Alice Prepares to Commemorate Nigeria’s 53rd Year of Independence

533348_481062288611199_727496733_n

As Nigeria prepares to commemorate its 53rd Independence leaders in power call for prayers and positive utterances while leaders out of power say the problem is visionless leadership forgetting when they were in Aso Rock  they were quite blind themselves. Or should we now forget that they built private universities with public money and traveled abroad to treat sprained ankles.

They say we must pray more and more, and they are right, it absolves us of the need to actually do anything.  We all say we want to end corruption but we know we don’t want to end it just yet, not before we have had our own turn to chop.  When we pray we pray for God to give us our turn to chop first after that we can use our loot to spread the word. God will surely forgive us because we pay our tithes even of the NGN100 we pay our tithe of NGN10 but one man cheated on his tithe that is why they caught him for corruption.

2c767f8ba63a866e4d55e59cca764ee3

“Throughout the world, the citizens base their choices of leaders on their proven abilities to deliver. Democracy is too important to be left in the hands of those seeking elective offices for its own sake without the vision to deliver the country from its quagmire” – Atiku in the Daily Post.

All I can say is remember when you are pointing a finger at someone that three fingers are pointing back at you. He has been trolling twitter for ideas to put into his vision for Nigeria, as if he will ever use them for other than hood winking the masses to vote for him. The poor fools that gave him their ideas.

Oshiomole also had a Independence thanksgiving church service and said our young people must recognize that America and what the UK have their own challenges. “There are people sleeping on the streets of New York, there are homeless people there”.  This is true but they also have a governance structure and a housing policy that pretends to work real hard to reduce the number of homeless people on the street. What is his homeless people policy?  He will have a party for them at his government mansion tomorrow to show how much he cares.

Jonathan in his pre-Independence media chat claims corruption is not as bad as we say it is and the exaggerated  perception is caused by media reports and local civil society advocacy. After all if foreign investors consider it only their third biggest challenge they must be right. That a Nigerian cannot get through the day without a demand for a bribe from police, civil servants, immigration, customs, environmental boards, VIO, FRSC or any of a dozen other agencies doesn’t count as corruption.

BVV3yfvCEAIHEc1

He ordered gold iphones and had Reuben Abati issue a denial when he was called on it. On twitter someone posted a picture, must be the guy in Dubai who is having them made.   There are already claims the picture is a photoshop, we will know soon enough.  There are only 53 so whoever gets one can consider him or herself very very favored, the favorite of the King. Its a big honor. Can you imagine the lobbying going on already?  And the favorites will have to boast about their favor so we will see the gold iphone soon enough.

Boko Haram is killing more people, mostly students. They do not want anyone to go to school while they re-establish the Sokoto caliphate. I didn’t know the Sokoto caliphate was so retrogressive or is it only western education that is haram? We must all read the Koran then and become Boko Haram too.  Jonathan growls at them ‘How dare you?!’ Meanwhile he doesn’t even know if their leader is alive or dead so who is he growling at anyway?

You know there are rumors that Jonathan is having an intimate sexual relationship with one of his ministers. The minister herself peddles these rumors, she says ‘if you think its easy go and do it now’. Its like the gold iphone, there is no virtue in it unless it is known that you are the Kings favorite and have the ear or the eye or whatever other body part of the King. I wonder why they settled for the iphone? The Virtu is classier and much more prestigious as a status symbol.  The iphone is so populist, the gold iphone is like a trashy tart, expensive but still a tart.

I read that we should count our blessings as we commemorate Nigeria’s 53rd Independence. I’m really trying to find something to celebrate other than the fact that we are still together. I’m married 30 years next year, and I am happy to announce to one and all that we are happily married. I’m planning our Pearl anniversary already. The fact that we haven’t spoken to each other in 26 years is part of our happiness but at least in a country like Nigeria where form is more important than substance I can still claim the privilege of marriage.

Photo: Forbes
Photo: Forbes

Please if you can help me with counting those blessing I will appreciate it very much. I have to write something to post tomorrow.

Advertisements

What Can Feminism & St. Petersburg Tell Us About Aging Gracefully?

