Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Too Much Energy

Recently, the Nigerian Senate passed a law banning gay marriage in Nigeria and stipulating a term in prison of 14 years for anyone guilty of the act. It further laid down stiff penalties for any religious establishment which dared to carry out a gay marriage. The Senate President dared the Brits and the Nortamericanos to challenge our right to legislate on how we wish to live, and the people cheered.

There is just one problem with this law: it is totally unnecessary. Nigerian law already only recognises as valid marriages between a man and a woman or two. (Two women, that is. We're not Indians.) As such, passing a law to ban that which was already not allowed was pointless in the extreme, and a waste of energy, time, and resources which could certainly have been put to better use. It's like the Senate passing a law to criminalise armed robbery.

I am no fan of homosexuals, and in my personal opinion, there has to be something seriously wrong with your wiring if takes the thought of sticking your penis into a man's ass to make you hard, but that's my opinion. And what two adults decide to do to each other in the privacy of their own home is hardly the sort of area any sane government would make a priority. It is certainly not the sort of thing a sane Nigerian legislature should be passing, in this climate, anyway.

We have far more pressing problems with our laws in general than gay marriage. For instance, did you know that by Nigerian law, the compensation due to a worker injured in the course of his work is 12 weeks pay or N1,280.00 (which ever is less)? That's what our Labour Act provides. The same Labour Act that has not been updated since it was passed in the 1970s. Also, a police officer wounded in the line of duty is entitled to N5,000.00.Yes, Five Thousand Naira is what a Nigerian cop can expect to be paid should he be stupid enough to get shot doing his job. Will that amount pay for an hour in a hospital? Is it any wonder then that our cops flee at the first sign of trouble?

Or how about the fact that bank statements are not admissible as evidence in a Nigerian court of law in the 21st century? Yes, our Evidence Act requires the provision of the "Banker's Book", you know, that ledger where they used to write down deposits and withdrawals against a person's name. The sort of thing that was in popular use until the 1800s or so when the rest of the world decided to embrace modern techniques of doing business and Nigeria was happy to remain behind.

Or how about the fact that a man is still more or less allowed to beat the living hell out of his wife in this country? A bill to prohibit domestic violence against women was thrown out by the Edo state House of Assembly in 2001 and I do believe one legislator remarked that domestic abuse was a foreign concept, and questioned how else a man was supposed to maintain discipline in his home if stripped of the tool of regular beatings. I agree with him, if there's not enough salt in the soup, she deserves a visit from Dr. Cat O'Nine Tails.

These are just some of the problem areas that can be redressed by the swift updating of our laws, but instead, our Senators are focused on gay marriage.

We have issues.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mr. Mom

“Women and children can be careless but not men.” – Don Vito Corleone

The image of what a father should be as espoused by Hollywood is certainly interesting. By their reckoning, a father should be a mother as well. He should be willing to cheerlead for his kids, kiss their bandages when they have scrapes, and blow off important business meetings so he can attend school plays. It is also implied in the movies that if you don’t do all the above, you’re a bad father.

I was watching Kramer vs. Kramer the other day, and I was struck by how Mr Kramer, on being abandoned by his wife, struggled to combine the duties of father, mother, provider and carer for his son. Of course, being America, when the child behaved like a total jackass, Mr Kramer was not allowed to give him the backhand he so richly deserved.

His work performance began to suffer; he began missing deadlines, and was soon fired. His boss was portrayed as an unfeeling, uncaring son-of-a-bitch who refused to understand that raising a child was more important than keeping clients happy. The movie made it clear that Kramer was putting his child’s demands ahead of his career, and implied that you were meant to applaud him.

Gradually, Kramer became his son’s mother and movie audiences oohed and aahed. Career is not important, family is. Never mind that the career is what allowed him to afford the nice apartment and toys and clothes and food and that at one point he was faced with the very real prospect of being unable to do so anymore. We are meant to watch such movies and say, “Yes, this is what fatherhood is about.”

And what about Mrs Kramer? She walked out on her husband because she felt misunderstood. He wasn’t abusive, wasn’t failing to provide for her and his son, wasn’t running around with other women, wasn’t an alcoholic. The movie never explored the fact that her reasons for walking out on her husband AND her son were superfluous at best, and at worst extremely stupid. Had it been Mr Kramer who walked out on his wife in those circumstances, the movie would have gone out of its way to pillory him as the worst possible father and held him up as what not to be.

