Dr. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi And The Institutionalization Of Feminist Power
Contentions have always emerged whenever the concept of feminism pops up in intellectual or political discussions in Nigerian circles. These contentions, when observed, are products of an assortment of reasons. Most notable is the amorphous nature of the concept, which allows it to slip into different realizations and manifestations whenever political conversations arise. More critical is the ignorance that it imposes on people, raising questions around its legitimacy when viewed as a Western concept. The former reason is legitimately understandable, precisely because feminism, a sociopolitical movement that some claimed originated from the Western world, can obscure historical representations and realities at its fiercely high level. The movement gains substantial support from women primarily, and some men too. In many African countries, contemporary history deliberately or purposefully undercuts the roles of the pre-colonial African women in building the African society. This is again possible because the African colonial and postcolonial relationship erected by political patriarchy has shortchanged women.
In some spaces, it is stuck in this quagmire since the Western agencies and government support it. However, in some circles, feminism remains very controversial in an African sociocultural space; predominantly, the concept is often associated with Westernization, somewhat in a misleading manner, by which agenda-seeking people consider it as another attempt at recolonization. Often, feminism is erroneously equated with misandry or man-hating, and Africans also reject this. Advocating for gay rights through feminism is another luxury that some Africans cannot especially embrace, further explaining their suspicion around the concept.
For example, how does one convince a man who continuously fraternizes with the thinking that women’s involvement in social development and nation-building is unnecessary regardless of their educational attainment or social awareness, basically because they have genital and other biological characteristics different from him? How does a healthy society spring up with the collective orientation that women are meant to be confined to the kitchen regardless of the possibility of transformative contributions they could make to society? These are questions that people like the Ekiti First Lady, Erelu Adeleye-Fayemi, ask, making them situate their struggles around feminism.
In the recent Toyin Falola Interview Series held with the First Lady, which featured a cornucopia of questions from seasoned academics and well-read journalists, Adeleye-Fayemi was unambiguous with her focus and definition of feminism. She stated in plain words that feminism is a global struggle against all patriarchal establishments contrary to the generally held misconceptions. One would most likely look at this and immediately assume that in the spirit of defending the sociopolitical movement, the feminists have come with a uniquely appealing narrative to explain their positions and foreground their participation in the cause. But then, it reveals more. In the definition, to be carefully unpacked are the ideas of struggles, globality, and then institutional manoeuvring that favour the patriarchal system. One would naturally think about why women have to struggle, in the ordinary sense of the word, to preach their significance in national or international development, especially when it is a fact that almost everything would be impossible to accomplish in every human society without the presence and contributions of women. They determine electoral results either by political mobilization or the motivations of the electorate. They nurture the children and build good homes. The marginalized sociopolitical role of women is a global issue and can be addressed by harnessing women’s combined global power.
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Her deep-diving insights strengthen Adeleye-Fayemi’s position that institutional legitimacy underscores the age-long women’s silence against blatant marginalization and suppression that patriarchy has cast on gender imbalance and not necessarily on the understanding that women wanted to be silent. For example, in a situation where the woman is chastised about everything, including the untamed moral delinquency of men like actions of male-perpetrated rape or domestic violence, how does the woman feel free to narrate her side of the experience? To whom would she tell her ordeals, especially when the society would say that she deserves rape because of her choice of clothes, her parents would accuse her of keeping late nights, and the authorities already believe that she has no right to challenge what men do? According to the First Lady, feminists have considered it carefully and concluded that they would continue to be exposed to danger if they do not rise to the societal challenges confronting them. Women have continuously been targeted as prey as all beneficiaries of patriarchy consider them as the underclass. It, therefore, begs the question of how a gender who is already seen from this lens could vie for positions of governance, of directors in corporations, of economic roles, or social roles.
Given this, scholars who are aware of the immeasurable gender disadvantages against which the female gender is placed, social icons who are aware of the inherent damage both emotional and psychological that would always confront the marginalized gender, public opinion shapers who are educated about the potential dangers in ordinarifying women, have risen to the challenge of calling out the beneficiaries of the patriarchal system who are already blinded by the scores of advantages unduly allocated to them, believing that it is a normal thing to flex their muscles against women. This means that the challenge goes beyond the men themselves. The challenge is to make concerted efforts to give people adequate reorientation about how society should be structured. If people have been raised to believe a woman or any gender, for that matter, deserves back-bench roles for no particular reason other than their differences in biological features, then changing such sociocultural orientation is a necessary precondition for achieving a gender-balanced society.
Notably, the eventual relationship between females and males is usually shaped by their domestic experiences and social environment while growing up.
