I Had A Dream. It Became A Nightmare #BlackLivesMatter

July 19, 2016

Me and my son are in a parking lot standing beside my Range Rover. Apolice car pulls up. The cop inside says to my son ‘You look supicious. Get in the car.’

‘Don’t argue with them ‘ I tell him. ‘I’m right behind you. ‘

They enter the traffic as I get behind the wheel start the car and follow them.

As I drive along I see a battered body in the road. My heart lurches in my chest.

‘God forbid. It is not him.’

I avoid the body and drive past. It is him!

I wake up just as I am about to start wailing.

I had a dream. It has become a nightmare.

It doesn’t matter if we tell our son’s not to resist unless ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬

In America

In Nigeria

In Sudan

In Rwanda

In DRC

In Haiti

In Brazil

In Great Britain

In Europe

In Russia

On this Earth and Throughout the Universe

ACT AS IF!

SAY NO TO VIOLENCE13669574_878304305631130_1236389984457703318_n

Buhari Admonishes The Judiciary on Their Role in Fight Against Corruption

July 19, 2016

Buhari called on the judiciary to support the fight against the war of corruption yesterday.

Everyone deserves the best defence possible. Even the corrupt. That is the basis of our entire legal system.  Entitled to a legal defence to all accusations. A defence lawyer would not be ethical to do otherwise. And that includes using legal delay tactics.

The judiciary nevertheless has very wide discretionary powers.

However I put the blame squarely on the prosecution, and they are supposed to be the presidents men. A good prosecutor should anticipate and compensate for these delay tactics but frequently deploy their own. It should also hold the judiciary accountable and appeal any decisions that they feel are improperly given.

Our prosecutors lack the modern efficient prosecutorial skills.

An example from my family law practice.

Our client was sued for a divorce. We saw a defect in the form of the petition and asked for the case to be dismissed via a motion. It took 5 adjournments and more than 6 months to get the judgment. The case was dismissed and the petitioner quickly filed a new case in the same court before we could.

On the day we file our response, the petitioner purports to withdraw the case file and file a new one with a motion for substituted service (which we had previously decided to ignore to proceed speedily with the case.) This took another 3 months to sort out. Then we find out he didn’t properly withdraw the first suit, so there are two suits outstanding. Its taking another 3 months.

I see the same kind of unpreparedness in criminal prosecutors. Me and my client just want to get on with it. Its been almost a year. We have not had a hearing on the substantive issue.

I always win my cases because I am over prepared. Never lost a case in Nigeria. When I filed a suit against Shell BP in 2001 the Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN that came to defend them in the Federal High Court in Umuahia entered appearance without protest. The court workers hail me no be small. They said it had never before happened. Hopefully not so much now.

My rather unscientific assessment is many lawyers are too quick to file a suit without proper research and investigation, do not do enough pre-trial strategy development, and rely too much on rhetoric and connections in the judiciary. After all, they all get paid per appearance. And the overstretched judiciary plays along.

(In 2016 Nigerian judges still record entire trial proceedings in long hand.)

The solution?

  1. Training and capacity building. For the prosecutors and the judges. I wonder what they would say if we asked them the last time they went for training and how/if they apply those skills now.
  2. Upgrade and investment in judiciary infrastructure. This may also require legislation.

Agwubuo Talks About Lesley

June 23, 2016

You are welcome. I greet you. Please sit down, we must break kola together. He who brings kola brings life.  I am Duru Agwubuo, senior member of the Ndi Ozo ruling council of Umuaka Kingdom.

You say you are here to enquire about Lesley. She is a very foolish woman. She married for love. What is love? Who marries for love? A woman marries a man that can provide a good life for her and her children. She could have had any man she wanted, she could have even married the king’s first son. Instead she chose a weak thoughtless boy from a far away kingdom. His family is rich but they do not have a good pedigree. His father was a trader and his grandfather a mercenary.

Just like she insisted on marrying him she insisted on leaving him after two children. But she didn’t marry another man, she decided to live and raise her children alone in The Big City, Lagos. What kind of woman is that? Only immoral women live alone in the city. She said she was still looking for love. Her age mates married the eligible men and she was still looking for love.

