Once upon a time not so long ago there lived a small little king in a small little kingdom in the hot tropical jungle somewhere near the equator. Even though the king and his kingdom were very small the king had a very big ego. Ever heard of the Napoleon Complex? The king never answered his mobile phone unless someone richer than him was calling and really rich people didn’t call him very often which meant he almost never answered his phone.
“The only people that call me are people who want something from me” he explained if anyone asked him why he didn’t answer his mobile phone “I’ll call them back when I’m ready.”
The little king had a poor court jester who had been with him and served him loyally for many many years. The court jester had many many children and the king through the years had helped the jester to pay school fees and things like that. When the jesters children grew up they worked hard and became rich men and took care of their father while the little kings children still expected the king to take care of them.
One day the little king was hungry and called the jester on his mobile phone.
“I hear that all your children are doing well now and taking care of you. You know I helped you raise your children. You are not a loyal servant, you are eating your children’s money all by yourself and not sharing it with me.”
And the jester who was a good man with a conscience felt very bad indeed even though his children didn’t give him that much money because they were still young men and building houses and families and empires of their own and didn’t have a lot of discretionary income yet. So the jester took the little savings he had and bought a smelly he-goat and some overnight palm wine just like he knew the king liked it and took it to the little king.
He got to the little kings gate and called the little king on his mobile phone but guess what? The little king didn’t answer his phone! The jester called and called and called and even sent a text massage but the king didn’t answer his mobile phone. So the jester took the smelly he-goat and the overnight palm wine and went away.
Some days later the little king called the jester.
“I just read your text message. Where is the smelly he goat and the overnight palm wine that you bought for me? Bring it over immediately” he roared at the jester over his mobile phone.
“My king! That was many days ago. I was ashamed to return home with my offerings for you least my wife and children see it and laugh that you have rejected me so I went to the fat king who is your friend so he would call you but he seized it and had a barbecue and feasted all night.”
And the little king was very angry. And still very hungry.
And the moral of the story is – every body may be calling you because they want something from you but one person maybe calling you to give you something you asked the gods for so stop being an arrogant little prick and answer the damn phone.
I spent much of the long weekend recovering from my trip to the village (blog post coming shortly) and reading George Orwell. Thank you to BrainPickings who shared several delightful posts on Orwell’s birthday a couple days ago. Just what I needed to end my quarterly holiday.
His writing put me to mind of long nights in my village as a child reading Oliver Twist, Mill on the Floss and Agatha Christie mysteries. Like theirs, his writing transported me to England, a country I came to love through books long before I ever went there. Despite a predominant mental image of England as wet and grey most of the time (I saw a picture of London when I was 16, the sun was shining and I couldn’t help asking “You mean the sun actually shines in London?”) it always felt cosy.
Orwell wrote an essay comparing American and English crime writing – ‘Raffles and Miss Blandish.’ Growing up in the village I must admit my literary image of America was mostly built up by James Hadley Chase and the same can be said for many of my peers. Who doesn’t remember ‘No Orchids for Miss Blandish’? If you are my age anyway.
Orwell calls James Hadley Chase’s writing ‘realism’ – “the doctrine that might is right.” I think that’s the world view dominant in Nigeria. We worship “ power and successful cruelty.” That is why in Nigeria a Buhari can win a Jonathan and an Obasanjo and a Babangida and even an Abacha can be hailed as hero’s.
Orwell wrote –
English books glorifying crime (modern crime, that is–pirates and highwaymen are different) are very rare. Even a book like RAFFLES, as I have pointed out, is governed by powerful taboos, and it is clearly understood that Raffles’s crimes must be expiated sooner or later. In America, both in life and fiction, the tendency to tolerate crime, even to admire the criminal so long as he is success, is very much more marked. It is, indeed, ultimately this attitude that has made it possible for crime to flourish upon so huge a scale.
It’s obvious we are more like the Yanks than the Brits in Nigeria. At least some of us. And then there IS a whole section that are very much like the Brits (all the way down to the hypocrisy.) So in Nigeria one could say the Yanks and the Brits are again at war, for the hearts and minds of the people of Nigeria. The final battle ground? Who will win?