For individuals like Adeleye-Fayemi, identifying with the feminist movement is what they do with their full attention. They believe women have reasonable leverage of numbers, intellect, political might, and religious rights to push the freedom agenda of women to the society that has historically and currently remained unyielding to the demand of logic. As a result of such belief, the employment of their position, be it political or economic, is very integral to the cause of freedom. In any case, women who already are equipped with the proper knowledge that their emancipation as a gender depends mainly on the commitment shown to the feminist struggles must, as a matter of necessity, give the movement a voice through what they do and represent. In other words, being undecided is not an option because the problems that women face in a patriarchal system are not individualistic; it has always been collective. In essence, they must rise to meet this challenge as needed to attract all the necessary motivations and support required from the public. It is by no coincidence that activist women in the political circle occupy the forefront of the struggle. Those who have made commendable feats in literary endeavours worldwide give their moral and ideological backing to the struggles. At the same time, those at the economic front do not refuse to offer the necessary monetary assistance to the cause of women’s freedom.
People like the First Lady tend to be associated with one form of controversy or the other given their political connection. In most cases, they avoid the feminist tag, mainly because even fighting for women’s rights has been mis-labelled to please the patriarchal establishment. Name-calling is not unexpected in such a struggle that seeks to validate women’s rights and position in society, owing to the understanding that those who have benefited from the existing structure would always find means of keeping the status quo. For this reason, they would constantly collide with individuals who have demonstrated hostility to their commitment to feminist struggles. In essence, being considered radical is necessary and should be considered a disguised encomium, especially because she appears to have been doing something right or threatens the sustainability of a status quo that represses women. Of course, she has the political platform at her disposal to use. This challenges many individuals who already feel that institutions would continue to favour egoistic males against their female counterparts who have been extensively oppressed. However challenging the jungle is, a pride of lions would not submit to defeat by a family of antelopes.
When I asked the First Lady directly about whether feminism could be converted to politics, her responses indicate that the movement is well-established and adequately planned. Above other things, Adeleye-Fayemi, in response to the consolidating question put forward by Prof. Peyi Soyinka-Airewele, who asked about the strategies employed by the First Lady to build a formidable structure that empowers and provides shelter for women, conceded that the affirmation of their own identity as a gender begins by the understanding that certain cultural and political traditions are circumscribed in the patriarchal system, which means that they further marginalize women in most cases and eclipse their significance in the social development index. While as African women, they have every moral right to defend their historical achievements as a people; however, they would not be emotionally bludgeoned to accept cultural traditions and ideas that treat them not as viable icons and symbols of the society but as marginal figures in the annals of political and cultural development. They believe that cultures evolve, and the responsibility to make them follow a helpful direction rests on them, and this can only be achieved by their ability to identify the strengths and weaknesses of these cultural economies inherited so that they would provide the appropriate means of interacting with them, and making sense of their image.
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It became crystal clear that women emancipation, even when its primary motivation is drawn from the collaborative efforts to challenge cultural traditions that are gender-stratified, is achievable through a designed roadmap from themselves and society. But this must be preceded by a wave of sociological actions of uniformity and ideas. The highly celebrated intellectual work of Adeleye-Fayemi, titled “Where is your Wrapper,” gathered beautiful reactions for the way she metaphorizes the wrapper as a social and cultural phenomenon.
This is what encouraged one of the questioners to ask the Ekiti First Lady pointedly what it means to throw your wrapper around women. This metaphor gives a different dimension which appears to be indigenous and laced with cultural understanding to the concept of feminism. An outsider who does not understand the symbolic importance of a wrapper to the Yoruba woman may fail to grasp the cultural peculiarities that were metaphorized by the wrapper as a Yoruba cultural index. Being well-versed in the African cultural traditions of the Yoruba identity, it is undebatable that an African woman alludes to situations and experiences using the cultural framework for the designation of their locally developed ideas and philosophies. African women who have refused the label of Western feminism on account of its radical posture have allowed their knowledge about the pre-colonial African society to determine their position. They accept the fact that the colonial imperialists trigger the recalibration of African society. The deficit of the latter intellectual interpretations of many of these African cultures misled them to misunderstand and then wrongly misjudged the epistemic logicality in the structuration of these societies.
For clarification, a wrapper is traditional African clothing used to cover women’s nudity and announce their beautiful outlook. While the first attributed character of the wrapper serves different cultural purposes, the latter fulfils an aesthetic essence. Therefore, to throw a wrapper around a woman by another woman is suggestive of solidarity, affection, and sisterhood. The Yoruba believe that a woman who does this has demonstrated her capacity to identify with her counterpart’s existential challenges and has shown that her development, freedom, respect, and social strength can only be achieved when others are not threatened. In essence, the ultimate signal of oneness and solidarity is to showcase that the welfare of each woman remains a collective assignment of the woman folk so that they would jointly enjoy a collective treatment of respect, equity, and justice within the socio-economic terrain of their culture. Such a situation implies that the society would not be built in a culturally lopsided manner where the interest of one gender would be sacrificed for the ego of the other.
