Supreme Court Uphold’s Women’s Inheritance Rights in Igbo Nigeria

April 25, 2016
The Supreme Court on Monday, April 14, voided the Igbo customary law, which denies daughters inheriting their fathers’ estate. The Supreme Court said it was discriminatory and in conflict with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It is a verdict that would have far-reaching effects in addressing a dehumanising tradition, which can no longer be excused in a modern, democratic society such as ours. It is a practice that regarded women as lower than men.
The judgment was given in a family dispute between Gladys Ada Ukeje, who was disinherited from the estate of her deceased father, Lazarus Ogbonna Ukeje. She sued her step-mother, Mrs. Lois Chituru Ukeje and her son, Enyinnaya Lazarus Ukeje.
A Lagos High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court all reached the same decision. They confirmed that Gladys was qualified under the laws of Nigeria to inherit her father’s estate. The verdict should settle this matter forever in favour of all daughters in all corners of the country to claim their birthright, which they had been denied.
Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, who read the lead judgment stated, “No matter the circumstances of the birth of a female child, such a child is entitled to an inheritance from her late father’s estate. Consequently, the Igbo customary law, which disentitles a female child from partaking in the sharing of her deceased father’s estate, is a breach of Section 42(1) and (2) of the Constitution, a fundamental rights provision guaranteed to every Nigerian”.

Sunday Inspiration

April 24, 2016

“My castle is impenetrable but I do not lock the front door. I leave my table and put down my pen and look out my window. And I can feel you coming to me. I wish to breathe silent words into your ears that convey something of my understanding that life is short and precious and I intend to benefit all of society, and that I require a match, a princess, a fellow troublemaker with whom to make love and mischief.”  Waylon Lewis, Things I Would Like To Do With You 

 

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Peterhof Palace Photo Lesley Agams

Sunday Inspirations

April 24, 2016

“My castle is impenetrable but I do not lock the front door. I leave my table and put down my pen and look out my window. And I can feel you coming to me. I wish to breathe silent words into your ears that convey something of my understanding that life is short and precious and I intend to benefit all of society, and that I require a match, a princess, a fellow troublemaker with whom to make love and mischief.”

 

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Peterhof Palace St. Petersburg Photo Lesley Agams

 

 

 

The New Nigerian Feminism I: Fuckabilty

April 24, 2016

Fuckabilty. Like most people who have fuckability I never thought about it. Until I read Yemisi Aribasala’s essay, Sister Outsider. I had to give some thought to fuckability. It’s just one of those things I never really thought about before. Fuckability. I always believed women had intrinsic fuckability merely because we were women.

You can blame my Russian step mother for that. Once when we were watching a wildlife program on TV I asked her why all the male birds and animals looked flamboyant and colourful while the females were drab and disinterested. Her response was – males wanted to attract and mate more than females. In other words females had intrinsic fuckabilty while males needed some extra help.

Of course I was 7 at the time and hadn’t yet found out that female can want it just as much. Or that we were a bit more complex than birds, bees and animals. Nevertheless I retain an unshakeable confidence in female fuckability that has nothing what so ever to do with looks, or behaviour. I never worried about my own fuckability instead I learned to interpret and look for male fuckability.

Obviously I do not relate to Yemisi’s struggles with fuckability.

I also did not relate to her matriarchs on the other side of the key hole. The matriarchs in my family did not teach us as young girls that marriage was our ultimate goal. Or talk about men like hers did behind closed doors. My matriarchs pretty much ignored what men were up to, told them off once in a while and instilled in young girls the importance of hard work and economic independence. It was assumed that you would marry and have children whether you were male or female but the lessons were on being self sufficient.

In their opinion the only eligible male suitor was one who had lots of lands for a woman  to farm and harvest for produce to resell at the market as well as feed herself and her children. You did not marry a man with no land. How on earth would you survive? Men did not feed women and children. They provided the land on which they could make a living.

In my village the primary measure of a woman’s fuckabilty was her industriousness. Not her looks. A beautiful but lazy women was just as likely to starve as a lazy man.  That was how it worked back then. I still feel privileged to have grown up with these women. Things have changed.

