By Francis Ewherido
am not into women liberation the way it is seen in the Western world. For some westerners, the African culture is inferior, so we should scrap it and replace it with the Western culture. I was born in Africa and grew up in Urhobo land, to be specific. I am a typical Urhobo man, but the “typical” has been moderated by my western education and Christian beliefs. But I remain an Urhobo man.
For instance, these days all sensible Urhobo men send their children to school, unlike our grandparents who were notorious for sending only their sons to school. If I have time, I cook for the whole house, though I firmly believe that it is the primary duty of the wife. In many of today’s families, especially in the urban centres, spouses share the chores and I do not have problems with that.
I spent some time with my wife on Long Island, New York. Our hosts (husband and wife) did the chores together. The same applied in all the white families we visited. They were in their 70s and 80s. Before that trip, I was having running battles with my eldest daughter over dirty dishes in the sink. When I got back, the battles stopped. If I saw dirty dishes, I washed them. She and her siblings became embarrassed seeing me do dishes. The problem was substantially solved.
I copied good traits from Western culture. But the Urhobo man in me cannot be erased. In my bachelor days, my girlfriend told me to shut up. I did, but the relationship also ended that day in my mind and effectively not long after. I have never told my wife to shut up because I think it is rude, so God forbid that day she will tell me to shut up. But I have also seen married couples of over 30 years and both of them tell each other to shut up even publicly. I have never heard that they physically fought for the over 30 years they have been married, so I guess the use of harsh language is okay by them. I also cannot tolerate a wife who wants to tell me how to live my life. NEVER. I have made costly mistakes in the process, but it is okay. I also do not tell my wife how to live her life. The boundaries were drawn before marriage and as long as she lives within boundaries, I am just fine.
I must be consulted before she can take decisions concerning the children and the family. You cannot shave my hair in my absence. I also try to carry her along as much as possible. We do not always agree. If I feel her argument is superior, I run with it, but if I am convinced that my thinking is superior, I run with mine and accept the consequences, negative or positive.
I have spent some time in the UK and the US and I can tell you straight away that the marriage of any Nigerian man who sticks to Nigerian values, especially male dominance, while living abroad, will collapse. In the same vein, the marriage of any Nigerian woman who abandons her African values and embraces Western values wholesale will collapse. It can never work. You can see the number of divorces of Nigerian couples in the US and the UK. Sometimes it ends in fatalities. Some Nigerian men have killed their wives, especially in the US. Sometimes they killed their own children and the mothers-in-law. Some Nigerian men have lost their homes and the little money they slaved to save, sometimes over decades. Most times they lose custody of their children. The system there favours the women. It is scary for a typical Nigerian man because our culture favours the men, but the Western culture favours women. For the marriage of a Nigerian couple to survive in Europe and America, both spouses must make adjustments to accommodate the new realities.
But what prompted today’s article is the story of a widow, who was paraded naked in Agunese Afam-Mmaku Community in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State eight days ago. Her offence? She was caught picking snails from a sacred forest. It is against their culture. My initial reaction was indignation. Parading an adult female, and a widow for that matter, naked is a barbaric and insensitive act. I do not support disobeying the culture of the land. From 1973 to 1980, we lived in Ozoro. My mother forbade the cooking of snails in her kitchen. My people in Emokpor quarters in Ewhu-Urhobo also forbid eating of snails. This was in deference to my father, who naturally hated snails, and our driver, who hailed from Ozoro. The widow should have been sensitive to the culture of her people.
But let us go further, the woman is a widow, probably poor and hungry. Should she have died of hunger? When David and his troops were hungry, what did they do? They ate the sacred bread meant for priests only. What kind of barbaric culture allows misguided youths to parade an adult woman naked in the streets of a community? I know why she was paraded naked; it had nothing to do with the “offence” or tradition. I quickly checked the story and found out it was done by youths. Men, especially youths, are excited about seeing a naked woman. Some of them had not seen a naked woman before. The only ones they have seen are in their phones. Many love pornography. Some are hooked on it. When they see it live, they are excited.
It must have been before 1993 because I did not have a car then. I was waiting for a bus at Yaba Bus Stop, opposite the Yaba Psychiatric Hospital. A mentally deranged woman was at the gate. Before we knew it traders at the Tejuosho Market and along the railway started crossing the road and hailing the woman and encouraging her on. She removed her top, bra and trousers. By the time I got a bus and was leaving she was stark naked and the traders roared in excitement.
My next question is why the elders allowed the youths to carry out such a heinous act. It does not make sense to me. Also, doesn’t her late husband come from a family or kindred? Why didn’t they protect her? This kind of ill-treatment of women, especially widows, should not be allowed in this 21st century. Sane societies protect widows. Acts like widows being locked up with corpses of their late husbands and drinking of water used to wash their late husbands’ bodies to prove their innocence should not be tolerated. If in doubt, relatives should carry out an autopsy to find the cause of their relatives’ death. Any culture that undermines the dignity of women and all people should be abolished.
Enugu is currently under the siege of kidnappers. The youths should channel their energies towards making their communities safe, not engaging in obscene acts and perpetuating archaic and obnoxious cultures.
Finally, the government and law enforcement agents should fish out the perpetrators and bring them to book.