Let me begin this article by wishing all women around the world a happy international women’s day. Today is such an important day for all women around the world. Of every colour, religion, race, size, and sexuality. I do realize how important women are in moulding the society. My mother was a great woman and her demise only opened me to how much she had covered me from so many things and how much weight she had carried on my behalf. This is a characteristic synonymous with almost every woman. All women are different, they are of different colours and shapes but are very special in their very own different ways. So, I want to say a big happy international women’s day to every woman especially the ones in Nigeria. Their ability to thrive in this country is radical in and of itself.
Let me begin the major part of this article by presenting Gimba Kakanda‘s letter to Zainab; his unborn daughter:
Dear unborn daughter,
We are divided in what to do if, but may Allah intervene, you end up with a hare-brained husband. This debate was instigated by Emir Muhammadu Sanusi I’s public instruction to his daughters, asking them to return any slap from their husbands.
Note that I do not subscribe to his style. And I don’t need anyone’s example to tell my beloved daughter what to do if slapped by her husband.
So, dear Zainab, if your marriage ever gets to that shame, your own lover turning into an unfamiliar animal, get your things and come back home. Do not return the slap. Immediately. You are not a thug.
When you’re safely home, I’ll send for the godforsaken monster, and while he’s under my roof, I’ll be able to determine the next action from his words and remorse – or lack of it. If I wink to you, get up and deliver a well-aimed slap, in front of me and your mother and your siblings. Because, at that point, I would’ve already established the fact of what transpired and concluded that a life of safety in your father’s house is million fold more valuable than an unhappy marriage.
Asking my daughter to return the slap of someone biologically more advantaged is a dangerous wisdom. In fact, it’s suicidal. You will not only be turned into a punching bag, but, knowing the ego of a man humiliated this way, a mere retaliation of one slap may turn into uncontrolled fisticuff, two beasts competing to hurt each other, with whatever comes to hand. I can’t even imagine the possible outcomes!
I can’t put your life at risk this way.
And if your husband refuses to honour my invitation, we will visit together, to get your things. And there is also an opportunity to have a talk, and for you to return the slap, in front of your Dada who loves you more than everything and your family ever ready to shield you from attacks.
Sometime ago, the Emir of Kano; Sanusi Lamidi Sanusi urged his daughter to retaliate if her husband ever laid a finger on her. Although his view is interesting, the more interesting part of it is the kind of response he got from the public and the public debate it sparked. Generally, Nigerian men have really funny egos. Let me share a story that I witnessed some years ago.
Sometime in 2015, my mother and I had gone to a Nigerian bank to withdraw some money. The queue inside was a disaster so she decided we should queue up at the ATM outside. After spending a bit over an hour on the queue with only two people left before our turn, a young man came with a carmo cap, claimed he was a soldier and wanted to withdraw without joining the queue. Knowing the kind of mother I have, I was already expecting hell to let loose in that place but to my greatest surprise, she didn’t say a word. I guess she just didn’t have strength for any form of drama that evening. The woman who was standing behind us however, was really annoyed and kept insisting that the soldier joined the queue. She later kept quiet and allowed the young man to withdraw in peace. When he was done, he then went back to the woman and started harassing her. Of cause a Nigerian woman who could speak out and say a soldier should queue up will definitely take no nonsense so as you can imagine happened. There were series of shouting upon shouting. The very interesting part of what happened was that a man standing behind the woman (who didn’t know her) started ‘begging’ the young soldier to ignore the woman and go. Let me quote him; “Please oga, leave her alone. Don’t argue with her, she doesn’t know anything. She is just a woman‘. That was the point my wonderful mother lost it in public; all I heard next from her was her usual start line : “What do you mean Mr man“, followed by a whole lot of bashing and bashing. To cut the story short, my mother insisted he apologized to the woman for that statement which he was forced to do everyone was already against him as my mum had whooped up a lot of sentiments from those that were gathered. Although my mother might have won that one, the entire misogynistic ideals are embedded in the nature of very many Nigerian men.
Misogyny which can be described the ingrained prejudice against women has been in the general Nigerian culture for many years and rather unfortunately, has been made grounded, sealed and acceptable in the name of religion. Sometime ago when the bill for gender quality was put forward in the house of assembly, the Sultan of Sokoto spoke publicly and said it is against Islam for men and women to be treated equally. This isn’t just an Islamic thing, I grew up listening to ‘men are the head of the house and women should obey and be teachable to their husbands’ rhetoric in church. This misogynistic culture has found a very wonderful way to successfully creep itself into every single area of the Nigerian culture . Wives are obligated to kneel while addressing their husbands, do the cleaning, take care of the kids, do practically everything. This isn’t strange however because right from schools, you are being thought “It is the duty of the husband to provide (money) for the family while it is the wife’s duty to take care of the home’. These things systematically become embedded in our nature and accepted by society right from childhood. Generally, the society indulges men’s excesses right from the home when a young boy addresses his sisters anyhow without his parents rebuttal. ‘You know he is a man and is the head’ , when the girl is forced to do the dishes and ‘assist the mother in the kitchen’ while the male child runs off to either sleep or play football (or anything) instead of assisting the sister. As simple as these things may sound, they are fundamental issues that leave many men to grow up with the sexist mentality , address women as and treat them like ‘weaker vessels’. To me, sexists are not different from racists, they just operate with different versions of release. Wouldn’t it have been easier to blame misogyny on lack of education? Unfortunately, many educated people are sexists. Some even go to more developed countries, interact with women like normal human beings then come home to become Zeus and Poseidon inside their houses; they become gods. These thing is even worse when both the woman and the man are uneducated, leaving society to dictate what is normal and acceptable and what isn’t.
In Nigeria’s case, not only should these things be addressed right from the grassroots beginning from passing the gender equality bill, more women must also rise to the occasion and be independent. Break yourselves loose. If you keep depending, demanding and waiting for men to do every important thing, then nothing will change. It is no secret that in a developing country like Nigeria, many men are sexists who believe that men are the head and women should be treated from that perspective therefore do not see or treat women as partners but modernized servants. And when some men say they want a respectful wife, they mean ‘a wife who will put away her wants instantly just to satisfy him’.
The various replies to Gimba Kakanda’s letter only brought to fore once again the different shades in of misogyny in Nigerian men. It’s never too late to unlearn your brand of misogyny as a man. Women are equal, they deserve to be treated with respect, they deserve equal pay and their opinions count just like every other person. I wish you a happy international women’s day once again.
I would love to hear from you. Kindly feel free to express yourself in the comment section. I try to reply as much as I can s soon as I can. Thank you.