The first time I heard one of the women of my homestead say marriage and motherhood was a woman’s ultimate goal was from my town dwelling elitist uncles wife who was coincidently the first woman in the whole of village to have gone to the white man’s school. She represented a younger generation that was both more educated, more religious and more dependent on men. And she represented the sort of Victorian and religious values I had already come to disdain while living in the US. I dare say they sound more like the women Yemisi grew up with.

Its more likely that I would have been one of those girls with fuckability Yemisi seems to dislike. The ones that use their fuckability to pursue some material benefit. Some women think this is wrong and maybe even unfair. So she chastises New Nigerian Feminism for forcing Nigerian women to chose fuckability or be dismissed and then dismisses the same women because, you know, its just morally wrong.

I wonder how she feels about Rihanna? Her latest single “Needed Me” is a visceral exposition a women can relate to on so many levels. And its all about fuckability and a new feminism.

“Fuck your white horse and a carriage”

 

I’m Going To Write About Prince And Men’s Fashion

April 22, 2016

 

The first Prince song I ever heard was “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. It was 1980. I lived in rural south east Nigeria. I was captivated. I voraciously read the album sleeve. The picture of the bare chested young man on the album sleeve looked vaguely like the only picture I had of my older brother.

I developed an obsession for this artiste that looked like my brother (and me I guess) and this single. Those carefree days when one had time to listen to a song over and over and over and over again. Till you knew every word, every crescendo, very note, every chord, every accent, every lead in.

It’s lyrics were just the right amount of risqué for prudish me. Compared to his later lyrics “I Wanna Be Your Lover” seems innocent and romantic now. Just like the album cover. Then one day I read in Ebony Magazine that Prince was a diminutive 5’2″. I don’t know why I felt betrayed and heart broken but I did. I took down his poster from my bedroom wall. Thereafter I always looked at him with side eye.

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(I must seriously explore my issues with diminutive men. I am not similarly dismissive of diminutive women.)

What I didn’t ignore, what I paid keen attention to were his fashion choices. I loved his glamorous subversive 80’s style. I remember thinking “If I were a male rock star I would totally rock high heels, makeup, purple, crop tops and frilly shirts like Prince” because men’s fashion (especially white male inspired fashion) is generally really really boring.

Rock stars, royalty and African men seem to be the only ones that can break male fashion rules with impunity. And few aristocratic men do anymore except at ceremonial occasions. Prince evoked the extravagance of men’s fashion in Louis XIV’s France and Tudor England. Men’s fashion has become decidedly plebeian and conservative in the last few centuries.

Was that the influence of the American Revolution or the Communist Revolution? Or both? I’m sure some intellectual somewhere has expounded a treatise on it. Fashion has always been a status symbol. Only royalty ‘dressed up’ everyday. Only royalty was permitted flamboyant sartorial displays. Only royalty could afford it.

For the rest of mankind it just wasn’t practical because, you know, they have to do real  work. So they created these acceptable uniforms for ordinary men and women that both announced social and gender status and kept the people trapped within them. It was and is a display of power just like any masquerade contest in Africa attempts to do. Its all theatre. Village Square Theatre.

I always felt sorry for men because of the social restrictions on their fashion choices. At least women, royal and plebeian, were still allowed to adorn and display themselves. I hated shopping for my sons, there never seemed much variation in the offerings for young boys. I spent hours obsessing about dressing them with some individuality.

What happened to men’s fashion that all you can boast of is the quality of the fabric and cut? Anyway I looked at it, it was still a a rather uniform suit, whether it had three buttons or one, a peaked or notched lapel,  made in Aba or by Ermenegildo Zegna. The suit and tie seemed so status quo, so reactionary.

Music is visceral. Art is visceral. And good music and good art challenges and questions the status quo. We feel before we think. And Prince, his music, his art and his fashion made us feel. Both comfortable and uncomfortable emotions and that was his true genius. Then it made us think. And his visionary style empowered many to break out of anachronistic fashion rules. Today we have cool fashion lines for boy’s and Jaden Smith. Prince was part of THAT revolution.

