Cooking and Cleaning: Male Survival Skills

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The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, caused ripples on social media on Sunday when he said:

The head of the home never goes into the kitchen. It is now 45 years with Mama Janet, I have never stepped into the kitchen. That is how it should be.”

From the context of his speech, he used this as an example of how politicians and civil servants should stick to prescribed roles. Indeed, his analogy is so flawed that the import of his message was obscured.

If you asked me, a power-hungry ruler does not have the moral credentials to tell others how they should govern their homes. I am aware that gender roles is often a flash point of feminist arguments, notwithstanding, Museveni’s thoughts have sadly remained unreconstructed over the years even as the ground beneath our feet beneath is shifting.

Tragically, while much of the developed world enjoys enlightened and visionary leadership, several African countries are still trapped in the maze of gerontocracy – being driven by men who ought to be reclining in a nursing home for the aged.

Thanks to Museveni anyway, I had hoped to write on this issue since the time I wrote on How the Cult of Masculinity damages men. From the responses I read on social media so far, I realized that many Nigerian youths agreed with Museveni’s “wisdom.”

Now, we live in an age of social evolution. No one in his right mind would demand we dress, speak and live our daily lives the same way folks did way back in the 1960s. The times have changed; so have we. For one, no one back then could have imagined that we would be communicating with mobile phones or video calls as we do today.

Similarly, to hold people down with archaic principles and archetypal roles (sometimes disguised as “culture”) is to stifle societal progress in ways more than one.

No gender was born to perform domesticity and no gender was born to be enterprising. These are skills people learn in a bid for survival in a changing world. Women don’t have the ability to cook pre-installed in their wombs neither do men have entrepreneurship congealed in their balls.

Some norms may have worked well in the days of our fathers, but we no longer live in their era and we don’t have to live as they lived. Cooking does not diminish a man’s headship in his home; no, it doesn’t shrink his manhood. It’s a necessary skill for survival.

Even ancient history furnishes us with evidence that men at various eras have cooked – both in domestic and professional circles. The early man learnt how to smoke, roast, sun-dry and bake his food and his masculinity wasn’t washed ashore while at it.

Men have always cooked even without female interference, so let no man try to price his worth on not entering the kitchen for 4 decades. This is something I admire about French and Italian culture. Many of their men are in fact, better chefs than women. It’s here in Africa that we complicate simple matters and unnecessarily genderize some issues.

Each time people tell me “Oh you can cook? Wow, that means no woman can take undue advantage of you,” I marvel at such reasoning because men don’t have to be wrapped around women’s fingers for culinary benefits. A real man is supposed to learn what he needs to learn in order to survive – even in the absence of a woman.

I recently heard of a couple who are currently at the verge of divorce over unresolved emotional issues. The frequent cause of friction between them was that the husband usually arrives home from work at about 5 pm but he would wait up for his wife till  9 pm when she arrives home, expecting her to prepare his dinner.

He doesn’t know how to cook and he doesn’t want to learn it. So their two children go to bed hungry each night while their dad lies on the sofa, milling around social media, waiting for a woman who is still caught up in the soul-crushing Lagos traffic to fix his dinner!

Now, is this a display of masculinity or feminity on his side? If you believe men should never step into the kitchen, please answer that question. Of course, his attitude is a sign that he missed something vital in his upbringing.

That brings me to another self-survival skill: cleaning up. This entails personal hygiene, cleaning up utensils, clothing and one’s environment. This is an area that needs to be thrashed out among us guys because the society has told many of us over and over again that male grooming is a feminine past time. “To be masculine,” we are told, “is to wallow in your own filth and get high on your mess.”

This has resulted in a sort of imbalance: many ladies are raised to learn how to cook, clean and take care of their looks – as intending “wife materials.” But many guys weren’t raised to be “husband materials” so to speak. They were allowed to become educated pigs and overgrown spoilt brats.

They loathe doing their dishes; they don’t clean their own rooms; they don’t bathe properly and even refuse to take cognizance of their health. They are told that women will ultimately help them clean up, do their laundry and even teach them how to bathe! I’ve actually heard of men who expect their wives to help them flush the toilet after use.

