The Lectern: Africa is a continent, not a country

For us in Nigeria, this past month of May was very eventful – mosquitoes; fuel scarcity of such potency that saw prices triple, shops and services shut down; scant electricity; then NO electricity for days on end; more mosquitoes; and but all turned over by the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari. 

Riding with the optimism that we cannot help but feel in this new dispensation, Thia takes to ‘The Lectern’ with a message of identity, of pride and ultimately, of hope. She admits that this is no new subject for discourse, but she also insists that we must not tire of preaching it until we first, then the entire world, learns it.

And so, we welcome the month of June.

The Lectern01

…that we might be read


AFRICA IS A CONTINENT, NOT A COUNTRY

Africa is a continent

This topic is not a peculiar one.

The first time I heard of it was on a TEDTalks video of the Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie titled “The Danger of a Single Story” where she jokingly recounted how a Virgin flight she was on mentioned their charity works “in India, Africa and other countries.”

The second time I heard of it was also on a TEDTalks video of another Nigerian, Cobhams Asuquo titled “The Gift of Blindness.”  He also mentioned again rather jokingly that an announcement on a flight he was on mentioned the charitable works the British airways was doing in the UK, Africa and other countries.

Until recently I saw this as inconsequential or rather just unnecessary. I am a fan of great music and one of the songs that I doubt will ever leave my playlist is “We are the World”, both the original and the remix for Haiti. I am sure I have listened to both of them over a hundred times.  Weirdly until recently I never really listened to the lyrics; I merely enjoyed the melody and the rare freshness of many celebrities coming together in one song.

So today I listened. Towards the end of this very awesome song I discovered something I am sure I will never forget:

“…remember Katrina, Africa, Indonesia

and now Haiti needs us…”

It shocked me. Hurricane Katrina was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States of America. The earthquake in Haiti was another really horrible natural disaster. And at about that time in Indonesia, multiple earthquakes and a tsunami at the Mentawai Islands including volcanic eruptions at Mount MerapiI had shaken the Asian country. Seeing as it was a string of natural disasters that hit the above mentioned countries, I began to wonder what natural disaster has hit the whole of Africa.

In all my instances above, Africa was put on a list of countries. In the last one in particular, it was put on a list of geographical areas smaller than many countries. The whole of Africa is not sick. Africa is a continent not a country thus it deserves recognition as such. People make it seem like Africa is a country with South Africa as its capital because in pictures of Africa in most books and magazines, the Safari of South Africa is what is captured as Africa.

Komla Dumor in another TEDx talk stated rather brilliantly that we tell both sides of the story. Yes! Africa is rich naturally. Yes! Africa is still developing. No! We are a continent, a conglomeration of various countries spread across a wide geographical location with various value systems, cultures and languages interwoven rather very beautifully. The moment we start to appreciate this I think it will put things in greater perspective for those doing “charitable works in India, Africa and other countries.” Maybe then Nigeria as a country will become a beneficiary of their benevolence as well as Ghana, Mali, Kenya, Somalia and other AFRICAN COUNTRIES.

This seems confusing at this point and I am asking myself what the whole point of writing this is. Maybe my point is just that this message be passed along so that it is not said anywhere that xenophobia occurs in Africa. Nigeria is not xenophobic and I am sure Benin republic isn’t also, neither are many other African countries.

Africa is way too big to be disrespected so often. Even smaller continents get more respect.

Africa is a continent not a country

Proudly African! Proudly Nigerian! Proudly Igbo!

P.S: This is my identity not just a chant. I should be identifiable by my specific origin not just a random over-generalization. I feel we all should.

by Thia Mbajunwa

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Cynthia Adaugo Mbajunwa is a Christian Igbo Nigerian African female. She loves, as wholly as possible, and looks to make a difference no matter how little. She is sarcastic and shy, a bold feminist currently studying to become a lawyer.

Don’t forget to share with your friends and enemies; also take a minute to tell us in the Comments what you’re thinking about this one. If you have written something which you would like our readers to enjoy from ‘The Lectern’, attach and send it in a mail titled ‘The Lectern’ to ojukwumartin@gmail.com. If you are unsure about a subject matter, still reach out and we can work up something appropriate for you. It does not have to be right or left, right or wrong…only your opinion.

Chisom

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UNFORGIVEN X

…continued from UNFORGIVEN IX

unforgiven

“What does this mean? Why would she have written this report? Are you saying she…” the import of what he was about to imply hit Ethel with a wave and she stumbled.

“Eth, you okay?” Amaka asked.

“No. No I’m not. That bastard had the guts to take me to the hospital his wife worked in! And what is this about an induced abortion?” the picture was coming together in her head slowly.

“Er…I don’t want to make assumptions but it seems you ingested a fair amount of Mizoprostol during your pregnancy which eventually caused the loss of your baby.”

“Are you saying my miscarriage was deliberate? I don’t understand, tell me!” Ethel was near hysterical.

“Calm down Eth. Tell me, did you take any medication at any point during your pregnancy?”

“No, I don’t think so. I…wait. Yes. Both times Charles gave me some prescriptions which he said…he’d gotten from his doctor…he said he was…taking care of me…” her voice shook as the tears pooled in her eyes.

“Eth, did you…check what the medication was? Did you even ask?” Amaka’s voice was soft.

“I trusted him! He said it would make me feel better. Take away the morning sickness…” she sank to her knees, hugging herself. “He lied…he lied…he killed my babies…my babies…no…”

Amaka knelt beside her and put her arms around her; not knowing what else to say to comfort her friend.

“He lied… murderer. My babies…my babies…”

“We aren’t sure yet Eth, it might have been something else,” even as she said it, Amaka knew it was a lie. Charles was the culprit and he’d used his wife to cover up his crime.

“No! No!” Ethel thrashed around, hysterical. “No, my babies!”

Tayo rushed into the kitchen, his eyes wide in alarm.

“Babe, what is it?” he asked as he surveyed the scene before him.