That he was a black man is no surprise (because Elvis was just too theatrical if you know what I mean.)

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Nyanya: Two Years Later. While We Talk About The Chibok Girls What Became Of The Survivors?

April 15, 2016

I’ve been looking for one mention of the tragedy ‪#‎Nyanya‬ on 14/4/2014

The National Mirror is the only Nigerian or foreign paper that carried a headline remembering the incident that happened exactly two years ago today. And just a couple of tweets.

On the other hand ‪#‎BringBackOurGirls‬ has received extensive coverage and extensive support.

In the aftermath of the Nyanya bombing hundreds of Nigerians donated time, money, food items and other forms of assistance to the injured.

I remember meeting a young Illorin lady in her 20’s with a baby on her at National Hospital. She was trying to get the body of her husband released so she could take him home for burial. He was a driver. I still wonder how she is coping with her two children.

i met so many hurt and traumatised Nigerians, male and female in the hospital beds. The mother of the only baby involved in the blast had shattered two legs. She called me about a year ago. She is healed and can walk now.

I keep in touch with some of them. I hired one of the survivors as my driver when her recovered.

Let us not forget those who lost their lives, those who lost their livelihoods and those that lost their quality of life on April 14, 2014.

I would like to thank Olufunke Baruwa, Zakari Momodu, Emeka Odita, George Blankson Theodora Eromobor Charles Chizor Onuba Uche Anyanwu Maya Edukere Opuama Pamela Baride Ayi Osori Obi Asika and a host of others that reached out to help us.

We started a Facebook group and registered with the local government so that we could help out more. Then as more Nigerians and institutions became involved and more attention was directed at the growing IDP problem we moved on with our lives.

Its kinda sad to see that no one remembered them today.

Zakari, Theodora – who has those phone numbers? Let’s call these people up and ask them how they’re doing.

Yohanna who I hired as a driver recently lost his job when my contract ended and needs a new one real fast. He has a young wife and a baby.

Who’s in?

P.S – Its good to know that the perpetrators are being prosecuted but its kinda frustrating to see that two years later they are still submitting evidence. This should have been a priority case if for no other reason to assure ALL Nigerians that bad behaviour WILL have consequences.

What can we do my legal luminaries?

Remembering My Beloved Father – Five Years Gone

April 9, 2016

Five years ago today I got that call.

Not for one minute did I ever think that you would die and leave me. It was always you and me – against the world. We didn’t always agree but we were certain in the knowledge that we had each others back. No matter what. I sailed through life assured in the knowledge that you would scatter Heaven and Earth for me.

My grief at losing you was compounded by the utter loneliness I felt. I sat on the rock of my All-Oneness and wept bitter tears when the Dogs came baying for me. The Guard of my Fortress had abandoned me, the gates were Unmanned and they were overjoyed.

I wept at all the dreams we had yet to fulfil. For we planned to conquer the Universe no less. When I was a child I griped at the heavy burden you placed on me, who wanted only to dance in the Meadow of Joy and dine in the Hall of Love but you knew that I could carry it. You did not waiver.

“I raised her to be a revolutionary.” you told the Sceptics and the Living Dead.

My Beloved Papa. My Warrior. My Champion. My Eternal Love.

Mother Of Mothers you called me. Light Of Your Soul. The Solace of Your Odyssey. Mother of the Multitude. You called me Your Rebellion when The Enemies of Joy called me your rebel. You Empowered me when the Enemy sought to clip my wings.

Alas i weep no more. You are with the Ancestors now. The Beloved Brethren of the Forest Shrines have welcomed you and you have surrendered to them. And I can call your name when I offer libations to the Dearly Departed in the manner that you yourself taught me.

I will soar with your name on my lips and Our Song in my Heart.

Ginikanwa – what is greater than a child? Nneka – Mother is Supreme.

