There are so many foundations and NGO’s out there fighting and supporting the ‘helpless widow’ and for some reason I find the idea of a woman being tagged helpless for losing a spouse to be totally nauseating and insulting to the whole concept of womanhood.
As a Nigerian girl, the only expectation the society places on you is that you get married and have babies. You can have a PhD in marine biology and nobody will ask why you are not off to some exotic location in the Atlantic studying some dying specie as long as you are married with babies. Tell your old classmates that you saw the best graduating student from your class and the first question they will ask you is; ‘is she married?’!
The truth is that a woman studying too much is a turn off for the Nigerian society, I once read an article that said ladies should not study weird sounding courses rather that they should stay with law, botany, economics etc, it even went as far as saying that it is advisable for women to stop at masters level if they are single. Of course it was written by a Nigerian and supported by Nigerians.
Most Nigerian girls marry before they graduate from school and those who don’t marry ‘on time’ that wait to graduate are put under so much pressure to marry as soon as possible. The pressure on girls to marry off so soon usually affects their career and life goal and creates the impression that your degree and education are mere camouflage and the only true calling of a woman is to marry and have babies.
This picture would have been more acceptable to my senses if it wasn’t for the other picture of a helpless widow that is happily painted by the same society. I keep thinking that the only reason that we are beseeched by the plight of the ‘helpless widow’ is because of the little expectation we place on our girls. If a girl were to make use of her degree, talent and strength before and even after getting married, losing a spouse could be taking in strides because we will have a more stable and industrious widow as opposed to the ‘helpless widow’ we are usually cramped with.
In my country, we love titles and we have so many of them, they are one thing we can borrow from different countries, different languages and there is no limit to how many of those titles a person have affix to his/her name. sir, mr, mrs, barr, dr, chief, otumba, highchief, prof, ozo, iyom, dame, miss, engr, arch, accountant, architect and pointedly madam! The list is endless and some people go as far as adding three or four before their names and a few after.
To attach these names, you either get married, get a certain degree, clinch some position, even take a chieftaincy or even better still just add it for the heck of it and insist on it. Thankfully we are a very ‘respectful’ society too and no one will want to offend you by calling you without your chosen title. As a matter of fact, if you fail to attach one we will happily attach one for you because far be it from us that we will address you with you name without some really ‘respectful’ prefix.
But how does one become madam? I remember a neighbour from my childhood that everyone called madam but I never really figured why and unfortunately, she died before I could ask her. thankfully I met another madam recently, she gave me her number in the course of a transaction and when I asked her her name so that I could save the number she pointedly informed me her name was ‘Madam Emily’ she emphasised the madam so much that I mischievously asked her how come she is a madam and she stood up, shook her two really fat arms and asked me whether she is not worth the title.
That was when it hit me, I was still too far from making the madam title! Because the one sure way to become a madam is to pad up the fat!!! Get so fat that the fat underneath your arms can dance to their own tune whenever you lift them and you are automatically a madam!
There is no secret, you just cannot be slim and lay claim to that prized title, you just have to get fat and really fat then and only then can you demand to be addressed as a madam. Now you have it…happy becoming a madam.
Righteousness in the eyes of men is an age issue; young children are righteous even in the eyes of the law. Under the Nigerian law, children under the age of seven are not capable of committing crime. In other words; they are still within the age of righteousness!
Old people are another category of people that are righteous; but in their case it has all to do with human perception and nothing to do with the law. An old grey haired man can lie through his teeth and have us accept his lies as the truth because his age bars us from questioning his words.
We always hear people talk about their wonderful god fearing mothers and their wise principled fathers and you wonder whether these men and women being referred were not one time young sinful exuberant youths.
Parents who criticise the youths for their hair styles and fashion are the same people that grew afro in the 60’s and 70’s and wore booth cut trousers and fitted shirt and the shortest dresses ever made but they have scaled into the age of righteousness and have become good.
Most of us have heard the ‘when I was your age, I took only first position’ lecture form parents and teachers alike and you wonder whose parents ever came last in class. But these lies are like some holy grail; to be respected and unquestioned since the lips that speak them are righteous old lips.
Young girls are considered promiscuous and elderly women find faults in their sons young female companions, but promiscuity is not a modern word so the promiscuous girls of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are now the pious, decent, prayerful mothers of today.