“Tell you later hon. Please help me get her to bed. She’s just had a bad shock and I don’t think she can stand; please babe.”

They both helped Ethel to her feet and dragged her limp figure to the spare bedroom.

None of them could tell what was running through Ethel’s mind because her eyes took on a glazed look as they lay her on the bed. She whimpered between intervals calling out to her babies.

Amaka was torn apart as she watched her friend. She wished she could help but knew that this was a battle Ethel needed to fight alone. She’d been through a lot; that much Amaka had figured out over the past few days.

Suddenly she got an idea; she picked up Ethel’s purse and fished out her phone. She scrolled through it, found what she wanted and made the call.

*******

Sleep evaded her like a thief on the prowl but she didn’t notice. Her mind seemed both dead and alive at the same time. The voices were louder and more frequent as she lay on the bed in a foetal position.

He killed them. My babies!

He saved you from being like your mother!

You would’ve been a terrible mother; the worst.

He never even gave me the chance!

You didn’t deserve one.

And as she lay on the bed struggling with her thoughts, her head began to replay the events of the years before.

Charles’ transformation from the angry boyfriend to an overly caring father-to-be, his constant waiting on her hand and foot. The insistence to take her to his hospital when she first began experiencing her second miscarriage.

It all made sense now; he’d planned it, carefully and without any mistakes. He’d cold heartedly taken away her babies. He hadn’t wanted to upset his wonderful, picture-perfect family so he’d taken away hers.

Damn him!

Will God punish him? Will He make him suffer like she had suffered, like she was, even now?

Or will he live life as usual? Leaving her scarred?

She didn’t notice when the room was bathed in darkness as Amaka left her, neither did she know when she drifted off to sleep with her tear-stained face.

******

When she opened her eyes, it took her some minutes to adjust to the brightness of the room.

“Eno, how are you?”

She jerked at the sound of the voice. Her mother. No one else called her that except her mother. What was she doing here?

She sat up, her head feeling heavy.

“What are you doing here? Who called you? What do you want?” she croaked, apprehensive. The memory of the previous night came flooding.

“Eno, calm down. I heard you were not…feeling too fine and I…” her mother reached out to touch her.

Ethel jerked away with a squeal. “Don’t. Touch. Me.”

“Eno, please…” her pain oozed out of every pore on her body. It was always a difficult thing when a mother was rejected by her child.

“Leave me alone! Get out! I want to be alone! Where’s Amaka! All of you are betrayers! You! Charles! All of you!” she was hysterical now; thrashing about, a near-crazed look in her eyes.

Mum stared at her, her hands spread out in a helpless motion before her.

I don’t need you anymore ma. You were never there when I needed you so get away from me! Ethel screamed aloud in her head.

“Amaka, I want to see Amaka,” she spoke out, “I want my phone.”

“Eno, she went to work. She asked me to stay with you because…she felt you needed help.”

“I don’t need your help. I don’t need anybody’s help! You are a traitor! A prostitute! Don’t you see what you are?”

The slap was unexpected. Ethel couldn’t remember when last her mother had touched her – affectionately or otherwise. She was momentarily stunned.

“Are you mad? Or do you want to be? Nonsense. Don’t ever talk to me like that. I don’t care how sick you are. I gave birth to you and raised you so you better watch your mouth, young lady,” Mum said.

Ethel refused to heed to the tears that threatened to pour, instead she pulled herself up from the bed, picked her purse that lay on the nightstand and made for the door.

“Where are you going, madam?”

She didn’t answer as she stormed out of the room, banging the door behind her.

“Eno! Eno!” Mum called, rushing after her.

“Leave me alone! I hate you!” she screamed as she dashed out of the house and into the street, nearly running into a car.

In her distraught state, she flagged down a cab and jumped in, gave him her address and smiled in satisfaction as he zoomed away, leaving her mother waving frantically at her in the distance.

You’re crazy.

No, I’m not. She deserves it. She’s terrible.

You’re going to hurt yourself.

I can’t be anymore hurt than I am now.

The voices were at it again; louder than ever this time.

“Shut up,” Ethel whispered. She didn’t notice the cab driver glance at her in his mirror.

She rummaged in her purse and took out her phone and dialled.

“Hello Charles. It’s me. Oh, yes. Ethel. I..uh…decided to take you up on your offer. What are you doing right now?” She paused, listening. “Uh…can you come to my house now? I have something special planned for you. Oh yes, I changed my mind. Because I missed you…and I can’t take it anymore. I want to see you…in like, thirty minutes. Uhmmm…yes, yes…okay bye!”

As she hung up, she felt the bile rise in her throat. She was going to see him one last time and give him a present. She’ll make him pay for every tear he caused her to shed. And for her babies he took away.

Pay-back time, Charlie boy.

When the cab driver dropped her off, she rushed to her bedroom to get ready. Charles was going to be here any minute. She opened her box, the one she’d taken with her when she left her mother’s house three years ago. It was the box that Charles had left her when he’d thrown her out. She hadn’t opened the box since she came to Abuja and restarted her life. It brought back bad memories so she had kept it locked away.

Now, as she took out the red lingerie he’d bought her years ago, the tears threatened to pour. This man, who she’d given four years of her life to, had repaid her by taking away her babies. A man she had considered spending the rest of her life with!

The rage gripped her as she thought of the past. She slipped out of her clothes, slid into the lingerie and went in search of the handcuffs.

Charles had liked kinky sex. According to him, he never had that with his wife. So, he’d bought her cuffs and a few other sex toys which she’d kept locked away.

She’d never known she would need it again. Until now.

She stroked the cuffs, smiling at her plan. If God wasn’t going to punish Charles, she was. She wouldn’t wait till the judgment day and the Lake of fire. He deserved punishment now.

Her next stop was the kitchen. She retrieved what she needed from there and went back to the bedroom.

At that point, the doorbell rang. Charles could never resist a booty call.

 

to be continued next week…

by Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN VIII

…continued from Unforgiven VII

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“What on earth are you talking about Amaka?” the bewildered expression on Ethel’s face couldn’t be faked.

