That Woman Of Aku


I was born the fifth of seven children, and the only daughter of my parents, on October 2, 1940, in the small village of Aku. I was told by my mother that the rain poured heavily on Aku the day I was born. She said she was surprised at my strength and inability to cry even when Mama Ebuka, the woman known around the village to make newborns cry lacked the ability to make me sing out. She never forgot to add that maybe God had added my tears to the rain that bathed the crops and animals that fateful day each time she re-narrated this story. I grew up hardly ever shedding a tear and some said it was because I grew up amongst six boys, but others believed I was just heartless.

I had friends; just enough to chat with on my way to fetch water from the stream nearby and back. Besides running errands and playing with my friends I spent each day doing chores at home while my brothers attended the Grammar School a few stones away. When the missionaries came to open the school, they went from door to door telling all who cared to listen about the school. It was going to be a good opportunity for the people of Aku to go to school as the nearest school was in faraway Abiaku. My father liked the idea and asked my brothers to attend but said I would remain at home to help with the chores. He said I was a girl and would one day get married and books had no business with the kitchen and raising kids. No girl in the whole of Aku was allowed to attend the school, only the boys did.

Like my mother, I grew into a beautiful woman. The women of Aku were not as endowed as the women of Eru. My mother was half-Eru and half-Aku and people blamed her ample bosom and rich backside on her mixed background and I was no different from her. Daily, men flocked my father’s compound asking for my hand in marriage. Men from Aku, Eru and faraway Ekempu. Of all these men, I liked Okoro. He was tall, dark but not too handsome. He was from Ekempu, the only son of the famous warrior, Ekene of Ekempu. I told my mother I liked him and I think she told my father. She cried the day Okoro was asked to forget about marrying me by my father because “Ekempu was too far for him to come visit me as he planned”. But I still did not cry.

The day I was handed to Obi as his wife, my mother cried. She knew I was unhappy but like every other woman of Aku, who had been stripped of freedom, she said and did nothing. That night as Obi mounted me, my stomach churned in disgust. He smelled of old sweat and the room smelled worse. I wanted to cry so badly but I did not. I only hated this man I was to love even more.

The first day I genuinely smiled at him was the day Ona came. I was lost in her charm that I did not realize when I looked up and smiled at Obi, one that emanated from the deepest corners of my heart. Like her name, she became my jewel. After months of having her in me, she glided out smoothly. She was a beautiful baby with a head full of hair and a set of bright eyes. I watched her grow in delight. I was bound to this child.

On a day that seemed so perfect, Obi rushed into the room demanding that I stop spoiling Ona. He said that was why I was unable to give him another child. He said he wanted a son and until that happened, Ona meant nothing to him. These words broke me. My Ona was almost four years old. My blood boiled within. I battled against anger and conscience and found peace in the choice to fight for Ona’s freedom. I knew she was a woman, but what I refused to know was how she was less than a man. I was determined to prove my point that Ona was no different from a male child and that was how it all began. I fought for her to go to school. Somehow I won. She became the first woman of Aku to go to school. I took it a step further by talking to other women of Aku. Fights broke out in different homes. The same fights which got resolved by some of the girls of Aku going to school. I was just tired of seeing our women hide beneath this man made cloak of womanhood that kept our minds and mouths shut.

The day Obi was summoned by the rulers was remarkable. They had sent guards who dragged him like a goat they had stolen from a place to the presence of the rulers. They said a man who could not put his wife in check was not worthy of respect. Somehow, Obi was let go and he returned that night. He sat quiet in our dark room, lightened by a candle whose light swayed to an unknown song played by the night breeze. He stared at the floor for long that I just wanted to disappear. That night he said nothing. That night I almost cried.

Today, Ona got married to Eze, a man of her choice and I did cry. A lot about this tall, dark, man with pointed nose from Ekempu reminds me of Okoro, the man I wanted to marry. Though unlike Okoro, Eze is strikingly handsome. Looking at the way he was all over Ona, one could tell he truly was in love. Ona unlike the rest of the women of Aku was marrying a man who loved her and not one who was hand-picked and I was more than happy. My Ona unlike the rest of the women has a voice and I am proud of that. They both leave for the city at daybreak and Eze has promised to take care of my jewel. She wants to be a doctor and Eze said she will attend one of the schools in the city. Eze is also what they call a “university graduate” and soon Ona will bear that name too. She said she will return to empower more of the women and so just the way we hear about the exploits of the Western women, one day the women of Aku will be heard of in a foreign land.

