politics? i'd rather be dancing

a political billboard in uyo, akwa ibom state

had a very interesting exchange last week. a bbc reporter emailed a colleage of mine, a nigerian woman writer, about commenting on the 2011 election for their 'focus on africa' program. when she couldn't fit the program into her schedule, my colleague deferred to me and a couple of other women writers as potential commentators. but lacking the knowledge and insight to really speak authoritatively on the election, i deferred to another friend of mine, a lawyer and writer, who comments regularly on the election and follows the minute-by-minute developments. he also happens to be male.

the bbc didn't end up calling him then, since they needed women's voices to counterbalance a male-heavy roster of participants. (they later called him to comment on post-election violence, or some such, a few days later.) in the end, none of us women really felt knowledgeable enough to comment on the 2011 election. and when my friend emailed me later, wondering whether the same could be said for any number of similarly situated male colleagues, i couldn't give a straight answer. "but i'm an artist!" i said. "i don't like to get into the nitty gritty of these things."

truth be told, though this was merely an anecdotal sampling, i don't imagine many of my female friends sit and talk politics as readily as do many naija men i know. i used to hate this as a child; my mother off in the kitchen, preparing the meal, while my uncles and father debated around the dining table. i thought it a grave injustice that she wasn't given a prominent seat at the table and asked, quite simply, what she thought about everything. and yet here i am, abstaining by choice from any and all conversations on the matter.

i think of it as a protest, in some ways: i hate dirty politics. and politics in nigeria is dirty, desperate, haphazard, bloody. it isn't something i condone or understand or can relate to. which makes it rather interesting trying to parse these matters out as i write a book that not only explores my family's history, but also the present/past/future of akwa ibom. when i hear of yet another heinous act committed in the name of politics, i find myself descending into a cocoon inside where these events appear hazy and unreal as they unfold. i am afforded this luxury because these things tend to happen to folks just removed enough from me to say it's happening to 'them over there,' as though there really is any distance between us.

i am not cut out for politics or law enforcement or anything that requires facing the dark self-centeredness of humanity. i'd rather be dancing, quite honestly, floating above the muck and the mire in an everpresent now of creation. but this self-induced haze produces a natural distance between myself and many others for whom politics is a passion, a livelihood, an inescapable certainty. i must acknowledge that, as necessary as it seems to live this way, i am at times disengaging and disempowering myself to have any impact on these circumstances.

again, i don't have any answers; only food for thought. speaking of which, read a wonderful post-election interview/reflection online today by a dear friend, elnathan, the same interviewed by the bbc. he says it better than most i've heard comment on these times, so i defer to him. read it here. --AL.

3 comments:

{ NubianEmpress } | April 24, 2011 at 6:09 AM said...

V. interesting. I have a family friend whose father was in recent Nigerian elections, and from what I understand the process is exactly how you described it.

Insightful piece, I'm excited to read more....

{ Nneoma Nwachuku } | April 25, 2011 at 10:10 AM said...

Yes, Nigerian politics is a very interesting beast.
I too at times wondered why there existed a male/female divide in discussions of politics. In childhood, I watched my mother and female relatives spend their time in the kitchen while my father and male relatives and "loud, proud and single" female relatives argued ferociously in the living room over politics. When I was younger I followed my dad alot and insisted upon sitting by his feet as adult males argued, oblivious to the fact that this little quiet American girl understood Igbo and some of the more adult conversation. Of course, this was to the chagrin of my mother until later in my life, she too realized that there was much more going on in the living room than in the kitchen, and we would both learn how to go back and forth between living room and kitchen as well. Those women who permanently stayed in the living room loudly discussing politics were often times denigrated behind their backs (comments about their refusal to find a husband, or the failures of their marriages, or their inability to remain subservient to their husbands), but at times, I secretly envied their freedom...even though in my immediate family, or at least by my dad, such freedom was encouraged, but generally poo poo'ed by relatives etc as I got older.

{ Alligator Legs } | April 27, 2011 at 5:52 AM said...

@nubianempress: thanks for stopping by! unfortunately naija politics is still in a very sad state. i don't know when something will change for the better, but i hope so!

@nneoma: thanks so much for your comment. i too have seen these 'loud women' denigrated by men, marginalized by other quieter women. my aunt is involved in politics in akwa ibom and has become one of those women who no longer enters the kitchen. (altho this might also be attributed to her age and the fact that my uncle has passed on.) i often wondered if there was some inverse correlation between a woman's prowess in the kitchen/home and her province over more worldly matters. haven't decided yet, altho my anecdotal experience would suggest this to be true. i have no idea how (why?) a young girl who grew up immersed in politics and debate at the foot of her father should be encouraged, in adulthood, to retire to the kitchen. i would beg her to not go willingly! :)

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