For Adeleye-Fayemi, feminism has become a necessary tactic of engagement to enhance a balanced society where values and virtues are deployed for making political statements that are not necessarily demonstrated through verbal means. She accepted that attaining the political and economic relevance that the feminist activists want begins with their exhibition of a receptive and warm relationship with other women irrespective of their economic condition. Women must identify with other women’s struggles to send a strong and honest message to society that they cannot be individually molested because activities of disrespect and dishonour bring shame to the female folks. When such is condoned, the possibility of seeking cultural, economic, and political relevance or expansion by the women will be entirely difficult. Thus, to throw a wrapper around another woman is to clothe them in the garment of honour and respect. It signals the unalloyed support they could get from their counterparts in the course of their general emancipation.
All these demonstrate the power women have as an identity and as a social group with a difference. The message is unambiguously clear that if women could support one another in matters where they experience disrespect, society would be forced to modify the system that oppresses and suppresses them. But then, the pursuance of a liberatory mission comes with a level of responsibility that sometimes could impede the dispirited movement members. This is usually because the energy to pursue an interest is usually more intensive than the one required to verbally air them, explaining why some ideas and motivations are dead on arrival. Individuals who believe they are workable and achievable do not necessarily make themselves available to offer the energy needed to crystallize their agenda into workable philosophy and measurable results. However, you would notice the inextinguishable flame of the Ekiti First Lady when you see how determined she is, not only to promote feminist aspirations and dreams through renditions alone but also in following her words with corresponding actions that would help to transform the system and bring observable results to the people.
This would thus shatter the age-long myth in the political and cultural circles that the womenfolk are inherently weak and incapable of contributing to the advancement of collaborative development. Showing the battle-ready mindset gives a great impression about their conviction around the sustenance of a culture that factors women into its development trajectory. Different and ideally diverse engagements of the concept have been thrown to this iron lady, but she took them in her stride despite their aggressive nature.
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Part of the responsibilities surrounding the advocacy for such rapid reorientation of the people about the need for a gender-balanced system is accepting extraneous duties for necessary actions to be taken. A feminist activist who continuously dodges responsibility would have no measure of respect in themselves and would lose the potential respect that the community of observers could give them. However, the sterner stuff with which the First Lady is made comes to bear when she was asked about the possibility of offering her intellectual services for the crystallization of the feminist agenda into the academic sphere where students would be provided with intellectual materials authored by her that would equip them with the appropriate skillset with which they can tactically and methodically approach female emancipation issues. Adeleye- Fayemi agreed to undertake the responsibility for different reasons.
The people at the forefront of a movement need to give beyond words and make themselves available when issues that concern their freedom arise. Until one gets to know how busy and influential the people in her political circle could be, it may not be easy to understand the difference that her participation in such a community development project would make. Being the wife of the governor of a state in Nigeria automatically exposes her to a backlog of responsibility, especially with relation to the affairs of women within the political terrain of the state. Accepting the offer to render intellectual services to enhance a gender-balanced society means additional responsibility, and this is a telltale sign of the First Lady’s firm commitment.
Anyone familiar with the trend of feminist activists in the African media industry and the Nigerian media network particularly could not notice yet the emergence of another generation of feminists among the millennials in Nigerian space. Still clearly undefined in public conversation, “millennial feminists” are presented as ideologically different from their immediate past generations on the grounds of greater radicalism. Time changes: the radical of today may be described tomorrow as a conservative! Perhaps, this was what Bamidele Ademola-Olateju noted that informed her question about a correlation between the millennial feminists and the older generations, especially with their mandate of emancipation for the women folks. Responding to this, Adeleye-Fayemi carefully and analytically educated the audience, especially on the reason for the preference of a radical approach against the gentle one used by the previous generations. And this is where we get more of her intelligence and sagacity.
One of the most common reasons why the contemporary Nigerian women took to the use of the radical approach is the symbolic silence of the beneficiaries of patriarchy, which, in one way or the other, encourages the unscrupulous males in the society to usually violate the fundamental rights of the female folks under the impression that it would die and pass. There are two critical issues here to note. First is the collaboration of the institutions of patriarchy, which helps in the enabling of the gender-based violence and hostilities that compound the woes of the women.
The second is the implied message that the females get when the necessary platforms and institutions that should have stood up for their rights are criminally silent, passing across the message that it is men’s world. The woman is raped, but rather than prosecute the rapist, society builds a narrative to blame the victim for indecent dressing. Another woman is violently attacked by her husband, suffering domestic abuse. Instead of social institutions to confront the abuser and inflict maximum punitive measures on him, they create an impression that the woman must have enraged the uncultured man. An innocent girl is denied the opportunity to receive education by her parents and even the system because they believe that females’ education has minimal positive effects on the family or society. The list goes on.