It’s still understandable (though not excusable) for guys with busy schedules, but when an adult male who has his five senses complete and is not physically challenged in anyway still expects a woman to clean him up, feed him like an infant and attend to him like a deity, he has a defective upbringing.

The other day, I saw a screenshot from a woman whose husband stains his shorts and the bed sheets with fecal matter each time he lies on his back while making love. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she asked him why he doesn’t wipe himself properly after using the restroom, he gave a rather amusing and yet shocking answer: “Only gay men give such attention to between their butt cheeks” (!)

Indeed, life can be so hard having a village idiot for a husband.

Guys, it’s never too late to learn how to cook and clean up. Yes, getting professional help is fine, but one of the areas in which men excel better than women is the power to adapt, work and survive. Channel that natural ability and use it!

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The Feminist Hypocrisy

For the Nigerian feminist and writer, Chimamanda Adichie, Hillary Clinton is an icon of women liberation. After being mercilessly dragged by an army of Nigerian “savage” kings and queens in April for being “upset” over Hillary’s self description as a wife first on her Twitter bio, Adichie described her in flowery terms:

I am an unapologetic fan of Ms. Clinton’s I have been for many years. I felt quite emotional when I met her. Having read and followed her for years, it was moving to see her: the warm, human, observant, present, thoughtful person (and looking wonderful, with her hair and makeup on point!) She said she has read my books and I restrained myself from doing cartwheels.

More like emotional feminine mush. Okay, before I do some cartwheels into how Hillary’s character smoke rose from her chimney of late, I want quote what Ms. Adichie said about Hillary in that post (notice how she forced her treasured ‘Ms’ title on her), which was quite revealing of the power of selective intuition:

“Much of Ms. Clinton’s public image is a caricature of a person who is untrustworthy, calculated, cold, [and] dishonest. That caricature has its roots in her early public life … Her crime was that she did not conform to the traditional role of First Lady. She had kept her name. She considered herself to be her husband’s equal partner. She did not intend merely to be a Wife. She had her own dreams, her own ambitions.”

Now this is where I am going. And here is an unsolicited piece of advice for Adichie. Before you pen a fawning adulation for a woman you admire next time, don’t try to re-mould her in your own image; don’t use her to peddle your feminist ideology. Humans are more complicated than that.

This past month, Hillary was interviewed by Tony Dokoupil on CBS, and she was asked if she thought what Bill, her husband (who was 49 at the time) did to Monica Lewinsky constitute an “abuse of power”, Hillary emphatically said “No.” Her reason was that Monica “was an adult” at the time.

So after two decades, this “observant, present and thoughtful” woman still can’t figure it out that it’s a gross abuse of power for the most powerful man in the world to have a sexual relationship with a powerless female employee several decades younger than him?

She still can’t wrap her head with that makeup and hair on point around the fact that it was an abuse of power for a president to make an intern in the White House give him oral sex in the Oval Office – and in an instance, while he spoke on phone with members of the congress?

Let’s try and replace the characters here. Suppose it was Donald Trump who seduced a 22 year old female intern in the White House and was receiving oral sex from her while speaking with the congress and lurid details of a semen-stained clothing of hers was proof of such sexual affairs, I can bet it will be mega Chicken Licken for the American media: the heavens will literally fall down.

Look at the howl of righteous indignation from the liberals over the report that Donald Trump allegedly had sex with Stormy Daniels some 15 years ago. The TV show, “60 Minutes” where Stormy was interviewed about Trump early this year generated the highest ratings for CBS. It was red meat for media wolves.

Based on Hillary’s remark, the #MeToo movement would be a sham since all the victims had sexual relationships with powerful men in Hollywood as adults. Right? Is this something a woman who believes in women empowerment would say? What comes out of a person unscripted is the real person.

