It’s a most surreal time to be alive, and particularly to be Nigerian. The year chuwenty chuwenty has proven to be a year that will never be forgotten. When the pandemic hit home, we quickly realized that we’d be needing new dictionaries for this generation because the definition of ‘heroes’ took different dimensions. We used to look up to our democratic heroes as the messiahs, but now we know that not all heroes wear capes, neither do they always wear agbadas.
Amayo Stella Adedevoh‘s posthumous birthday hit different this year when we remember her selflessness, rising to save a country from a potentially deadly crisis, the ebola virus. Again and again, like history has shown us, Nigerian women rise to the occasion.
When the very peaceful protests for police reform started, little did we know that help would come from the unlikeliest of places. I use ‘unlikely’ because the narrative, erroneous as it is, has been that the female gender always needs ‘2k urgently’. A sad commentary.
As we all now know, most people don’t want messiahs. We no longer want people fighting for us; we want people fighting for change with us because we are all leaders in our own rights. So I am not in any way writing this on behalf of my own gender, but for posterity sake. I have to be able to shalaye and show my children receipts that when women stood up to be counted, as they usually do, in the quest for a new Nigeria, that I, their father, celebrated them.
I saw first-hand how tirelessly you amazing amazons showed up with your full chest. Co-ordinating things in the midfield better than Iniesta, assisting better than Ozil and passing information better than Kelvin De Bruyne. I saw you mobilize legal and medical aid like we have never seen before. You were transparent and accountable with the handling of funds that it was easier for even sceptics to donate more.
I apologize for every time you were groped while shopping at markets, for every time you were slut-shamed for dressing a certain way, for being overly policed and told what to do with your body or how to live your best life. I apologize that you have been asked to get permission from your boyfriend, husband, father or brother just to get a haircut or that you have been dragged on the timeline for simply having a voice.
“…a thousand years ago. Because human beings lived then in a world in which physical strength was the most important attribute for survival, the physically stronger person was more likely to lead. And men in general are physically stronger; of course, there are many exceptions. But today we live in a vastly different world. The person more likely to lead is not the physically stronger person, it is the more creative person, the more intelligent person, the more innovative person, and there are no hormones for those attributes. A man is as likely as a woman to be intelligent, to be creative, to be innovative. We have evolved, but it seems to me that our ideas of gender have not evolved.”
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I am looking forward to a new Nigeria where gender will not be a criteria for socio-economic, religion or political roles. We can no longer relegate women to the oza room or the kitchen. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on the cusp of becoming the first female Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), is another testament to that. Like Kamala Harris puts it, “If we do not lift up women and families, everyone will fall short.”
On 11th October, we couldn’t even properly celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child because you were literally in the crucible of advocacy – outchea doing the lord’s work on a steady.
Fortunately, I can say with my full chest that I’ve not been a bad boy when it comes to treating women with respect. My parents have been married for 40 years, not once has there been a record of domestic violence. So for me, it’s something I learned by default.
I challenge my fellow men to do better. We gats put some respect on our queens who are the strongest piece in this national game of leadership chess. Shout out to those already in that WhatsApp group. Women are definitely more than lips, hips and fingertips. We’ve seen, first-hand, how their feminine instincts kick in so powerfully – trust me, they aren’t the ‘weaker gender.’
Collaboration is obviously the new sexy. We cannot realize our highest aspirations if we’re always at loggerheads. We need to, as a matter of urgency, get on the same page because we’re stronger together and our collective voices are more powerful. So be it as a coalition or a coven, we’re all for that. After all, it was Wande Coal that said, “I’ll be a wizard and you’ll be my witch.”
One of the leading lights was the Feminist Coalition, not so much for what they did, but more for what they represent – a glimpse of the possibilities that abound when we get ourselves organized. Taking a critical look at their MO, I believe it’s a model that should be deconstructed and replicated on numerous but unique levels. Deploying the “Stacey Abrams Effect,” we urgently need to move from agonizing to organizing: using simple but collectively powerful tools such as purpose, networks, platforms, integrity, empathy, professionalism and patriotism.
The biggest mistake we can make is the erroneous assumption that we’re up against certain people; while they may be part of the problem, we’re really up against systems. So we need to match system for system, structure for structure and strategy for strategy. The notorious RBG once said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Going forward, we should have more conversations about nation-building. As creatives, we need to realize that the grass is only greener where it’s watered, so the idea of ‘japaism’ is no silver bullet. We must brace up for the hard work of active participation in the polity. No longer should we stand aloof from things that directly affect us. It’s time to engage our representatives at the very local level to acquaint ourselves with governance on that stratum while also contributing to the grassroot development.
There are many unsung sheroes who may not have as much notoriety or clout, but these streets know what you’ve done in your little corners. We’ll never forget. We meeuuve! We stand gidigba! We pin!