“You know how you promised to talk about Charles Umoh before you ran out on me that day?” Amaka was glowering at her.

Ethel nodded slowly, “I’m sorry about that Amy. I just…I guess I wasn’t ready then.”

“And now?”

“Now I just want to go home. I’ve had a long day and…what’s this about…an abortion?” the meeting with Charles had left Ethel in a disagreeable mood and really she didn’t want it to rub off on Amaka. Her sense of urgency, the need to get out of church to where she’d feel a bit saner, was increasing.

“I think you’re gonna want to hear this, so tonight you’re coming home with Tayo and I. This hide-and-seek you’ve been playing with me, ends now,” it was the sternest she’d ever seen Amaka and Ethel knew she wasn’t getting off this one easily.

“Amaka, please…”

“No. No pleases tonight Eth. We’re going home to talk about this.”

“I have to go to work tomorrow.”

“Not a problem. I’ll make sure you’re home early enough tomorrow to get set for work. Or better still, if you finish off your story early…we’d get you back home tonight. Capiche?”

“Yes ma,” she let the sarcasm creep into her voice.

“Now I think you’d want to look at what’s in that envelope before we talk. Tayo should be here any minute with baby Sharon.”

If there was anything Ethel hated, it was being put on the spot. She knew however that there was no hiding away from this confrontation with Amaka. She had to come clean about everything. Even yesterday. But would she be bold enough to tell Amaka that if not for the fact that she and Charles had wound up outside last night, she’d have willingly jumped into his arms, his bed again? What did that say of her? She’d been willing to give the devil a chance at her again!

Would Amaka understand that this thing between her and Charles couldn’t be salvaged by time and distance alone? Would she know what it meant to feel such a destructive love for a man? She, after all had the perfect life. Perfect husband and child, everything about her screamed perfection and sometimes it hurt Ethel that she couldn’t have a normal life like Amaka. Those were thoughts she didn’t intend to voice, though.

“Are you reading this at all?” Amaka’s voice jolted her from her reverie.

Ethel hadn’t realised that she’d taken out the paper from the envelope and had spread it before her. Her thoughts had been elsewhere. Now to read this mystery-something; she blinked, looking at the numbers, squiggles and letters. They were written in doctor shorthand. It was obvious it was a medical report. The only thing that made sense to her was her name written in the space provided for ‘Patient’s Name’.

“What’s this? I don’t understand. You know I can’t read a doctor’s report,” she accused.

“Well, good thing I can.” Amaka had done a stint in the nursing school during her earlier years. She retrieved the paper from Ethel’s hand and spread it out.

“Wait, shouldn’t we wait till we get to your house? I’m not comfortable doing this in church,” Ethel looked around nervously. She had a feeling Amaka was about to open up a can of worms and she wanted it done somewhere private. Although the church was almost empty now, Ethel couldn’t help feeling like God’s eyes were staring down at her, huge and disapproving.

“Let me get Tayo and we’ll leave. If that makes you comfortable,” she sighed as she stood. “If you like, disappear again. It is what you’re good at, abi? I’ll take this paper with me, as insurance.”

Ethel didn’t reply. Amaka had never reprimanded her in such a manner before and she knew she had a right to be angry. She’d behaved like a child to the only person she could really call a friend in this town. No matter what, Amaka deserved an audience and no matter how squeamish it made Ethel feel, she knew she couldn’t bail out on her again.

The drive to Amaka’s house was quiet except for bursts of laughter from baby Sharon and the occasional flippant question from Tayo. Ethel didn’t know whether Amaka told her husband everything and frankly, she didn’t intend to find out. Let him judge her! Let him look at her with pity, she didn’t care! None of them knew what she’d gone through so they had a right to their opinion! So she wasn’t perfect like them, she didn’t have the most spectacular Christian life but Lord knows she was trying. God, how she was!

So, go ahead and judge me Tayo. Look at me with those glassy eyes of yours and pretend to not feel anything, even pity. I don’t care!

The painful thing was that she did care. She cared what these people thought of her because she was actually making an effort to be a better person.
Stop making any efforts. Let me do that for you.
She knew that voice anywhere. It was coming from somewhere deep in her soul. It was different from all the other voices; calm, soothing and all-knowing. It was deep calling out to deep. This wasn’t her head talking or her mind rationalizing, this was better – a voice providing solutions.

Cast all your burdens on Me; no worries.

In the backseat of her friend’s Volkswagen, Ethel felt her heart begin to come apart. She wanted to do so many things at the same time. Scream, weep, go on her knees and even sing but she sat, still. Holding on to the cherished words of assurance.

When they got to the house, Amaka led her without a word to the kitchen after handing baby Sharon over to her husband.

“We can talk here but first let me say something,” she took her friend by the shoulders, “I’m sorry. I haven’t been fair to you. I got angry that you left without a word that day and I forgot how difficult it must be for you to spill all those things about your life to me. I should’ve understood. It’s what Jesus would’ve done. So, please forgive me and if you don’t want to talk tonight, that is okay; I can drive you home now.”

Ethel responded by opening her arms and hugging Amaka. She was too overcome to speak. No one had ever apologized to her for something like this. Not her mother, nor Charles, nor any of the runs-girls she’d moved with, in the University.

“Forgive me,” she whispered, “I am ready to talk now.”

And she did.

“I was pregnant for Charles but I…” she began.
“You know what? Start from the beginning. How you met Charles,” Amaka prompted.

 

To be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN VII

…continued from Unforgiven VI

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She didn’t resist as his lips claimed hers. They were soft and warm. The kiss stripped her of her resolve, her confidence and the years melted away; once again she was twenty-two and putty in his hands. Oh Lord.

This is it. What she’d missed…

Stop it Eth! This is not you!

He’s married!

That particular thought seemed to bring her back to her senses and she pulled away violently and raised her hand to hit him. This time he caught her in time. He gripped her hands firmly.