Meanwhile, all these social attitudes to women have been so ingrained in the system that many women have now accepted them as a natural incident. It is argued in private domains that some women have been so accustomed to abuse and disrespect that they view fair treatment with suspicion. It is expressed that the women who are the victims of a patriarchal structure usually think that an act of generosity towards them is aimed at an end. That is to say, when they get the proper treatment from their male counterparts, they immediately assume that it is done for some ulterior reasons. Erelu Adeleye-Fayemi stresses that the reaction responds to the age-long imbalance and unfairness of the system against the women. Not being used to the proper treatment mentally disorients them and reflects their day-to-day relationships with both the male and female gender. When you see a woman defending domestic abuse perpetrated by a man against another woman, for example, it is because she has been convinced that they are subordinate to the male folks and had to accept whatever treatment they get from them. Whereas this remains the common experience among the past generations of feminists, millennial feminists appear to be tired of using that method. They are determined to get radical, and if need be, rascal, so that they would draw the necessary attention and make the appropriate marks.
In the words of Adeleye-Fayemi, we get to understand that there is a world of difference between a feminist and a misandrist. The two are not comparable and identical precisely because they have a different focus. Within the mandate of a feminist, patriarchal institutions are destroyed or transformed into something beneficial that will recognize the equal rights of men and women and would not be silent about the importance of women. This means that the feminist is out for a complete social and political redefinition. The people would have access to equal opportunities that would be useful in changing their personal life for societal good. If the male is made to realize that the female is not just complementary but a complete human in her own right and not a subordinate figure whom he must muscle down, such will configure him to put up friendly attitudes and behaviour towards the female in such a way that their social and economic relationship would yield positive outcomes for the people and then the society. Feminists therefore are willing to work with friendly male allies to achieve their objectives. But a misandrist, from its basic dictionary meaning, means a man-hater. Here, we see the personal urge to concentrate one’s annoyance or anger on the males, perhaps because of the personal experiences that the females have had or purely from a hateful mindset. This does not make a feminist a misandrist.
Changing the topic of conversation, Adeleye-Fayemi was asked about what she means by being comfortable with grey areas, as in one of her essays, especially in relation to Nigerian politics. This question was given to consolidating the argument that emphasizes the possibility of harnessing the political spectrum to power the agitations of women, knowing that women constitute a significant fraction of political membership in Nigeria. Responding to this, the First Lady reiterated that logical mathematical calculations are one of the most unproductive methods of getting solutions in the political system. This is mainly because, in politics, you deal with humans, whereas in mathematics, you deal with figures. Knowing that man is complex by nature, even otherwise assured responses from political animals can change at the most sensitive hour. All these make it challenging to have a straightforward deal in the political domain. Irrespective of this condition, however, women in Nigerian politics can always influence the system to promote their feminist agenda. They can wield the necessary power and use it to their advantage. After all, there are results of women’s extraordinary performance during their management of political offices all across the world. This means that the African woman will not be different when tested. Therefore, the women can get themselves in the process and find a way to use their power to transform the country socioculturally and socioeconomically.
Finally, the fact that the African women are awake to the understanding that they wield significant power in shaping and making society, and they use it accordingly, points to the understanding that they have arrived at a renaissance of intellectual and pragmatic brilliance. They have realized, among other things, that unless they rise to the challenges of marginalization, there will continue to be challenges of unimaginable proportion confronting them. They have come a very long way, maturing and evolving into something greater regardless of the challenges they have faced collectively. They have representation in different departments and political levels where they continue to push for better treatment for themselves and society. Bearing in mind that they have these opportunities better than they have ever recorded, especially from the beginning of colonial history to its aftermath, has inspired them to use their voices and positions to promote their collective goals and aspirations. The culture continues with brilliant minds like Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi. She has continued to showcase the collective interest of women at that forum and to change the narratives as to how women can be useful in the formulation of a great society.
(This is the first of three reports on the interview conducted with Dr. Adeleye-Fayemi on June 27, 2021) For its entire recording, see https://fb.watch/6oxK6nvXx7/)
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Who Needs Counseling In Nigeria?
By Leo Igwe
In January, I registered for a professional course in counseling at the Attitude Development Institute (ADI) in Lagos. After my doctoral program in religious studies, I thought I was done doing any other academic course. But I was mistaken. I recently noticed that something was missing in my academic and learning accessories. And I needed to rectify it. So I started this professional diploma program. I embarked on this course in my quest for a more competent way to assist people who contact me for help and support. Many contact me saying that they are tired of life and could not find anything meaningful to do or to earn a living. Many attribute their problems to ‘village people’, witches and wizards, generational curses, evil spirits, jinns, demonic attacks, etc. Many attribute their failures, setbacks and misfortunes to juju or harmful magic. I decided to do this diploma in counseling because I felt that something was lacking in my knowledge and understanding of human beings and human problems.
Last year, a lecturer on guidance and counseling at a college of agriculture in Ebonyi state invited me to come and talk to some of his students. Some of the students wanted to do money rituals and he was worried. This lecturer asked me to come and persuade them against engaging in this futile and criminal venture. But how could I do this professionally and effectively?