In her case, the movie expects you to understand her reasons and even sympathise with her. And, naturally, despite her walking out on her family without so much as a by your leave and disappearing for 18 months, the judge awards her custody of the child and orders Mr Kramer (who has at this point sacrificed his career for his son) to pay child support and maintenance. The movie ends with her acknowledging that she can’t really take care of the boy, but puts her refusal to take him down to her realisation that he is already home.

Anyone remember the episode of The Fresh Prince where Will’s father unexpectedly shows up, promises to take Will on a road trip and then bails at the last minute? That episode never explores why Will’s father left his mother in the first place, never tells us if he realised he wasn’t capable of doing right by his boy and so decided to let the capable parent handle the job. Instead, it conveys that this man is a deadbeat dad for not being around his son and for coming up with some “flimsy” excuse for not taking Will on that road trip like he promised. (The man said he had a job, but it’s made pretty clear that we are not supposed to believe him.)

I’m not saying deadbeat dads don’t exist, but you can contrast the treatment men who walk out on their families get against women who do the same. The man is always a bum, and the woman is always some tragic figure and it’s her husband’s fault that she left. If he had been more understanding, she would have stayed with him and they would have been one big happy family. In simpler terms, no matter what happens, it is always the man’s fault that his marriage broke up. If he cheated on her, he’s a bastard, but if she cheated on him it’s his fault for not having a good enough sex game. In Ray, Ray Charles’ mother watches her blind son stumbling around and refuses to step in and help him, forcing him to adapt to the situation by using his ears. We applaud her for teaching him how to cope, but had it been a man, they would have found some way to make the act appear callous.

Movies tell us that a father should be there for all the little moments, even if it means putting his career on the line. He should be willing to say, “Fuck the job and the salary, I’m going to be at that kindergarten recital.” How then does this father figure teach his son how to be a man? To take care of his family, and see that they are provided for? How does the Hollywood dad teach his son to take his career seriously when his own example is of blowing off his career so he can hold up a camcorder at a Thanksgiving pageant? The simple answer is that he can’t.

I read online that the current generation of women is outstripping men in terms of career achievement, and women are now complaining that the current generation of men, well, don’t know how to be men. How could they when the examples they saw growing up told them that things like careers and job responsibilities don’t matter? Kramer took a lower paying and less stressful job so he could spend more time with his son and this was very noble, to be sure, but what happens when the kid wants to go to college in 8 years?

I am not yet a father, but I don’t subscribe to the view that blowing off an important meeting so I can grab a pair of pom-poms and cheerlead at football practice means I’m a good dad. What does doing that teach my son about being a man? Wouldn’t he be better served by me teaching him self-reliance? Showing him that he has to be strong for his own family? In fact, jeopardising my career would be the very height of irresponsibility. It would mean that I am abandoning my responsibility to my family, and jeopardising the futures of my children.

The only movie dads who teach their kids about strength, responsibility, and the importance of family tend to be criminals. There’s something terribly wrong with this picture.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Nigerian Highway Code

When the white devils ruled over and oppressed the people of this land, they created something called the Highway Code. This special code was meant to regulate the behavior of drivers on the country’s many roadways, and it was rigidly enforced by the relevant agencies.

Eventually, our ancestors rose up and chased these white oppressors away. In the aftermath of the successful liberation of our land, it was decided to jettison the ways of the white devils. Some things were too deeply ingrained in our people and couldn’t be rooted out. For instance, the display of the full breasts of our women caused many of the male white devils to stray from their homes and the female white devils, jealous of our women and their gifts, forced their men to make our young ladies cover up.

Other things however, could be rooted out. Our people have always had a deep distrust of those strange markings the white devils called writing, and their claim that this was the best way to ensure that events were recorded and passed down to future generations. Our people have always believed in the oral way of handing down records, and if a few stories became slightly embellished in the retelling, it was fine by us.

It was decided that if our people were to travel in the strange mechanical beasts of the white devils, we would need a code of our own, which would be handed down from generation to generation in the finest oral traditions of our people. This would both ensure that the code survived for centuries untold, and free our people from having to view the writing of the white devils.

As a humanitarian service, I have decided to put down some of our own code in the style of the white devils, to ensure that foreigners who wish to come down here and drive on our roads will be aware of our rules, and follow them accordingly.

1.) Right of Way: This belongs to the most expensive car at any junction. Where two or more vehicles of equally expensive valuation meet at a junction, ROW belongs to the vehicle containing the highest number of fully armed mobile policemen.

2.) Speed Limit: This is dictated entirely by your ability to control your bladder. As such, the speed limit is the speed just below that at which you would involuntarily piss yourself. If you happen to be a passenger in a vehicle travelling at a speed limit greater than your own, feel free to ask the driver to stop so that you may empty your bladder. Frequently calling on the driver to stop will however earn you the hatred of passengers with higher speed limits than yours.

