‘Pretty Mike’ As A Nigerian Parable

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‘Pretty Mike’ As A Nigerian Parable

‘Pretty Mike’ As A Nigerian Parable – Abimbola Adelakun

After weeks of chinwagging over Pretty Mike (Mike Eze-Nwalie Nwogu) and the stunt he pulled – putting two masked women on a dog leash and taking them to public events – the police finally had him stopped. As media report hinted, it was the Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, that asked that Pretty Mike be picked up for such an offensive treatment of women. The immediate former Lagos State Police Commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, said the case would be treated as a “criminal investigation” because what Pretty Mike did was not merely a crime but also “a dehumanising act.”

This piece was written by Abimbola Adelakun. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

Of his actions, Pretty Mike himself said it was a political critique of Nigeria and its debasing treatment of women; that he thought staging a live performance would attract more attention to the cause he was promoting than if he merely talked. If Pretty Mike is to be wholly believed (and from his interview, I found no reason to doubt his sincerity), then he should get an A for finding a spectacular mirror to reflect Nigeria’s shortcomings. Pretty Mike talked about child marriage, domestic abuse, and the several other ways our culture represses women and said he decided a graphic representation of repression would prod our benumbed collective conscience more effectively than a verbal campaign. The question now is, did such a raw representation of the misogyny latent in our culture cause male chauvinists to stop and reflect, or the point eluded them?

Pretty Mike Released From Police Custody

I admit I found it baffling that Pretty Mike’s unattenuated display of female dehumanisation provoked a visceral reaction whereas ours is a society where misogyny is a lived experience of many women, especially the ones unprotected by education and social class. From the domestic realm where women are subject to violence by men who want to enforce their “constituted authority” to the public sphere where threats of violence and actual violence are used to keep women subjugated, there is a lot about Nigeria and its social constitution that are anti-women. So what was it about Pretty Mike’s action that jarred the public when in reality, female dehumanisation is a norm?

While I praise the social conscience the former Lagos CP displayed on the Pretty Mike issue, I also think it is important not to get lost in the symbolism of Pretty Mike’s actions and miss the stuff of reality: Nigeria Police stations are one of the most violent and anti-women spaces in Nigeria. Ideally, the police station should be a safe space where a defenceless woman can walk in to report cases of physical and/or sexual violence against her. The police station should be a place where trained police officers, displaying utmost professional ethics and empathy, pursue justice on behalf of a victim. If a woman was held in jail overnight, she should not have to fear sexual assault from male police officers who cannot hold the beast in them in check. In reality however, police stations do not live up to these ideals and the evidence is not exactly hidden. A 2014 damning report on Nigeria Police stations by Amnesty International (titled, Welcome to Hell Fire: Torture and Other Ill-Treatment in Nigeria) identified female rape as one of the instruments of torture police deploy against women when they have them in their custody.

Pretty Mike’s repelling show, if we look at it more closely, is actually a parable that should teach us that a society that dehumanises women does not benefit men in the long run either. In the video where Pretty Mike put the women on a leash, one also sees the irony of his act: he is as much a slave of the women as the women are his slave. To keep the women on the leash, he has to hold tight to that leash. He cannot let go for even a minute to enjoy himself at public gatherings because he would then have to relinquish his hold on the women. His own personal freedom is short-circuited as long as he holds the women down with that leash. As a master, he is enslaved to his slaves. The women, as his symbolic slaves, are also masters over him. There, therefore, lies a lesson for societies with social structures that subjugate women to second class citizenship.

When women are repressed, menfolk themselves will not progress because their freedom is ultimately tied to that of the women they cannot stand to see as counterparts. It is no coincidence that most societies that dehumanise women because they consider them inferior are also Third World. They are also the ones that tend to rank low on developmental indexes. Societies that have evolved a consciousness that does away with outdated ideas of gender, whether those misogynistic attitudes are religious or historical, concomitantly evolve other sophisticated ideas that result in social progressions. The men in societies who rigidly hold on to dogmatic ideas of male superiority are the ones who, like Pretty Mike, are themselves held down by the enforcement of the inequality they perpetrate.

It is important to keep making this point especially because some religious leaders like to pass off gender inequality as a value dictated by their religion and which cannot be altered for any reason. One recent example is the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Saad Abubakar, and his rejection of the gender equality bill. The Sultan’s argument was that a bill that seeks to equally share inheritance between male and female scions is antithetical to Islam. While the Sultan is free to hold his personal opinion on his religion, when it comes to legislation that can affect the lives of millions of women – some of them not even born – he needs to be called out. Seventeen years into the new millennium, we can no longer wave religion as an excuse to deny women rights that should otherwise be basic. I am sure if every item – material and otherwise – that the Sultan adorns himself with were to be subjected to historic and cultural deconstruction, we will find that part of the philosophy that produced them are inherently antithetical to Islamic ideals. If religion has not stopped us from embracing cultural productions of societies that have embraced ideas of gender equality, why should we continue to hold on ourselves on a leash in the guise of protecting religious values?

What manner of mistake?

How does it happen that a Nigerian fighter jet would “mistakenly” drop a bomb over an IDP camp and more than 50 people would perish (and another 100 plus injured) just like that? How could such an unconscionable act of violence have happened to people who have suffered gross act of violence that has pushed them out of their homes and landed them in a refugee camp? What manner of incompetence led to such a massacre? Was it a matter of incompetence or a deliberate act of psychopathy by an officer?

President Muhammadu Buhari has, characteristically, put out a press release describing the unfortunate incident as “regrettable operational mistake” and then prayed for the soul of the dead. As much as he has said all the expected things, on this one, Nigeria needs to go beyond “regrets” and question how this must have happened. This incident deserves a far more serious enquiry than an aide’s scribble of a soulless apology. Nigeria bleeds every day and there does not seem to be a sense of moral urgency activated in dealing with the many incident of violence chipping away the edges of our national soul. From herdsmen violence to the killings in Southern Kaduna, Nigeria cannot survive this relentless slaughter of her own citizens. It is time to put off the automaton that drafts press releases in the wake of disasters and show some sense of humanity in dealing with these tragedies.

This piece was written by Abimbola Adelakun. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

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1 comment

  1. The ladies that he (Pretty Mike) put on dog leashes need the money so they have to degrade themselves to this extent… that is what poverty can cause.

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