There’s a dance at the village square. All the correct babes in the village are shuffling feet on bead-adorned ankles, rolling ileke-bedecked yanshes, heaving untamed mammaries… in short, flaunting their skills. The unfortunate prince seated somewhere around his father then contrives to fall in love with the girl from the lowliest home in the village. Cue righteous indignation from his father, the king, his mother, the first of the many queens of the king, and the whole household. There are other examples and I’ll give you one more. You see, this particular girl is fine and all – omo toh set – but she sells akara and allied products at some junction. This boy is super rich (or at least his parents are) and he likes his dundun cum akara, like an Ibadan man likes his amala. There was a temptation to use “but” where “and” appears in that last sentence, but wealth and the eating of roadside delicacies are not mutually exclusive. I hear a certain governor (or president or something that I can’t recall now) used to park his considerable convoy by one of the roadside iyas and order up some boli and epa, or stuff like that. To “undigress”, the boy eventually ends up falling in love with more than this girl’s spicy akara, and falls in love with the girl herself, much to the chagrin of Mama Sunday (she has a better name in actual fact, one that befits her status as the wife of a wealthy man), the boy’s mother, who already has Susan, the drug addict daughter (Mama Sunday doesn’t know this) of Chief Chuks , who only recently returned from “Ahmayrika”, lined up for her boy. Sacre bleu! Ka ma gbo (It is unheard of).
Those two scenarios and a wide variety of them are scenes you would find in very many Nollywood and Gollywood movies. The amusing thing (at least to me) is that us who are beyond the confines of the fluorescent tube trap (it’s LCD and LED and 3D these days, mind) naturally take the sides of the underprivileged and the slighted. With hands on hips and legs apart, we shake an angry fist at the screen and ask: why do the rich discriminate against the poor? Do rich girls have one more set of boobs or an extra vagina that will slide out when they are tickled? He loves her and she loves him, why not let them be? Oh, we’ll toss in something about arranged marriages and then sit down to sip a cup of cold water to calm our frayed nerves. We’ve given our one for love, our one against discrimination and our one for class-crisscrossing hook-ups (of a permanent, at least as everyone hopes from the outset, nature).
What makes these emotional attachments and solidarities to the underdogs of love stories about societal class even more amusing to me is that these depictions are a reflection of real Naija life. Shock! Horror! Forget that Nollywood often demonstrates an uncanny ability to turn good stories into crude jokes, but these things do happen. A lot of us have probably dismissed a lot of people (girls in my case because I’m a little wary of anything remotely resembling a pole coming near the only orifice in my posterior, except it is faeces) we may have dated because of some interesting considerations. For instance, you could never date that recharge card girl somewhere on your street because her education isn’t exactly up to scratch. Even if Cupid shot me a million arrows, it’d be extremely hard for me to date someone whose spoken English is gbakansubu (take one and fall) because I cannot allow said girl to de-rep me in the community of friends. My father will certainly feel my temperature if I brought such a girl home and to carry out a conversation in English becomes a huge ask. Some of you are preconditioned not to marry from certain parts, even within the same nation! Take the Yoruba nation for instance; it is common to hear that Ekiti people should not marry Ijebu people because of God-knows-what reason. If you feel like that towards other people who speak the same general language as you, I’m not surprised when some parents have explicitly laid it out already: ti won ba bi e da, ko mu omo Ibo wa sile yi o (Bring an Ibo person to this house and see what happens). And so it is in other parts of the country, where it can almost be “sacrebleulous” to bring someone certain tribes and introduce them as the prospective six to your five. Children have been disowned for flouting these standing orders.
So, next time Tonto Dikeh is playing an impoverished, “uncultured” young girl that Emeka Ike’s father, Pete Edochie, is refusing to let him get married to, stand up, spread your legs, put your hands on your waist, take a deep breath and ask yourself: what would I do? Answer truthfully too. Adios.