Orwell himself is so old fashioned and so proper, a purist defending all those British values I read about – courtesy, good manners, restraint, honour – a stiff upper lip. His nostalgia for that bygone time oozes through to me as surely as Agatha Christie’s did. I was infected with that nostalgia and a love for that empire even though I have no experience of that time in the early 20th century before it crumbled. Or a political thought in my head.
Living in the village in south east Nigeria with no library, no plumbing and no electricity reading about life in turn of the century Britain, the British Empire seemed like a conquering civilising force just like the Roman Empire. And to be a Commonwealth citizen was like being a Roman citizen (that was before they spoiled it all by introducing visa and immigration restrictions.)
The innocence of youth. But I digress.
Orwell’s ‘1984’ was not one of the books I read. The tamer ‘Animal Farm’ was on our reading list. Hard as it is to admit I read it for the first time this weekend. I kept seeing images from Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in The Wall’ with the words. And when that wasn’t enough I started mentally illustrating the words with dark gothic Marvelesque pictures.
In ‘Raffles and Miss Blandish’ Orwell wrote:
The inter-connexion between sadism, masochism, success-worship, power-worship, nationalism, and totalitarianism is a huge subject whose edges have barely been scratched.
He definitely did more than just scratch the edges in ‘1984.’ O’Brien seems to sum up that inter-connexion. I wouldn’t be surprised if O’Brien isn’t Big Brother. Wait a minute. Is he?
Orwell doesn’t completely absolve English crime writing of sadism and power worship.
But it is sadism after the English fashion: that is to say, it is unconscious, there is not
overtly any sex in it, and it keeps within the bounds of the law. The British public tolerates a harsh criminal law and gets a kick out of monstrously unfair murder trials: but still that is better, on any account, than tolerating or admiring crime. If one must worship a bully, it is better that he should be a policeman than a gangster.
So we are back to the comparison with Nigeria. In Nigeria our policemen ARE gangsta’s and it would seem the people would rather worship the real gansta’s so much so that they elevate them to elective office. And make the police worship them. How is that for an Alice in Wonderland hypothesis?
Who won? The Yanks or the Brits?
The Yanks and the Brits are allies anyway (like Oceania and Eurasia or maybe Oceania and Eastasia but it can all change, who knows.) The battle isn’t between the Yanks and the Brits, its between Nigerians. More than 200 tribal and linguistic groups, just 5 or 6 large ones and everyone is struggling to enforce their truth as the only truth.
“Might is right” or “the end justifies the means” politics, that is what Nigeria has turned democracy into, even the Americans are copying us now. Orwell would have hated Trump’s regime but he would have hated the cold war between the left and the right even more I reckon. They have squared off in a classic good vs. evil battle.
The common people, on the whole, are still living in the world of absolute good and evil from which the intellectuals have long since escaped. But the popularity of NO ORCHIDS and the American books and magazines to which it is akin shows how rapidly the doctrine of ‘realism’ is gaining ground. The average man is not directly interested in politics, and when he reads, he wants the current struggles of the world to be translated into a simple story about individuals.
Orwell seems abandon intellectuals and join the ranks of he common man when he excoriates Salvador Dali and surrealism in another essay titled ‘Benefits of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali.’
What he clearly needs is diagnosis. The question is not so much WHAT he is as WHY he is like that. It ought not to be in doubt that his is a diseased intelligence, probably not much
altered by his alleged conversion, since genuine penitents, or people who have returned to sanity, do not flaunt their past vices in that complacent way. He is a symptom of the world’s illness. The important thing is not to denounce him as a cad who ought to be horsewhipped, or to defend him as a genius who ought not to be questioned, but to find out WHY he exhibits that particular set of aberrations.
That gave me a good laugh. See shade.
Obscenity is a very difficult question to discuss honestly. People are too frightened either of seeming to be shocked or of seeming not to be shocked, to be able to define the relationship between art and morals.
At least Orwell was honest in his revulsion at Dali. Just as he was honest in his praise of Gandhi. At least as honest as you can expect a hypocritical Englishman to be (his words, about English hypocrisy, not mine.)