“Don’t pretend this was all me, Thelia, he breathed down her neck. “You wanted it as much as I did.”

“You tricked me!” she yelled.

“Tell me you didn’t enjoy that. That you haven’t missed it, missed us.”

She couldn’t look at him; her face was awash with shame.

Arrogant bastard. Lord, no. I’ve disappointed you.

“Ethel…” he held on to her hand.

She didn’t reply instead she withdrew her hand and began fumbling in her purse for her house keys, willing away the tears that were threatening to pour.

“Ethel please, just one last time,” he pleaded, “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Listen to me, Charles. I might have said you…you were like a drug in my system but…even drug addicts get cured. And I am cured, so get the hell out of my life.” With that she found her keys and stumbled into her apartment with her last shred of dignity, banging the door firmly behind her.

No! No! No!

How had this happened? She sank to her knees, sobbing.

I’m so sorry Lord. I disappointed you.

“Ethel please let me in. Let’s talk,” he obviously wasn’t taking no for an answer.

Her body heaved in sobs. This couldn’t be happening. She’d promised herself that nothing would happen.

And then she’d let him kiss her!

You weren’t so immobile yourself, madam.

This dinner was a bad idea. She should’ve known that from the start. She wasn’t ready to face Charles again.

You haven’t changed one bit, Thelia. Beneath all the churchiness, you’re still the adventurous bad girl.

The voices were back; the accusing ones and the soothing ones.

“I’m leaving Thelia, but I’ll be back,” he’d obviously given up.

Why? Why won’t he let her be? He’d left her once. Why had he returned to make her life miserable?

************

For the first time in a long time, Ethel was distracted during service that evening. First, she hadn’t spoken to Amaka all day in school, not because she hadn’t wanted to but because she was too ashamed to. Her actions of the previous day still hung over her head, accusing her. And it seemed Amaka was pissed at her too because she said nothing to her beyond exchanging pleasantries.

Teaching the students had done little in lifting her dark mood. Until she got a call from her mother that afternoon. Since she’d turned sixteen, her conversations with her mother had reduced to monosyllables.

“Hello ma,”

“Eno, how are you?” whenever Mum used her name at all, it was her native name.

“Fine.” Nothing else, just fine. Anything else would be weird. Ethel pretended she wasn’t interested in her mum’s life because she was afraid what she’d find out.

“Eh…I’m in Abuja. I came in yesterday and I…I wanted to…er…tell you,” she stammered.

“Okay. Thanks for telling me,” Ethel hesitated. “And welcome to Abuja.”

“Thank you.”

There was awkward silence from both ends of the line. It was always like this, they had nothing to say to each other.

“Ma, I have to…”

“Come and see me please…I…”

Oh please don’t say you miss me.

“I’m…alone,” she completed.

What does that mean, Mum? You’re with no male guest?

“I’m busy Mum. Maybe one of these days when I’m free. Bye for now,” Ethel knew she sounded cold but what was she to do? Her relationship with her mother had been damaged a long time ago; her loathing for the woman she called mum had grown as she grew older. Could it be fixed now?

She hung up feeling as she always did after speaking to her mum. Choked. It seemed like her chest would burst with the bitterness she felt.

She blamed her for everything that had gone wrong in her life. Especially Charles. Maybe if her mum had taught her that love was something to embrace rather than run from, she wouldn’t have gotten involved with Charles.

Thus was her mood when she got to church later that evening. It seemed as though fate had ganged up on her to make her life miserable again.

She came to church intending to bury her pain and guilt and just as she was beginning to feel better, halfway during Pastor Tim’s sermon, she felt it. The charge. The feeling that someone was watching her closely. Too closely.

She turned and searched the seated crowd with her eyes. At first she didn’t see him. Until she did a second sweep with her eyes.

He was there, seated at the back between two men, grinning at her and looking incredibly ravishing. Her pulse quickened as she turned away.

It was Charles.

How on earth was she expected to concentrate on Pastor Tim’s sermon now knowing that Charles was somewhere behind her? And she was sure everyone would know from one look at her, that she’d kissed him the previous day! And what about Pastor Tim? What if the Holy Spirit tells him what she did? Yes, He was capable of that. After all, He’d told Peter what Ananias and Sapphira had done.

Oh Lord no.

And yet the memory of the kiss seemed to be burned in her head. It completely blocked out the on-going sermon and instead ignited her carnal thoughts.

Father forgive me, for I know not what…

“…shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” Pastor Tim’s voice reverberated.

A drug in my system. A drug in my system I can’t get rid of…

“…brethren, your body is the temple of God.”

Crazy, you’re going crazy Ethel. Stop thinking about that man, dammit!

But she couldn’t. Her head was abuzz with sensuous memories. Memories of the past she chose never to speak about.

“Sister Ethel,” the voice, an urgent whisper brought her back to the present.

She looked up, into the face of her assistant Welfare director- Mrs Ohaneze.

“Service is almost over, should I serve Pastor’s drinks?” she asked.

Service? Almost over? She blinked.

“Yes, yes, yes please do. Thank you,” her smile was polite but apprehensive. Service was almost over, she had to make a run for it as soon as the benediction was shared. The last thing she needed now was another confrontation with Charles.

Of course, she wasn’t to be that lucky because as soon as service ended and she began making her way to the exit, someone tugged at her arm.

“Siss…sterr Ethel, not so fast,” the mockery in his voice was evident.

Ethel froze. There was no escaping now. She turned, imagining that she’d already gone several shades of red with embarrassment.

“Leave me alone,” she said in an urgent whisper, “don’t tell me you came to church for a booty call.”

“Only your booty interests me Thelia,” he grinned, “what do you say we get out of here and finish what we started yesterday?”

Ethel’s hand flew to her mouth in surprise. She sneaked a quick look around, hoping that no one had heard their conversation. Lord, this was a nightmare! Charles was becoming a pain in the butt.

“You should go and see Pastor, your soul needs salvation. Honestly I wonder how you two are brothers,” she glared at him.