Nwa Agwubuo Duru Abali. Oke Madu. Nwoke E ji Eje Mba. The Keeper of the Family Legends and Myths. The Fierce One. The Story Teller. The Great Charmer. The One That Never Forgot. The Proud One. The Invincible One. The Fearless One. The Child of Destiny.

The Man of the People. I called your beloved people to give you a befitting send off. See Father, the Salt of the Earth were there to send you forth on that Journey. The People You Lived and Died For. As you would have wanted.

“For this purpose were you born. For this purpose I returned. For the People”

Your people miss you Father. And I miss you more. For there is no one in the Universe that knew you better than I. And you Created me in your image and likeness. No One knew Me better than YOU.

Rest in Peace Papa. Till Soon and the Sands of Time run out for me also.

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“Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.

It was but yesterday we met in a dream.

You have sung to me in my aloneness,
and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.

But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over,
and it is no longer dawn.

The noontide is upon us and our half-waking has turned to fuller day,
and we must part.

If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more,
we shall speak again together and
you shall sing to me a deeper song.

And if our hands should meet in another dream
we shall build another tower in the sky.” – Khalil Gibran

All About Chidimma #Wivesonstrikebcos

April 8, 2016

There is a hotel in the Village on the way to the stream; at least it calls itself a hotel. It’s a small concrete bungalow with a tin roof and a concrete courtyard.  An dented oil drum sits at the corner of the building to catch rain water. Dingy curtains cover the open windows and doors. Outside a big signboard says ‘Sunrise Hotel’ above badly painted pictures of green beer bottles and a goat head. At night red and blue light bulbs glow surreally in the surrounding darkness like Christmas lights.

Chidimma passes the hotel on her way to the stream every day. It looks modern and inviting in a village of mud huts and colonial buildings.  She wants to go in and maybe stay in one of their rooms. The hotel rooms she sees in Drum magazine have nice beds with head boards, closets and bedside lamps, not like the iron bed she sleeps on in a stuffy room with clothes hanging on pegs in the wall lit only by a dim kerosene lamp.

She asks her half-sister Eunice if they can stay there.

(You can read the rest here. And please drop a comment. Help me win The Wink Challenge. ;) )

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Going Nowhere At The Speed Of Light

March 22, 2016

“Have You Eaten? Have you had lunch?”

“No, I haven’t even had breakfast.”

“Why is that? What’s wrong?”

“I have no appetite.”

“Why now?”

“Existential angst. I feel nihilistic.”

“Wetin happen?”

“Brussels. Ankara. Paris. NYC. London. Abuja. Maiduguri. Gombe. Agatu. Zaria. Grand Bassam. Donald Trump!”

“Brussels? What happened in Brussels?”

“You mean you haven’t heard?”

“No.”

“Three explosions. 34 deaths. 140 injured. Blood and suffering every where. Where you been?”

“Ah. Don’t let these things stress you out o. Go and eat now. In short I am calling you back in ten minutes to ensure you have eaten.”

“Eat? I how can I eat? How can you think of food? And who made you my mother anyway?”

“All you oyibo children sef.”

“Wetin dat one mean?”

“Only overfed children that grew up in plenty talk like that. In Africa you concern yourself with a loved ones stomach before a strangers death.”

“Is that what you tell yourself when you sell your brethren into suffering?”

“Perhaps. I’ll call you back. Go start fixing something now.”

“I….hello? Hello?!”

One hour later…..

“What did you eat?”

“I ate the flesh of my brethren and drank the blood of innocents.”

“Hian. Are you alright? Do you need a shrink?”

“No. I don’t but I think you do. How can you be calm? This planet you call a rock is nothing more than a dust mite in the vastness of a Universe hurtling through space going nowhere at the speed of light. All we people have is each other and people go around blowing other people up and struggling for dominion. Its all meaningless vanity. How can you even have an appetite?”

“What did you eat?”

“Be serious…”

“What did you eat?”

“Bread and wine!”