“How clean a smell he has managed to leave behind” Orwell wrote in ‘Reflections of Gandhi’ even though he described much of Gandhi’s philosophy as inhuman and atavistic.
My favorite quote from this weekend reading –
Sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid. Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings.
It has freed me from the chains of sainthood. There are too many wannabe saints in Nigeria already. As an Igbo-Nigerian I can tell you that our hero’s and leaders are no saints. They are more like the licentious Roman gods than saints. Our hero’s, gods and leaders have flaws – like lust or temper or gluttony. That way we can relate to them. And avoid hypocrisy.
“People worship power in the form in which they are able to understand it” – Orwell.
Sometimes its hard to remember he wrote all this in the 1940’s. I swear.
I had to look up the dictionary definitions of realism and surrealism. It is the difference between things as they are and things as bizarre. Well, we live in pretty bizarre times right now and have to accept them as the times as they are. And deal with them. They are not opposites. Neither one is good or bad. Neither are Dali and Gandhi.
I’m also more a Dali than a Gandhi. And thanks to Orwell now I know that’s alright too. I wonder why Orwell hated Dali so much? I wonder what he would make of me featuring Dali’s work in this blog post about him?
“Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí.”
Fortified and inspired I can go about being my awesome self – Lesley.
(Find a collection of Orwell’s work including ‘1984’ here.)
OLUREMI OBASANJO: PORTRAIT OF A FEMINIST POSTER GIRL?
By Lesley Gene Agams
A privileged idyllic childhood, a precocious adolescence and a striving dogged socially conscious woman. That is the sense I get of Oluremi Obasanjo from her recently released book Bitter Sweet: My Life with Obasanjo. Although she often comes across as naïve, gullible and coarse there is no masking the raw ambition and sense of achievement lurking covertly like a cunning animal.
Bitter Sweet offers a rare insight into a young girl’s life in pre independence Nigeria. Her story of going off to Lagos with only a female cousin was a surprise, as was her sneaking away from an event in Ibadan to visit her beau’s house. Even more astonishing was her un-chaperoned trip to London to meet Obasanjo before they were even married. It’s rare to hear such honest accounts about young women of that era enjoying such freedom. To hear it told by the social matrons, back in 1950 all girls were on chaperoned lock down till their bride price was paid and rings on their fingers.
Oluremi’s story also offers important insight for the Nigerian women’s movement and victim’s activists all over the world. It provides a rare viewpoint into the psyches of a high profile domestic violence victim and her equally high profile abuser. The question ‘why do victims stay?’ is one of the most contentious in academic and legal literature on violence against women globally. There is no agreement as to the dynamics but there is a growing recognition that victims cannot always exercise agency and walk away. This is a rare portrait of a narcissist, his codependent and their traumatized and troubled offspring.
Here we have the unfiltered voice of a victim and an abuser known all over the world. This isn’t the transcript of a case study interview where the interviewer asks leading questions or a counselor offers culturally biased speculation about the motives behind an anonymous patient’s experience. We have a cultural and social context that provides incredibly rich information. A number of commentators have compared it to a Nollywood script but this is not fiction. Why did Oluremi stay? Why does she still call this man her husband and ‘the only man I have known’?
Her story is significant because of who she was married to, her experience with Obasanjo is the experience of millions of Nigerian women. Thanks to her book we may be able to bring attention to their stories and begin a rational discourse on violence against women and domestic violence, two issues that have failed to enrage the Nigerian public or engage the Nigerian media. Oluremi is just one of the lucky ones. Apollonia Ukpabio endured 25 years of escalating violence till her skull was cracked open with a machete. Miraculously she survived. Her husband is on trial for the attack. Why did she stay? She believed God and church wanted her to protect and defend her marriage no matter what. Others have died.
The challenges of being married to Nigerian elites are especially made obvious in her narrative. It’s the story that does not get told, the male entitlement, the female consent and often the mutual infidelity. It’s really difficult to complain when living a really privileged life in a really poor environment. I know many a Nigerian matron that felt Princess Diana should have put up and shut up. The ‘old school’ belief is that a woman should marry for economic security not love, and if it’s companionship you crave find it with the women and/or your children. The wisdom of the matrons for a woman thinking of leaving her husband is territorial– don’t be foolish, why leave your turf for some other woman to take over? Fight for your matrimonial haven and sanctuary. Oluremi had a lot to fight for.