I wondered what else to tell these students apart from what I had repeatedly said in the past. That money ritual was a superstition, and the belief had no basis in reason or reality. But will that help? Will that be enough? Will the students be persuaded by that proposition? I asked. I felt that telling them that ritual money was a myth would likely be an exercise in futility. It would likely be inadequate and would not yield effective results. I felt that young people needed a more structured way to get them to change these thoughts and behavior. Anyway, I went to that college of education and met with some students and spent time talking to them, advising and persuading them not to indulge in money rituals. I urged them to try and complete their education and then seek out other evidence-based ways of making money. I do not know if my talk yielded any positive results.
Before and after this incident I encountered many who strongly believed in ritual money, and who, given the opportunity could kill, or use human body parts for rituals. Last year, someone contacted me from Kwara state. He inquired how he could do money rituals. I offered similar advice. Some people have contacted me seeking some other forms of help and support. Someone called from Imo state asking how he could stop gambling. That it was ruining his business and that his friends were pointing accusing fingers at his landlady. They said the woman was a witch and was responsible for his dwindling fortune. I offered him some words of advice. Also, in advocating against witch persecution, I have come across people who had anxiety, and mental and emotional disorders but who attribute these psychological problems and other existential challenges to witchcraft. I have been looking for competent ways to manage witchcraft believers and suspecters. I have been searching for more professional ways to support traumatized victims and survivors. I have been seeking a skillful mechanism to empower, guide and enable entertainers of witchcraft fears and sufferers of witch persecution to heal, recover and take control of their lives.
Beyond that, there are personal reasons. I am the first son in my family. I started dealing with family issues at a very young age without any knowledge of human psychology. I was socialized to help my younger brothers and lead even when I barely knew my left from my right. I was made to manage and resolve family-related issues even when I was a child with barely an understanding of how life worked. I was not self-aware or socially aware. I did not know human personalities and temperaments. I was not allowed to grow like every other child. I was pressured to behave like the first son, the deputy head of the family, and to intervene in family issues including my parents’ marital issues. Even now my father has passed away, I manage family issues and deal with members with personality disorders and untreated traumas, including my siblings who engage in micro/transferred aggressions and other negative behaviors rooted in childhood experiences. They intentionally make life miserable for me; they complicate matters to settle childhood scores, to punish or deal with me for some real or imagined privilege that they thought I had enjoyed as a first son.
In addition, I started teaching at 17 years, I taught at a local seminary and helped in nurturing children. I did not know children and educational psychology. It was like a child teaching children. It was while studying for my bachelor’s in philosophy that I did some psychology courses. I learned about Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Ivan Pavlov and their explanations of human behavior. But it was all theory. Then my focus was on getting good grades and passing examinations, not applying the knowledge to real life and issues. In the course of my humanist work and campaign, I have come across people suffering from religious trauma, and victims of religious oppression and persecution.
I would like to offer them effective help and support. As a humanist celebrant, I help families that are grieving, couples who are getting married, or those celebrating the arrival of a new baby. To provide effective help and services, I realized that I needed some professional training in counseling. I searched online and got some information about one Counseling Association of Nigeria. I contacted them and registered. But I realized that the focus was mainly on guidance and counseling in schools. That is important. But that was not what I wanted. My impression was that the association was mainly for teachers and lecturers. I needed some training that could qualify me as a professional counselor. I went online and saw some information about two counseling institutes in Lagos. They offer professional training.
One is in Ikeja, which is the ADI, and the other is in Victoria Island. I spoke to some counselors and one recommended ADI. After some telephone conversations and WhatsApp exchanges with the director of the Institute, I enrolled in its diploma class. The classes are held once every week. I joined the second week. After my first class, I realized that I was in the right place and that the program that they offered was what I was looking for. It was a twelve-week program, very intense. The courses included the foundations of counseling, counseling theories, and skills, children/teenage counseling, marriage/family counseling, and crisis/trauma counseling. Some of the courses focused on Christian counseling, grief counseling, sex therapy, and mental health. When I started I was worried that the lectures would be bland, another monotonous exercise in issuing handouts, but they were not. The lectures were interesting. And the lecturers were engaging and entertaining. They were very articulate and used so many examples to illustrate their points. The program occasioned some intellectual shocks and dissonance. It has helped me to correct some misconceptions about counseling and counselors. First I realized the importance of counseling and counselors. Look, human beings suffer both physical and emotional injuries. Both injuries are treatable. While medical doctors help treat physical wounds, counselors as therapists help treat emotional and psychological injuries. Again, counseling is widely understood to mean advice. We were told several times that counselors were not advisers. They do not advise their clients. A foremost counselor, Irvin Yalom whose book, Love’s Executioner, we reviewed throughout the course said the task of a counselor was to make himself or herself obsolete. Yes, it is tacitly saying that for the counselee to live, the counselor must die. He noted that the counselor’s role was to help the client take responsibility for making himself or herself better. Instead of advising, counselors support counselees to take control of their healing and living.