It didn’t go very well for her in The Big City. She struggled to raise those boys. She ignored a lot of opportunities to be available for them and what money she made she spent to give them a good city life away from the village where she grew up.  Her aunts used to tell her to send the children back to the family that owns them and stop wasting her money on them. She didn’t listen. Maybe it paid off for her. She and her sons are very close. They dote on her.

As her children grew Lesley focused more and more on her career and she did pretty well for a woman. She was generous to her father, the big family, and the lineage and she was interested in kingdom affairs but as she became more and more successful she became less and less interested. She forgot her promise. Her promise to tell our stories. She convinced herself it was just – her imagination. After all who was she making promises too? She forgot the messages we sent her.

I am one of the ancestors now. Our descendants live in a different time, they have new ideas about how life should be. They say we are old school and out dated. In the ancient belief of the Igbo of south east Nigeria the worst fate for the dead is to have no one to remember their name. This is why men poured libations and recited the names of their fathers every morning and every night and taught their sons to do the same. But the world has changed.

Lesley has remembered me again and promised I will be remembered for ever more in her book which she insists will be in the Library of Congress. She would make me immortal!

 

 

Nigerian Case Law on Child Custody

June 11, 2016

I’ve received a lot of enquiries on custody of children in Nigeria and decided to write an update with some decisions made by the courts.

In Nwosu v. Nwosu (2012) 8 NWLR Pt 1301 – the court of appeal held –

On the right of parents over custody of children of a marriage

The Court held both parties have equal rights in matters of custody of the children. In other words a mother has equal rights with the father over the children. In the instant case the appellant had equal legal interest in the children of the marriage and a right to protect that legal interest.

On Equal Rights of parents over custody of the children of the marriage

In regard to custody or upbringing of a minor a mother shall have the same rights and authority as the law allows the father and the rights and authority of the mother and the father shall be equal and exercisable by either with out the other.

One of the questions that the court of appeal considered was whether or not the appellant (mother) had a right to take the children away from the matrimonial home before a formal order of custody made by a court of competent jurisdiction to determine the issue of custody.

The respondent (father) had asked an Owerri High Court to declare his wife did not have the right to remove the children from their school and relocate then elsewhere without a prior order of the court. The court of first instance sought to compel the mother to return the children till a determination of custody.

The mother appealed the judgement and her appeal was upheld. The court cited the previous Supreme Court ruling in Williams v. Williams (1987) that held both parents have the same right to custody of children pending a custody hearing.

“The law would be an ass indeed if a parent who has inherent legal interest in the children can’t do something to protect he children before the law can take its course” said Ogunwumiju JCA in his lead judgement in Nwosu v. Nwosu.

The court upheld a mother’s right to remove herself and her children from the matrimonial home in the event of  breakdown of the marriage, threat or fear violence and maintaining status quo ante bellum pending matrimonial proceedings.

Counsel for the respondent (father) went on to argue the children of the marriage were of ‘Igbo extraction’ and their father ‘rich and willing to have them around’. The court held that “the reasons given by the learned trial judge in arriving at the conclusion that the appellant (mother) had no legal right to take the children from the matrimonial home were unconstitutional”

“I have no hesitation in arriving at the conclusion that these declarations of the rights of the parents in relation to these children were based on a wrong premise which is that the rights of a very rich father are superior to the rights of the less affluent mother who is from a different tribe. There is discrimination on the basis of tribe, sex and financial means.” – Ogunwumiju JCA

In Tabansi v. Tabansi (2009) 12 NWLR Pt 1155 the lead judgement of the Court of Appeal delivered by Alagao JCA held that “Except the conduct of the wife is morally reprehensible it is better in an estranged marriage for the child of the marriage, more so if that child is a girl of tender age to be left in the care and custody of the wife.”

A Review of Yemisi Aribasala’s ‘Sister Outsider’ 6: Live And Let Die?