For me one of the more disquieting revelations of this book is how powerful and rich men are manipulated to accept and expect exploitation through their sexual extravagance. According to Oluremi, Obasanjo’s aunt became one of his ‘pimps’ and weak minded male that he was “he abandoned his Lugard quarters for five days because he didn’t want a divorcee, who was even a mother of two. Later, he gave in and the woman had a child…” I know people like that, they will never go to see a powerful man without ‘an offering’, usually a young pretty girl. The most disgusting personal encounter I recall was a middle aged couple that brought their 15 year old daughter dressed like a hooker to see a certain big man they wanted a favor from. I was there. I’ve often wondered about the ‘powerful’ men that fall for that one.
All families are dysfunctional and some may seem more dysfunctional than others but it seems too much of a coincidence that Obasanjo’s narcissistic, high risk behavior and mood swings only emerged after the civil war. Could he have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder? This is not uncommon in soldiers, even Nigerian soldiers. I handled a divorce case a while back, the husband, an armed forces man, had just returned from an active mission and was exhibiting classic symptoms of PTSD. The administration couldn’t offer him any help. He refused to admit he had a problem, his wife did not know how to handle it, his marriage collapsed under the strain. He reacted pretty much the way Obasanjo did, contesting custody, refusing to pay child support and becoming increasingly abusive; contemporary Okonkwo figures, tormented, paranoid and insecure, things falling apart around them.
All that being said there is a lot that makes me uncomfortable about this book, it’s no master piece but its not meant to be. I found Oluremi’s total lack of self consciousness very disturbing, she seems to be saying of course I slapped that girl and of course I bit that woman and of course I made embarrassing scenes and even fought a truck full of soldiers, like it’s all normal. I found that eerie. The scene on page 66 where she attacks Mowo Sofowora, like a frenzied mother hen and then having fended off the interloper, clucks protectively around her chicks is totally dissonating and disturbing. All narrated like it’s totally normal, there is no moral debate as to the appropriateness of action. She is not the only female (or male) I know that considers her response to this sort of ‘provocation’ perfectly normal and unquestionably right. I find that frightening and sad.
Even more disturbing evidence of a venal, anachronistic world view was her calling Murtala’s ADC the day after she was informed of her child’s death and being morbidly counseled to see the incident as some sort of answer to her prayers to be back in Obasanjo’s house. Just access to this ‘big powerful man’ who happened to be the-father-of-her-children-who-he-had-custody of had become a goal. Her disappointment and resentment towards her sister in law who precipitated her hasty ouster five days later seemed to coldly over shadow her grief at losing a child. Her insecurity is overwhelming; she is willing to forgive Obasanjo the death of her child but not his sister. Her apparent devotion to him despite everything borders on an obsession. Is she a cold ruthless woman or the traumatized victim of a narcissist?
Then there was the bizarre description of their courtship, she presents herself as a passive and entitled recipient of Obasanjo’s courting. He wrote her letters, sent her books and gifts and eventually she said yes. Surely that’s not the whole story. What exactly did the shoeless son of a village drunk say to the spoilt railway master’s precocious daughter that convinced her that Obasanjo was worth waiting seven years for? It’s obvious he was a man on the fast track to power but Oluremi’s narrative while indicating that does not provide any insight into the motivation for any of his actions. Why did he want to study geology? Why did he change his mind for a military career? Is she absolving herself of all responsibility or did she really not know? Or is she just not telling? Loyal to the bitter end?
Whatever her motives for staying or for telling her story now Oluremi did not deserve the treatment she received from her husband. No man or woman deserves abuse and violence, and all women deserve the right to say to the man they married ‘I can’t live with you anymore’ and still be humanely treated with their children as Nigerian citizens protected by a constitution. We need to stop the abuse. We need to break the cycle of violence.
