kg per bag.

Since ‘bags of cement’ isn’t universally accepted measurement of weight – I am begging Ooni Enitan Ogunwusi and the Palace to please weigh Adé Arè, our ancestors are already rejoicing that we are at a time that allows more of us to learn about information we didn’t know existed – I am thinking they (ancestors) would be pleased that we get this weight matter sorted.

All in all I am grateful to Battabox for this video and of course the Palace for sharing the wealth of knowledge and for speaking local language.

 

Foundation of liberty

Growing up, I thought the only important thing one must be sure of is to be self reliance – get a job and live within means.  Then I realise that when it comes to the way women are treated in Nigeria, even in the south with all our education, it is a tough world out there. One is always expected to shrink a little so male counterparts could be assured their masculinity is intact.

The incident that happened a few days ago in Rivers whereby Mr Ayodele Kumapayi directed his male staff to cut off braids and hair extension of female staff because their long hairdo violates the FRSC dress code was nothing short of a boss in a position he was emotionally unqualified for.

Nigeria is never short of dramas but our dramas are peculiar, often it is something that is big enough to challenge societal norms, we are not there yet. The way women are treated are unwritten rules experienced at home, heard in market places, preached to in faith gatherings – often it is always about who is head and who is tail even in places where there are clear hierarchies.

In the end it only takes one man who is drunk with power his job title has afforded him to humiliate women serving under him in the workplace.

The hair rule of the Nigeria FRSC is that women must keep their hair under the beret, fair enough.

There is a time and a place for everything. If a number of women hairdo did not meet a set standard by the organisation they server, then one would expect there is a procedure for warnings and perhaps discipline. If there is none, then one can always start somewhere so everyone is reminded of the rules and why it is important.

However, to give orders to have grown women humiliated by colleagues cutting off their hair with all staff members in attendance to my mind has nothing to do with upholding FRSC dress code, it is power drunk boss gone mad – harassment.

Just looking at the BBC pictures online, one thing that I found most unsettling here is the fact that these women stood there even though no one held them to the ground, it was only one power drunk officer boss yelling orders, why didn’t they pick up their bags and leave, at least to escape the harassment?

This is why I think Mr Kumapayi does not deserve to be in the post at all. He was well aware of what he was doing, he only wanted to humiliate the women and to instil fear to fake respect

He knew these women have family to support, so they’d rather stick to the job and face the humiliation than to risk dismissal, unemployment rate in Nigeria is no joke.

Beyond economic freedom for most women in the south is battle to break the yoke that need not be. Why can’t both sexes work together with mutual respect without one needing the other to shrink? That is the next level for us.

I am happy to read that Mr Kumapayi and other officers have been ‘recalled’ whatever that means in FRSC language. I hope that he is demoted, that’s the only way for him to get close to  how those ladies must have felt.

Children as retirement plan

Where I am from, children are the retirement plan. We have many proverbs to back this up, Omo eni l’ò̩la (children are ‘the tomorrow’). This is probably one of the reasons there is pressure to procreate.

Most of the people I grew up with are subsistence farmers, they have enough to live comfortably. Many managed to build a house and paid for children’s education – formal or informal. For many people after the children are out of the house, things become a bit easier with a little surplus to live comfortably on, however, in many cases, there is not enough to pay a chunk of money for unexpected medical care (medical insurance in small town is a rarity).

From pulling money together to help elderly parents needing medical care to making visiting arrangements between siblings – this is all without saying the responsibility of children. Many parents will get this old age bonuses, unfortunately, some would not.

For many children, it is a joyful task, for others it is cumbersome. I suppose we all have different reasons for looking back to help elderly parents.

I can not and would never see my children as a retirement plan, this is because I believe my parents made huge sacrifices that I was a witness to so I could stay in stay in school so I am happy to be their retirement plan, the task is joyful and lighter as I am one of five – everyone does their fair share.

The story of Mrs Bolaji Isaac caught my attention a few weeks ago. 85 year old woman in Lagos,  she has been sleeping with a good samaritan who opened her door as the old lady was not feeling well and claimed her children and relatives had abandoned her.

Nigeria newspapers tend to be one-sided but here Punch did a job reaching out to get the children side of this story.

The story goes that Mrs Isaac has five children for four different fathers. Only two of the five boys were mentioned in the story. She used to live with one of her children but moved out to live on her own, eventually had to move out again due to some circumstances.

The words that was repeated several times while describing Mrs Isaac was ‘troublesome’, she was ‘troublesome’ so her landlord gave her a quit notice. She was ‘troublesome’ hence her son can no longer let her live in with him and his family.

Just thinking about Mrs Isaac lifestyle, a woman who has five children with four different fathers sounds like an independent woman who probably enjoys her own company and unlikely to be happy in a constrained environment.

Anyway, a story like this is sad because 85 year old lady with nothing to her name in a big city like Lagos may be able to get by with people gifting her food and roof above her head but if she comes down needing any medical attention, it will be problematic to get anyone to stand by her.

This is exactly what happened to Mrs Isaac, she had a partial stroke two weeks ago at Old People Home and later died due to complications. May her soul rest in peace.

It’s good to read that the Lagos state government took care of Mrs Isaac when no family comes forward.

Seems it ended not too bad afterall, one of her sons said he talked to her before she passed away and now are making plans with siblings for burial.

Mrs Bolaji Isaac is said to be from Ondo state, if I know my people well enough, now all the five sons are going to come out, they will cry so much that even neighbours will join them and after that is done, they will throw a big Owambe party. The money they claimed not to have all this while will suddenly sufficed – it is well.

While I am not judging these guys, Yoruba says àìsàn làá wò, enìkan kìí wo ikú – spend to give your loved ones good health, once dead, that’s the end (this is far from literal meaning but only the gist of it.