Again, throughout the program, the lecturers made it clear that one of the characteristics of a good counselor was listening. A counselor must be a good listener. He or she must have good listening skills. Also, counseling was not meant for some people, some psychologically troubled and maladjusted people. Instead, the lecturers made it clear that counseling was for everyone, for both the counselors and the counselees. In the course of the lectures I kept flashing back and recalling so many people that I have met in life who needed counseling. Everyone is grappling with some trauma or emotional issue at one time or the other. They encouraged the trainees to go for counseling. Each class was indirectly an exercise in group counseling and therapy because the classes provided opportunities for members to pour it out, to draw from their life, work, and family experiences in discussing the topics.
Yes, I realized that everybody needed counseling. And nothing illustrated the need better than a particular incident that happened during the program. Due to some miscommunication, one of the counselors managing the program communicated the wrong date for the class graduation to the management. When she came and informed the class, she was told that she communicated the wrong date. And this counselor became furious(meanwhile her name is also Fu…something). Discussions became quite heated and tense because she continued to insist that she communicated the correct date. The room became very noisy and rowdy because some people were trying to correct her but she refused. At some point, a member of this class set that calls itself, Ignite, raised her voice. She is in this class of women with a huge and imposing stature, looked quiet from the outside, and could be mistaken as phlegmatic. She said emphatically while pointing her five fingers at this counselor and swinging the hand up and down: “You are not listening”, “You are not listening”. At that point, the counselor tried to calm down. A senior management colleague intervened and urged the counselor to leave the room. As soon as she left, another class member said: “She needs counseling”. And some class members chuckled.
So, everybody needs counseling in Nigeria.
Igwe,PhD, is a trainee counselor at the Attitude Development Institute, Lagos.
Professors On INEC’s Will (4)
By Tony Afejuku
These past three weeks have been three supreme weeks of supreme value to all of us who have been gluing ourselves to this column for the right reasons: No room for lying; no room for deceits; no room for propaganda; no room for vanity. No room, no room, no room for what should not be here. Thoughts of the streams, thoughts of the spheres, music of the streams, music of the spheres enhance the column in diverse ways.
Our debaters for the past three weeks have demonstrated this. Each of the professors (all of them, in fact) has demonstrated this in the geometry of their presentations, in the minds of their geo-biographies, in the arithmetic of their convictions and persuasions. They in varying degrees did not support the will of INEC in the presidential election, even though the INEC chair is one of them, a fellow professor in the sphere of the humanities. In going over the longitude and latitude of the flow of our professors, of our debating professors, in their authentic and responsible sphere of spheres the clarity and precision of the geo-biography and nature of patience moved towards me. This may not be the right way of putting it, but I found and still find each debater to be a patient debater. Goodness! How a patiently patient listener and presider over the debate Professor Olu Obafemi was/is! The rhetoric of his ears or of his eyes or of his tongue was/is the rhetoric of the sage. If I imagined this, I imagined it well. His rhetoric was/is not the creation of this recorder, but it is the rhetoric of the music of the shaping of the debate and the words of the debaters who like him are fellow writers and creators.
Now I present to our readers the summation of Professor Olu Obafemi who presided over the reported affairs of the literati:
“This debate has gone on very well and quite enlightening. I have learnt quite a lot from the various positions eloquently proffered here. I like to chip in this bit: (1) there will not be much ideological departure from PMB to BAT. We will still operate a neoliberal economy, fraught largely with parasitism and consumerism. It is very likely, from his experience in investment, creative commercialism/commodity consciousness and cosmopolitanism in governance, Tinubu will be a lot more distribution-prone, more productive, and more people friendly than his predecessor; (2) having operated in comprador praxis in the US, Tinubu will engage globalization with discretionary envisioning (these are loaded, unconventional concepts that may require greater elucidation in future; (3) having not operated unitarist governance strategy that we have had since Ironsi till date, and with his governance experience in Lagos, including standing up to OBJ to run a well-structured State in Lagos, BAT will be more of his own man who will surround himself with talent rather than a cabalistic instinct (I am talking here about power delegation as opposed to power relegation); (4) we have good reason to believe that Tinubu will not go for a winner-take-all, conclave-prone governance and will strive to deliver goods and services— democracy dividends more generously/humanely. May the future be better and more tolerable for our people and all of us in this country, and all our fellows and compatriots in foreign lands, that is, the diaspora.”
But the pastor-spirit as well as the track of traditional culture in him elicited from Professor Ademola Da Sylva what amounted to a kind of vote of thanks to Professor Olu Obafemi and the co-debaters in the literati.
