Nigeria is an emerging economy, considered as the fastest growing economy on the continent. Yet according to numbers from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), over 61% of Nigeria’s population lives under $1 per day. In the last four years, the country has gone through a steady battering, with raging terrorism in the North east, and a failing infrastructure that means the cost of business and livelihood are at an all time high. In the last couple of years, corruption has also been significantly high and amnesty granted to politicians who were known to have looted from the treasury.
Fast forward to March 2015, Nigerians voted for what has come to be known as change. President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office on May 29th, 2015 and he promised in his inauguration speech, to prioritise the tackling of terrorism and the improvement of infrastructure. He has spent his first two weeks in office travelling to some parts of West Africa and to Germany; to discuss the strategy for fighting Boko Haram and to engage with world leaders at the G7, respectively.
Nigerians have very high hopes, particularly given the poverty that is rife in the country. Imagine the shocker today when the realisation hit, that this may be business as usual. The realisation that politics is indeed a quick avenue to rob the country and enrich oneself. The Senators and the Members of the House of Representatives in Nigeria are very well paid. Indeed they are so well paid that the 8th National Assembly which has recently been sworn in will allegedly receive the sum of NGN9billion which is about 28 million pounds for wardrobe allowance. No statement denouncing this has been issued by the National Assembly. Nigeria is spending this much to clothe the members of the National Assembly, yet we receive international aid. This is incredibly shameful.
In other words, the Senators will receive about 21.5 million naira each, while the legislators at the House of Representatives will receive 17.5 million naira each, all for clothes. The question is; how is it that a country which still receives aid from the countries in the G7 is giving about 60-70,000 pounds each to its senators and lawmakers to buy clothes? This is the annual salary of members of Parliament in a country that gives Nigeria aid. Nigerians are waiting and hoping that President Buhari intervenes in this and puts a stop to this wastefulness, vulgarity and mismanagement.
Furthermore, considering that Nigeria’s 2015 budget was approved by Goodluck Jonathan the former President, one understands that this wardrobe allowance was not fundamentally instituted by the Buhari government. However, he is the President and has the authority to dispose of certain wasteful parts of it or to review it, thus we shall hold him responsible.
Finally, recall that Nigeria is heavily reliant of oil and gas for 99% of its revenue. The 2015 budget was laid out using the revenue number of $70 per barrel. Since the price of oil has not risen above $64 per barrel since its crash to about $40-$45 per barrel last year, this government must begin to cut back, it should be running an austerity government. The economy must be run efficiently with as many cuts as possible where feasible. This ridiculous wardrobe allowance is one of such costs which should be implemented. Nigerians are watching President Buhari closely to see what kind of policies, economy and country he will run.
In the last four days, the story of the American woman Rachel Dolezal has been discussed extensively in the media internationally. Rachel was until yesterday the President of the Spokane chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). She is also a Professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University. In addition, she was the chair of the office of the police ombudsman commission in Spokane, a position which she no longer holds as the Police department has issued a statement suspending all cases being reviewed under her committee. Slowly her life has literally fallen apart and all these positions have gone.
Rachel Dolezal, who was previously married to a black man with whom she had a son, was born to white parents and is biologically white. However, she has claimed to be black for at least 10 years, claiming a mixed race heritage through an African American father. Rachel is a very well educated woman who attended Howard University; a historically black college, on scholarship. Her parents leaked the story of her faked identity. They tell of a submitted portraiture as part of the application to Howard University. The submission mirrored an African American identity and earned her a full scholarship.
Her parents are as concerned and baffled as the rest of the world as to why Rachel chose to denounce her heritage and con her friends and community into believing she was a black woman. She changed her appearance with tan and braids and kinky curls, in order to look mixed race. There has been a cry of outrage from African American women in the United States accusing Rachel of white privilege. She sued Howard for discrimination, saying she was deprived of certain opportunities there because she was a white woman in a historically black University. In the same vein, she reported several racial threats to the police in Spokane, alleging abuse because she was a black woman. The discourse points to a deceptive platform being used to achieve all she has. Her ‘blackness’ seems like a cloak which she puts on and takes off as she wishes.
She is also being accused of stealing opportunities which she did not deserve from the minority on false pretences. Rachel Dolezal is a very accomplished woman and her biography is impressive, even for a white woman in middle class America. It is even more so impressive for a black woman at her age. The furore surrounding the ‘outing’ of Rachel is one which revolves around integrity and identity. There is an overwhelming acknowledgement that she could not have achieved what she did, had she not claimed to be a black woman.
