by Demola Rewaju
We as menfolk are descended from a long line of ancestors who associated masculinity with violence – Chinua Achebe’s most enduring character, Okonkwo, was a study in the expressiveness of a man’s violence. He not only reveled in violence but hated with a passion any resort to diplomacy or negotiations as a sign of weakness. From his childhood, he associated everything his father did with weakness and in trying to prove his manhood, he committed the moral sacrilege of killing a young boy who called him ‘father’. By the time nemesis would catch up with him, he had beaten his wife during peace week when violence was prohibited and later killed someone accidentally for which crime he was punished. Eventually, he killed one of the colonialists and chose to hang himself rather than face the punishment for his crime.
On the other hand is the cowboy song by Kenny Rogers about a guy named Tommy who was popularly called ‘Yellow’. His father was punished for what the listener can assume was violent crimes and he instilled in the boy an abhorrence for violence. He never got into any of those scuffles that men get into sometimes and that’s why he was called ‘yellow’ but when three men raped his wife, he chose to fight and he beat the perpetrators in a local bar.
Looking back at the Chidi Lloyd saga where he thoroughly beat some of the anti-Amaechi lawmakers, I remember how some of us in activism back in the day were raised not to shirk from violence especially in the defence of what we believe in. OAU, Ife students that lived in the famous Awo Hall would not claim ignorance of the ‘maximum shishi’ principle which spread to other states like Ado-Ekiti where I was. We were taught that a man isn’t a man unless he has something to live for and must be prepared to defend his beliefs even in the face of death. When lawmakers resort to violence in Abuja or in Port-Harcourt or even Ogun state as was the case some years back, I tend to sit on the fence. If we cannot exchange blows at that level, we may as well abandon our rights to leadership and keep up the charade of a padi-padi arrangement.
It is with violence against women that I usually take a major exception to what some men do. Men who wouldn’t survive one round with the ageing Bash Ali or an area tout, men who would dive for cover when Chidi Lloyd reaches for the mace and smashes it ceaselessly into a colleagues head suddenly turn to Jackie Chan when the enemy is their wife or a lady. Such men should have gone to the secondary school I went to, a stone throw from the old ghetto of Shitta and a dog’s stroll from the old money of Adeniran Ogunsanya. It was there that I saw girls who would beat you silly without breaking a sweat. I remember one particular girl (now my friend on facebook) who once dealt with me thoroughly when I tried to stand up to her and break away from this strange habit she had of hitting my head from the back as though it were a table-tennis ball. Actually, I remember this other Akwa-Ibom chic who was the second girl I ever fought with and by this time, I had learnt that it was better to lose a fight by using your belt to whip her. Belt or no belt, she b*tch slapped the living daylight out of me before someone took mercy on her and saved her from my useless belt. I had an excuse at least: if I had used my hands, I would have killed her. At an afterschool study centre in those days, I once saw an Igbo girl in a fight with a guy bend down and grip his manhood with her teeth (I swear, I’m not lying) as the guy tried to wrest her head away from his body, uprooting several fake hair from her head as she held on with tenacity until the guy gave up, started pleading and other guys intervened. The hapless dude couldn’t wait to enter the toilet to check what damage had been done as he only wobbled to the lobby section to check himself: lesson taught, lesson learnt.
‘Men don’t fight women’ is the creed we learnt many years after (or we were forced to learn), especially the woman they have sworn to protect. You know those times when a lady gets in your face and seems determined to provoke you to beat her? That’s the test of manhood: the test to determine if you can rein in your strength in the face of provocation. I think some women like to know that the man they are with is one who can take a stand physically and fight for his rights sometimes. In a society where something as simple as dancing in a club can result in fisticuffs, a man must know how to throw the first punch and pick race when the other guy breaks a bottle and intends to stab you. There’s no meaning to life if you can’t get angry and find the strength to stand your ground when necessary.
It would be much easier if it were only bottles (that’s the Shitta in me talking, forgive me) but these days, brothers settle differences with guns and the thought is a scary one – getting shot even before you can take your Muhammed Ali stance for a good old roughing up. Violence is never a solution, we have to say this clearly. But if you can’t fight for what you believe in especially when it matters most, I think your manhood is open to a little doubt.
But maybe that’s just the thug in me talking…
Demola Rewaju is a writer with a background in political history and activism developed during his days as a student in the University of Ado Ekiti. He is also a real estate consultant and he blogs from www.demolarewaju.com
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.