He tilted his head back and laughed, he was obviously enjoying her discomfort.

“Step-brothers, actually. Perhaps we should take this conversation elsewhere, Thelia.”

“Yes. Absolutely. Let’s take it back to the hotel where you and your wife are staying!!” she hissed at him.

He froze for a split second giving room for Ethel’s savior to show up. Amaka.

“Hey Eth, what’s up?” Amaka slid in smoothly beside Ethel, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Er…I…”

“Who’s this? A new brother in church? Hello brother, my name is Amaka,” she held out her hand with a smile.

Charles looked at Amaka, exasperated and had no choice but to stretch out his hands to accept hers.

“This is Charles. Charles Umoh,” Ethel said, her eyes lowered, wondering if Amaka would make the connection.

“Interesting,” apparently she had.

Ethel bit her lower lip in nervously. Her life as she knew it had just come crumbling and it was up to her to face the consequences.

“You know what? We need to talk Eth so I’ll just wait here while you say goodbye to Brother Charles here, okay?” there was an emphasis on the ‘brother’.

Ethel was visibly trembling as she nodded. Amaka wanted to talk to her! She wasn’t sure if she could face her. Especially not now.

She glanced at her friend and the stern look on her face told her she meant business this time. Quickly she turned to Charles and beckoned him to follow her.

Her nervousness caused her to be clumsy and her purse fell to the ground and spilled open, scattering its contents.

“Crap,” she murmured as she bent to pick it. Could this day get any worse?

“I’ll do it. You go on,” Amaka offered.

She needed Charles far away as fast as possible so she smiled gratefully at Amaka and walked Charles to the door.

“How did you know about my…wife?”

“The same way she knew about me. You’re a shameless liar. Don’t come looking for me again,” with that she left him staring agape after her.

When she returned to Amaka she immediately knew something was wrong. Perhaps she was still angry.

“Thank you Amy but I have to go home. I’ve got an early day tomorrow,” she spoke fast, hoping Amaka would ask no questions.

“We have to talk,” Amaka replied in a grave voice.

“Not tonight please,”

“Yes, tonight,” she waved an envelope in front of her, “about this.”

It was the envelope Charles’ wife had given her the previous day. She’d forgotten it in her purse!

She snatched it from Amaka’s hand and tucked it away. “You had no right to pry.”

There was no apology as Amaka asked, “have you ever had an abortion?”

“What??”

“I think we are going to have that talk after all. Now.”

 

To be continued next week…

By Mimi Adebayo

 

 

THIS THING CALLED FEMINISM

 femme02

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”  – Jane Austen, Persuasion.

“My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.”
― Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

The women above were expressing, albeit in the subtlest of ways, their dissatisfaction with some of the lowest forms of female-targeted gender discrimination – denigration and objectification. My immediate reaction upon reading these words is not just sadness, but also a fluid outpouring of sympathy, and shame. Because it is true that a lot of men see women not as humans but as appendages to manhood; appendages who have no business thinking or being intelligent.

What I however would like to dissect further in this post, is the rapidly-turning consensual presupposition that men are the one and only reason for denigration of the feminine gender and as a result, they must be punished so that total women empowerment can be attained. This line of thought leads us on to the popular and very controversial topic of Feminism.

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I have always held the opinion that what the majority of us know and practice as feminism is actually – and very ironically – a campaign for the continued denigration of the female folk. A lot of mothers raise their daughters with mantras such as, “Men Are Evil”, “You Are Better Than Them(men)”, “Never Let A Man Ride You” among others; and upon growing into adults, a lot of these women turn ‘feminists’. Their practice of ‘feminism’ is built on a coarse foundation of psychological self-enslavement, carefully disguised as a caring system which would have made all their dreams come true were it not over-run by these ‘evil men-folk’.

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From the start therefore, the girl sees herself as a victim and rightly so, acts like one; she cries foul at every slightest tip in the scale and yells “Me! Me!! Not them!!!”- like a victim; she fights rough, by hook or crook, fair or foul, demanding, beguiling, begging for rights, “the same rights they have”, rights which might have always been there for the taking – like a victim; and no matter how much is acceded, no matter how many victories she registers, she goes to her death whimpering about a world that always chose ‘them’ first and never gave her a chance – like a victim.

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Perhaps there is no better illustration of this psyche-malformation than in the July 8th article published in The Guardian under the title ‘Oscar Pistorius’ trial: Lessons for Nigerian Judiciary’. The writer, Bamidele Aturu cited one of such lessons from the conduct of the female judge who has presided over the Pistorius case thus far as follows: “…the lawyers freely referred to the judge as ‘my lady’ and she did not take offence as some of our female judges, particularly those at the Court of Appeal, do”, he noted. “In Nigeria…our female judges refuse to be addressed as ‘my lady’. They would quickly point out to you that they are not your lady in such a stern way that you would think that you had just called them, ‘my wife’”

Many lawyers in quick defense of this would quickly say that there is no ‘woman’ at the bar…really, there aren’t? Of course there are – if biological differences still exist, that is – women at the bar, so it is more a case of those women not wanting to be regarded as ‘woman’ than anything else. In that case, two options are viable: either ‘woman’ is now considered such a derogatory term that learned females abhor to be so recognized while in their official capacity or it is just a principle of the profession.

I am fairly sure it is not the latter because in addition to the example of South Africa cited above, other instances abound, namely: in England and Wales, judges are called ‘My Lord’ or ‘My Lady’ and magistrates ‘Sir/Madam’; Male judges in Germany are formally addressed as ‘Herr Vorsitzender’ and female judges as ‘Frau Vorsitzende’, which translate as ‘Mister Chairman’ or ‘Madam Chairwoman’ respectively; and in Brazil, the judges can be called “Juiz” or “Juiza,” the male and female versions of judge.

Aturu went on to write – and I agree – that “in other countries, the shift to the use of ‘my lady’ to address female judges was the outcome of the struggle to treat women as women and to respect them as they are. It is therefore, demeaning of womanhood for a judge, for that matter, to stick to a mode of address that denigrates women and reflects a reactionary disposition.”