3.) Turn Signals: When a vehicle veers suddenly in a direction different from that in which it was previously travelling, the act of turning is deemed to be a sufficient signal.

4.) Particulars: This is a set of papers required to be held by every driver. The exact composition of this sheaf of documents varies according to the size of the pot-belly of the Inspector in charge of the checkpoint at which you have been stopped, and your willingness to part with N200.

5.) Traffic Signs: These works of art were commissioned by the government to demonstrate the proficiency of our people with metalwork and spray paint and have been installed along most major roadways to freshen up the landscape.

6.) Traffic Lights: Following the success experienced with the signs, the government decided to show off to the world that we had also mastered the ability to combine metal, spray paint and electronics. These superb masterpieces can be found in every major city in the country. Further, in a demonstration of our keen awareness of the need to protect the environment, the lights inside these works of art are only switched on in honor of visiting dignitaries, thereby conserving electricity.

7.) Hand Signals: These are used to demonstrate displeasure at the behavior of fellow road users and may be accompanied by verbal affirmation. Acknowledging the fact that we now live in a global village, the traditional five-finger salute is gradually being replaced by the more universally recognized single-finger salute.

The above list is by no means exhaustive and there are some roads in the country such as the world-famous Ring Road in Benin City, which have their own special rules. Memorizing the 7 rules above will however ensure that your driving experience is a pleasant one.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Mo' Cheddar

“There is no god like the throat: it demands sacrifices daily.” – The Tortoise

In our dear country, we are inundated everyday with messages from our pastors. These “men of God” declare that we must give, and give cheerfully “unto the Lord”. They teach their congregations that the more they give, the more blessings they shall receive from their “Father in heaven”. They then proceed to hold themselves out as living examples of the rewards of life in service to God.

And believe me, the life is very fucking good, what with the mansions, posh cars, and (more recently) private jets. Life couldn’t be sweeter for these men, and the sheep keep lining up to get fleeced. In a nation where the bulk of the national wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few government officials, where corruption is rife, and where the vast majority live in penury, one would think that it behoves church leaders to rail against the inherent immorality involved in stealing from the public to donate the money to God. Surely God is no fence, delighting in the receiving of stolen goods and, surely, God will strike down any who dares to offer Him a slice of criminal activity? Does God demand to “wet His beak”?

There was no equivocation in Exodus 20: 15, where God declares “Thou shalt not steal.” It is then difficult to imagine that a God who declared, expressly, that stealing is a grave offence to Him, condones the high elevation of corrupt men in His churches. Where are the messages from the pastors notifying those men who sit in the front rows of their churches that God will not accept donations sourced from theft? Where are the messages telling them that God does not support the theft of the will of voters via rigging? I dare one pastor to announce that any Senator seated in his church should kindly show himself the door, as God does not approve of men who steal from the public by awarding themselves ever larger salaries while their constituents go hungry and lack basic amenities. Will that ever happen? Fuck no. Where will the next private jet come from, if such a message is passed across? Or the next $4,000 suit, come to that?

Therefore, we must ask the question: if the God of the Bible does not support theft, and Nigerian pastors do, then which God, exactly, are they serving? In the midst of my musings on the subject, came news that Christ Embassy, one of the largest churches in Nigeria, actually charged people N1,000 to get into the premises for its Christmas services. And that, my friends, is the last fucking straw.

For too long most Nigerian churches, especially those of the Pentecostal bent, have marketed (no, that’s not a typo) themselves as venues of entertainment. The most common complaint about orthodox churches is that they are “boring”, hence the need for pastors possessing charisma and stage presence. For indeed, the pulpit is prop, a fixture, required only for the actor to have a place wherein to fix his other prop: his Bible, while he mesmerises his audience (yourselves) to part with their cash. And you lot are so completely in thrall, that when the pastor prays that God shall increase you as you increase the church, you thunder “Amen!” without pausing to consider that you’re praying that thieves shall continue to steal so they too may “increase” the church.

So, you guys keep on praying while around you your country goes to hell in a hand basket. After all, God will take care of everything for you as long as you remember to tithe, and sow seeds, pay your gate fees, and whatever the fuck else Pastor, sorry “Daddy” says you should do. “Daddy” does need that new Rolls Royce, doesn’t he? Imagine if he showed up to a pastors’ convention and he was the only one who didn’t have one? The shame! The humiliation! The embarrassment!

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I love my country, enjoy a cold beer once in a while, rabidly support Arsenal FC, but I don't get Diet Coke...