Maybe the next time a girl is called promiscuous or even a prostitute as most men like to throw around, she should relax and pray for long life because once that is attained, she can confidently mature into the age of righteousness because really, to be young is to be sinful, trying to prove otherwise will only drag one to the depth of hypocrisy and self-righteousness that murders free will and individuality.
Once upon a time Nigeria was being ruled by one party and the party had so much pride and confidence that her leadership boasted that they will rule Nigeria for the next fifty years. I knew wining election in Nigeria was not an intellectual thing and that knowledge made me believe that the party in power could rule for a hundred years if they choose.
Since the people in power hold the country’s resources, share the contracts and hold enough resources to rig elections and give ‘dividends’ of democracy during election time, it follows that they will continue to win elections while every opposition either aligns with them or be content with the few minor wins they muster.
The game changed last year when a couple of the ruling party’s bigwigs walked out of the party’s national convention and joined the major opposition. But that is not the subject of this write up, because despite the noise the now stronger opposition makes, they seem to have been clamped with the kind of delusion that will cost them the election come 2015.
Few weeks ago a group of top members of the ruling party, mostly members from south east geopolitical zone travelled the treacherous road to Anambra State to beg their former governor to join the party. Treacherous because I have passed through the valley of shadow of death that consist of Enugu/Onitsha express way through which one has to pass to assess Anambra state.
As an observer and a disappointed Nigerian, I have long noted two things concerning the South East zone with regards to 2015 election; they do not have any presidential ambition and secondly, they will vote for Jonathan Goodluck even if he refuses to come and campaign in the South East.
My earlier observation made me wonder why this group of Igbo men and some top party men will tread this path of solicitude in a state where they already won 2015 and for a personality that will play little or no role in deciding the fate of the party in the next election. I decided their reasons must be the same reason Igbo party members gathered in Enugu and ‘begged’ Jonathan Goodluck to run for re-election; selfish interest born out of greed!
It is no doubt that the Igbo race is led in the political scene by self-centred men who will sell out at the slightest hand out. It has not only made the south east irrelevant, it has also made them minority in Nigeria’s political structure.
The ruling party does not need the former governor of Anambra state to win election in Anambra, the people have been sufficiently tribalised and de-educated to the point where they will willingly vote the Christian Southerner over a Muslim Northerner without question! They have also been maligned against the opposition party to a point where the opposition party will lose in Anambra State even if they present Jesus Christ as their candidate.
Maybe the ex-governor needed to join the party but lacked the face, having spent the past eight years fighting the party’s members at the state level while supporting the party at the federal level. Maybe the ex-governor needed the big party’s crumbs and decided being begged to join was in every way better than just joining the party.
I will only observe and see what role the Igboman have decided to play in the next Nigeria, because clearly, the Igbo race is in a political dearth!
I had bought a small pack of chi exotic juice from the pharmacist and since he didn’t have lower denominations to issue my balance, he suggested that I take a chocolate ball he was selling instead which I agreed to since I was in a hurry to get back to the office to avoid the looming rain. Half way to my office I had heard someone shouting and turned and realised it was the pharmacist, I checked my hand to be sure I had not left my flash drive I had earlier and saw that I had it on me. I checked for my phones and my money and realised I had all of them. I concluded that whatever it was I must have forgotten can wait till the next time I went there so I kept moving.
Luckily for me I went to the pharmacy for a drink the next day but the pharmacist was not there, I asked the sales girl and she said he was not around. I explained that the man was calling me back the previous day but that I could not come back because of the rain and that am guessing I must have forgotten something. She said he had not told them of any such thing so I bought my drink and left.
Today, I was around the place and remembered I haven’t seen the pharmacist, at this point I had concluded that I didn’t forget anything important but nevertheless decided to verify.
I met the man who immediately switched on interrogation mode. He asked why I didn’t wait the day he was calling me and I reminded him that it was about to rain, he asked the sales girl whether my statement that I came looking for him afterwards was true and the girl affirmed my claim. At this point he shook his head and told me that I stole three chocolate balls and one snicker bar! I calmly reminded him that I only took one and he said he was very sure because he had just taken stock before I came. At this point I was in shock at the direct accusation; I was being called a petty thief by a very educated man in a public shop in the full glare of customers and the shocked sales girl.