And what has our dear Ms Adichie said about this? Nothing! Why not, as long as it didn’t come from Mr. Trump. The entire red-eyed armies of social media feminists are silent over this detour. The poor ladies that were victims of Bill Clinton and other men in ‘the right circles,’ have been betrayed by the sisterhood.

It’s on record that Hillary insulted the women Bill had defiled calling them “trailer trash,” “narcissistic loony toon” and a “failed cabaret singer.” Why did Adichie not include this little info when she showered Hillary with that flummery? Nah, it doesn’t fit the playbook.

So here is the irony: the women who claim to be fighting against male oppression are the same ones working behind the scenes to service the ugly “p” word – patriarchy – and perpetuate it.

I was amused the other day when Genevive Nnaji too said in an interview that she’s a feminist. The same lady who has for years “hustled” her career by placating patriarchal impulses and exploiting it to the top now suddenly remembers that patriarchy is something women should detest?

I guess all her past patriarchal transgressions have now been washed away by her new feminist profession. I get the party script: just rehash our cliché even if your conviction is only skin-deep. But once you declare that you are no more feminist, you become a she-devil who just leaped out of Hades.

Haven’t you observed how feminists freely objectify and sexualize men but are quick to whine and scream like angry toddlers when men return the favour or just a mere compliment? These feminists talk about how they only crave after men’s “anacondic” dangling sausages, chisel jaws and steel abs and even hire male strippers to feed their lusts. No problem there.

But let a man talk about how he wants to get between the sheets with a lady with 34 D boobs, caramel thighs or a “bootylicious” behind and these ladies will start to stomp their feet and pull out their weaves and shout “objectification!” “They are disrespecting women.”

Social media feminists are some of the most hypocritical, shallow thinking, bullying and indecorous set of people you will ever meet. Someone who is more or less a prostitute comes online and starts lecturing a gang of stray girls about women being independent of men? Oh the joke.

A woman who is enslaving other females from the village as domestic servants in her house is preaching female empowerment on social media? Take your message back to your house.

I was responding to one Nigerian feminist a couple of months ago who claimed that women earn lesser than men in our society, and having realized this was the talking point of Western feminists, I countered her there. I asked her to present a data to support that assertion. She had none. The last time I checked, your qualification and negotiation determine your pay, not your gender.

Lastly, I’ve observed that whenever feminists say they are equal to men in every respect, they conveniently cite instances where they too would be CEOs at the top of corporate (and political) circles. They don’t – and will never – speak about doing the more demanding tasks and responsibilities men perform.

Feminists will never tell you about working in the mines, doing construction work, drilling for oil, digging boreholes or trenches, hunting or even extermination (and by that I mean killing snakes, mice, bugs or spiders) like men do.

No, they are like a person who says, “I love my body but I hate my armpits.” They seek not equality, but to exploit the system and get the opportunities offered to selected men.

I read a tweet by someone the other day, it says, “I am not a feminist because I don’t know of one that isn’t dishonest.”

On the Conservative and Liberal Divides

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One of my favourite movies is Doubt (written by Patrick Shanley). In it, we are confronted with the conservative, authoritarian rigidity in the character of Sister Aloysius (played by Meryl Streep) over and against the liberal, compassionate and progressiveness in the character of Father Flynn.

Though the drama was set in the context of the race riots of the 1960s in America, it does highlight the constant tensions that exist between trying to keep up with traditional precepts – what has been defined as normal and natural – and trying to change with the times; to be tolerant of difference and be mindful of diversity.

Over the last six weeks, I’ve found myself thinking about the conservative/liberal dichotomy and how they tend to dictate our approach to issues. The first time I became aware of how deep the conservative vs. liberal divide was when Barack Obama was elected the US president in 2007.

For many blacks, it was a moment of actualization of Martin Luther King’s dream. For many white liberals and other minorities, it was a source of hope.

But this generated a level of resentment among white male militia groups who felt marginalized and dis-empowered; their mistrust, victim hood and angst were the under-currents that Donald Trump played up, tapped into and rode on in his path to the White House – “to make America great again.”

