I detest how the Nigerian society deifies structures, practices and people, this suffocating convention does not allow for critique and reformation, it is a cancer that stifles our potential evolution, it is dangerous. This way of doing things leaves no space to identify and rectify ills. If an authority figure is problematic, especially religious figures we reflexively say “touch not my anointed", completely devoid of critical thinking and even context (this biblical phrase requires nuance as it is stated within a time period where the Church was in its’ infancy and the leaders were being persecuted). This allows evil and a plethora of corrupt and oppressive practices to thrive unfettered in our society. Why else do we have the gift of intellect if not to decipher and decide what is moral and ethical and what must be changed?
People get up in arms when others agitate for social change, they get irked, irritable when social norms are challenged but fail to see how society also hinges on the Butterfly Effect. Concrete and fair policies are a direct result of the moral conscience of people in that society, policies and regulations are a reflection of us as a society. If we stopped resisting improvement with even the most trivial things, that paradigm shift in the minds of people will directly impact our laws, our administrative practices, this can not be emphasised enough, if you cannot hold accountable the person beside you, in your home, in your circle, how then can our politicians and leaders be held accountable? We must change this custom of blind obeisance, it has made us sick and to what end?
Nobody should be above scrutiny. Burn your idols. Nobody should be above questions . We often conflate our sentimental attachment to people and culture with absolute worship of it. No. Personally I love many aspects of our culture, the food, the language, a history steeped in resilience, ambition and perseverance. I love Nigeria, Nigerian-isms, our humour, strength, biting sarcasm, dry witticisms, our peculiar way of seeing the world, however, I acknowledge and condemn the foul and violently oppressive practices inherent within this same culture. This does not mean I love it any less, it means I see room for improvement and change.
History will show you that a society where women are free (as much as possible) has a direct positive impact on the community at large, there is no upside to oppressive patriarchal systems, when women are empowered, with agency and autonomy, society directly benefits. You can admire and love your Pastor/father/political figure and still remain cognizant of their flaws, you can love people and acknowledge their shortcomings. Why are we so insistent on romanticizing our repressive past? We should critically examine our history and take notes. This mind-set is why pedophile uncles go unscathed, it informs and fuels our culture of silence usually at the expense of the most vulnerable, the poor, the women, the children. Now if you are a poor girl child? Your life hangs on a precipice where you’re vulnerable and exposed. Burn your idols.
If we all as human beings acknowledge our fallibility, our inevitable imperfections as humans, why do we have a problem with asking questions? When we refuse to question authority figures we normalise and co-sign the harm they inflict, we become complicit. Extreme trauma has been normalised for the Nigerian woman as a result of this, we are told to bend and bend more even if we are already broken, we know the horrors we share together in safe spaces men are not aware of. As a result men have come to expect and demand that women in proximity to them replicate that trauma because that is what they know. A vicious cycle of damage. How many times have you heard men wax romantic about how their mothers suffered, endured and carried the world on her aching back? You see their eyes gleam as they idealise trauma and I used to get upset, but you see, their mothers suffered in silence, our mothers suffered in silence, so they do not know. They do not know the cost. From the dirt poor to the filthy rich they feel casually entitled to your body, emotional and physical labour, our time, our presence, our intellect, our vulnerability, our subservience. Our culture of silence, of absolute worship has left us with men that are incapable of empathizing with women, that do not see your worth unless you suffer, we are left with no allies but brothers that violently enforce rape culture, brothers that weaponize oppressive gender politics as soon as the fragile egos we coddled and nurtured are threatened. They are so painfully oblivious as to the repercussions and now they have come to expect “this generation“ of women to do the same because nobody asked questions. This is what they know, this is all they know. We saw our mothers spirits perish before their bodies died.
Hold people accountable.
Break the culture of silence.
“Nobody warned you that the women whose feet you cut from running would give birth to daughters with wings" - Ijeoma Umebinyuo
Words by Osuala Olivia Chisom.
Writer, Lawyer, dreamer, food enthusiast.