May 23, 2016

‘We all shared a war against the tyrannies of silence’  Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde tells us its important we speak. She asks us to overcome our fears and say whats hurting us anyway because silence won’t stop the pain and we’re going to die anyway. It would appear that young Nigerian women are also speaking out – against the issues that matter to them; mundane issues like who washes the dishes and not so mundane issues like domestic violence, rape and child marriage. Its a pretty good start.

Ada Agina-Ude, journalist and self identified feminist recalled the very negative attitudes to feminism she encountered in the 1980’s and 1990’s trying to market PAN African Ms. a feminist magazine.

“Feminist fundamentalism in Nigeria? Not really. It’s more like Feminism has suddenly become acceptable, and it appears, also fashionable.” she wrote “If Feminism can now sell books, and break the music charts, it calls for popping of champaign! It doesn’t matter that we’re not all in the same “aso ebi”. Diversity of perspectives is no big deal. We may each be different but we are all good. No need for the bickering.”

Pop culture feminism is a part of a Nigerian Women’s Movement and Yemisi herself is part of this movement as a female writer writing about the most feminine of Nigerian activities – cooking. When asked who are the women that she should be grateful to for that privilege she could thank Women In Nigeria WIN. One of their 1984 aims was to increase publication of female writers.

Yemisi doesn’t have to be a feminist but she could rein in her disdain. It is palpable and repulsive. It reeks of the elitist superiority that has plagued the Nigerian Women’s Movement for decades and prevented it from leveraging ‘women’s power’ for political and strategic gains. And how is throwing shade at Beyonce, Adichie and ‘New Nigerian Feminists’ NOT ‘women attacking women’?

We all have the right to ‘self determination – the freedom to define ourselves, name ourselves and speak for ourselves, instead of being defined and spoken for by others’ but we also need to work together and for each other.

Is Yemisi fighting for the right to tell her own story just like anyone else and not give it a label even if her writing is feminist? Or is she raging against the ‘mockeries of separators that have been imposed upon us and which we so often accept as our own’ both within and Nigerian feminism and global feminism? Or is she creating those separators?

We are all Nigerian women. And some of us are feminists. Some feel oppressed washing dishes and cooking, others do not but we cannot ignore the system that makes washing dishes and cooking a female duty rather than a choice – and tries to silence women that complain.

“It is absolutely maddening to have someone lie to your face about you, to distort the truth about who you are, proclaim it to the world and shout over your attempts at correction.” EBONY’s senior editor Jamilah Lemieux

There is Nigerian Feminism and There is the Nigerian Women’s Movement

May 19, 2016

 

Women’s activism within the various tribal groups that make up Nigeria goes back centuries and many groups have legends of heroic female leaders like Amina of Zaria, Moremi of lfe, Emotan of Benin and Omu Okwel of Ossomari.  Nana Asma’u of the Sokoto Caliphate (1793–1864) is a model for some African feminists to date.

The Nigerian women’s movement goes back to the 1928 Women’s War in south east Nigeria and work and activism of Funmilayo Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, Oyinkansola Abayomi, Janet Mokelu, and Gambo Sawaba throughout the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The National Council of Women’s Societies NCWS founded in 1958 to act as an umbrella organisation for a growing number of women’s led initiatives in Nigeria.  The 1995 Beijing Conference spurred even more organisations empowering women and protecting their rights.

Feminism as an organised political platform for the emancipation of Nigeria women emerged in 1982 after the first Women in Nigeria Conference in Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. Women In Nigeria WIN  was established in 1983 as one of its outcomes. WIN was decidedly socialist and theoretical in sharp contrast to the populist state funded Better Life for Rural Women BLP set up by Maryam Babangida in 1986.

WIN criticised BLP for being elitist and not representative or helpful to rural women.  Nevertheless, BLP put women’s issues in the spotlight at all levels of the national discourse and had more popular grassroots support than WIN. Bene Madunagu, makes a similar distinction between the Nigerian women’s movement and Nigerian feminism here.

Since the emergence of WIN, Nigerian feminism and the Nigerian women’s movement have continued to develop side by side, frequently over lapping and working together to achieve legislative, political and policy objectives but never merging. The Nigerian Feminist Forum was created in 2006 and unequivocally supports LGBTQ rights and women’s right to abortion.