Conservative ideology is based on upholding and continuing in the principles, traditions and precepts of the past. But liberal ideology is based on negotiating with the present and being open to novel ideas, cultures and lifestyles.

According to the Student News Daily:

Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense. Believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems.

Liberals believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all. It is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need. Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve problems.

The Nigerian political system, however, is not really founded on any core ideology. Both conservatives and “progressive” politicians are barely distinguishable in their policies and general outlook on life. They mostly lack a guiding philosophy or moral anchor that should direct the ship of statecraft. This is why Nigerian politicians easily change their political parties like chameleons.

Even among the masses, there is much incongruity between which sides they say they are in and what they espouse. For instance, a number of Nigerians who believe the unity of Nigeria should be subject to re-negotiation and our present structures need to be radically changed stoutly claim to be conservatives, whereas what they advocate is closer to liberal ideology.

Some Nigerians claim to be liberal and accepting of difference, but from some of their words and actions, it’s clear that they are closed-minded towards any lifestyle or concept that they are not familiar with. Some of those who claim to stand up for the rights of minorities actually attack and demean anyone who differs from their views. Such rigid “orthodoxy” is a benchmark of conservatism.

In my own case, I don’t know which side of the divide I completely fall into. There are some areas where I stand up for traditional values and do not subscribe to “politically correct” views (which would place me in the conservative camp), and there are some areas where – having been trained by Science – I approve of diversity, modernity and standing up for minorities (which would put me in the liberal side).

It’s my belief that human nature and personality is far too complex and nuanced to be strictly separated into two cute boxes. Can’t there be a third or fourth option? I am certain that many conservatives and liberals were simply conditioned by group think, religious institutions and social pressure.

If these people wearing these tags on their sleeves changed their environment, they would change their viewpoints on several issues. That’s why many “strict conservative” Nigerians who have lived in a foreign country after a while, evolve in their thinking.

Also, certain critical issues (such as abortion, birth control, self-defense etc.) shouldn’t be reduced into a “right” vs. “left” political battle. For instance, in the case of abortion, people need to see it for what it is and not rehash propaganda points from a political standpoint. You can’t be killing your own species and expect your genes to survive. That’s common sense.

It is also my firm belief that humans are humans – with their good deeds and bad deeds – regardless of their political divide. Neither side has a corner on morality. It’s wrong to defend a person convicted of moral evil simply because you belong in the liberal or conservative camp. Besides, the whole world doesn’t revolve around American right-left wing politics.

Of course, the manner with which some Nigerians (especially Christians) mindlessly rush to take sides with Donald Trump (including the recent Brett Kavanaugh case) is disgraceful. Issues should be seen just as they are, with our critical faculties and consciences at work, not through a dim political prism that ignores salient facts.

So, if you are like me (without a label), I think that’s cool. But if you are conservative, don’t demonise the opposition. And if you are liberal, be charitable towards the other side. We are humans first and we all bleed the same

Xenophilia and the Nigerian Self-Worth

The gratuitous insult that Donald Trump shot at Buhari after their meeting in the White House actually brings up one important issue: the unapologetic zeal that compels many Nigerian leaders to seek the favour of the West even at the risk of selling out their own people. Buhari who called Nigerian youths “lazy” and entitled before a Western audience, perhaps now understands the power of negative labels.

Of course, that wasn’t the first time the Nigerian political class would seek a stamp of legitimacy by doing all in their might to curry the favour of America or Europe. This line of thinking is typically called xenophilia or anglophilia.

The irrational, unjustified fervor with which Nigerian elites desperately seek foreign education, medical care, shopping, luxury item and attention at the exclusion of what is offered them at home is a hallmark of the deep-seated inferiority complex that has imperiled our thinking.

I remember for quite a while, too, Goodluck Jonathan also ran on the euphoria of being the first Nigerian leader to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange during the fall of 2013. The purpose of that trip was also to soothe Obama who had snubbed Nigeria during his visit to Africa at the time. Somehow he thought that pandering to America was a plus for his administration.