I have reaffirmed or learnt a number of things from reading this gripping account of lives interrupted;
1. There is an urgent need to review the Matrimonial Causes Act and extend its jurisdiction to women married under customary law; it is an archaic piece of legislation that offers little protection to women considering divorce or separation and their children. The customary law systems that the majorities of woman have access to in Nigeria are heavily biased against women and make seeking separation or divorce traumatic and humiliating.
2. We desperately need to introduce parenting skills to our education curricula. Children are often at greatest risk of long term harm and damage from their parent’s ignorance. Teaching children parenting skills is as important as teaching them to say no, zip up, life skills or whatever else we choose to call sex education. Teaching them religion is not enough.
3. The Nigerian armed forces need to increase their transition support for veterans returning from war, especially the psychological support they provide. Wars are dehumanizing and brutalizing, veterans and their family members need assistance re-integrating after prolonged exposure to the violence and brutality of armed conflict and barracks life.
4. Nigerian media need to learn how to write more sensitively about women and women’s issues. Most of media commentators including female commentators brushed aside her story and condemned her for telling it. Stark testimony to how such tragedies can play out to an inevitably sad outcome while hidden in plain view.
Breakfast is usually coffee and a cigarette. I know I know. I’m full of contradictions like that. An otherwise sensible healthy lifestyle and then coffee and cigarette for breakfast? Deal with it. I even wrote a poem about it to capture the feelings of goodwill and joy my breakfast brings me. It sucks when your a poet and writer, because everything is an epic.
Because I’m mostly sedentary, after ‘breakfast’ I only snack on fruits before noon if I feel hungry (usually I don’t), when I mindfully prepare a generous brunch. Then I have a light easily digestible dinner around 6pm. I never eat after 7pm. Dinner used to be my primary meal of the day. It was my reward for a hard days work, and I because I was rarely at home at dinner time I often ate out. That’s all changed now that I follow the Ayurveda energy clock. I also work from home now and have found great joy and well being in cooking for myself. Its a ritual of self love.
I do this every day except at the Full Moon. Or when I am travelling. Or appearing in court. When I’m travelling or in court I eat a nice filling breakfast, one that pacifies my dosha. I’m a vata and get easily distressed by travel and noisy crowded places so eating a nice soothing meal beforehand makes me less cranky and less anxious. It helps me relax and feel grounded. You can read more about feeding the vata here.
What’s this about the full moon you may be wondering. Well the full moon is the one time a month that I allow myself to eat foods that I enjoy but that are not recommended for my constitution and need to eat less of. Like bread, pasta, a full English breakfast, a double cheese burger with bacon and a fried egg, cheese cake, black forest, red velvet, pizza! Lasagne, a steak. Apple pie a la mode. Egusi soup. Ice cream! You catch my drift. I plan it very carefully. And I choose the accompanying wine (or beer) even more carefully. It is something to look forward to I tell you.
All that said I’m so glad I ate anything and every thing and at any time and had eating disorders during my misspent youth when my digestion was strong and could handle it (although it did fuck me up eventually.) Of course I heard some people age without these problems, good for them. I’m not one of them. If I eat two square meals a day I add weight. One square meal sef. Blame it on the Menopause. I tend to blame all the changes on the menopause nowadays. Must tell you that story.
Its either eat less or spend an hour or two in the gym sweating and huffing and puffing and I do not like sweating and huffing and puffing. Its a vata thing.
I look and feel better than I have in more than a decade. So I must be doing something right.
Having had a day to decompress and a day to catch up on dull routine office matters I can sit back and reflect on the past few days. Ahhhh…what a life! What a rat race. Rushing from pillar to post as my old folks back home would say.
First of all I am moving to Ghana as soon as possible. They took the pill, and now it all seems possible in Ghana in a way it does not in Nigeria. There is a confidence in the air; the desperation of Naija, that hard hungry prowling menacing edge, is absent.
I never could define it before.
There are about 23 million people in Ghana, we last elected a fellow there in 1995, that was 13 years ago, by Ashoka’s formula there should be about 20-26 social entrepreneurs at different stages of their life cycles just waiting for me to find them.
When I got to Ashoka fellow L’s house on my first day the power was out in her neighborhood. She kept on apologizing and saying ‘This sort of thing does not happen here; they tell us if there is going to be an outage’. Turns out there was a breakdown. No body in the neigborhood had a generator. They quickly ran out of candles at the local stores.
