Ms Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is something of a global sweetheart. All the world loves her. And, being Nigerian, we sometimes adore her. And to that is the corollary that we listen to her every view and rant. For so long she has been on the right side of the Nigerian populace. But lately she ran into a storm. It was a chat she had with Hilary Clinton, former First Lady of the United States, (https://www.premiumtimesng.com/…/266160-hilary-clintons-bio…)
Some background. Adichie is a self-confessed and evangelising feminist. She is also a well accomplished woman. She is author of global bestsellers. And she is a Nigerian export. And Nigerians in their winter of underachievement are so proud of the few who crossed boundaries. President Muhammadu Buhari, for instance, indicted a lot of Nigerian youths as lazy and efulefus. Perhaps, Adichie belongs to that age bulge.
Having said this, I think feminists are over-turbo-charging their movement. The important point is that things are not all they seem.
Before now, it looked women were subjugated by men. My guess is that it is not strictly a gender war as a “class” war. In the beginning, all men and women were out in the battle for power and overlordship. The will to power and overlordship is a human, too human, drive.
It just happened that women were physically inferior and perhaps still are. John McEnroe, a tennis superstar, for instance, has not been faulted in saying Serena Williams, another universal sweetheart, won’t make the top 500+ list in the men’s circuit. Williams, of course, is the greatest woman to have played tennis. Well, it is just fact that women, even if as brained as, are not yet as muscled as men.
And in warfare all is fair, according to Awolowo and Gowon and their theory of genocide. So, while men won’t want to “go nuclear” as an Awolowo or Gowon, in destroying a frenemy, however, a show of masculine biceps might be considered an appropriate use of force.
So, the “internal” or inter-group war was won against the women. It is not because they are women. It is because they were weaker. This point is important. It is similar to the fact of the elite persecution of the poor. The poor are not persecuted because they are poor. The poor are persecuted because they are weak. Maybe they are weak because they are poor. But historical experience has shown, like in the French revolution, that, sometimes, the weak, the poor, could organise and take it out on the elite. Of course, the old elite, if they turned poor [asset stripped] or powerless, would next be persecuted. And the erstwhile poor or segments of them who now became the new lords, would be the persecutors. It is nothing personal. It is a game.
To repeat, it is nothing personal. In other words, a world may come in which women persecute and subjugate men like men once did to them, allegedly. Even as we write, some men, already, husbands, boyfriends, brothers, sons, etc, are crying out. Some are paining of being cleaved under the heaviness of their women’s bosoms. But it is all in the power, not gender, game. Gender is its expression not innate logic or nature. The logic is whoever is found weak is made and served for dinner.
That is, what is at play is a power, not gender, game. Yet, given that, it is not exactly a pecking order subjugation. It was largely circular contention with the men never quite winning or the women losing. In other words, women were not without powers. To give examples: Even in ancient Igboland, there was something called ikpu oru na ani, literally, the women rubbing their genitals in the mud. If the women ever did it, it stands as veto, which the community must concede.
Well, it is true that most times these feminine powers are exercised in the sly or indirectly. But they are powers all the same. And it is not unimaginable, that is an evolutionary state of grace in being feminine. Just like in all-men teams in power tussles, the men and the women are also bidding for power and overlordship, one over the other. Each party wants to rule and not be ruled.
So, the idea that women are a docile, non-fighting party, self-willed to be ruled, is a wrongly given rap. Women are as rapacious as men in the power grab game. And this is since history. It is just that at any one point in time, a faction of the composited human group, woman or man, wins. It might be men today and women tomorrow.
In fact, all Chimamanda is doing is in a game for power not equality. Nobody wants equality. All quests for power anyway have all started as drives for equality. Example? American Associated Press Agency was founded on the logic that the dominant European press agencies marginalised America in their reports. Now the accusation has flushed back. Associated Press, which sought fair representation of America in world news, is now under charge for imperialising others with Americana. This is human, all too human. Beneath every search for equality, history has exposed, is a gambit, perhaps involuntary, for ultimate supremacy, Adichie, women, America, and all are involved.
T.S. Eliot is American, essentially. And he saw through this. Apparently speaking of men in the intra-men power game, he was on point for all composite groups at internal wars. And our humanity, man/women, is one of such groups.
“I see nothing quite conclusive in the art of temporal government/power. But violence, duplicity and frequent malversation. King rules or barons rule: The strong man strongly and the weak man by caprice. They have but one law, to seize the power and keep it. And the steadfast can manipulate the greed and lust of others. The feeble is devoured by his own.” (Murder in the Cathedral).
But the matter got a twist with the ascendancy of the West. The West is the inventor of formal logic and thus formal, if stiff, hierarchies.
My guess is that we as ex-colonials are too Western-informed or educated. In the East of Taoism, etc, for instance, there are no hierarchies of existence. Out there, metaphysics is in a flux. The point of this flux, it has been speculated, is what led to one of the most important discoveries in the world, the idea and concept of zero. The Greeks, the Egyptians, etc, never quite stumbled on this. Zero is an Eastern, Indian-Hindi formulation.
The point of this is that there are certain values in a non-hierarchical ordering of things. At least, without the category zero, man would have still remained Homo and perhaps not exactly Sapiens. We couldn’t have gone to the moon or had computers. Even more, we wouldn’t have understood time, such an elemental factor itself. Time or spacetime, as the physicists say, is not ordered or rigid in hierarchy. All things are relative and there may not be any universal coordinate system.
So, properly speaking, there are and cannot be any hierarchies of occupations save on presumed, that is, partisan coordinates. Thus, being a wife is not inferior to being a president, and vice versa. Things are too relative to fix them hierarchically.
Anyway, if there are to be any hierarchies at all, then the primary and elemental occupations, like being mother, is more important than being a CEO of a corporation or a country. And of course being a poet is a superior call to being a Caesar. That informs in part the quip of Mother A’Endu that the poet in his rags is a higher being than Caesar in his purple. Why? The poet is a primary, a more axial being. The poet emerged in history before the CEO and is thus his progenitor and superior in that sense at least.
And we have as a people been witnessing and living in these relativisms. It is, for instance, given that being the President of Nigeria is a superior vocation to that of any other office. But that is not so to the current King of Kano. Emir Sanusi has always insisted that, for him, King of Kano is the greatest office, including of course being President of Nigeria. And he is not travelling alone. Sardauna of Sokoto, Bello, also voiced such sentiments. All he wanted to be was Sultan of Sokoto caliphate. In a Western hierarchical system, these men are naïve, even foolish. They chose the lower over the higher. But in a more discerning non-Western way, say Taoist, the men are right in their choices.
In all, one can say that hierarchies need not be formal and fixed. We can say that hierarchies are not all that there is to human development. In the end, one should whisper a whiff of the song nne wu nne mama agba ahia ony zutara ihe ka mama mu enye lam, to Adichie. Or even the pithier Nne-ka, mother is supreme.
So, let her speak softly lest she offend the still living and the dead. What of the orphans? These boys and girls in lacking mothers have perhaps been the greatest valuation experts of that which they lack. Well, in a life story of theirs, of crushing stones to press for milk as to self-suckle themselves or die, they know a thing or two the rest of us may not about the value of mothers.
Mohammed was an orphan. Paradise he declared in justice lies at the foot of mothers. And if a woman had to chose between being a president and being a mother what, dear Ms Chimamanda Adichie, would be the right choice? Would you know?
Motherhood is a natural, elemental and foundational phenomenon. Being CEO of country or corporation is a new-fangled, human, all too human, vocation. It may not even last an eternity. But being mother is a forever reality.
Finally, it may be said, Adichie has a point, whatever the point. However, her choice of indexing it on a mother is strained, if not crass. Perhaps it is time to burn the brats and not the bras.