This debilitating mental hostage to anything foreign is not limited to the political class, it is also observed in the way most Nigerians seek and venerate white approval and attention for virtually everything – from business to entertainment, to social interactions, to marriage to religion.

If you want your music or movie to trend in Nigeria, get a white man or woman to feature in it. Do you want large Nigerian followers on social media? That’s simple; just announce from the roofs that you are based in any Western country. Some pictures of white men will do too, and hundreds of flyblown sycophants will grace your timeline daily even if you are as derp as a door nail.

If you want to extract some in-depth information that no Nigerian journalist can ever obtain from Nigerians, go get a white man or woman to do the job. You will be amazed to see how Nigerian grown-ups regress into simpering, little chatterboxes confessing their innermost secrets to a deity.

There was this documentary titled Law and Disorder which was produced by a British journalist, Louis Theroux, some years back. Though it was supposed to explore the Area Boys phenomenon in Lagos, the undertone of the documentary narrative was depreciatory. It was aimed at subtly mocking Nigeria.

Many of the Lagosians interviewed were so excited that an oyinbo took interest in them that they willingly yielded themselves up to him, indulged his silliness, and even told lies in the process. One even went to the extent of showing the white journalist the security of his house, his collection of shoes and even boasted that he shops in Milan! Such mental slavery!

I read about a rich Nigerian woman who travelled to the U.S. to treat a medical condition. It turned out that the best doctor for her condition was a Nigerian-born medical doctor. But the woman vehemently refused to be treated by a Nigerian; she insisted that she had spent millions of naira to come to America to be treated by a white man, not a Nigerian. Eventually, the Nigerian doctor handed her treatment over to a white doctor.

A friend who trained at IITA Ibadan once shared with me that the first time she saw a white man walk up to her in the laboratory, she was so nervous that she dropped the beaker in her hands. I honestly felt sorry for her; she must have been laboring under postcolonial indoctrination of the “white master race” that made her awe-struck like someone who saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

Colonialism may be over, but many Nigerians are still held hostage to its xenophilic and anglophilic mentality by their reverence for anything foreign, especially if “white”. In a way, this internalization of low self-worth is understandable; the curriculum in many Nigerian schools do not instill a sense of national pride into children. So from young ages, many of them already despise and reject their own culture, history and identity while taking pride in foreign ones.

I read some interviews with several Nigerian children during this year’s Children’s Day, not one of them had anything positive to say about Nigeria or even wanted to stay in Nigeria. But children should be taught that all humans are equal; the colour of their skin does not make them better or worse than anyone else. They should be taught about our own heroes, culture and history.

Even as adults, our self-worth and legitimacy should come from our abilities and potential, not from American or European power structures. We don’t become “better” for becoming foreign to our roots.

With the current power dynamics in the world, we should also be careful of pandering to every narrative from Western media. When they reinforce and rehash wrong stereotypes about our own people, we should firmly counter it.

How “Class” can affect our Health

It’s a generally accepted fact that the appurtenances of modernity have much benefit to humanity. They have enabled us to live better, work more efficiently, move faster, communicate across physically impossible distances and feel more comfortable.

There is nothing inherently wrong with upward mobility. However, there are certain ways they can have negative implications on our health. There are some habits and lifestyles that are conditioned into our daily lives due to social class.

I intend to restrict myself to physical health this time, and highlight some examples of these habits.

1. When you are thirsty, there is a signal in your brain that stimulates the production of a hormone called the anti-diuretic hormone (ADH). This hormone travels to the kidney and causes it to increase its re-absorption of water into the bloodstream (thus making your urine more concentrated).

What your body needs at that point is water, not soda, not milk, not fruit juice, not soft drinks and definitely not alcohol. When you quench your thirst with anything other than water, you are simply overtaxing your system.

If you are thirsty and you want to form some “class” and opt to drink Schweppes, do you know what you are doing? You are filling your body with sugar and other chemicals when your bodily need is simply water.

Now, be honest, how many times have you taken wine or Fanta with a good meal instead of water? You are endangering your health in a number of ways when you do that.