The Nigerian women’s movement includes gender and women’s rights activists, religious, political, professional and cultural women’s groups that provide protection, services and support to women and girls (as well as a good dose of indoctrination), women focused and women led NGOs and CBOs.  More on Nigerian women’s modern political activism here.

Fumni Kuti and Margeret Ekpo worked closely with market women. Madam Alimotu Pelewura was powerful enough to resist the colonial government in the 1940s. Today, the powerful market women’s associations found in southern Nigeria are mostly absent from the Nigerian women’s movement. During the 1984 WIN conference in Ibadan they disagreed with the more radical organisers over polygamy, a patriarchal practice they insisted empowered them as traders and entrepreneurs.

The most powerful market women associations in Nigeria have been assimilated by the male dominated patriarchal political structure.

 

Yemanja-3

Yemanja!

 

 

 

 

A Review of Yemisi Aribasala’s ‘Sister Outsider’ 5: Sister Sister Outsider

May 16, 2016

I found Yemisi’s choice of title cynical. Audre Lorde’s collection of essays titled ‘Sister Outsider’ explores alienation, isolation, fear, anger, hatred and ‘the lack of acknowledgement of differences between women that has occurred within the mainstream feminist movement.’

Lorde writes about her experience of exclusion as a black gay woman within mainstream (mostly white middle class) American feminism. Yet she did not reject feminism or the label feminist as result. Instead she is ‘claiming a difficult identity’ and asks to be heard and respected, for her point of view and experience to be recognised.

Is that what Yemisi is asking for too? She is after all not attacking feminism but ‘New Nigerian Feminism’ or ‘pop culture feminism’, the shiny bright feminism of Beyonce and Adichie that has apparently attracted thousands maybe ten of thousands maybe millions of devotees in Nigeria and globally.

But pop culture feminism is neither ideologically nor politically the same with theoretical feminisms. And while the later can and should feed off the energy of the former to achieve strategic gains against the patriarchy it cannot and should not expect or hold these pop culture feminists to the highest standards of feminist principles.

At every Nigerian Feminist Forum NFF and other local feminists gatherings women have disagreed and continue to disagree over support for LGBTQ. Yet the African Feminist Charter to which the Nigerian Feminist Forum and all its members are signatories makes clear that our definitions of feminisms includes respect and support for the rights of LGBTQ.

We rigorously debated and agreed that in order to identify as a feminist our members must support the rights of all people and as well as women to sexual integrity. Many Nigeria women and women’s organisations that wanted to be called ‘feminists’ walked away rather than express covert or overt support for LGBTQ rights. And we let them go.

They are not ‘feminist’ according to our definition but feminism isn’t mainstream in Nigeria, not yet. Feminism in Nigeria is one stakeholder in a vast body of activist women that is the larger Nigeria Women’s Movement.

A lot of the leaders in the women’s movement in Nigeria are feminists – like Iheoma Obibi at Alliances for Africa and Bisi Adeleye Fayemi at the African Women’s Development Fund but many of them are not and yet work with and for women as Zoe Williams describes here.  Likewise being a woman in power doesn’t make one a feminist.

“It takes courage to face your fears, your anger and your hatred” Audre Lorde writes in the essay “The Transformation Of Silence Into Language And Action.”

Lorde wrote women ‘shared a war against the tyrannies of silence’. Shaken by a confrontation with death Audre Lorde decided to speak out and act because, she says ‘you’re going to suffer and die sooner or later anyway. You’re silence won’t save you as a matter of fact it could kill you.’

Yemisi has named that thing she fears – and it is female power. She will not be silenced.

A Review of Yemisi Aribasala’s ‘Sister Outsider’ 4: The Prosthetic Penis

May 13, 2016

 

According to Yemisi, when Beyonce released her 2015 single ‘Flawless’ featuring a spoken word voice over from Chimamanda Adichie’s 2012 TED talk ‘Why Everyone Should Be A Feminist’ the wall came tumbling down and suddenly there was pressure for Nigerian women to identify as feminists.

