Pliny the Elder gave his folks in ancient Rome one of the most famous sayings about Africa: Ex Africa semper aliquid novi (from Africa always something new)! The Romans were in too much of a hurry. They spoke several centuries too early. They should have waited until 1914 for the birth of Chief Obafemi Awolowo's "mere geographical expression". They would have been able to declare: ex Nigeria semper aliquid novi. There is just never a dull moment in good old Naija. Never a lull in our endless supply of farce and that is precisely what makes Nigeria tick. Last week, we entertained the world by unveiling the first goat ever to be arrested for armed robbery in the history of humanity, sorry, I meant to say history of caprinity.
We have followed up on this remarkable feat by giving the world what US-based Nigerian scholar, Valentine Ojo, would call an unbeatable "weekend relaxation treat". We have now invented the world's most effective formula for conflict resolution, courtesy of Ambassador Segun Olusola's African Refugee Foundation. Here's Daily Champion of Friday January 30, 2009 on the latest first from Nigeria: "FOUNDER of the African Refugee Foundation (ARF), Ambassador Olusegun Olusola last weekend conferred the agents of peace of ARF on 41 winners of female virginity contest. He said that the award was his own way of celebrating the 41 virgins, who participated in second Nigerian virgin girls celebration organised last year by Princess Adediran Adunni in Lagos. Amb. Olusola said the awardees whose ages ranged from 15 and above, have demonstrated that they can be trusted in resolving conflicts as volunteers of the ARF (my emphasis). While encouraging the girls to remain chaste as long as necessary, the ARF boss advised young people especially girls to live a pious life that would be useful to them and their community. Meanwhile, the 41 virgins would also enjoy free gyneacological care if they remained chastise (sic)."
I had to read the report several times to make sure that the bone-chilling freezing temperature of Ottawa wasn't doing funny things to my brain. Then I saw the same news report in other newspapers. Teenage girls as young as fifteen are becoming certified crisis managers and agents of peace in Nigeria? Just by keeping their hymens unruffled? Well, I have some suggestions on how these national assets could be deployed for optimal results. President Barack Obama has just appointed Mr. George Mitchell as his Special Envoy to the Middle East. In fact, Mr. Mitchell left for the region only last week to try and broker a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Mitchell should be fired immediately. The Nigerian Ambassador to the United States should seek an emergency audience with President Obama and tell him that Nigeria now has an African solution to the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Five of our newly-minted virgin conflict managers should be deployed in the Middle East as President Obama's peace envoys. We are left with thirty-six. Charity begins at home. We must send a virgin to each of the thirty-six conflict-prone states of the Federation. Subsequent batches of certified virgins should be deployed in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Congo.
We must prepare for potential drawbacks. We have been producing too many virgins in Nigeria lately. Perhaps we are manufacturing virgins out of some desperate desire to have something that works in Nigeria? If we can't have sustainable democracy, if we can't have sustainable development, we can at least have sustainable hymenization. First, Covenant University insisted on subjecting all her female undergraduate students to virginity tests until the Nigerian Universities Commission, pushed by public outrage, called the Christian Ayatollah owners of that University to order. Now, Ambassador Olusola's African Refugee Foundation has dabbled into the business of manufacturing pubescent virgins. My fear is that Nigeria may become the destination of the ghost of every ambitious suicide bomber who blows himself up in the Middle East in anticipation of the reward of seventy-six virgins in paradise. Why blow yourself up and travel all the way to paradise when your ghost can just migrate to Nigeria and be rewarded here on earth with the NAFDAC-certified virgins we are producing left, right, and centre? Forget Al-Janna. The reward of martyrdom is now in Lagos. I won't be surprised if we start reading reports about sightings of Arab-looking ghosts and apparitions in Nigeria.
A feminist backlash is inevitable. I can picture the angry faces of some of my feminist sisters in Africanist scholarship when they read about this latest assault on womanhood by a Nigerian patriarchy clever enough to instrumentalize a woman, Princess Adediran Adunni, who organized the virginity pageant on behalf of men. Ambassador Olusola should brace himself up for the coming storm. The only way to prevent this is for his Foundation to ensure gender equity by subjecting pubescent boys to virginity tests and making them peace envoys if they pass the test. If we can turn a human being into a goat and arrest it for armed robbery, it shouldn't be too difficult for us to devise scientific ways of determining if a teenage boy has eaten bearded meat or not, abi?