I have been at parties where I see people feasting on a plate of Jollof rice and fried chicken and washing it down with 5 Alive juice and Coca Cola without giving any attention to the natural liquid the body needs: water. If the content of what they ate is broken down, it’s equivalent to eating a bowl of sugar plus oil and washing it down with oil. The body will overwork itself in digesting the food in question.

I was with a friend some years back, and we had spent hours walking a long distance together to complete our clearance prior to our university convocation. She suggested we have a stopover at a shop within the campus and quench our thirst.

To my surprise, she requested for Mirinda. I was puzzled. “Why are you taking that? I thought you said you’re thirsty. You need some water.” She giggled, “I’m hungry and thirsty, so when I take this soft drink, it will both quench my thirst and supply me with energy.”

I shook at my head at such a self-harming habit that was apparently giving her weight problems. By the way, if you need sugar for energy, why not take some fruit or natural food containing natural sugar instead of artificial sweets?

According to a research conducted last year, it was observed that excessive intake of soft drinks can lead to erectile dysfunction in men. Yet I personally know someone, a well-educated person, who can’t do without taking a bottle of Coca Cola in a day.

This brings me to another point. The presence of caffeine in carbonated drinks is not healthy for people with sedentary lifestyles. Many people don’t realize they are actually hooked on caffeine and not the drink itself. I actually know a woman who would tell you her “throat feels blocked” if she doesn’t take soft drinks. She is probably hooked on caffeine.

In 2017, the Consumer Protection Council reported alarming levels of benzoic acids in Mirinda and Lucozade drinks. The report revealed that the level of benzoic acids present in the two drinks were above the regulated standards of 250mg/k. There have been requests to review the acid contents in Fanta, Sprite and selected soft drinks in the country, but up till now, the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) and NAFDAC are yet to act on that.

Let’s not endanger our health in the name of class; when you are thirsty, take water. Of course, it shouldn’t be too much because that too has its health implications as The Times of India recently published.

2. Another health implication of social class can come through the frequent use of air conditioners. There is what is called normal flora (of microbes) of a room and there are times when pathogenic bacteria or air borne fungi can saturate in a stuffy room. The simplest way to deal with this is to let fresh air into the room to aid cross ventilation.

But when a microbially contaminated room has its windows and doors perpetually shut and air conditioners are put on regularly in the name of “class,” virtually everyone in that room will inhale the microbes in with the air emanating from the air conditioner.

This was precisely how Legionnaire’s disease came to be known. It emerged when about 4,000 members of the Pennsylvania State American Legion, an organization of WW II military veterans lodged in a hotel and it was theorized that the air conditioning cooling units caused cold disease symptoms in over 200 victims. Eventually 29 of the Legion died.

Later in 1976, the infection was identified as having pneumonia-like symptoms: high fever, coughing, chest pains and difficulty breathing. The infection was later found to be caused by Legionella pneumophila and it was often present in air conditioner cooling towers, water systems and tanks.

This is why natural breeze ventilating a room is far better than a closed-circuit air which can facilitate the spread of air borne infection, especially through air conditioner.

I remember during my MSc. project work, I worked in a lab with about 12 other colleagues. Apparently, due to the fungal isolates some of us were working with, spores of fungi with powdery mycelia began to grow on the ceilings above us. Within few weeks, almost the entire ceiling in the lab was covered with this fungal contaminant.

Even in that environment, some of my colleagues still insisted on using the air conditioner so as to show that we were “classy.” I shudder when I reflect on the health risks that may have resulted from that mulish mentality – and there was no justification for it. We are Microbiologists; we knew better. But we just refuse to apply what we know.

Finally, we began to open the doors and windows until the lab was fumigated.

3. Finally, let me talk briefly about physical activity and diet. We are living in a generation where natural foods are increasingly being replaced by processed ones containing preservatives, some of which are carcinogenic on the long run.

There is no way the nutrients present in natural tomatoes from a farm will not be better than the ones present in the processed tomato pastes we buy in the market.