Attempts she personally is resisting as resolutely as she resisted attempts to be ‘indoctrinated by the women in her life.’

I disagree with Yemisi’s entire analysis of Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’. She misinterprets (and  I believe others may have also) Beyonce’s use of the word ‘bitches’. It does not mean ‘women.’ In ‘street language’ it also means ‘weak men’ and ‘beta males’.

The UrbanDoctionary.com defines bitch as “An exceedingly whipped guy who does/wears/thinks/says whatever his girlfriend tells him to.”

Beyonce is talking about exercising power over men and the video shows mostly men during the chorus. She uses Adichie’s text to contextualise her dominance of the ‘streets’ and competing with the boys for dominance.

But don’t think I’m just his little wife/

Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted/

This my shit

Here she tells us that she isn’t just Jay Z’s puppet, she is reassuring us that she isn’t being sexed up and sold at the behest of her man but is exercising a choice and agency within her industry. She is expressing her intention to slay, to dominate, not women but her audience through her skill and talent.

Queen of hell? Probably. But she’s still Queen. Unless you’re being elitist don’t knock it.

Use of words like ‘bitch’, ‘hoe’ ‘cunt’ etc etc etc in popular art forms is what Audre Lordes called “…reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us.”

“What has a brilliant, questioning, grounded mind like Adichie’s got to do with Beyoncé’s glittering confetti and goddess status?” Yemisi asks.

A disingenuous or a naive question?

bell hooks gives a brilliant review  of Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ here.

Yemisi dismisses Beyonce, Adichie and New Nigerian Feminism, romanticises a hazy old Nigerian feminism suffering a ‘lack of documentation’ and then dismisses Nigerian feminists as frauds.

Then she uses feminist analysis to justify a brand of modest Victorian anti-feminism that disapproves the use of the words like ‘bitch’ and ‘hoe’, sexual autonomy and sexualization of the female form without questioning the imported ‘Male Gaze’.

I asked Erykah Badu the same question when she advised young women to dress modestly a few weeks ago. Instead of teaching girls how to fight and boys that naked doesn’t mean ‘come and fuck’ we are still asking our daughters to cover up. Still slaves of the ‘Male Gaze’.

Yemisi is telling a story of powerful privileged Nigerian woman. But is she also wearing a prosthetic penis? Why do I feel Yemisi is asking us to bend over?

 

 

These single stories of African women are disempowering and reductive and are created for the consumption of the west rather than for any real social change. – Amina Doherty

 

 

A Review of Yemisi Aribasala’s ‘Sister Outsider’ 3: Pop Culture Feminism 

May 12, 2016

 

Yemisi calls it the ‘New Nigerian Feminism’. Hadley Freeman of the Guardian calls it ‘consumer feminism’ and Andi Zeisler, co-founder of Bitch Magazine calls it ‘marketplace feminism’.

I call it ‘pop culture feminism.’ Just one more feminism in the bunch because feminisms are plenty, in Nigeria, in African and globally.

The growth of social media amplified voices of Nigerian sisters  who’ve used pop culture “as an extension of their identity politics and their activism.”

Sisters like Sokari Ekine (Black Looks), Minna Salami (MsAfropolitan), Amina Doherty, and Adaora Ijeoma Asala (Spectra Speaks) have built strong online presence and sparked robust debates.

Social Media is an additional tool to a conversation that we’ve been having for a long time. It’s social media that’s new, and not the conversation. – Minna Salami

Are these the sisters Yemisi accuses of online vitriol and being “zealous for the treads to the global stage”?

If we do not actively enter the terrain of popular culture, we will be complicit in the antifeminist backlash that is at the heart of the mass media’s support of antifeminist women who claim to speak on behalf of feminism. – Amina Doherty

“Nigerian feminism isn’t ready to discuss Beyonce.” Yemisi writes.

