(Published in The PUNCH on Monday, September 17, 2018)
I’m not a woman wrapper. I identify, in the main, with the postulations of Prof Chinweizu Ibekwe, the 75-year-old controversial Nigerian critic, essayist, poet and journalist, who, in his book, “Anatomy of Female Power,” affirms that women are pretty much smarter and more devious than men. Analyzing ‘female power’, Chinweizu opines that men are just a bunch of macho puppets on strings manipulated by women – from the cradle to the grave. Really, I don’t want to begin a debate over who actually rules the world between men and women because I don’t want my mind to wander back to the Garden of Eden where Adam defied God’s personal instruction for the sweet talk of Eve.
Last week, I temporarily suspended my view about women’s primordial machinations in a male-dominated world, where misogynistic odds are unfavorably stacked against them. I suspended my views about female trickery and took sides with the actions of Serena Williams and Kemi Adeosun because rather than feel annoyance against them as some people did, I felt empathy. In a discussion yesterday, a US-based friend, Segun Richard Adeyina, accused me of being held captive by the kittenishness of the daughters of Eve. I disagree. The Ikere Ekiti-born Adeyina went ahead to say that a female can never emerge as US President because the male folk have now seen through their guile, and realized they’ve given women too much powers. Again, I disagree. Hilary Clinton got 2.9m votes more than President Donald Trump. I agree, however, that like a remote control sparks life into a TV screen, women control subtly while men control brutally – causing fission in societal fabric. I’m not one to side with brutes neither would I raise an eyebrow against laws deboning beasts. Take it or leave it: man is the barrel; woman is the trigger. When the gun booms, the barrel is praised, nobody sees the silent trigger.
Born on March 9, 1967, Kemi Adeosun was already 14 when Serena Williams came into the world on September 26, 1981. In the pedophilic eyes of some lawmakers in the country, however, Kemi, at 14, was ripe enough to mother Serena, but thank God, she was born and raised in faraway London while Serena was born in Michigan, in climes where child abuse isn’t a state art. Kemi, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance up till last week, got educated at the University of London and the University of East London, qualifying as a chartered accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in 1994. She became Manager, Internal Audit, London Underground, and Prism Consulting between 1994 and 2000 before joining PricewaterhouseCoopers, London, as Senior Manager in 2000. In 2002, she rose to the post of Financial Controller, Chapel Hill Denham Management, and later became the managing director. Kemi isn’t an empty-headed, opportunistic sex-thing as many believe. And Serena needs no introduction.
If you missed the news, both Serena and Kemi passed through the eye of the needle last week with Serena being the first to come under the weak lashes of public opprobrium after she had altercations with chair umpire Carlos Ramos during her game against another woman of color, Haitian-Japanese Naomi Osaka, in the final of the US Open in New York, penultimate Saturday, while Kemi, in a most unexpected but honorable move, resigned over her fake National Youth Service Corps exemption letter and got some public bashing.
I’ll discuss Serena first because her meltdown preceded Kemi’s, as she smashed down her racquet on the hard court and called out the veteran Ramos, whose high-handed decisions in the final, reverberated in global echoes of sexist and racial condemnations. Volumes of articles have been written on Ramos’ points and game deductions in the second and decisive set of the stormy encounter with the mother of one-year-old Olympia Ohanian receiving global sympathy amid a sprinkle of thumbs-down, however. September holds a special allure for Serena who shares the same birth month with her daughter just as tying up with Margaret Court on 24 grand slam titles in the same month was a perfect way to return to the circuit after stepping aside for a year to sire Olympia. But Ramos left Serena’s September in ruins. In all her professional career, Serena, like her elder sister, Venus, has been subjected to sexist and racist abuse since she was a youngster hitting tennis balls in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, California.
The issue of sexism raised by Serena was highlighted by the in-match pep talk given to Australian male player Nick Kyrgios by chair umpire Mo Lahyani during a second-round match against Frenchman P.H. Herbert, in the 2018 US Open. Lahyani had said, “I want to help you…I’ve seen your matches, you’re great for tennis. I can see that. I know this is not you.” Neither Lahyani nor Kyrgios was reprimanded by the USTA, organizers of US Open, but the association was quick to fine Serena $17,000 for code violations after being overly penalized for her coach’s gesticulation, racquet smashing and verbal abuse – offences which male players like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe were reputed for, and for which Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are legendary. Male players swear and wear anything but Serena was barred by the French Tennis Federation from wearing the Black Panther-inspired body compression suit she wore to the 2018 French Open, despite it being designed to help prevent blood clot.
In the same breath, French player, Alize Cornet, received a penalty for temporarily removing her shirt on court and inadvertently flashing her sport bra – another offence male athletes commit without being penalized. Former world No 1 and 18 grand slam winner, Chris Evert, said the “umpire should have warned Serena about verbal abuse before penalizing her,” even as another former world Number 1, Billy Jean King, described Serena as a victim of ‘abuse of power’. The ex-wife of TV talk show personality, Larry King, accused Ramos of involving himself in the end result of the match.
The viral cartoon by an Australian newspaper depicting Serena as an overweight, implacable black baby throwing tantrums on court injected the tempestuous drama with a heavy dose of racism even as Osaka, the black-haired champion, was wrongly depicted as a blonde. On the whole, Serena ignited a heartwarming flint when she consolingly put her arm on Osaka’s shoulder and urged the angry crowd to stop booing, saying Osaka won. Thanks to her environment, Serena, with the eyes of the world on her, openly confronted the perceived ‘thief’, who ‘stole’ her ‘point’.
Since the return of democracy in 1999, Kemi stands out as another minister to resign her appointment after investigations showed that her NYSC exemption certificate is fake – Prof Adenike Grange being the first to resign in similar circumstances in 2008 after some directors in her ministry allegedly shared N300m unspent funds instead of returning it to the treasury at the end of the year.
What happened to Kemi could have happened to anyone. Despite her influence, she was still conned by the Nigerian system and set up for ridicule. Ordinarily, she doesn’t need to pay to get an exemption letter, but we all know the type of an unworkable country we run where getting a whiff of fresh air is owed to benevolent political spirits. I was moved by her admittance that she inadvertently submitted the same exemption letter for scrutiny when she was appointed commissioner in Ogun.
Certificate forgers in the legislative, executive and judiciary arms of governments across the country would be alarmed by Kemi’s moral courage; they would wonder why she resigned when the heat was petering out on the controversy. Ordinarily, Kemi should be prosecuted, but I won’t support such a call because her resignation is an oasis in the desert of impunity called Nigeria.