I have deliberately made this point as plainly and provocatively – if you may – as possible because only in starkness, will truth shine out in its most benevolent glory. As our people say, he is a dead man who hides a festering wound, untreated, behind swathes of fine dressing. The healing balm of truth in this case, is that obsession with the crucifixion of the men-folk for denigrating the womenfolk is no way to conquer gender discrimination. As clichéd as it is, two wrongs still do not make a right; the practice of a victim mentality and the incessant preaching to nail the ‘balls’ to the board, all in the name of feminism are in truth, anti-feminist.

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Eleniyan is a Nigerian who wrote a very difficult to read, but insightful article titled ‘The Need for Feminism in Nigeria and Africa as a whole’ which was published on www.nigeriavillagesquare.com in September, 2009. If it matters to you, I am unaware of Eleniyan’s gender but the writer’s views on feminism shed more light on this very unpopular view of mine.

In the writer’s opinion, feminism “…is not ANTI-MEN! The problem with the anti-men agenda cloaked in feminism is that, in its effort to subvert the order of things, wanting to take power away from men, they forgot the fundamental differences both socially and biologically, between men and women. By peddling their “freedoms” or “anti-men” agenda that are artificial, self-destructive, and merely allow women to have superficial resemblance of equality, they hurt feminism’s aim to improve emotional and psychological relations between men and women and cultivate a genuine respect for women”

He/she went on to explain that this retributive agenda directed at the supposed hunters in flesh of men, has been mistaken for feminism. AND this singular factor is responsible for the many “road-bumps” against feminism in our society.

Feminism is a political, moral, social, and even now religious movement which aspires for equal rights and all-round protection for women. And often, the misconceptions surround the many different definitions of the term ‘EQUAL’.

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According to Eleniyan, “Equality is not sameness in treatment, but fairness in treatment” The idea is that while differences in human compositions and nature make it impossible for everybody to be treated exactly the same, the same differences must discourage unfair treatment of one over another.

I am helpless before the veracity of these words because fairness does not focus on stamping down on one person for another to be raised up; it might be necessary in certain cases, that a head must roll for another to sprout, but the difference is that equality fights against an initial, obvious and compulsive obsession for this to happen, while accepting it when it does happen.

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Fairness does not discard the needs, wants and aspirations of one person in favor of another’s; it accepts everybody – male or female, hunter or hunted – for who they are and treats them with respect. And the achievement of that for women, I believe, is the mission of feminism.

Nelson Mandela did not attempt to victimize the supremacist whites in South Africa in order to free his people of apartheid; he would have failed. He rather believed and fought for equality and fairness. He once was quoted as saying: “Let there be justice for ALL. Let there be peace for ALL. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for ALL. Let EACH know that for EACH the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.”

Even Martin Luther King Jr’s dream was not obsessed with demanding the heads of the white racists on spikes; his dream was “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL MEN are created equal.’”

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Equality. Fairness. Is the stuff it ought to be made of.

And now it is your turn to share, reader. Whatever your view is – hot or cold 😉 – pen it down in the comments section for us all to share. What is your view of This Thing Called Feminism?

 

 Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

UNFORGIVEN VI

…continued from Unforgiven V

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“Some men talk about their wives whenever they are with their mistresses. But…not you. Why?”

“I didn’t think my mistress would want to know my wife. Why do you want to know?”

“Because I want to know. Why don’t you talk about the Missus?”

“Well babes; I’ve long since learned not to mix my family and my extracurricular activities. We don’t want any mix-ups there.”

************

Unbidden, the conversation flashed in Ethel’s mind as she stood toe-to-toe with Charles’ wife. Why hadn’t Charles warned her about this? The woman looked intimidating and well…older, much older than Ethel and if she wasn’t mistaken, older than Charles.

But she was a beauty. In every aspect. And she was expensive. Everything on her reeked of wealth…from her finely starched designer shirt to her knee-length ash skirt that hugged her hips. Her make-up was finely applied and took away a lot from her age.

Why would any man want to cheat on this woman?

“Are you done analyzing me?” she sounded amused.

“I…uh…I wasn’t. I just…this is weird,” Ethel stammered.

“Meeting your lover’s wife?”

“You’re wrong. We are not lovers. We’re just supposed to have dinner together. I didn’t know you were in Abuja too.”

“He didn’t tell you that he accompanied me for a doctors’ conference. Typical Charles – chasing some bimbo while I’m working my ass off.”

“No. We haven’t had much time to talk. Believe me, there’s nothing between us.”

“Again?”

Ethel looked away. “Again. How did you know about today?”

“I’m not stupid. I’ve known about you for a while sadly I thought I’d gotten rid of you three years ago,” her voice was unsympathetic. “Charles has no idea I’ve got him within my sights.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Oh. When it comes to choosing between his family and extracurricular activities, Charles always chooses right,” sarcasm dripped from her words.

The words stung more than Ethel would admit. Extracurricular activities. Translation – you

“Madam, please explain what you mean by getting rid of me three years ago,” there was a tremor in her voice. She sensed that what she would not like was what she was about to hear.

“Remember the last time you saw him? That was my doing. I gave him an ultimatum,” she dipped her hand into her Prada handbag and pulled out an envelope, “he’s going to be here any minute. I’m glad we decided to have this talk. Meanwhile I’m sure you’d be pleased to know what information is in that envelope. It’d enlighten you about your err…relationship with my husband.”

“Why did you come?”

“Charles cares about his family more than he lets on. He was nothing when I married him but look at him now – every stray girl’s dream. No matter what happens he’ll always choose me, the mother of his children. Remember that when next you think of screwing him.”

Ethel was silent. She didn’t say a word as Mrs. Felicia Umoh dropped the envelope on the table.

“And oh…it’d be in your best interest not to mention our little meeting to him.” With that she stalked out of the house.