There was no lock on my bedroom door, not even a door handle actually. Now that was freaky. I know I sometimes I forget to lock my door at night but to not even be able to close it! And the gates didn’t have padlocks and the door opened to the outside. Eventually I shrugged and went to bed, this is Ghana I guess. Since I’m writing this now I didn’t get attacked by robbers or pyschos.
On the drive to Lucia’s office in the morninng I couldn’t help but notice Guaranty Trust Bank ‘s billboards everywhere, they were the largest on the streets, offering 4 types of VISA credit cards. I bank with them in Naija. I’m still trying to activate my MASTERCARD debit card almost 6 months later.
They even offered a students credit card. I remember some customer service clones at my Naija branch takling down to a teenage student that came to open an account. They were totally unhelpful, I think they sent her away. I remember telling Maya about it.
I find it a bit disturbing to see 21st century Nigerian bank workers, they tend to look like a witches at a murder inc convention or vultures at a feast maybe. Their painted on faces and their conservative uniforms inspire pity not confidence. At least when I worked ever so briefly for a bank we still expressed some individuality of personality and style.
I had scheduled 4 two hour interviews; one called to reschedule for Saturday morning. The first 2 went great then my hostess took me home and over fed me. Yes that’s right she held a gun to my head and made me clean my plate. Thankfully I had an extra 2 hours before my next interview. I took a power nap in her very comfortable armchair.
Site visit on Saturday took me into the market, where ‘the people’ are. The crowds were overwhelming but valiantly I waded through the press of humanity to get to the drug store where I would be shown this great new idea in action. People kept on dumping into me or me into them, I slung my laptop bag in front of me and marveled that no where else in Africa have I felt so comfortable lugging around a laptop.
I didn’t read a local newspaper till the last day, I’m not sure why, Lucia had them delivered at breakfast every morning but on Sunday after a long brisk walk and a cold shower I took one to read. The Daily Mirror had frontline stories of female gospel singers and their marriage troubles.
I was astounded reading the stories, they were woman friendly! They did not condemn these women for not enduring abuse and unhappiness! They did not say or imply that these were selfish women undeserving of heaven and the fruits of wedded bliss that endureth. A father was actually quoted as saying he was happy his daughters marriage was over.
I brought the paper back as a souvenir even though I used it to wrap the ‘black pepper’ sauce that Lucia had made for me. (Delicious!) Framing it might be extreme; one of our candidates this year that is creating exclusive communication platfroms for women to discuss politics and current affairs from their prespective starting in Ghana.
I remember my total frustration when I lived in south east Nigeria and wrote for a local newspaper. I wanted to write articles to inspire and sensitize women. The publisher/editor wanted me to cover the worst and best dressed at social events. I had one regular reader that I know of (she told me she looked forward to my column). She was a professor at the local university.
Another candidate (this time a Nigerian) is using humor in popular lingo, slang and even pidgin English to inform the people about thier legal rights. A lot of them don’t know that …your landlord can’t kick you out on the street without due process or that you can’t be arrested or searched without a warrant or that they can’t sack you becuase you are HIV positive.
Perhaps these candidates can collaborate. Perhaps I can inspire and sensitize in a style accessible to the many. Perhaps we can all acknowldege in deed and word that the majority in the developing world do not hold college or university degrees without treating them like simpletons. Perhaps we can change the world. As a matter of fact, YES WE CAN!
Apparently I’m not the only one. Christina Cauterucci at Slate wrote:
I wondered why I’d come into the movie expecting some energizing woke-feminist manifesto instead of a film that stars one sexy woman surrounded by throngs of horny men
Pretty much how I felt.
I was hoping Wonder woman would bring some extraordinary insight into our notions of masculinity – I mean seeing as she had never seen a man before meeting Steven but all she had to say was ‘Are you typical of men?’ and apparently referring to his penis. Seriously? And then she falls in love with him. Why? Other than his pretty eyes and ‘above average’ penis?
