By Tolu Ogunlesi
(Originally published on July 23, 2009, in NEXT)
When we reconvened for the second meeting of our (still-unnamed) union, I felt compelled to open the floor, immediately after the opening prayer had been said by representatives of at least seven different religions.
“Gentlemen and Gentlemen,” I began. “We are making a fundamental error, which, as Logical Homo Sapiens (Homo Logicus, I daresay), we should not be caught making. The question is What Do Women Want, not What Do Women Need! There are vital differences between Wants and Needs, just as there are between Men and Women. (As I like to say, Men are from Twitter, Women are from Wikipedia!) Yes, Women need Discipline and Servicing and Comprehensive Insurance — but the imperative question is: What Do They WANT?”
Someone sneered from the back. It sounded like Otunba. I ignored the person.
“Thank you my brother. Thank you for putting us back on the right track,” said the Moderator
Then there was some commotion from the back of the room. A man had just run in and was making his way to the front, breathless.
“Ah, Prof, you’re welcome Sir” said the Moderator, smiling.
Prof was a man of indeterminate age, with a Marxist beard, a permanent twinkle in his eyes, and a trousers whose legs appeared terrified of the ground. Under both sweat-stained armpits were giant books.
Still panting, Prof asked for a chance to speak. He spoke of how eager he was to share some of his insights on the topic of discussion. “As some of you might know,” he began, “the thesis of my recent PhD — my third, if you care to know; the first being the one I acquired in Honolulu in ’69 — was titled “The Hip Hop Generation and the Kokoletisation of Feminine/Feminist Space and Ideals: Miss-o-Gyny or Mere Miss-Interpetation?
“The floor is yours, distinguished Prof!”
“Gracias, gracias. Without wasting any time I shall plunge into the kernel of my horizontal inquiry cum interrogation of the notion as well as canonical narrations of contemporary feminism and misogyny in a post-ideological world, in a bid to answer the unanswerable question: What Do Women (defined as the ‘Other’) Want?”
“Laiwowe!” someone hailed.
“With a man like you they’ll want a DIC-TIO-NARY!” shouted another.
Prof smiled and went on. “I do not suppose I have much time. So let me start with a question that I believe will answer the Question before us. My question is this: WHAT, DEAR GENTLEMEN, IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DBANJ’S 21st CENTURY KOKOMANSION AND ABAMI EDA’S 1978 KALAKUTAMANSION? Let me explain. In 1978, Fela Anikulapo Kuti married 27 women — in ONE day. Thirty-one years after, Dapo Oyebanjo, who was not even born when Fela was carting off all those ‘prizes’, has followed in the footsteps of his ‘ancestor’ and married 12 wives all at once, under the guise of Reality Television. After a 3-decade interregnum, not much — you will agree with me — has changed. In this sociological construct that I have just presented to you can be found the inviolable key to the dilemma of What Women Want. The only significant difference is this: that while Fela was a rebel, on the margins of society, the kind of man about whom fathers and mothers warned and counselled their children to beware of; D’Banj on the other hand, by the current ideals of the world in which we find ourselves, is The Establishment, Poster Boy extraordinaire; the Man whose stardom compels fathers to query their sons: “What were you doing when D’Banj was learning to play the Harmonica?”; the Knight-in-a-Limo whom Mothers pray for their daughters to run into.
Prof. at this point paused to catch his breath, then continued.
“Now, having established this premise, let me put forward my new groundbreaking theory, the Gender Studies equivalent of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the Theory that attempts to answer all other theories. I call it The Theory of Feminine ‘Shepherdization’, which states that: “Women — Nigerian Women at least — want to be Owned and Guided and Guarded by Men”. The Man is Our Shepherd, we shall not Want. Our Women WANT, so that they will not WANT. Paradoxical, but progressive, and immensely practical. They wanted to be owned by Fela in 1978, today, three decades after, they clamour and struggle and hustle to be possessed by D’Banj. Men have not changed, neither have women. And the parameters and possibilities of their relational interactions have not changed either. Not in three decades. And not, unfortunately, in three millennia. Now, KalakutaMansion was simply Fela and his female Property; KokoMansion on the other hand is a New Improved-and-Expanded Version, comprising D’Banj, his Female Property, Corporate Sponsors and a potentially Infinite Audience whose doting participation is brokered by Satellite Television Technology. A complex interplay. But everyone is happy. The Men are happy to own, the Women are happy to be owned, the Sponsors are happy to build their brand on the strength of the Koko Philosophy, and the Government is happy that Nigerians have something to keep them busy so they don’t have to worry that even Aso Rock has gone on strike. Welcome to the New World! That, Gentlemen is my …”
“Men are Men because they do not ask for Directions!” a high-pitched voice from the back suddenly interrupted. All eyes swerved in that direction, just in time to see a “man” in 3 piece suit yank off “his” jacket and tie and “afro”. Before God and man “he” was a “she”. A member of the enemy camp disguised as one of us!
(S)he waved her fists angrily in the air and bellowed: “Simple common sense, which evidently is not as common as it appears to be, dictates that, if you want to know what Women Want, you ASK them. Ask and ye shall receive! You don’t sit on your pot bellies in this stuffy CURTAIN-LESS fleapit pontificating yadah yadah bullshit nonsense! You ask US what we WANT!”
With that she turned and marched out.
“Hey, stop that Spy!” at least six men thundered in unison. “Arrest IT immediately!”
And the men began to fall over one another in a bid to catch the damsel-in-disguise, who had by now effortlessly taken off, nimble as a Queen bee unburdened by a designer bra…
CURTAINS FALL (For Now).