Ethel crumpled into the chair, her head whirling with thoughts. Her breakup with Charles had been painful. It hadn’t even qualified as a breakup because there’d been no teary-eyed goodbyes. He’d simply left one day without a word.

She’d been in the hospital; still recovering from her recent miscarriage. Her mind and body were affected and she had needed all the support she could get from him. The man she loved. But he’d been nowhere to be found.

The day she was discharged she’d rushed home to the apartment he’d rented for her, only to find it locked with a few of her things packed into a small duffel bag and kept with a neighbor. There was no note, no explanation and no way to get in touch with him. It had literally killed Ethel. The not-knowing, the silence, his unceremonial disappearance.

She had been left with nothing except a broken heart and depression. No home, hardly any clothes; so she’d gone to the one place she’d vowed she wouldn’t return to – her childhood home. With Mum.

Now what did this woman mean by she’d gotten rid of her? Ethel found herself too stunned to think. Had she had something to do with Charles’ disappearance from her life?

What did that matter now? Three years have gone by, Ethel. Just drop it.

She picked up the envelope. How was she going to face Charles today after such a visit?

Cancel the date.

Nah. Too late. You’ll suck it up and pretend he didn’t lie to you. Then you’ll get your closure.

At that precise moment the doorbell rang and, Ethel quickly tucked the envelope into her purse. She’d take a look at it later.

“Who is it?” she wasn’t going to be taken by surprise twice in one day.

“Charles.”

She glanced at the time, 7:45pm. He was forty-five minutes late.

“I’ll be right out,” she didn’t want him in her apartment. She picked up her purse, took a deep breath and went out to face him.

He stood there confidently, looking so sleek and irresistibly fine. He had an aura, a certain contagious confidence that threw Ethel off balance when she first met him. It always pulled her like a magnet.

“You’re late,” she accused.

“Had some car issues. I’m sorry. You look gorgeous. Well covered up, I see,” he smirked.

“Get used to it,” she snapped, shrugging off his hands that went around her shoulders.

“What? Now I can’t hold you anymore? You forget…I’ve seen some intriguing parts of your body,” there was a twinkle in his eyes as they walked to his car.

She hid a smile. He’d certainly turned the charm on.

“What are you doing in Abuja?” she asked, taking her seat beside him in the car.

“Work. But I had to see you.”

Liar, liar. “What about your wife?”

“Thelia, this night is about me and you. No third parties please,” his eyes were on the road as he drove.

Why are you here Ethel? Why are you here with this man who is a danger to you physically, spiritually and mentally? Why do you want to torture yourself?

“No, Charles. I’m the third party here. You’re one with your wife and I’m nothing but a passing fancy. That’s what I’ve always been to you.”

“Why are you talking like this? I thought tonight was not about the past,” he reached out and placed a hand on her knee, “besides if you were a passing fancy then you really did a good job because you kept my attention for four years.”

Ethel moved her leg away from his touch refusing to admit how much it affected her.

She couldn’t believe that she’d given four years of her life to this man.

“Why did you leave without a word, Charles? You left me stranded when I needed you most,” she needed to know.

“Let’s have dinner first. Then we can talk. I want to give you a treat tonight.”

**********

He stuffed her with food, spoiling her by insisting she take whatever she wanted. The evening was almost magical; it was like he was intent on stripping away the years that had separated them and bringing back the memories. Yet Ethel couldn’t take her mind off his wife’s visit.

Charles was nothing when I married him. He will always choose me, the mother of his children.

It was nine thirty pm when they arrived at her doorstep. As she stepped out of the car, Ethel felt a twinge of sadness at the thought that she might never see him again. She’d wrapped up this chapter of her life and it was over. The visit from his wife today had proved it.

“Won’t you ask me in?” he asked, following her closely behind.

“Of course not Charles,” she turned to face him, “before you leave I have a question.” 

 He was staring intently at her in a way that made her skin burn. God, why did the man have to be so damn attractive?

“Yes?”

“Did your wife have anything to do with the…way our relationship ended?”

“Family always comes first, Ethel, you know that,” his face gave away nothing.

 Yes, now I do. “That was my mistake, right? Falling in love with you?”

“No, no, no. We had an agreement, Ethel. Love was never part of the equation from the beginning. It was one of the ground rules you set, remember?”

Yes, she did remember. Oh she remembered so well. But what had she known then? She’d been just twenty-two, in her final year at the university and still very much in the claws of her mother. Meeting Charles had been like a miracle; he was older, charming, smitten with her and rich. What more could a girl like her want? She’d known he was married and it had added more to the thrill.

“Well I broke the rules at some point. Why couldn’t you? Was I that terrible to love?” she asked.

Careful, Ethel. Tread cautiously.

“No but I already had someone I loved. I had a wife! A family! I couldn’t risk all that for…for…”

“Say it. For me. I wasn’t worth it. I was always going to be the mistress, right? Not even when I got pregnant? What if I’d had your child?”

He was silent and unsure. He stood, looking at her, helpless. A first for Charles Umoh.

“Leave, Charles. Just leave. This is over. Thank you for a nice evening. I hope you have a nice life with your family,” she had to get away before she burst into tears.

“I’m sorry Thelia, I wish I could’ve been more,” he caught her hand in his and pressed it to his lips. “What? No hug or…even…a kiss? For old time’s sake?”

“No. Get out of my way Charles.”

“C’mon Thelia. Please. Just a goodbye hug and a peck on the cheek.”

Insane. Insane that she actually wanted his arms around her. Totally insane that she was actually thinking of hugging him.

“I said get out, Charles and let’s not make a scene.”

“You know me. I won’t leave until you give me that hug and peck. So how about that scene, Thelia? Please?” his eyes looked so beautiful when he begged.

“Don’t. Don’t call me that.”

“Why not?” he stroked her face.

Because it jumbles my head! Because it reminds me of whom I used to be! And I don’t want to be that person anymore. I’m better! I don’t want to be here with you; feeling this way about you! The voice in her head screamed but her mouth refused to move.