Women at forefront of Africa’s liberation struggles

Many articles have been written reflecting on five decades of historical experience — referred to as the 50th anniversary of the “Year of Africa” — since 17 African nations gained political independence. Yet few pay adequate attention to the indispensable role of women in the campaigns for national liberation and their continuing efforts in the present century.

On Aug. 9, 1956, some 20,000 women in South Africa marched from various regions to the apartheid capital of Pretoria. They represented a cross-section of women, most of whom were African, who resided and worked in both urban and rural areas of the country.
Throughout the 20th century women in South Africa resisted the policies of the European settler-colonial rule under both British and Boer domination. As early as 1908, African women fought against racist laws that prohibited the brewing and distribution of traditional beverages, outlawed so that the men could be lured into beer halls and drained of their wage earnings.

Women boycotted and picketed the beer halls, forcing many to close. They demanded that profits from the establishments be utilized to develop housing and amenities for the African people relegated to the townships by the racist colonial system.

Indeed, it was the women-initiated struggle against the pass laws that sparked a broad-based mass movement during the 1950s. The major demand of the women’s march on Pretoria was to abolish the passes that controlled the movement of Africans inside their own country.

“In 1952, passes were extended to African women throughout the country. Up to 1918, when they had been withdrawn in the face of stringent resistance, they had been applied to African and Colored women in the Orange Free State alone,” writes researcher Fatima Meer in “Women in Apartheid Society.” (reprinted in Pambana Journal, February 1986)
Meer then points out the underlying reason for the enforcement of the apartheid pass laws: “The intention was to contain the women in the reserves, to leave them there to starve with their dependents, the unemployable young, the sick and the old.”

This women-led struggle against the pass laws was protracted. Meer recounts: “There was spontaneous resistance to the imposition of passes throughout the country and the resistance continued for eight years. Thousands of women were repeatedly imprisoned. In 1954, 2,000 were arrested in Johannesburg, 4,000 in Pretoria, 1,200 in Germiston, and 350 in Bethlehem. In 1955, 2,000 women marched to the Native Commission’s office in Vereeniging.”

The African National Congress Women’s League, founded in 1943, was the most prominent organization in this movement against pass laws, using its branches throughout the country to build a national campaign.

Women from both the Natal Indian Congress and the ANC combined forces and formed a broader organization. Both organizations were at the core of the 1954 founding of the Federation of South African Women, which played an integral part in the Campaign of Defiance of Unjust Laws that lasted from 1952-1956.
In 1960 the ANC Women’s League organized a demonstration of both women and children who were family members of those detained during the state of emergency in Durban. During this demonstration some 60 women and children were arrested and imprisoned.

The ANC Women’s League was banned alongside the parent organization after the apartheid police opened fire on demonstrators, killing 69 and wounding nearly 200 in what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre of March 21, 1960. Nonetheless, this tradition of struggle was to carry over through the 1980s and 1990s. In 1994 the masses of workers and youth were able to overturn the racist apartheid system.

Women and the movement for African unity & socialism
Women’s struggles like those in South Africa took place in various forms in many African states from the 1950s through the early 1990s, when the last vestiges of white-minority rule were eliminated in southern Africa. A major effort took place in 1960 when the All-African Women’s Conference (AAWC) was formed in Accra, Ghana.

Ghana in 1960 was considered the fountainhead of national independence and Pan-Africanism. Kwame Nkrumah, the leader of the Convention People’s Party, relied heavily on women in the urban and rural areas during the struggle for independence and the postcolonial period.
C.L.R. James in his book “Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution” noted that “in the struggle for independence, one market woman ... was worth any dozen Achimota [college] graduates. ... ”

A writer on the CPP-ruled era in Ghana history wrote of women inside the party: “Together with the workers, young men educated in primary schools and the unemployed, women became some of Nkrumah’s ablest, most devoted and most fearless supporters.” (Kwame Arhin, “The Life and Work of Kwame Nkrumah)
The Women’s Section of the CPP was formed simultaneously with the party itself. The CPP provided opportunities for the wider involvement of women in politics inside the then Gold Coast (later known as Ghana). In 1951, the CPP selected Leticia Quake, Hanna Cudjoe, Ama Nkrumah and Madam Sohia Doku as propaganda secretaries who traveled around the country conducting political education meetings and recruiting people into the party.

