Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

The Wife in The Other Room

President Buhari’s Wife in The Other Room

President Buhari embarrassed some of his country-people last week!

President Buhari's wife Aisha, Is she in the other room?

President Buhari’s wife Aisha

He was in Germany in an effort to promote investments in Nigeria.

His wife had made a comment, saying she might not vote for him again. “She accused her husband of not knowing most of the people who have been appointed into positions of power,” Deutsche Welle said.

A reporter asked for his response as he was standing with Angela Merkel.

He said he didn’t know what political party his wife belonged to. The most memorable phrase was,”My wife belongs in the kitchen, the living room, or the other room.”

I watched the interview on Deutsche Welle. It is not impressive.

I have seen videos where he speaks well. This isn’t one.

If you are a Twitter user, you can follow comments at #Theotherroom.

Happy Recession

Adichie didn't comment on the other room, did she?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote an op-ed critical of Pres. Buhari

How do you greet your friends in Nigeria when the economy is in the tank? You wish them, “Happy recession!”

Chimamanda Adichie wrote an op-ed in The New York Times about President Buhari’s failure to capitalize on his popularity when he was elected.

When Buhari was elected, she was happy. He portrayed himself as a serious reformer. Though he had been dictatorial as head of state in the 1980’s, he was now a fan of the democratic process.

But his long delay in choosing cabinet members, his apparent tone-deafness to issues that concern so many Nigerians, and his mis-handling of the economy have disappointed her.

She says President Buhari has wasted his opportunity to generate confidence and real reform in Nigeria.

She wrote, “Nigerians who expected a fair and sweeping cleanup of corruption have been disappointed. Arrests have tended to be selective, targeting mostly those opposed to Mr. Buhari’s government.”

The most recent example is the arrest of judges. “The anti-corruption agencies are perceived not only as partisan but as brazenly flouting the rule of law: The Department of State Security recently barged into the homes of various judges at midnight, harassing and threatening them and arresting a number of them, because the judges’ lifestyles ‘suggested’ that they were corrupt.

Does Buhari have time and/or the will to change? She doesn’t seem hopeful.

Her conclusion? “There are no easy answers to Nigeria’s malaise, but the government’s intervention could be more salutary — by prioritizing infrastructure, creating a business-friendly environment and communicating to a populace mired in disappointment.”

And she shares this piece of ‘dark humor.’ “A common greeting among the middle class now is ‘Happy recession!'” she says.

Unexpected Connections

Recently I went to New Haven for lunch with Ainehi Edoro. Then I heard her engaging talk for Yale’s Council on African Studies.

Afterwards, Stephanie Newell, Professor of English at the Council on African Studies and one of the organizers of the talk, invited me to join her, Ainehi and a few students for dinner.

I learned that Steph, as she calls herself, has spent time in Lagos and Onitsha, the largest city in eastern Nigeria.

Her bio says, “My research focuses on the public sphere in colonial West Africa and issues of gender, sexuality, and power as articulated through popular print cultures, including newspapers, pamphlets, posters, and magazines.”

I am especially interested in the cultural histories of printing and reading in Africa, and the spaces for local creativity and subversive resistance in colonial-era newspapers.”

As part of her research she has studied and written about Onitsha Market Literature. I became familiar with the genre a year ago when I met Kurt Thometz. He has compiled a book of examples. The literature flourished from the 1940’s until the Biafran secession in 1967.

The Forger's Tale by Stephanie Newell

The Forger’s Tale by Stephanie Newell

I learned that Steph has published a book about the man Thometz calls, “Onitsha’s adopted son, the ‘Ubiquitous Coaster’ and palm-oil ruffian John Moray Stuart-Young.”

The Forger’s Tale, The Search for Odeziaku is her book.

In it, she “charts the story of the English novelist and poet John Moray Stuart-Young (1881-1939) as he traveled from the slums of Manchester to West Africa in order to escape the homophobic prejudices of late-Victorian society. Leaving behind a criminal record for forgery and embezzlement and his notoriety as a “spirit rapper,” Stuart-Young found a new identity as a wealthy palm oil trader and a celebrated author, known to Nigerians as ‘Odeziaku.’”

I showed my husband Clem the picture on the front.

He remembered the man. He recalled the name. He had seen his mansion and another property in Onitsha that belonged to him. But he didn’t ever see the man himself!

He was six or seven when the Englishman died. To find that there was a whole book about him was intriguing for Clem. He said he’d like to meet the woman who wrote it!

Monopoly in Lagos

Monopoly, City of Lagos edition

Monopoly, City of Lagos edition

The New York Times had a piece a couple of days ago about a monopoly tournament in Lagos.

Board games are popular in Nigeria. Our children played ayo, a game involving dropping seeds into holes on a board, or on the ground as it’s often played. The goal is to get the most seeds.

“And the nation’s prowess at Scrabble went global this year when a Nigerian player, Wellington Jighere, captured the world championship,” the article reminded us.

“’The key to winning is just to have determination,’ said Elizabeth Braimoh, 13, the official winner and a student at Topfield College.”

The real estate market in Nigeria is chaotic, just as the tournament was. “Buying property is a tangled affair, plagued by bribery, scams and even machete-wielding gangsters,” the authors of the article said. You can read fascinating stories here.

I have the Lagos Monopoly game – come and play!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

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