The surge of certain cardiovascular and organic diseases can be largely traced to changes in lifestyle and diet in the 20th century. We have been exposed to certain toxic chemicals present in processed foods and body care products which are being discharged into the environment.

Though there are still some disputes on some findings (e.g. Bisphenol in plastic causing cancer), it would be suffice to say that natural foods are keys to a healthy life.

I was passing through an urbane street recently and I noted the increasing number of fast foods within a short distance. Many folks who work around these areas patronize them almost daily, consuming junk food which lacks wholesome nutrition.

In addition to this, many of them also live sedentary lifestyles. They can sit in one spot for hours at work and would often leave in their cars with the glass all winded up – instead of talking a good walk and receiving fresh air.

And when they get home, they feed on some “fast food” again and sit for another set of hours, busy on social media or watching TV before they finally go to bed.

So in a week, they can go through this routine without sweating out the chemicals in their bodies. That is not healthy. These are ways by which our upward mobility can endanger us. Let us eat right; exercise right and maintain a healthy balance.

Re-Embracing our Humanity

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” This maxim rings true. The greatness of a society cannot be divorced from the value it attaches to human lives.

This is the dividing line between a barbaric and civilized society. In one, people are conditioned to see themselves as beasts and in the other; they are socialized to see themselves as human. The way they will view and treat one another will be miles apart.

Nigeria is currently enmeshed in a clash of civilizations; one belonging to the Stone Age and the other, belonging to the Information Age. This week alone, over 200 people in several villages were hacked to death by a crazy rag-tag of ethnic-jingoist Muslim jihadists who call themselves Fulani herdsmen.

These messengers of death went on a killing spree in several villages. The gruesome attack lasted 6 hours and no security operative showed up until it was over. The video footage of this mayhem is too horrible for me to describe here.

To crown this display of savagery, the group claimed they had no choice but to murder in retaliation because 300 of their cows were killed by the victims and, Nigeria is their possession and they are descendants of the 19th century Uthman Dan Fodio whose theocratic dictates must be upheld.

You start to wonder if we are in a country or a Hobbesian jungle; a place where cows are valued above human lives. One of these beasts in human flesh even posted on Facebook that more human lives need to go for the number of cows they allegedly killed to be “balanced.” That’s the most hellish, demonized and insane comment I’ve read in a while.

Shockingly, another ethnic group rejoiced over the deaths because the victims ostensibly voted for the incumbent president and, because they gloated when their ethnic agitators were murdered during a military operation last year.

On both sides, it’s troubling to see how people have sacrificed their humanity on the altars of politics, ethnicity and religion. That’s why we need to re-discover our humanity – the value we attach to human lives. Many of us have lost it.

Those people who died in Plateau, Taraba, Kaduna, Adamawa, Yobe and Zamfara States are, first and foremost, humans like us. Their primary identity is their humanity; not their ethnicity, not their religion, and certainly not their political stance. These are artificial divisions that are secondary.

We will never become a great nation or a civilized people as long as the value we attach to human lives is based on the plinths of politics, ethnicity, class or religion. This is a tool that has been used to colonize, dehumanize and rule us for decades and we need to break free from it and evolve into a people that place much premium on human lives.

Our lack of humanity is why we quickly “get over” such mass murders each time they happen. Even the President, Muhammadu Buhari, no longer pretends about his abdication of humanity, and that’s why he turned his visit to a red carpet event after a press statement that subtly blames the victims for their own murders. So here we have an Emperor who visits the scene of bloodshed treading on rose petals. What a gross insult to the memories of the victims!

Our collective lack of humanity is the reason why our Super Eagles couldn’t dignify the Plateau State victims with a minute of silence. Too many deaths have occurred in this country for so long that many people have become desensitized to its horrors. If 200 Argentinians had died on Sunday and the Argentinean soccer team was to play at the World Cup on Monday, would they act as if nothing happened? I don’t think so. Reason: we reflect the level of humanity bequeathed on us by our society.