“There. Don’t you feel better? You certainly have more energy. The battle between good and evil has no end. Its a daily battle and there are no rewards. Not even in heaven. There are only small victories. Small daily victories. And you’re going to need to keep your strength up Angel. You cannot take off your wings, you cannot drop your torch, you cannot tire. You have chosen the Road Less Travelled. You have chosen to be a Warrior of the Light. You can’t go back now. You cannot stop.”

*sobs*

“There there. Let it all out.”

“It all just seems so pointlessless. Life is meaningless. We might as well not exist.”

“Are you feeling suicidal?”

“No. I’m more inclined to homicide right now. Sometimes I feel so angry. Can’t they see? Are they blind? Are they deaf? Are they stupid?”

“That’s why they need you. That’s why we need you Angel. Because the World can be a harsh cold place and your Light and Love make it just a little bit more bearable. And I hope my love makes it a bit more bearable for you.”

 

*sobs*

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Sexual Harassment in Nigeria’s Girls Secondary Schools

March 21, 2016

 

Let’s be real people, this has been a problem since 19kiridim. if we were to start a hash tag and tell all the stories of sexual harassment we experienced in school the archive might sink the world wide web.

I remember secondary school. I remember my final year Math teacher. Can’t remember his name but he was a lot like this Olaseni fellow. Smart but creepy. Always making inappropriate sexual comments about students. I was a particular target. I avoided him and his classes like the plague. Then there was the Chemistry teacher too. And the French teacher. The first french phrase he taught us was ‘Avec la langue je base’ which meant you use your tongue to kiss. French kiss I guess. I squirmed. Some of the students laughed.

I heard some of the students agreed to have sex with them. Then again this was all a long time ago, when a lot of female secondary school students were above the age of 16 or 18 and legally could consent. I heard they may have had sex with younger students too but they never really insisted. They created an atmosphere of hyper sexuality and sat back to wait for the ones that took their bait so there was never any real evidence and the students that did certainly didn’t want to say anything.

We didn’t have the tools or the language to report or confront them. Maybe some students felt they had to give in. Maybe some thought they could get better grades. Maybe some like me just avoided them (and flunked their classes). Did our principal know or suspect anything? She must have. She always seemed to know when nkpokopi was going on. She gave us a many an assembly lecture on the evils of nkpokopi or same sex relationships among students but we never were warned or armed to defend or resist or report the male teachers.

Did we think it was over when we left school? Did we really think so? Could we have been just a tiny bit in denial all these years? This is after all uber patriarchal Nigeria. Girls and young women are vulnerable, did we really think they would be safe in the care of male teachers?

There were of course the male teachers with integrity that never would even dream to take advantage of a student. There were very clear personality differences between the two types of male teachers – the predators were smooth. I can imagine them smooth talking the principal even and mine was an Iron Lady.

I’m really glad we are talking about these things. We need to set and enforce standards in our schools and we need to equip our girls with the tools to resist or mitigate the bullying that we all know goes on in schools in Nigeria. Time to get our heads out of the sand as enlightened mothers unafraid to talk about sex and do something.

I had sons and never really had to confront this issue. Our issues were different – cults, bullies and hazing being the top three. My sons did Taekwondo. It helped but the day I went to their school they kneel down beg me make I no come again because they expected a back lash for my presence. Rumors of rape of boys were less frequent though not unheard of. One reason why I never sent my sons to boarding school sha.

Of course this is not a ‘Nigerian’ problem, its a global problem. Its a global rape culture that is just a bit more pernicious and acceptable in some places than others. Remember the Saville scandal in the UK? And increasingly we are hearing of female teachers in some countries abusing male students. I wonder if any male student in Nigeria will ever complain if his female teacher took him and shagged his brains out. He would be a hero in the school sef.

Sexual assault and abuse of children, male and female – is a problem. We need to see the Queens’ College incident in a broader context and look for systemic solutions to a growing problem. Unless teachers know that they are being watched and they will be held accountable they will not have incentive to stop predatory sexual behaviour. And we need to let our children know that we will protect them, believe them and fight for them when their right to be children is infringed.


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