By Obari Gomba
IF you can see Arewa, Yoruba, Igbo, Middle Belt, and Ijaw as characters in a satirical play, you will understand where Nigeria is today. I love to imagine Nigeria as a polygamist, an abusive one. Arewa is Nigeria, the husband, alpha in his maleness, alpha in his meanness. Yoruba and Igbo are struggling to earn the place of a first wife. Middle Belt is now middle bat, neither a bird nor a butterfly (as the proverb goes). Middle Belt had positioned himself as Arewa’s bestman and perhaps assumed that he could pleasure himself with the bridesmaid and other maids in the house. Middle Belt has just come to know that Arewa is not interested in only vulvas; Arewa takes the anus of his bestman too. What about the rest of us? We are concubines and side chicks and whores and sex slaves.
Britain handed over all of us to a strongman. That was the spirit and letter of the amalgamation. To give the womanity of the South to the masculinity of the North which has never ceased its powerful thrusts. When Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group (AG) wanted to form a pre-Independence coalition with the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), Awolowo did not realize that he was attempting the unthinkable – to create a coalition of co-wives against a husband; or to create a same-sex union at a point when that idea was a faint figment of the Nigerian imagination. Nnamdi Azikiwe knew better to keep Igbo positioned as a first wife in the coalition of the First Republic and leave Yoruba as a resentful co-wife. It got worse as Yoruba felt that Igbo was bent on expanding her control south of Naija. Whether actual or perceived, no co-wife would allow the constriction of her sphere of influence. Yoruba ceded her longtime housemaid, Mid-West, and the NCNC snatched the maid, but Yoruba would not allow her Igbo co-wife to tell her how to mate with Arewa on her own bed (from Ibadan to Lagos).
Ladoke Akintola, often vilified by Awolowo’s followers, secured for Yoruba what Awolowo could not. Akintola displaced Igbo and made Yoruba the spouse of choice. It was a hot romance; the thighs of Yoruba were on fire. Then the first putsch occurred and the unthinkable happened. Igbo, through Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi, began to head the house. Arewa’s skull was only broken; his phallus was still erect. In the crisis of the head, the phallus was self-sufficient and capable of becoming the head. The phallus became the head in the second putsch through the good positionality of the bestman (Jack Gowon). The slaughter of many soldiers and civilians was what Arewa needed to pump blood from his phallus to his bestman’s head which became Arewa’s head.
East of Naija, Azikiwe suffered the displacement that Awolowo had earlier suffered. Only that this time, it took more corpses to prop up Chukwuemeka Ojukwu’s throne. Bodies were not enough to stop Arewa from exacting gory control over one of his wives. While Arewa was at war with Igbo and the coastal minions of the delta; he was in romance with Yoruba. It would appear that Awolowo had become wiser to borrow a leaf from Akintola’s playbook, to keep Yoruba’s place as a good wife at a time of war, and to profit therefrom.
Throughout the civil war and after, the world had come to believe that Arewa’s phallus was the same as his bestman’s head. But both entities had their difficulties as evidenced by the third putsch (in which Gowon was ousted by Murtala Mohammed) and the fourth putsch (in which Mohammed was killed). Tired of the missionary position, Arewa felt it was time to try a new position and put Yoruba (Olusegun Obasanjo) on top. Igbo mourned her losses and nursed her wounds as Yoruba had her pleasure. Strongmen often like to tell their women to “come on top;” it makes the “bottom belly” sweeter and full of moaning and screams. It was for a while and the thrusts reverted to the missionary position (Shehu Shagari).
Shagari’s administration brought Igbo (Alex Ekwueme) into the bedroom again, but not “on top.” It was for a short time though; the soldiers were soon fed up and they started the missionary positions of Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida. There was interminable darkness, and moaning, and screaming in the orgies that put all southern vulvas and anuses on the line of fire. Somehow, in that pitch darkness, Yoruba (Ernest Shonekan) was asked to “come on top.” Such a bad act; e no fit do sef.
Back to the missionary position. Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar. Between the violent thrusts of Abacha and the false gentleness of Abubakar, Yoruba and Igbo were left with bruised thighs and vulvas. It was worse for Yoruba, and it made sense that when Arewa wanted to catch his breath, he asked Yoruba (Obasanjo again…a good doer) to “come on top.”
Back to the missionary position (Umaru Yar’Adua). It was Obasanjo’s humour to privilege an underused concubine (Ijaw) over Igbo (Yoruba’s co-wife). Yoruba had stayed “on top” for eight years and prevailed on Arewa to allow a concubine into the bedroom. Such an act of uncharacteristic kindness towards Ijaw (Goodluck Jonathan) was born out of the rivalry of co-wives; one wife brought a concubine to the master rather than allowing her co-wife to have a feel of Arewa’s groin. Never to be outsmarted, Igbo made an emotional investment in Jonathan when Yar’Adua died in active service.
Since the First Republic, Ijaw had been eager to join Arewa and his co-wives to form a league of four. From the overtures of the Niger Delta Congress (NDC) to Isaac Boro’s avowal of love for Tafawa Balewa, Ijaw wanted to be a wife but she became a neglected concubine. It was tough. She kept secreting the lubricant for sex without having to feel the ecstasy of Arewa’s thrusts.
When Ijaw went “on top,” she proved that she had learnt nothing from the histories of Yoruba and Igbo in that bedroom. You do not climb “on top” unless Arewa says so, and you do not stay “on top” when Arewa wants the missionary position, and you cannot occupy the bedroom when Yoruba is eager to be with Arewa.
Buhari again. Back to the missionary position, and Yoruba (Yemi Osinbajo) is in the bedroom. There must be something about the thighs of Yoruba that makes it impossible for Arewa to resist them. Up Arewa-Yoruba Power! There is more to the positional play of Yoruba in Nigeria’s bedroom politics. If you look at the big picture, her bedstrokes of the past were masterstrokes, and you will see that it takes a clearer head to understand her survival in Arewa’s bedroom schemes.
Yoruba has become the most consequential woman in Arewa’s house; she has bested the fuckability of other women. It explains why the uxorial troubles of Yoruba have shaped the polity more than the agitations of any other southern woman. Nigeria will make no progress until Arewa and Yoruba agree. Let me rephrase it, the only progress Nigeria makes is the one endorsed by Arewa and Yoruba. Nigeria has not made a lot of progress because Arewa-Yoruba union does not allow it.
Whereas Yoruba has advanced on the scale of things, Middle Belt is fast diminishing from the role of a bestman or phallic head to that of a house servant whose bum is takeable and thus on fire. Before you get angry with me for saying that, know that there is freedom of imagination. Besides, I have not written the risqué play yet.
- *An excerpt from Gomba’s forthcoming creative nonfiction entitled Free Troubles: A Writers Eyes on the World