First of all I have to apologize for not posting past two weeks. I have been in St. Petersburg, thoroughly enchanted by its charm and magic and probably more than a little bit light headed from the change in atmospheric pressure that has given me headaches and a brain fog although that could have also been the result of too much chocolate, too many sweet pastries and too much beer (I heard even the Finns pop over regularly to drink the abundant cheap beer). I have ignored all dietary discipline in the face of the amazing Russian cuisine. I find St Pete’s less intimidating to negotiate than Moscow and there are so many affordable little cafes and local restaurants serving great food to explore.

Photo Lesley Agams
Photo Lesley Agams

It’s been a welcome getaway and happened at the right time, I love Moscow but the contradictions of the glitzy big megalopolis were beginning to get to me. Shiny new tall skyscrapers dominate the skyline and overpower the quaint old architecture remaining in the city centre and contrast sharply with the project like working class residential developments on the outskirts of the city. Moscow is obsessed with youth, beauty, power, money and status and I was beginning to feel a little like creaky Soviet era infrastructure; in need of a drastic make over.

I found myself obsessing about my aging looks and body even more than usual. I’ve spent my life repeating the feminist mantra about beauty, that it doesn’t matter as much as your character and personality and your inner beauty, whatever that was, a beautiful liver maybe? Feminism and the middle class women I grew up with told me a pre-occupation with looks was superficial. Naomi Wolff famously called it the Beauty Myth in 1994 and said it was the patriarchy’s way of undermining the newly empowered women folk. We were commanded to resist objectification at all costs.

We were taught to disdain our looks as well as models, actresses, courtesans, sex workers, strippers – women who lived off their looks and their bodies were traitors to feminism, still enslaved to the patriarchy. We were told to develop and exploit our intellect and our brains; we were encouraged to acquire more knowledge, to get a degree, or two or three, gain skills that would make us financially independent of men. We were encouraged to work hard and build careers and resumes in law, business, economics, engineering, sciences and public service.

We were reminded that for every Cindy Crawford and Julia Roberts there are hundreds and thousands of unknown exploited models and actresses who are little more than sex slaves and prostitutes. What we aren’t always told is that for every Sheryl Sandberg and Folorunso Alakija there are also hundreds and thousands of unknown exploited and sexually harassed female workers and secretaries. And while feminism made it a gender battlefront there are also hundreds and thousands of men that will never become a Bill Gates or an Aliko Dangote, so I kind of question the analogy now.

I did feel frustrated as a young woman when my looks overshadowed what I said, what I achieved and made me the target of constant sexual harassment. I looked forward to aging; I thought people would stop focusing on my face and my boobs and focus on my ideas. Like other women I thought I would finally be appreciated for the content of my character (or maybe my beautiful pancreas) but few people really look that deep. So after a lifetime of attention (whether welcome or not) I’m surprised to be routinely dismissed before I even have a chance to open my mouth.

Men gain respect as they age, while older women are dismissed unless they are rich and powerful and they are still less influential than men the same age and social status.  In Moscow this dynamic is especially evident. “Sexism runs rampant in Russia and women’s rights appear nowhere on the political agenda.”  The society is conservative and women’s role is primarily defined as domestic and sexual. Post-communist feminism is confined to the intelligentsia and  the situation of women in Russia remains appalling even by Nigerian standards where we have a vibrant and vocal women’s rights movement that goes back many decades and even in pre-colonial history, makes me proud to be a Nigerian woman.

Moscow magnified my unacknowledged insecurities about aging. Despite the feminist slogans, my focus on character, personality and career development and my whining about ‘the curse of beauty’ I  recognized the attention and privilege it gave me even if I didn’t shamelessly or even prudently exploit it. I mindlessly delighted in it with all the naïve nonchalance of youth; you take it for granted when you have it. Moscow is a city for the trendy, the young and the beautiful where everybody is trying to stay trendy, young and beautiful much like the city itself.

St. Petersburg on the other hand is old, beautiful, historic and cultural. There are 420 museums in the city; and if you are beginning to feel like a museum you will feel right at home. The city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site; ALL its buildings are from the 18th and 19th century, some beautifully maintained and some crumbling apart but most of them still functional. It’s an old city frozen in a time warp and it makes aging seem graceful and amazing and special. It has also makes you really appreciate how much maintenance old things require, not just to keep them functional but to keep them beautiful.

Youth and beauty matter don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, it is a fact of life, you cannot argue with millions of years of evolution, biology and psychology. It opens doors, it creates more choices and options, and that’s what feminism is about so don’t ignore and devalue them in yourself or in others. Sure we want girls to see themselves as more than just their looks and their sexuality but there is nothing essentially wrong in appreciating and intelligently exploiting them either. Beauty is not a curse, despite the recurring patriarchal message, ancient and modern. It’s what we make of it.