The most feminist thing about the movie maybe its female lead, its female director and its female only screenings. It’s full of sexist comments by male actors while featuring no sex at all, very ladylike fight scenes and apparently it’s fuelling Jewish/Arab conflict because the Gal Gadot is Jewish even if Wonder Woman isn’t.
Diana herself is so naive I’m not even sure that she should be a role model for young girls. It plays to the female saintly but strong trope I find rather questionable and I find it hard to reconcile with the very overt sexualization of her image. Its still the old Madonna versus the Whore narrative, just slightly tweaked.
I read Zoe Williams’ review in the Guardian which promised me ‘a gloriously badass breath of fresh air’ before seeing the movie and I swear I will never read another review BEFORE watching a movie again. I think she set my expectations even higher than they were before.
Nevertheless, the fact I found the movie intellectually disappointing does not change the impact ‘Wonder Woman’ had on me growing up and creating my own female identity. I would have just told the story different.
Under Nigerian law defamation can be treated as a tort or as a crime.
Under section 373 of the Criminal Code defamation is any statement, written, verbal, visual including photographic, audio or video recordings whether expressed directly or by implication that is likely to injure the reputation of a person by exposing him or her to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or likely to damage a person in his profession or trade.
Defamation is either libel or slander, it is libel when the false statement is published in written form and slander when it is spoken.
A person, who publishes any defamatory matter, is guilty of a misdemeanour and is liable to imprisonment for one year; and a person who publishes any defamatory matter knowing it to be false, is liable to imprisonment for two years.
The Cyber Crime (Prohibition, Prevention Etc) Act 2015 that became effective on May 15, 2015 also provides as follows:
24. Any person who knowingly or intentionally sends a message or other matter by means of computer systems or network that –
(b) he knows to be false, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another or causes such a message to be sent:
commits an offence under this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not more than N7,000,000.00 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 3 years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
The only defence to defamation is that the publication, at the time it is made, is for the public benefit, is true or that the publications was privileged and made only to persons entitled to receive it as held in V. M. Iloabachie, Esq. v. Benedict N. Iloabachie (2005) 5 NSCR Vol. 2).
It has been established that when an individual posts something on social media they are acting as publishers and can be sued for making false statements or defamatory comments.
In order to succeed in a case of defamation, the plaintiff needs to prove that:
the statement, the subject matter of action is defamatory.
it was published to a third person other than the plaintiff.
the words refer to the plaintiff.
Newsbreed Org. Ltd v. Erhomosele (2007) 5NWLR Pt. 979 p. 499, the court outlined the elements of defamation. It held that the words or statements complained of must be untrue, that they were made maliciously (without just cause) and that the plaintiff suffered damage.
In Egbuna v. Amalgamated Press of Nig. (1967) All NLR, 27 at 28, it was held that the statement must be defamatory in the estimation of right thinking members of the society and that the words complained of must refer to the plaintiff, no writing is libel unless it refers to a specific person.
In Dario v. U.B.N (2006) 16 NWLR 1059 p 99, it was emphasised that:
“…there is a publication of the defamatory material to at least one person not being the person defamed. Publication which is the making known of the defamatory material to some other persons is the cause of action in defamation and not the writing of libellous fact.”
A statement can be said to be defamatory when the imputation of the statement tends to lower the other party in the estimation of right thinking members of the society or cut him off from the society, or expose him to contempt, ridicule or hatred or injure his reputation in his office, trade, or profession or injure his financial credit. Also, there must be no legally justifiable grounds for uttering or publishing such statement. This statement must be:
Untrue and may
possess the element of imputation of crime to the person referred to,
imputation of certain diseases such as sexually transmitted disease or communicable disease e.g stating falsely that a person has been inflicted with ebola
imputation of unchastity or adultery especially of a woman
imputation affecting professional or business reputation etc.
It should be noted that these defamatory words must have been published either through books, newspaper publications, video or voice recording, social media outlets and must have been read and believed to be defamatory by a third party (reasonable thinker).
In Nigeria, Freedom of Expression is enshrined under section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as amended. Print, online and electronic media operations derive their existence from the fundamental right called freedom of expression. Freedom of Expression, which includes right to speak, tweet, write and publish, does not permit a person to defame another.