#Reflections

Womanhood, corruption and gendering

Busuyi Mekusi

As gendering gets complicated, but reduced substantially in Nigeria to an engagement with the devaluation of the female agent, sexuality has similarly been attenuated in Nigeria, due to the infectious effects of western socialisation, coupled with the deliberate reinforcement that should help popularise the oddities of western notions, when they contrast sharply with old traditionally entrenched sensibilities that helped the people to attain distinctions in the past. Either Nigerians live in willful denials of the unacceptable waters that now flow in their backyards, realities clearly portend that no conservative society can continue to be gated, against the transcendental movements of new and popular cultures. Like I have pointed out before, singers and other self-acclaimed celebrities are willing tools in the hands of western contaminating agencies, that dutifully dispense their socio-cultural and economic products in a negatively skewed neoliberal order. The disequilibrium in global engagements is illustrated in the myth of giants and dwarfs that are involved in the game of basket ball.

The arrest and prosecution of Okuneye Idris Olanrewaju (aka Bobrisky), a popular social media celebrity and transgender man/woman and LGBT, by the anti graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for abusing the naira by spraying it at social events, which could lead to its being trodden upon, raised new challenges of a nation that lacks specific legal framework to deal with certain social challenges. It would be recalled that the Nigeria Police, before Bobrisky’s arrest informed the public that the controversial personality did not break any law by being a crossdreser. Some had thought that the arrest of Bobrisky for naira abuse was simply to get at him/her, for his/her disruptive tendencies. Characteristic of Nigerians, jokes were made about whether the complicated personality was detained in a male or female cell by the EFCC. The ambivalent positioning inherent in the posturing of Bobrisky is still putting many at risk in countries where transgendering is allowed, particularly with the use of private facilities in public places.

With the growing discourses in Nigeria that sexuality should be taken above the domain of social constructs, to that of scientific and emotional propensities, the psychological war to socialise young people about new sexual possibilities is as regular as natural disasters in some nations, whereas it used to be a rear orientation as uncommon as the eclipse of the sun. Notwithstanding the general upheavals tormenting humanity across the world, women are still multiply endangered at different levels. We should be reminded that the United Nations policy on women’s rights focuses on four fundamentals, which are “promoting women’s leadership and political participation, empowering women economically, ending violence against women, and supporting women’s full and equal participation in peace processes and security efforts”. Even though Nigeria now has some sung women like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, others are still facing demeaning circumstances, with hues and cries sustained for them to be equally heard and seen in formerly patriarchal spaces. One of the women that disrupted the socio-political Nigeria space in recent time is Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu.

Political representation by women is one of the hallmarks of improved placement for women, since women’s rights movement and the push for women emancipation in America in July 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organised the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY. Angela Dorothea Merkel was Chancellor of Germany, with Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May being Prime Ministers in the United Kingdom at different times. However, the alleged corruption allegation against the incumbent President of Peru, Dina Boluarte, the mid-level civil servant that became Peru’s first female president, was accused of amassing $500k in jewelry on $50k salary, has raised issues about what women could do with public funds, just like how some men that occupied public offices mismanaged resources put in their care. Diezani Alison-Madueke, a formal Nigerian Petroleum Minister, was also rumoured to have warehoused her loot in gold and diamond bras. 

Peruvians have accused Boluarte of being an opportunist, having transformed from being a running mate and vice president of the far-left president Pedro Castillo to a predictable business-inclined center-right head of state, that is also believed to have been responsible for the deaths of almost 50 people killed by security agents while protesting the removal of her predecessor. Boluarte’s ‘illicit enrichment’ is said to be encoded in her $50, 000 Cartier bracelet and a $19, 000 Rolex watch. One would always wonder whether; expensive wears could shield one from death, good food could prolong life eternally, golden watches could tell when death would come, or palatial houses would evade degeneration, and turn to heaven on earth. Corruption is always an index of greed, avarice and gluttony. Anyone that bites more than s/he could chew is not only liable to wastefulness, but guilty of killing others by dispossession. Definitely, Boluarte’s greed shows that corruption is genderless and that women’s prevalence in public offices might not automatically cure the malfeasance that has killed people, either directly or by installments. 

Womanhood was also interrogated recently through the symbolic ‘remarriage’ of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, the widow of the immediate past governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, CON. The supposed ‘remarrying’ was the traditional and symbolic handing-over of Betty to the immediate younger brother of her late husband, Wole Akeredolu. The Mgbafu Mkpe ceremony, which was said to have been conducted by the Emeabiam Community in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State, was considered to be a return to the family the woman was married to, following the death of her husband, which could have left her free of all marital attachments. This practice in traditional Yoruba societies was called ‘Opó Sísú’ (taking over), and was meant for the younger brother of a deceased person to ‘inherit’ the wife(ves), for the purpose of assuming the responsibility of care, and satisfaction of sexual needs, to prevent the woman from adultery. In some instances, the inherited woman could give birth to a set of new children for the new man.

Looking at the social awareness and posturing of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, particularly her independent mindedness in her marriage to Arakunrin, that she dwelt on in her tribute to him during the burial, the idea of handing Betty over to Wole was suggestive of vulnerability, susceptibility, and dependability. The antecedents of Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu contrasts with the intendment of the Mgbafu Mkpe ceremony. Another point to note is whether the new man saddled with the care of Betty possesses the required capacity to play the roles of a pseudo husband to his late brother’s widow. This notwithstanding, the transitional handing-over ceremony was intended to provide the socio-cultural cover and protection that could be needed when the chips are down. It is intriguing that tradition could dwarf the postmodern dispositions of a woman that even cares less about God.

Amidst the successes recorded by womanhood, and the contradictions that still vigorously confront it, it is obvious that noticeable shifts would not centralise it as the best alternative to manhood overnight. Women are both free and encumbered by notions birthed by them, and those still being used to enslave them, under the guise of care. No doubt, corruption knows no race, tribe, gender and creed! It may be difficult to kill corruption, but we must tame it, very substantially, unless we are in love with our sense of unreasonableness. May the Lent and Ramadan fasts purge us of the greed that nurtures the old-time weapon of mass destruction in us, corruption!

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Womanhood, corruption and gendering

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