“Many thanks, Baba O.O., for your thoughtful, clinical and lucid interventions; and IBK’s, (and others’) too! So palpable and infectious are the feelings of hope, and delight of the innocent, that you have demonstrated in your concluding postings, and my silent response was a loud A-m-e-n! Then I turned to God the Almighty, and said, “Baba-God, these genuine feelings expressed by these great minds, aggregate what is uppermost in the mind of the Nigerian people at this point of our history. Can you, please, do this one last favour for the masses of this country? I believe it is not beyond what you as the Almighty can do for an otherwise potentially great country like Nigeria! Simply protect BAT, from the powers that have constituted themselves into human principalities in the corridor of power; completely and permanently seal the mouths of those demonic lions labelled as Cabals in Aso Rock that have, thus far, truncated Nigeria’s destiny! AMEN!” Perhaps we should remind ourselves that our hope was this high when many Nigerian voters, including yours truly, trouped out to vote in Buhari as President! Now, I remember, “demonic forces” written about by Reuben Abati during the Presidency of GEJ, unfortunately, like some nameless hydra monsters they always rear their ugly heads with every new administration, these Aso Rock principalities. PMB has his good share of them in the Abakyaris, and very familiar ones, for obvious reasons, like the Ngiges, et al, never for once did they allow PMB to be! They took advantage of his visibly infirm state, to take over the reins of governance in what could be described as a “civilian coup” and ran-over the ship of the country crashing against the Aso rock! The reason we are where we are, right now! BAT like PMB, also has a visibly infirm visage/characteristic unless we pretend to not acknowledge it, a new set of cabalistic demons would join forces with the existing ones, after all, it is still the same Political Party, to take advantage of BAT’s current clinical status! BAT of 20 or 10 years ago, isn’t the same BAT today on account of age and health. Yes, unless God Almighty does something about these principalities through His human agents, they might yet soon take over the affairs of Nigeria under BAT too, to do what they know best: to steal, to kill and to destroy, and ensure that the status quo remains as it has always been, in the spirit of Ted Hughe’s very famous poem, ‘The Eagle’!”
Well, well said, O debaters. But let the columnist-terminator and terminator-columnist have the last word. The time won’t be long to ask INEC this simple question: Did INEC lavish allegedly over three hundred billion naira to register the paltry figure or number of voters for the 2023 elections? Did the very small number (below ninety or so million) match the more than very huge sum of money that INEC got for registration of voters and for other election related matters, duties and responsibilities? How much money in millions upon millions did not allegedly go under and distributed to “principalities” and “demonic forces” hovering over Aso Rock and the Presidency of the presidencynologists? Any clear or unclear answers to these questions cannot or may not but tell us that the presidential election in particular was INEC’s will. Our debating Professors will not say on oath that they did not know. Did the presidential and other elections meet the expectations, wishes and will of the people generally? INEC has the answer. And our debating professors will bluntly tell the chairman of INEC this.
Because our professors are fellow writers, I must terminate the discourse by drawing their attention to the following poem “For the Consideration of Poets” by Haki R. Madhubuti (original name Don Luther Lee), the 81 years old African-American poet, author and publisher, and a native of Little Rock, Arkansas:
where is the poetry of resistance,
the poetry of honorable defiance
unafraid of lies from career
politicians and business men,
not respectful of journalists who write
official speak void of educated thought
without double search or sub surface questions
that war talk demands?
where is the poetry of doubt and suspicion
not in the service of the state, bishops
not in the service of beautiful people
and late night promises,
not in the service of influence,
incompetence and academic
The above lines speak volumes. Let them stay glued to our memories day by day. And may INEC’s chairman become the poet and historian of resistance after finding time to read this!
Terminated for now.
Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.
Iwuanyanwu And The ‘Political Rascals’ Rhetoric
By Promise Adiele
Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play Waiting for Godot avails itself of multiple interpretative tools with a compelling grip on the moral imagination of the audience. As a timeless drama, it thrives on the hopelessness of the human condition dramatized by two vagabonds, Estragon and Vladimir who waited for a mysterious, titular Godot that never came. One of the features of the absurdist literary tradition portrayed in the play is the failure of language in the verbal context as a means of communication. The verbal exchange between the two vagabonds is evident of misinterpretation. One says one thing, the other interprets it differently. Thus, it calls to question the potency of language in the verbal medium as a means of communication. The preceding analogy reminds me of Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and his purported insult to the good people of the Yoruba ethnic group. Perhaps, misinterpretation currently manifests as an inexorable content of Nigeria’s absurd credentials.
Last week, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, philanthropist, accomplished businessman, the Balogun Babaguwan of Yorubaland, Ahaejiejemba of Igboland and elder-statesman, while reacting to events that happened in Lagos during the last election when many Igbo people were bloodied and harassed, assured the world that “the Igbo and Yoruba are not at war”. On the heels of that statement came another one “they are Yoruba political rascals”. A syntactic analysis of the two sentences affirms that the Chief never meant to insult the entire Yoruba ethnic group. Rather, he was referring to rascals in Lagos who maimed, killed, and vanquished Igbos, non-Yorubas, and even some Yorubas with Igbo semblance, stopping them from exercising their voting rights during the election. He also said “we know them and we will deal with them”. Language scholars know that Chief Iwuanyanwu did not mean to insult the Yoruba. Sadly, some social nitwits, victims of acute cognitive impairment, went on a rampage to misinterpret and manipulate his statement to suit their treacherous, mischievous purposes. It is absurd.