By the time of independence in 1957, women such as Mabel Dove, Ruth Botsio, Ama Nkrumah, Ramatu Baba, Sophia Doku and Dr. Evelyn Amarteifio were playing leading roles as organizers, politicians and journalists. In 1960 they consolidated the various women’s mass organizations into the National Council of Ghana Women.

After Ghana became a republic in July 1960, the Conference of Women of Africa and of African Descent was convened in Accra, the capital. Nkrumah addressed the gathering, saying, “Who would have thought that in the year of 1960, it would be possible to even hold a conference of all Ghanaian women, much less of women of all Africa and women of African descent?” (Evening News, Ghana, July 19, 1960)
Nkrumah then asked: “What part can the women of Africa and the women of African descent play in the struggle for African emancipation? You must ask these questions not by word of mouth but by action — by positive action, which is the only language understood by the detractors of African freedom.”
Shirley Graham DuBois, the spouse of W.E.B. DuBois and an accomplished writer, organizer and committed socialist in her own right, was in Ghana at the time of the founding of the First Republic and the inauguration of the NCGW and the AAWC. She stated in an address before the Women Association of the Socialist Students Organizations in Ghana that “the advancement of Ghanaian women in recent years has been amazing and now with ten women Parliamentarians in Republican Ghana, this country had achieved what took Europe centuries to accomplish.” (Evening News, July 14, 1960)
In supporting the then movement toward socialism in Ghana, DuBois recounted her travels to the People’s Republic of China and the achievements of women since the revolution of 1949. She claimed in her address that “the women of Socialist China were advanced in all spheres of useful activity and enjoyed equal rights with men politically, economically, culturally, socially and domestically.”

Women went on to play pioneering roles in other African liberation struggles in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Algeria, Tanzania, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone as well as many other states. At the present time, the African Union has declared 2010 the beginning of the “Decade of Women (2010-2020)” on the continent.

Challenging gender inequality
At the recent annual summit of the African Union, the overall theme of the gathering was initially focused on the status of maternal health and children. Under pressure from his U.S. imperialist backers, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni tried to redirect the emphasis of the summit to carrying out Washington’s foreign policy objectives in Africa.

The social dynamics of the world economic crisis have impacted Africa and forced an estimated 50 million people into poverty. The continuing influence of capitalist economic policies on Africa is a direct result of the subordinate integration of the continent’s productive forces to the imperatives of the multinational corporations and financial institutions.

To fully challenge gender inequality and the impoverishment of women and children in Africa, the struggle must be directed against Western domination and capitalist relations of production. This struggle in Africa can be supported by anti-imperialist forces in the industrialized states when they demand that their own imperialist governments honor the right of self-determination and sovereignty of the oppressed, postcolonial nations.

Book on Oba Erediauwa for launch

BENIN CITY- The book, “The Glorious Reign of Omo N’Oba Erediauwa” has been scheduled for public presentation on Saturday, March 24, 2012.

A statement from the Benin Traditional council (BTC) noted that the book x-rays the reign of Oba Erediauwa of Benin.

The statement signed by the chairman organizing committee, Victor Osarenren said that the book is co-authored by fourteen men and women from diverse background made up of academicians, artists, royalty, statement and writers in a rather rare example of town gown cooperation.

It said that the event is scheduled to take place at the Oba Akenzua II Cultural Centre, Benin City at 12 noon while in attendance will be the Edo state Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, among other dignitaries and guests from different parts of the country and beyond.

Prostitution Stigma, Edo Women And Politics Of Stereotyping

Going by the accounts of the predominance of Edo women in the prostitution trade, naive consumers of these sensationalized reports tend to be largely misinformed about Edo women.

But, the cold hard fact is that throughout history, Edo women have been achievers, even in the face of odds.

And in continuation of this history of stellar accomplishments, contemporary Edo women have not deviated from the stunning legacies of their foremothers. They are the modern day Idia, Emotan and Iden.

What do the following women have in common? Mrs. Sandra Aguebor-Ekperouh, Nigeria’s first woman mechanic; Prof. Helen Osinowo, the first Professor of Clinical Psychology; Mrs. Mabel Segun, the first woman to play table tennis in Nigeria; Most Rev. Dr. Margaret Benson-Idahosa, Africa’s first female University Chancellor; Prof. Yinka Omorogbe, first African member of the Academic Advisory Group of SEERIL, International Bar Association; Justice Gladys Olotu, repelled oppressive immigration conditions for issuing passports to married women; Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, first woman head of the Federal Inland Revenue Service; Prof. Helen Asemota, a foremost researcher in the field of molecular biology, biochemistry and Nano technology; Prof. Francisca Oboh-Ikuenobe; a leading geologist, Senator Franca Afegbua; Nigeria’s first female senator; and Miss Anne-Marie Imafidon; world record holder for the youngest girl to pass A-level computing, at age 13. Well, the answer is simple.