The question of identity crises is one which is all too familiar to mixed race children and adults. But even more so to women of black heritage in a country such as the United States of America where they constitute a minority. Black women in the US have come through a difficult history of prejudice, deprivation and a struggle for acceptance in a society with stereotypes such as the angry black woman, and mockery or unpopularity of the black woman’s features of thick curly hair, large hips and full lips. These features have only recently become popular. Thus, black women are outraged that this woman has masqueraded as a black woman, yet has not lived the agony, the rejection and the discrimination faced by black women in America, even at the hands of the men within the African American community.
However, others have suggested that perhaps this is a conversation which the world needs to begin to have. This could be a discovery of an identity crises stemming from what could be a new state of being “trans-racial”. Some members of the transgender community have been outraged by the comparison that somehow being transgender a la the Caitylin Jenner experience, is in some ways one and the same as the having a transracial experience; if indeed there is any such thing. The argument is that gender and race are different, that being a transgender has to do with gender dysphoria, which is an actual condition, whereas there is no such thing as racial dysphoria.
One could argue that this is the first emergence of any such public occurrence of one declaring to be the opposite of their phenotypes, and believing very strongly in it. There are already outcries of mental health problems. We do not know this, and this brings to mind the arrest and incarceration in an insane asylum of American Joseph Lobdell (born Lucy Ann Lobdell) who was born a woman in the early 19th century, but believed himself to be a man and lived as such. Perhaps there is such a thing as identity confusion and a certain strong affinity to a particular group of people. If a man can declare “I am a woman” and vice versa, and have the support of the world, why can’t a white woman declare “I am black” and vice versa?
In any case, Rachel’s lies have ruined the more constructive and enriching discussion which may have come out of this saga. Her parents believe her struggles with identity emanate from their adoption of four black children when she was a teenager. Both of them, whom she cut off from her life and the life of their grandson, for fear of her cover being blown in her community, have said honesty and therapy are the best way forward for Rachel. She may not need therapy, she may just be light years ahead of the world. The debates around identity do not end at gender, they also include psyche, heritage and culture. .
There are people who have come from one culture, but feel a certain affinity or are deeply interested in the cultures of other social groups. This may be considered significantly different from some black women’s love of long luxurious hair extensions which have the same texture as the hair of white, Asian or hispanic people. It may also be different from the butt implants and enhanced pouts preferred by some white women. How then does this compare to Caitylin Jenner’s honest declarations on Diane Sawyer’s show, and Michael Jackson’s bizarre transformation? It may have been easier to expand on the discussion and make the linkages even in the acknowledgement of the differences, had Dolezal presented herself without the associated deception.
Dolezal’s misrepresentation of herself has now put her preference to be called black on the back burner. It has also belittled what seems to be her otherwise significant contributions in the civil rights movement. She has worked in social justice and advocacy for at least 10 years and the NAACP lauded her consistent commitment to the advancement of coloured people in America.
There is no question about the serious personal identity issues which she has and it will be interesting to see her and the experts make some sense of this when the furore dies down. The world is a big place and a shrinking community all at once. Self expression in the free world is absolutely important. One can be whomever or whatever they wish to be, with honesty. In reading the summations in the media and speaking to people, one can infer that Rachel Dolzal would have been welcome to be true to an identity she felt comfortable with. If Dolezal had been honest, perhaps she would have been embraced, as long as she was honest, and the transition was done with an acknowledgement that someone who was indeed the opposite of what their visible social construct was, in that situation cannot necessarily understand the experience of people who have lived it all their lives.
By now, you have probably heard about the media personality/vlogger Toke Makinwa’s breaking news. Her husband cheated on her with a woman who is now pregnant for him. Neither party has released a statement confirming or refuting the story. For the last two days, there has been twitter and instagram fuelled frenzy going on regarding the Toke and Maje marriage.
The couple dated for 12 years and have been married for just 1 year and a few months. Personally, I think this is sad and the couple should be left alone to deal with their problems, or lack of, because we all might just be speculating.
However, I believe that there is a reason why this is such big news here. Toke is an “it” girl who has truly worked very hard within the Nigerian media circuit. She hosts an early morning Radio show on Rhythm FM Lagos, and hosts a regular weekly vlog which discusses relationships primarily on youtube. Beyond that, she hosts events, and is now a brand; many commercial brands have signed her up as an Ambassador. She’s gorgeous, hard working, and quite fun to watch and listen to.
Toke is a brand and thus literally every event she attends, every endorsement, every media or tv appearance ends up on social media and on blogs. This is good for her business, because in such a short period of time, she has become a household name. This means she works hard, hopefully she smiles to the bank. But this visibility in a young woman who is neither an actress nor a singer, is one which Nigerians seem to love and hate all at once. You will see why.
