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We need new proverbs

Apparently, the actor Emeka Ike said something about his wife in an interview, then she went online with his son and they said stuff about…

Apparently, the actor Emeka Ike said something about his wife in an interview, then she went online with his son and they said stuff about him too. I didn’t watch either interview, but I saw lots of think pieces about them and read folks’ reactions to them (the think pieces and the interviews), and I have stuff to say.    

Where to start? Someone posted a voice note of Mr. Ike asking his son to throw himself in front of a trailer (and kill himself). I was stunned. I couldn’t listen to the rest of that disturbing VN. I thought my shock was typical until I began reading the comments under the tweet. Yikes! The number of people who thought it normal that a provoked father would say such a thing, the number of people who swore that their parents had said something just as outrageous in anger, the number of people who thought it was perfectly understandable for a parent to tell a child they wanted them out of their lives, the number of people who said that “is just how African parents are, it means nothing,” was terribly, deeply concerning.

I am a parent. I would never, ever tell any of my sons they should go kill themselves. I would never ever tell them I wish they had never been born. I wouldn’t even think it. And neither would my husband. Nor my parents. Nor my friends who are also parents. That there are many others – judging from social media – who think this is normal parenting because they were raised like that is mind-blowing. The normalcy of my childhood, of my own parenting style and those of my circle, made me assume that everyone else was parenting responsibly.

It is frightening that there are so many damaged folks, and we should worry about the kind of parents that they themselves are/will be because damaged people raise damaged children. I wish I could get every one of those people to seek therapy because they really, truly need healing.  

Apart from the level of dysfunctional parenting the drama exposed (to me), it also revealed a level of misogyny and sexism I had forgotten existed in our obodo Nigeria. There were so many pieces not only blaming Mr. Ike’s son for speaking ‘badly’ about his father, but placing that blame squarely on his mother’s shoulders. She brainwashed the young man, they said. She turned the son against the father, another said. 

First of all, I don’t get how a twenty-something year old man who apparently lived with his father for a while could possibly be brainwashed. Furthermore, one of the more egregious pieces I read quoted one Igbo proverb after another as his introduction to a painfully long and irredeemably sexist piece about why Emeka Ike’s son had, in the opinion of the writer, turned out “wrong ”:  “Nwoke nwaanyị  (sic) na afuru ojà na awụ ajà mụọ”: He who’s riding on a woman cheering, makes a terrible landing; Oriri na aka aá nkpụke, ma amamihe na aka ná Ọbị”: As a man, there’s more to eat staying with your mother in the kitchen, but you gain more wisdom staying with your father;” “Ewu na akpa na mkpụke, ọ bụrụ na ọ hichatara unyị ọ hichata mmanụ” : (sic) Goat which (sic) abode is always the kitchen either get (sic) stained from oil or charcoal.

One wonders how men who think like this, who believe that women are inferior to men, treat the women in their lives: their mothers, their wives, their girlfriends, their sisters, their daughters.  

It is a pity that in this century, these sorts of anti-women proverbs are still not just floating around, but being quoted in all seriousness by grown, educated men. In a country that has given us so many incredibly smart and accomplished women no less. Say that they are surrounded only by women who encourage their nonsense, are these men living under a rock? Are they walking around with their eyes shut? Their ears clogged with wax? Isn’t there a proverb that says that those who refuse to see with their eyes or hear with their ears are asking for their eyes to be plucked out, and their ears hacked off? And if that isn’t a proverb, it should become one. We certainly need new ones. 


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