Anyone who knows Chief Iwuaynanwu’s antecedent will never ascribe offensive rhetoric to him. He is soft-spoken, conciliatory and peace-loving. Like every sensible person around the world, not just the Igbo, he was aghast with lurid photos and video evidence of harm against the Igbo in Lagos during the last election. Unfortunately, people who ordinarily frolic in the whirlwind of ethnic hate have seized the opportunity to insult the Igbo ethnic group while using acerbic words on the revered Chief. These people, in their degenerate and diseased mentality, are trying to install a wall of hate between the Igbo and Yoruba. Let me state categorically that the Yorubas are wonderful people whose spirit of brotherliness, conviviality, and tolerance speaks volumes across the world. I have maintained over time that the Igbo and Yoruba share a cordial, interwoven relationship in marriage, business, friendship, association and neighbourliness. The two ethnic groups can never be involved in a conflict. Many Yoruba people have helped many Igbo people to their destinies and many Igbo people have helped many Yoruba people to their destinies too. An attempt for one ethnic group to harm the other will result in serious harm for the two. It is as implicating as that.
Since the presidential elections, keenly contested by different candidates from different ethnic groups in Nigeria, some people have desperately sought to reduce the entire development to an ethnic affair. It is myopic and at once condescending. Does Peter Obi represent the Igbo? Does Bola Tinubu represent the Yoruba? Does Atiku Abubakar represent the Hausa/Fulani? These candidates all have supporters across the country. Of course, they will have a preponderance of support from their ethnic base. That is the way of politics. Unfortunately, ethnic jingoists have, in the inerrancy of their bleak convictions, reduced the entire political discourse to an ethnic affair especially Yoruba vs Igbo. These people, stranded in the realm of ethnic hate and communal intolerance, have done everything within their powers to inflame ethnic tension to crucible dimensions. It is wrong for anyone to insult a whole ethnic group in whatever guise. In Chief Iwuanyanwu’s case, he has put the records straight by clarifying what he meant, insisting that he was quoted out of context. But the morbid and decadent will not hear of it. They insist that Iwuanyanwu and all Igbo should be roasted alive. As far as these simpletons are concerned, the Chief spoke the mind of all Igbos. How idiotic and harebrained can anybody be?
Recently, some people have also indulged in ethnic slurs. Unlike Chief Iwuanyanwu that clarified himself, Bayo Onanuga offered no apology and insisted on standing by his words. Onanuga spoke for himself and couldn’t have insulted the Igbo on behalf of the Yoruba. MC Oluomo, while registering his socio-political disorientation, spoke for himself when he threatened the Igbo on an election day and went on to make good his threat which the police shamelessly called a joke. FFK has also made inflammatory remarks which were his personal opinion and not the opinion of Yoruba. It is therefore, a function of disabled, primitive awareness for anyone to insult an ethnic group based on the comment of one person. Such insults and abuses expose the quiddity of phenomenal foolishness which, hitherto, was concealed in some people by the façade of education. No, these hate mongers belong to the stone age. Nobody should be deceived by their pretentious liberalism.
The question is, are there political rascals in Nigeria? Definitely yes! These are the particular people Chief Iwuanyanwu referred to concerning what happened in Lagos during the last elections. Of course, all parts of the country have their share of political rascals. It is not peculiar to one ethnicity. Political rascals are those who walk the streets, snatch ballot boxes, stab people due to their ethnic origin and prevent them from exercising their civic rights. They are not educated. They are thugs, street urchins and never-do-wells employed by politicians to advance nefarious objectives. There are also some educated political rascals. They don’t walk the streets, but demonstrate humane deficiency of unimaginable proportions using social media and sundry news outlets. They spread hate, provoke enmity and fan the embers of war. They incite the uneducated, urging them to bay for the blood of ordinary citizens. Their social media handles are replete with expletives and insults. Abusive engagement allows them to flourish. Another category of political rascals populate government establishments like INEC, the Police and different security agencies. These people compromise the electoral process in exchange for financial inducement and material gains. They are unconscionable, desperate and invidious. Are these people from another planet? No, they are among us. We know them.
The ethnic hate narrative is a device enunciated by the political class to keep the people divided, breaking their rank and file to unite and fight a common enemy. The opposition LP and PDP are convinced that the election was marred by sharp, underhand practices and therefore have gone to court. Is going to court to challenge the outcome of an election a legitimate practice? If it is, why can’t detractors of equitable process allow the law to run smoothly? The call by some decidedly frustrated fellows in search of relevance and pecuniary patronage for the arrest of the opposition presidential candidates is from the pit of purgatory. The propaganda that there is a plan to disrupt the handover ceremony is a bundle of falsehood from the depths of Hades. Although many Nigerians regard the judiciary with a pinch of salt, people of goodwill should advocate for a peaceful resolution of Nigeria’s political challenges. Ethnic rhetoric should stop immediately. People should sheath their swords. Let us all close the road to Rwanda.
Adiele, PhD, writes from Mountain Top University.
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