Even when Nigerians in the Diasporas are unjustly murdered, there is no sense of urgency both among our rulers and the ruled to demand a redress of their deaths. We are content to construct a tribal box for the victim, drag him/her into it and rationalize why he/she deserved to be so murdered.

This is because we lack a nationalistic sense of person-hood that should motivate us to stand together against the ravaging forces of injustice and evil. A Nigerian journalist who witnessed the international solidarity that occurred in Paris, France, after the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015 wrote:

As one of the spectators commandeered to witness the public reiteration of their values, I found myself longing for what Nigeria has not given me: A composition of values, collective ethos and a centripetal ideology capable of rallying the country in times of tragedy.”

As a nation, we are yet to arrive there. These aren’t values we can merely copy-paste; a sense of humanity cannot be imposed, it has to be cultivated. We will have to evolve into a kind of society that values the lives of men, women, children, minorities, and the aged, physically and mentally challenged.

This has to start from within us. We have to start dealing with the deeply rooted biases in us that foster selective humanity based on primordial identities. We have to challenge rhetoric that revokes the right to life of persons based on their tribe, religion, politics or even sexuality, no matter where it is coming from.

We need to jettison religious teachings that literally or symbolically animalise people and call for the murder of others who don’t fit into their diktats. Such religions have no place in our country; they must be rejected and left behind in the dustbin of history.

When we the people rediscover our humanity, we will never again vote for leaders who don’t share our ethos about the sanctity of life. Our priorities, policies and general outlook will change, from health workers to building contractors to electrical engineers to roadside pharmacists to lawmakers to housewives to the average man on the street.

 

The “Hebrew Women” Nigerian Narrative

There is a misconception many Nigerians have and it needs to be changed. It’s a mentality, though prevalent among Christians, has spilled over into some non-Christian thinking: the stigma that is often attached to a woman who gives birth to a baby through caesarean operation. Due to this social conditioning, many Nigerian pregnant women insist on giving birth like “the Hebrew women” – an euphemism for effortless vaginal delivery as opposed to caesarean section.

I have heard this narrative play out in many church testimonials and there is this self-righteous, self-effacing axis that comes with it. If a woman gave birth through CS instead of the normal canal, she is judged to be “lazy,” weak, unfit to be a woman and in some cases, not having enough faith. In fact, I’ve read a book by a notable Christian pastor who suggests that a child born through a c-section needs deliverance prayers!

I personally, can’t understand why certain common sense issues are unnecessarily controversial in the Nigeria public space. For one, if C-Section is an aberration, why don’t we ban surgery, dental aids, wheel chairs and while at it, completely proscribe the appurtenances of modern technology? The point is, when it comes to issues that border on life-saving medical procedures, religious bias should be set aside.

Now. let me delve a bit into the supporting Bible text used to push the “Hebrew women” narrative.

In Exodus 1, Pharaoh wanted to curb the growth of the Hebrew population and he commanded the midwives to kill at birth every Hebrew boy (perhaps he planned to give Hebrew females over to Egyptians males). When the midwives were called to account for their failure in carrying out this decree, they explain that the Hebrew women are “vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive” (v. 9).

This answer was the midwives’ strategy to avoid infanticide because of their reverence for God and at the same time, evade Pharaoh’s wrath. So they put the blame on the Hebrew women to outsmart the authorities. We are not sure whether Hebrew women actually gave birth effortlessly or not.

I am pointing this out because of the way this Bible passage has been seized on and misused. There have been many cases of maternal mortality because of women who insisted on playing out “the Hebrew women.” I heard of a woman who lost her baby after hours of labour because she insisted on giving birth “like a Hebrew woman.” Sadly, that was her first issue after more than 10 years of delay.

Even if those Hebrew women gave birth effortlessly, it still can’t apply to everyone today because people and circumstances differ. Unassisted delivery does not make a mother “superior” to the one with an assisted delivery.

As long as both the baby and mother make it safely, the mode of delivery is irrelevant. While medical procedures can be fraught with unethical motives and physical risks, people shouldn’t be conditioned into developing a fanatical disposition towards embracing modern medical help when the need arrives.