How could she be thinking this about a man that just told her she meant nothing to him?

One hug, Ethel and get this man out of your front yard. And out of your life.

Too risky Ethel, don’t do it. Leave him standing out here and walk into your house.

Oh I wish. Just one hug and I’m outta here.

Forgive my weakness, Lord.

She let him pull her into his arms and envelope her. Ah…it felt so good. So right. So warm. She’d missed this, Lord. She really had.

Pull away now, Ethel. He’s feeling you up.

 Her head was obviously thinking straighter than her heart and her hormones.

She began to pull away but his grip on her was firm, caressing.

“A peck on the cheek please,” he whispered, huskily.

Ethel was afraid of what her neighbors would think seeing her locked in a seemingly passionate embrace with a man. Even though her front yard was dark she wasn’t too comfortable, so she reached up to plant a quick peck on his cheek.

And then he did something. He turned his head so slightly and her lips touched his. A shiver of apprehension sailed through her body as her lips began to part, slowly.

 

To be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo

UNFORGIVEN V

…continued from Unforgiven IV

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Charles wasn’t going to stop hounding her. He was the kind of man that got what he wanted and right now he wanted her. The thought of that managed to thrill her and scare her at the same time.

Although it was difficult, she decided to ignore his text and return to class. Odd, that even while she spoke to her students, her mind wandered to Charles.

She’d broken her ultimate rule with the wrong man.

And yet, as much as she regretted what had happened with Charles, she found she still cherished what they’d had. It had been love, even if the worst kind. Even if it had been one-sided.

Which is why she knew she wasn’t ready to tell Amaka about Charles. Not just yet.

As soon as school was over, Ethel didn’t bother waiting around for Amaka because she knew there was no way Amaka would let her go without finishing her story. Yes, she was persistent like that.

And when her cell rang later that day as she made lunch, she knew without a doubt that it was Amaka.

She was wrong. The caller ID showed a strange number.

“Hello?”

“Have dinner with me tonight please.”

She didn’t have to think twice to know who was speaking. Charles.

“How did you get my number?” she asked.

“Oh come on Thelia, you know me. That’s not what’s important here. Please have dinner with me.”

His voice disarmed her whenever he begged, even if for a little bit. He spoke with that low drawl that quickened her pulse whenever she listened to him. It was one of the things that had endeared her to him.

“Why?” she asked. Every second spent on the phone with him weakened her defences in a way that scared her. She didn’t want to fall back into that phase of her life where all she’d thought about was him.

“Because I miss you.”

And I miss you too. In a stupid way. She snorted, “No, Charles. I told you nothing is going to happen between us.”

“Then why are you afraid of having dinner with me? C’mon, it’s just dinner.”

Dining with the devil eh? A voice taunted her.

“We didn’t have a chance to say our formal goodbyes, remember? Let’s just treat this as…a way of getting…closure,” he continued.

You can’t actually be considering this, Ethel.

“If we didn’t have a chance to say goodbye Charles, that was the choice you made,” she said, slowly.

Maybe this would be good. Think of it as closure, Ethel. Get this man out of your heart and head once and for all.

“Give me a chance to make up for it. Let me treat you like the queen you are. Let me make it up to you.”

It wasn’t the sweetness of his words that made her say yes to a date later that night; it was the fact that she’d dreamed of this moment almost every day for the past three years.

She’d often wondered what she’d do if she saw him again; if he came to ask for her forgiveness. And now that time had come. What exactly did she want? A harmless dinner with her former lover?

Bad idea, Ethel. The voice reprimanded. Do not be unequally yoked, Ethel.

No one is doing any yoking here. It’s just dinner.

With the man who sent you to hell and back.

Oh Lord, what now? She deliberated; maybe she should call Amaka and ask advice.

After playing hooky today? I don’t think so.

She glanced at her clock. Two minutes past four. Charles said he’d pick her up by seven pm so she had barely three hours to make up her mind and get ready.

Now what would she wear? Charles liked short and skimpy and before he’d ended their relationship, her wardrobe – which he had picked out – was made up of short skirts or gowns.

Short and skimpy was definitely out of it now. She’d long since stopped dressing to please Charles; now, she’d dress to please her Creator.

Maybe you should have thought about that before you agreed to this date in the first place.

Three hours later, she was still unsure what to wear when the doorbell rang.

Dammit. She’d forgotten the man was a stickler to time.

Thankfully, she’d left the door unlocked.

“Come in! It’s open!” she struggled into a shimmering blue gown. “I’ll be right there, Charles.”

She half expected him to walk into her bedroom. Charles was well known for such grand intrusive gestures. It shamed her to think that the thought of him walking in on her sent tiny unexpected shivers down her spine.

This has to stop. He is a married man! And he’s wrong for you! And he’s Charles!

Ten minutes later, she checked herself in the mirror and smiled.

This was good. Nothing extravagant. Just the right amount of make-up. Nothing to make him think she was going overboard for him. Her knee-length ball gown gave away no curves, the right thing for the occasion. Nothing to give Charles ideas.

Yes. I’m ready.

She slid into her black stilettos and stepped out into the living room, a little nervous.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting, Charles,” she said, emerging fully into the parlor.

“You didn’t at all.”

Ethel froze. That wasn’t Charles. It was some woman.

“Hello Ethel,” the woman rose to her feet.

“Who are you?”

“Won’t you say hello to me at least?”

Ethel froze in her tracks; the woman looked disturbingly familiar but Ethel couldn’t place where she’d seen her before. She looked to be in her fifties, everything about her was well-coiffed and in-place.

“Who are you?” she asked again.

“Mrs Felicia Umoh.”

“Who?” Something about her name made Ethel pause.

“Wow. I’m nothing more than a statistic to you, right? Now that hurts. Well, let me enlighten you…my husband would be a little late for your date tonight. I made sure of it,” her eyes turned to steel.

And then it clicked. She was Charles’ wife.

Oh my God.

 

 

to be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo