I moved back to Nigeria six months ago. Precisely December 16, 2015. My “move back” story is not exactly a conventional one (or maybe it is in African households?) I was tricked back home by my parents. It was supposed to be a Christmas vacation for one month with my brother. The reason for this trickery is a story for another day. When I first realized what had happened, I was in denial. This couldn’t be happening to me. I had heard stories of it happening to other African kids but I thought my parents would have too much to lose by doing that. Well, I thought wrong evidently. I didn’t get through that phase until last month. Yep, it took me five months to accept that I will be in Nigeria for a long time, so I have to plan my life along this eventuality. Needless to say, this is going to be how I have been faring as a woman living in Nigeria.
Life for the Nigerian woman is hard; tough. I have experienced this firsthand. I was seventeen when I left, and coming back at twenty-two I’m seeing things with a whole new lens. Before I go into all that is wrong with the Nigerian woman, and by extension the Nigerian man, I have to give credit to the Nigerian man where it’s due. Nigerian men are well versed with the art of articulating the aesthetic quality of a Nigerian woman. This is noteworthy to me because I used to live in a small town with a predominantly white population with nine out of every black man dating either a non-black woman, or a light-skinned black woman. So to come here and realize that my black skin is not a short change to my overall aesthetic quality is quite refreshing. Not that I need external validation to be certail that I am pleasing to the eyes. Still, I maintain that it’s nice to be heard now and there. That being said, I will delve into the issue at hand.
Life for the Nigerian woman is hard. Yes I know I said it before. And before you tell me life for everyone is hard, take a breather to bridle your tongue from stating the obvious. No shit Sherlock. It’s like saying “All Lives Matter”. I feel handicapped, like I’m stuck in a rot. Here I am, three semesters away from finishing my college degree, and suddenly thrown into an environment where a degree plus extensive networking is the paramount avenue to sustainable livelihood. For Nigerian women in my condition (in college), finding a way to navigate the system is quite a task. Getting a decent job while in school is like finding a decent man in Lagos. For the ones who manage to find a job, the pay is meagre and her employer thinks he or she is the next best thing since Nigerian jollof rice (Sorry Ghanaians, we got this) She remains at the mercy of her parents, relatives, and boyfriend(s). After she manages to graduate and earn her degree, two things happen. It’s either she realizes how heavily saturated the job market is and decides to go in to learning a skill, or lands a job where she has to go through excruciating means to prove to whatever establishment that she is more than her tits and her derriere, that there is more to her hands than pounding yam and catering to every fibre of a man’s ego.
I’m beyond nervous for what my future entails as a woman in Nigeria. I want to go back to college. My parents want me to stay in Nigeria for a minimum of four years because somewhere in their minds, they believe that the longer I stay in Nigeria, the more inclined I will be to want to return if I leave the country afterwards. I don’t even want to go into how problematic that theory sounds. But I don’t want to learn bead-making, hair making, catering, or any of those other skills that have currently saturated the Nigerian industry. I’m smart. I say that not to impress anyone, but as a matter of fact. I want to use my intellectual prowess to earn me a more than decent means of livelihood. I don’t understand why a man will tell me to dump the degree I spent years slaving to get and tell me to start buying and selling lace. However, this is no bash to anyone who makes a means of livelihood from the above mentioned. I just have no intention of creating a career from those types of occupation.
Since I’ve moved back, I have had to revamp myself drastically. I love piercings. I had ten of them prior to me moving back, now I have two left, because only “loose and wild” girls have that much piercings. I always have to think and rethink my clothing choices before leaving my house every morning for some unknown creature that will hide the erection in his pants but call me names for dressing like an “ashawo”, or will feel that he has a right to my body because he thinks I’m easy on the eyes. I’m voluptuous. My hips make me the centre of attention when I get into a room. Still, it is shameful that in 2016, I have to choose clothing based on what other entities apart from me would desire.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and conversing with a number of Nigerian women and have caught a glimpse into the life of the average Nigerian woman. The Nigerian woman is a prayer warrior. She has been groomed to become a prayer warrior by her immediate family, extended family, and the society at large. She’s supposed to go to Mountain of Fire and do dry fasting if she is not married or does not have a potential suitor at 25. When she finally gets married, she is supposed to resume prayer for her husband and all the “strange women” in his life. In no way is he responsible for the countless women he sleeps with; it has to be a strange power somewhere. Then in addition to becoming a renowned prayer warrior, she is supposed to “submit” To the Nigerian woman, submission means to have no life essentially from the life lived through your husband. It’s to accept the emotional torture he gives her because “a wise woman builds her home” It is to accept that Nigerian men are overgrown babies but at the same time the “head of the home”. How exactly does that work again? To stay in a marriage no matter the level of abuse a woman encounters because “God hates divorce” The main reason for the very low level of gender parity in Nigeria today is because of the Nigerian woman. She enables these ideals and teaches her daughter these ideals. She absolves the man of any responsibility and accountability whatsoever. The moment more Nigerian women realise the system is significantly unfair to her, would be the first step to solving the problem of gender inequality in Nigeria.