He said he even had proof and I thanked God and waited, he called two men who I hadn’t noticed earlier and the men nodded that the whole proof was shown to them, I looked around for the camera that must have caught me stealing chocolate but didn’t see any, camera’s do not lie, it must have caught the wrong person, I told myself.
The man came back from his evidence-producing trip and instead of a camera or a cd he came back with a note. This was the point where I knew rage. I was so angry that I shook physically, I wanted to kill the man. He opened his note and started pointed at some scrawling in the notebook where he supposedly wrote the things I stole and how he calculated the stock in his shop before and after I left to arrive at the conclusion that I must have been the thief! I couldn’t believe it but it was happening!
I started shouting at him, I screamed at him for his meanness, I abused him for his effrontery, and so many things rushed through my mind. He was adamant; he shouted back, he said that he was very sure. I kept shouting, I kept abusing him, but it didn’t feel enough. I wanted to slap him, I wanted something bad to happen to him, I wanted him to lose the voice he used to call me a thief without any proof!
After I had my say, I warned the man never to accuse anybody without being sure, he kept insisting that he was sure that I stole from him. At that point I turned and walked out with my head held high. I wasn’t a thief, I am very sure of that and I refuse to stand and watch a confused pharmacist accuse me of stealing. As I walked away he kept making noise behind me, but I have had my say and he is not a judge nor does he have any proof. I was not angry anymore, I was in pain. A different less opinionated person might have faced a different fate, innocent as I am. Lynching, arrest and detention of innocent people are an everyday occurrence. I knew deep down within me that another innocent Nigerian might have faced a different fate in the same circumstance and that had me very worried…
Few years ago I stumbled on a book by Terri Hatcher the popular Hollywood actress, better known as Susan Mayer of Desperate housewives, titled Burnt toast, the amazing thing about the book was that the concept of burnt toast was so universal and very Nigerian even though it was Hollywood. Details of the book now elude me but the idea stuck with me over the years.
Remember that one or two toast that gets burnt each time you toast bread for breakfast? Who usually ends up eating it? That would let you in on what I got from Terri hatcher’s book which I have gone on to call the burnt toast syndrome! Every family, relationship and friendship has someone with this syndrome. They are the ones that eat that burnt toast, they are the ones that take the brunt of the relationship, they are the ones that gladly shoulder responsibilities that could be easily shared, and they are those friends that make the most sacrifice to keep their friendships. Don’t get me wrong, your father might like his toast a little burnt, but your mum will never serve him the burnt ones, my cousin liked to eat what she calls the ‘back of the pot’ of jollof rice, but her mum would rather serve her the good part and end up eating whatever part is left afterwards.
Mothers worldwide suffer most from the syndrome, after making the toast, she usually serves the best portion to her husband, the good ones to her children and reserves the worse for herself. it seems simply like the normal thing to do, having prepared the toast and being the mother of the family. Husbands and children get used to it overtime that even when another person prepares the food, their natural instinct will be to reserve the best for dad, in most families you hear children say things like…’mum eats anything’.
This might be a harmless motherly instinct except that we see this same mind set applied in other aspect of our lives, and the tendency to reserve the worse for ourselves is being exhibited in an unwholesome manner. Like my friend who only cooks good food when she has friends to feed, she’ll gladly watch them eat and stay home to clean up after they are gone. But when she is alone, she hardly cooks, according to her; a little snack here and there fills her up.
The bad thing is not in putting others first as some people would like to argue; it is in putting yourself last and forgetting to take care and look out for your own well being. The unfortunate thing about having this in a relationship whether mother-child, husband-wife relationship or merely between friends is that the other party gets used to it and begins to expect and even demand it. And unlike the Dettol advert, if you don’t take care of yourself, most time nobody does!
Sharing the burnt toast or whatever discomfort that’s in issue randomly amongst everybody concerned is the wholesome thing to do. However, women worldwide try to be super mums by lapping up every discomfort in the family but the ironical thing is that they don’t have to because even some kids prefer the burnt toast and will gladly share in the discomfort.
People with the burnt toast syndrome have the best of heart and the best of intention, but it’s not exactly the best for their wellbeing or progress because in life, most time you have to consider yourself deserving for others to follow suit. People treat us the way they see us so we should show them by our actions that we do deserve the best there is…
Written by: Ifediora Chinyere