Did she miss Anima Doherty’s well articulated 2014 essay ‘Why Popular Culture Matters For African Feminism’ (On Something Other Than Beyoncé)?  Simi Dosekun 2012 Post-Feminist Never and Minna Salami’s 2010 post ‘On Being An African Feminist’?

She missed the 4th  African Feminist Forum  AFF held in April this year. Can’t blame her. Google it. It got only one mention from the news media. Maybe if the participants had taken off their clothes someone would have noticed.

The patriarchy controls the image we have of feminism. Whether you are an African, a European or an American woman. The stories that are news about ‘feminism’ are the outrageous ones, the ‘body shaming’ and ‘victim blaming’ ones.

A parade in 1968 saddled American and later global feminism with the ‘bra burning myth’ and in a few decades our grand daughters may well reject feminism because of how the media portrays Pussy Riot, Femem and yes, Beyonce.

The Patriarchy uses religion and sexist stereotypes to manipulate our images of feminism and women in general and of African feminisms and women more specifically.

The Patriarchy snuck in with the missionaries and shamed African women into covering up our Brown Skin and renouncing our sexual agency.

The Patriarchy makes us ask a woman to ‘cover up’ instead of making men responsible for their actions or questioning ‘The Male Gaze’ bestowed on African men.

The Patriarchy promotes the myth of a black hyper sexuality. Do you really think our ancestors were fucking like bunny rabbits just because they were ‘naked’?

We should invite Yemisi to the next AFF. Not to bully her into being a feminist – because she obviously feels bullied – but to enrich her knowledge about the diversity of Nigerian and African feminisms.

A Review of Yemisi Aribasala’s ‘Sister Outsider’ 2: A Woman’s Power

May 12, 2016

 

At first I found Yemisi’s definition of power problematic. She calls Beyonce and Adichie “the freshest, shiniest most intoxicating insignia of global feminine power.” And that’s when I get it. She isn’t taking about feminism at all. She is talking about feminine power. And she probably means Chinweizu’s ‘bottom power’.

What is feminine power? When I think of feminine power I think of the power of the female collective, as historically exercised by the Umuada and Ndiyom in Igbo-Nigeria for instance. However, feminine power is also most popularly associated with ‘bottom power’, that intrinsic fuckability  that all women have and frequently exploit in traditional gendered relations. Feminine power IS NOT feminism.

Minna Salami gives an enlightening post on ‘feminine power’ here.

Feminism is a political struggle against the patriarchy. African feminisms are about dismantling the structures of patriarchy, imperial and home grown. Its nice that celebrities and pop culture figures on both sides of the pond and in both hemispheres are recognising their ‘feminine power’ and calling themselves feminists but its not always feminism.

Still its great for consciousness raising. The 70’s were the last time feminism had this much media attention. And this time its global.

Yemisi’s obsession with fuckability also becomes clear. She, like so many of the men she calls friends seem to have been pussy whipped by the women in their lives and are resentful and intimidated by this new white man’s version of fuckability and the ‘immodest’ women that are not afraid to exploit it.

Reading her essay I could feel her torment as an awkward clumsy teenager  surrounded by fuckability but who hasn’t been there? We were all ugly ducklings till we became swans. Which woman hasn’t struggled with self image? Even the most blindingly fuckable have and do. The pressure of fuckability is a feminist issue.

That’s when she confuses me. She talks about feminist issues and uses feminist language to denounce and reject feminism but keeps mixing it up with feminine or woman power. And its that association between ‘feminine power’ and feminism that seems to put her off. She sounds nostalgic for the good old days when feminists were plain frumpy odd balls.

She sees this New Nigerian Feminism as consolidating an already overbearing feminine power. Now that I get her point (and I kept wondering what her point was) I just want to say – is that what you think?

As an ‘old school’ Nigerian Feminist I am delighted to witness the growth of this New Nigerian Feminism. I am delighted to see so many young women identify as feminist. Identification with feminism is related to outcomes like where their support and donations goes. And if there is one thing that we need is more support for feminist causes – like the Mirabel Centre.

This new feminism is also inspiring grass roots action. The outrage and action  against domestic violence and rape in Nigeria has never been louder or bolder.

 

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