Abuja — I feel compelled to write about the current brouhaha about a Hausa film actress, Maryam, whose home sex video with a local man, Bobo, has been much bandied in the media and beamed to thousands (millions?) of phones via Bluetooth and the web.
I learned of it at a shopping complex in Kano on 18 August; it was what everyone there was talking about. And before the day ran out, three of my friends had called to talk about it. In the days following, it seemed to have captured the minds and tongues of everyone (Not being a film buff, I have little knowledge of Hausa film stars and the name did not ring a bell).
For all the self-righteous condemnation of the video, which has been expressed by people, thousands (millions?) have saved the video clip on their phones. (Go on, admit it, you probably have it on yours too). Despite the moral grandstanding, men and women have been saving the video clip to watch again and again at their convenience. What does that say about the society we have become?
If I did not know our hypocritical society, I would have been shocked that the focus of the condemnation has been Maryam and the blame placed squarely on her. I heard that some 'moralists' in Kano had planned to burn down the house she had been living in, save for the timely consideration of the fact that the house is rented and not owned. A friend of mine remarked that "the girl's life is finished" and this was echoed by many. "No one will marry her now" was another much made statement. "How could she have been so stupid?"
The sooner we begin calling a spade a spade (forgive my use of the expression) in Nigeria, the sooner we will begin to address the numerous social ills that are plaguing our society. Maryam did not commit the act alone. And Bobo was the one who insisted on the recording, despite her protests. Yet I do not hear anyone predicting that Bobo's life is finished. He, a married man with kids, has for the main part been left out of the equation.
It highlights the commonly held notion in Muslim societies (encouraged by many 'holy' men and the often repeated claim that the prophet (SAW) had said there will be more women in hell than men) that women are the sources and generators of sexual interest in men and should be covered from head to toe, to be seen and not heard. Women are cast as harbingers of sexual immorality. This attitude helps to conveniently absolve men of the need to practise control and self-restraint (or so they think).
My point is further illustrated by a story in the Daily Trust of Tuesday, 21 August, which stated that in the wake of the sex video scandal, a chief imam in Zamfara State had called for a ban on mobile phones for girls. According to the report, the imam is of the opinion that possession of mobile phones by girls "is leading to a total collapse of morals". No mention was made of the girl's sex partner in that report, even though it was actually his phone that was used, and he was the director and main cameraman of the video clip.
Sexual explorations are on the rise in Nigeria and, unfortunately, often engaged in without protection against infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS (as in the case of the video in question). The pair put themselves at the risk of contracting serious infections in flagrant disregard of the myriad sensitisation programmes of the government and other agencies.
Bobo, being a married man (not to Maryam) therefore committed adultery. I wonder how many other sex partners he has and can only hope that he has not passed on any diseases he might have picked up to his wife. What a selfish and cruel man, to put his family at such a risk. If his wife is smart, she would leave him now before he subjects her to a life of drug dependency and possible misery. No man (or woman) is worth that.
I learned that the video was discussed at a Kano State House of Assembly sitting, and Maryam roundly condemned. The uproar and self-righteous indignation expressed over the issue is almost laughable. I say laughable because we are a nation that selects known adulterers as leaders (think of some current and past top government officials). One such 'leader' who fathered children out of wedlock has, on more than one occasion, been dubbed Special Guest of Honour at religious events (I can only assume that his power and stolen wealth made people cast a blind eye); and there are many more examples. How can this happen if the issue of sexual morality is a serious one for us? Obviously, it is not.
Stories abound of public figures who, not knowing what to do with all the monies they have stolen from Nigerian public coffers, organise orgies, threesomes, etc. with young women old enough to be their daughters or granddaughters. Then they make a show of going to church on Sundays or the Friday prayers. After all, God is ever-forgiving (except of women... those jezebels).
Any wonder that our youth today are falling off the tracks when there is dire lack of suitable role models in our society? Living in Kano as I do, sometimes I feel that I would sooner raise children in the western world; such is the level of secret and unspoken decadence in the city, well hidden beneath the veil of 'morality'.
One can say that what matters today is form and not substance, a way of superficial living where people present one image to the outside world, but carry on with secret lives that are at odds with what they portray; and that seems to be acceptable. Therefore, on that premise, Maryam's crime is that her own secret life is now in the open for all to see.
As for the act itself: hands up all the men and women over the age of 21 who have never had sex with anyone other than their lawfully married spouse. Hmmm, I can see a straggle of hands raised above the multitude of heads.
Do not get me wrong, I am not justifying it. But let him or her who is without fault cast the first stone. If we would like to make a positive difference in our society, we should spend less time condemning and more time mentoring our youth to instil the self-confidence they need to withstand peer pressures as they develop and learn that older does not necessarily mean wiser. To Maryam, I say, learn from this experience. And keep your head up. Now, can we all delete that sex video and get on with our own lives?
May God protect us, ameen.