So why has Maje cheated on her? There really is no known cause of infidelity in marriages, there is a long list of potential factors. Infidelity in relationships could be seen as high blood pressure in humans. Sometimes there are certain pre-dispositions, perhaps not exactly genetics in this case. These predispositions may have to do with individual values, society’s expectations; including abhorrence or acceptance of certain behaviour. There is also the question of consequence or lack of it.
Nigerians are very religious. One who does not pledge allegiance to a faith in Nigeria is in a minority and is often ostracised. The non-religious in Nigeria is considered weird and suffers proselytism. However, Nigeria is also a society where religious beliefs are separate from values. It is a place where moral standards and family values quite commonly apply to only women. The world is an excellent place to be a man, but an even better place is Nigeria.
Suffice to say, the feeling even among some women and many men (at least if the tweets are anything to go by), is that Toke is responsible for her husband’s infidelity because she was at events all the time. Apparently, Toke also partied constantly, and was not available to Maje. He loved and respected her so much that he channelled his “missing her” energies into impregnating another woman. He could have done something more honourable if she was not available; leave respectfully. She had that career before they married just over a year ago, so he knew about her brand.
She probably feels a sense of shame at this time, but one can see why. There are people are mocking her on social media. The cheat should be the brunt of these jokes not the wife (although there have been a few angry women on his instagram comments sections). She is also double mocked for hosting a vlog where she discusses how to find and keep a man, how to spot a “side-chick”, and the types of men to avoid. Never mind that most of her vlog posts are girl next door-chatting-to-my-girls satires. So yes, she is responsible for her lot in life, she must be mocked, and perhaps in her next life, reconsider having a career. But even doctors can become infected. Oncologists are sometimes diagnosed with cancer too.
I wonder then if all career women, including surgeons, new resident doctors who work impossible shifts, broadcasters and journalists who have to chase down stories, or politicians and activists all have unfaithful spouses? I wonder if researchers who often travel to present papers, or conduct significant bodies of research have been presented with news of the pregnant ex? Perhaps international development experts, bankers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, in essence women with demanding careers who are shattering the glass ceilings, all have trifling spouses?
How about women? Do women with husbands who have been working in these careers for the longest time possible cheat on their men? Do we can blame their husbands for their lack of availability? I was irritated by calls to her to become more available to Maje because it fosters a sense that somehow, we know it all. We are insiders in their routine, in their home. That we know their story. But I was even more put off by the gentle chiding of him by both women and men alike regarding the use of condoms. Does condom use mean it is no longer infidelity?
“Couldn’t he have used condoms? Did he have to get her pregnant,” one tweet questioned.
The video above is one of Toke on a panel discussing men and cheating. In analysing her thoughts and views, it is clear that she urges restraint in telling a woman that her husband is cheating.
“It may ruin your friendship, because the woman does not want you to know what goes on in her home. She will probably stay with the man,” she says.
She reflects briefly on an experience she had where she confronted her husband (then fiancé) on rumours of “someone else”. So what does this mean? Did she see this coming? Was it something that had occurred in the past that she had forgiven and moved on from?
The condoms statements on twitter bothered me the most. Is this an acceptable norm in society? Just as long as you do not get caught? This story should not be so important but it has become so. This is because it has triggered a conversation that we did not have before. A conversation about careers and women and fairness in the narratives that will become a legacy for our children.
I believe it could certainly mark a fundamental turn in how Nigerians perceive what is good and what is not when women are involved. Could this mark the turn of the tide where women are accorded the same level of humanity as men? I may be dreaming, but it may well form the foundation or the quick start to how we perceive women or society’s treatment of and perception of both sexes. Does a double standard exist? Absolutely. Can we see past our sentiments and recognise a fundamentally flawed psyche?
Invariably, it will be left for Toke to decide if she can move on. She must decide whether to carry on with him or to move on with her life. I have a feeling that she will heal and bounce back. She seems to be doing so already, appearing on radio this morning. Hilary Clinton seems to be doing alright; she could be President of the United States. If she wins, the man who cheated on her will be standing beside her at the inauguration. He will be former President and First Man. Hillary Clinton describes herself as “arguably the most humiliated woman in the world”. When asked about recovering from the Monica Lewinsky saga and forgiving her husband, she said “forgiveness is hard”.
12 years of one’s life is a very long time. Whatever reason Maje had or not, for being unfaithful, Toke is unequivocally, the victim here, the “injured party”. He should be ashamed and remorseful for what he did. He deserves a Tiger Woods type of shunning. The other woman deserves shunning as well, she very well knew he was married. Perhaps he didn’t quite think she was good enough to share his life properly, why else did he marry someone else and return for a dip in the pond?
Hopefully Toke will find succour with family and friends and decide what she can live with.
Ramblings of a Recently 30 Woman, Project Management Professional, International Development Enthusiast, Globetrotter, Writer and Happy Shutterbug®