The difference between Moscow and St. Petersburg as I’ve come think of it (and Moscow is even older than St. Petersburg) is ‘the balance between caring for oneself, having pride in one’s appearance and investing too much of oneself in that outward manifestation.’ Or the difference between Cher and Tina Turner; you can try desperately to stay new, young and shiny forever or you can surrender to the rich patina of a well maintained old age.

 

(Addendum September 30, 2013 – A Double Standard of Aging by Susan Sontag 1972, powerful articulation that I didn’t read till after writing this. I’m not surprised so little has changed even while a lot has changed. Men seem to be as caught up in the maintenance game now as women and its gratifying to note that women are developing themselves in different more life enhancing and self realizing ways. Still the same double standards exist and are just as burdensome and poisonous)

DSC01337

Characterization – Dr. Amataobinnaya

 

 

He came back from abroad to much jubilation and celebration, if the villagers noticed that he came back with only his briefcase they chose to ignore it. Maybe he told them that his things were yet to arrive, maybe he told them that they got lost on the high seas. He never told him the problems he had with the American government or that he never finished his doctorate degree due to the disruption. They still affectionately called him ‘Doc’.

They were happy to see him; he had been gone for fourteen years. They remembered the young man that had fought for the rights of the women and the underdogs of the village. They remembered the young man that had resisted colonial rule and the white man’s cultural dominance, who had joined the youth resistance and gone into the big forest for initiation into the cult of warriors. He had been a fearless and audacious young man.

He was no longer the boy that did the domestic work in his elder brother’s household in the city. He was no longer the motherless child that had to look on with envy and hunger as other children ate dinner in their mother’s hut each night while he made do with the leftovers they tossed at him. He was no longer the deprived youth that didn’t get his first brand new school uniform till the age of 15.

He had persisted in school when most of his older brothers and sisters had dropped out; he was smart and quickly learnt the letters of the white man and how to read their books. He wasn’t a conscientious student, he would frequently disagree and fight with his teachers and the headmaster and disappear from school for weeks but he managed to complete his qualifying exams and get a university scholarship abroad.

He came back determined to change the village where he had grown up and he refused to live in the city where he quickly got a job with the civil service, preferring to commute every day. He styled himself as a socialist revolutionary, wore safari suits and drove a Volkswagen Beetle. He remained with the civil service the rest of his working life. He boasted that he never took a kobo from the people’s patrimony managed by the government he worked for.

That did not endear him to his work colleagues or even to the village people he claimed to live his life for. At work he was regularly side lined when juicy appointments and opportunities for graft were available because everyone knew that he would not make ‘returns’ and he would  be scornful of those that did.  At home his kinsmen felt cheated that he did not bring back the national cake to share with them and spurned him at village meetings to which he reacted with rage.

He was always quarrelling with his kinsmen, they didn’t like him very much because he looked down on them as illiterates and was always trying to tell them what to do and how. He didn’t like them because they wouldn’t listen to him even though he was a very well read, well-travelled man that could confidently debate politics, economics and philosophy with just about anyone even though his doctorate had been interrupted.

He was a man with a lot of rage in him. It was a mystery where all the rage came from. Some said he inherited it from his grandfather who had been famous for his rages and could make lighting and thunder strike any person he was angry with. His grandfather had been a great wizard and magician and very rich and important in their little village in the jungles of west Africa. Doc didn’t need thunder and lightning, he used his fists and his words instead and he never forgot a slight, he could nurse a grudge for years.

After work he would have a late lunch prepared for him by one of his sister in laws (he lived in his late father’s old compound) and then ride off on his white horse bicycle to visit one of his girlfriend’s where he would stay late into the night. He didn’t marry for a long time and he preferred older women, divorcees and widows that doted on him and were grateful for his attention, demanding little from him in return.

When eventually he did get married he terrorized his wife and children. He expected them to agree with everything he said just like he expected it of the villagers and when they didn’t he was cruel and remorseless in his retribution. He died sick sad and alone in a fetid stinking hole, a bitter old man surrounded by shattered dreams but even in death he stubbornly refused to admit any remorse or gratitude.

 

Narcissus by Caravaggio 1590
Narcissus by Caravaggio 1590