The video recently posted by Hazel Onuo, also known as “Whitemoney,” is a most upsetting and parochial portrayal of Nigerian women.
In this video, the winner of Big Brother Naija ‘Shine Ya Eye’ Season 6 painted women as merchandise who answer to money without question. He later clarified that he directed the post at men, and their need to make money, but he still came across as suggesting that every woman has a price. In addition, saying, “No woman is out of your league, bro, just make money and create your own game, they’re gonna play,” only encouraged brothers to make money, without a hint as to the how? This is also unhelpful if not dangerous. This is a point that I will return to shortly.
Onuo’s comments raised a huge row. Many women in the entertainment sphere took him on for the reckless comment, and before long, issues degenerated into name-calling and worse.
But the guy wasn’t done. A few days later, he spoke with artiste Chinedu Emmanuel, otherwise known as Nedu. The latter, himself a purveyor of speculations about the sexual indiscretions of female artistes, goaded his guests into another attack on female integrity. This time, however, it was a more localised accusation about ladies who have been part of the BBN reality show. Here, he claimed that many of these ladies are solicitous to his rich friends. He also speculated that many of the women go into the reality show with the single intent of “showing off,” apparently to attract men.
It may be true that his colleagues desire his intervention in their desire for the patronage of men, but failure to resist the urge to keep this confidential tells a lot about the character of this kiss-and-tell man. If anyone comes to you with such requests, keep their secrets! On this front, Whitemoney and Nedu may seek alibis because they didn’t mention names, but that is even worse! It opens everyone up to suspicion and affects the public’s estimation of an entire class of Nigerian women.
But there are other points about the hypocrisy of these men. They claim that Nigerian ladies jump into the beds of wealthy men to make ends meet or match up to societal expectations. The question is, would this happen without demand and patronage from men? So, why don’t we talk about the men? Why don’t we talk about the anti-social, sometimes criminal, things that men do to either keep up appearances or lead a good life for real?
Why are the Nedus and Whitemoneys of this world not calling out toy boys who eat on the laps of cougars in this same country? Or they don’t know them? Why are they not talking about the rampant cases of advance fee fraud, yahoo yahoo, or ritual killing and kidnapping? Why isn’t there a focus on what men, who are desperate to heed Whitemoney’s call to create their “game,” do in the process? By the way, his call, which came without a cautionary note on the importance of hard work, honesty, respect for the rule of law, and the lives of Nigerians, sounds like an invitation to impunity. It is also one to which misguided people who see a model in the proponent of this idea, may latch on to with little pondering.
Does this mean that Nigeria does not have women whose god is money? Not at all. There are many women like that, just as there is abundance of such men in Nigeria and across the world.
Yet in Nigeria, there are world-class women in every sphere of life. Women who would measure up to any man and women to whom men defer exist everywhere in the world. It is the same across industries and sectors in Nigeria. In medicine, law, accounting, politics, academia, engineering, and even innovation, Nigerian women hold their own firmly. At every level of education, there are girls with first-class brains, making their families proud. Even in the very frustrating marketplace of unemployment in Nigeria, many girls of every age and generation refuse to “bow their heads to Baal,” as Christians would say. They hold on to the values they know and hope that things will one day get better, regardless of the temptation that Whitemoney and his rich friends assail them with.
But Nigerian leaders must worry about the epidemic of wealth addiction that has gripped the country’s soul. Lately, the craze for wealth has become so widespread that teenagers, who dream of big cars and personal mansions, slaughter, and kidnap, give up lovers, family members, and friends for rituals aimed at fostering wealth. Last year, there was the viral video of three teenagers who owned up to their desire to become fraudsters and ritual killers, all for money.
Of course, the first instinct is to blame the lack of parental care for this frightening situation. And that would be true. Parents are so taken by the need to survive that they no longer have the time or even the will to bring up their children with the right values. There are even stories of mothers coming together to seek spiritual protection for children known to be involved in criminal activities. These parents do not mind what their children do as long as they bring money home. It is the same with some parents who encourage their daughters to exhibit their bodies for money.
However, this is nothing but the social consequences of an uncaring country. One of the major crises of corruption, lack of fidelity to processes, and devaluation of values is the glorification of money and eventual degradation of society.
In his 1980 book, Wealth Addiction, the late American sociologist and playwright, Philip Slater, describes money as a powerful drug that weakens people and holds them away from freedom. Politicians have stolen the country so badly that the disparity between the rich and the poor not only widens, but has led to the total annihilation of the middle class. So poverty has become so endemic that everyone must struggle to survive.
Even then, they flaunt the ill-gotten wealth before the people they have impoverished and for whom they spare no thoughts. They promote an economy that has no safety net or support from the government. Most Nigerians earn monthly salaries, but they must pay rent for the year. Remunerations are poor, but families must send their children to school and pay hospital bills out of pocket. So, having money is an existential challenge in Nigeria, and therefore citizens are ready to do anything and everything to get a little more, become better than their peers and get wealth even if they have to step on others in their quests.
Nigeria’s new leaders must get to work on improving citizens’ living conditions. With access to the necessities of life—decent housing, transportation, health care delivery, and education for the children—this craze for wealth would fizzle out. Life will be more meaningful for all. Currently, money is the only true religion that many Nigerians understand, no matter what faith they practise. That is not a good place for a country to be.