They are all Edo women and they are achievers. And the world is filled with achievers and heroines of Edo origin. For example, the nine-year old Imafidon twins who set the world record in A-level Mathematics at the ingenious age of 7 are also Edo indigenes.

Unfortunately, the remarkable successes of these women often fail to resonate with the Nigerian public -as their stories and experiences have been subsumed into the prostitution narrative.
Thus, in the predominant public discourse, by being Edo women, these amazons are simply “prostitutes.”

How have Edo women been stereotyped?

With the less than profound narratives of the new age of prostitution involving Nigerian women, the politics of stereotyping ensures that Edo women have become the symbolic representation of what is morally decadent and licentious in post-independence Nigeria.

While prostitution is the “oldest” profession in the World and no society is free from it, however, no other group of women anywhere in the World has suffered the prostitution stigma as much as Edo women. In places like Thailand and Amsterdam, known as World centers for prostitution, the average Thai or Dutch woman is never stereotyped as a “prostitute.”

Why is the case of Edo women in Nigeria different? Hearing the decidedly parochial and hypocritical discourse on prostitution in Nigeria, one is almost convinced that prostitution is not triggered by socio-economic indicators like poverty, but rather, by genetic and moral defects that are uniquely Edo! Interestingly enough, the media and other social pundits never see it expedient to equally label those who are predominantly involved in 419 scams, credit card frauds, drug trafficking and so on. Why is it that what is good for the goose is not good for the gander?

The narratives of Edo women in popular culture, newspapers and Nollywood movies have been largely pejorative, with recycled stereotypes of prostitution, greed and lack of education becoming a template for regular regurgitation.
The women are often depicted as uneducated, loquacious and money hungry. In Nollywood movies, anytime a movie character has an Edo name, she is invariably playing the role of a prostitute!

The Nigerian media and government agencies often do not talk about the scale of prostitution elsewhere in the country; hence the public has no frame of reference.

Recently, one of the tabloid Newspapers in Nigeria, the Daily Sun, published a report in which the journalist claimed that Benin City is both Nigeria’s “largest sex market” and the “World’s biggest sex market.”

Ordinarily, one would have ignored such a shoddy, factually fraudulent and anachronistic piece of yellow journalism.

However, if this lies is told often enough, soon it will become fact! This story highlights the reality of the contemporary Edo woman in a Nigeria where ethnic chauvinism, jingoism and myopia are the sin qua non for the politics of stereotyping.

In writing to the Editor of that tabloid newspaper, I questioned the veracity of the claims made by their journalist and asked how the World’s largest sex market could be in Benin City when the U.S. alone rakes in over $13 billion annually from the adult entertainment industry.

Worldwide, the revenue from prostitution and other forms of debauchery tops $57 billion! I wanted to know what percentage of this market has been cornered by the pimps and madams in Benin City to warrant the City being tagged with the dubious honor of “World’s largest sex Market.” Even within Nigeria, Benin City still does not count among the top ten hotspots for prostitution in the Country.
Would the journalist have dared tagged any other City in Nigeria “the World’s largest sex market”? I think not. This sort of illogical claim published by Daily Sun further underlines the nature of the politics of stereotyping in Nigeria.

It is as a result of this pervasive stereotype that a new initiative to profile accomplished Edo women; called Voices of Edo Women was launched

To put it simply, prostitution is not an Edo issue, it is a Nigerian problem. Thus, instead of scapegoating Edo women for a problem that has wide and far reaching implications for the Nigerian society, the media, government agencies and other stakeholders should focus on finding sustainable ways to tackle prostitution involving Nigerian women: in Europe, Africa, on University campuses, on street corners in various Nigerian cities and as escorts for randy politicians and philandering men.

Every two minutes, somewhere in the world, an underage child is being forced into prostitution, including in all the 36 States of Nigeria and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
This is a serious problem with dire consequences for Nigeria. The prostitution discourse in Nigeria must go beyond simplistic ethnic bashing and should be seriously examined for its social, economic, cultural and public health impact.


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