It is quite unlike me to shill for a television series, especially when it is not one that is Nigerian or seems particularly relevant to our daily lives as Nigerians. But in light of our current recession, global events (including but not limited to white Americans overwhelmingly voting in a racist, bigoted megalomaniac as president of the free world), and near fanatical obsession with which the average Nigerian approaches faith and religion, science fiction writer Margaret Atwood’s 32 year old dystopian novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has never been more relevant.
In the book Atwood imagines a world where after several natural and man-made catastrophes, generations of genetic mutations has left the majority of the world’s women sterile or prone to give birth to physically or mentally challenged children. In light of those events, citizens of America looking for an explanation turn to religion and begin to adopt a religious militancy, slowly challenging government and social functions as more and more people join the new religious rebel movement. Before long, government is overthrown and the religious militancy sets up its own ‘utopian’ government independent of the outside world, and sets to the all important job of making sure the leaders of this ‘new world’ have children to succeed them. Any dissenters and ‘deviants’ are killed, women only exist to be wives, or give birth or work in domestic servitude.
Sounds a lot like the where Nigeria is headed right now.
We have all the structures in place for a Handmaid’s Tale to play out in Nigeria. A recession that is largely ignored by our middle classes while our predominantly poor masses struggle to survive. Mega churches that prioritize wealth and image over everything else and indoctrinate their members with a cocktail of propaganda and bandwagon coercion and promise of prosperity of their own. Let’s not forget that these churches are already building their own interconnected infrastructure that includes schools, businesses, health care and basic amenities operate largely out of the purview of the government and its law.
We are already hearing stories of gender based discrimination and in rare cases violence against women coming out of these institutions. How long before we start seeing women forced to quit their jobs and give up their sexual agency so some vision or prophecy might be fulfilled with children.
You should read the HandMaid’s Tale, or watch it (there’s a new show if you’re not inclined to read novels), especially if you are a woman who enjoys her sexual agency. You should know what might be lying on the other side of this religious fanaticism we shrug off so cavalierly.