My title is a play on the title of a play: Les mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tirésias), a 1903 play by French surrealist writer, Guillaume Apollinaire. Students of French literature will recall that Apollinaire coined the term ‘surrealism’ in his powerful preface to this play. The storyline is simple. Thérèse, a thoroughly submissive wife, gets tired of her subaltern condition. Her destiny is reversed when her breasts become disposable balloons and fly away. The now boobless Thérèse is transformed into a male character, Tirésias, who ties up her erstwhile husband, dresses him up as a woman, and sets out to conquer the world – the world of men! The story of Tirésias teaches patriarchy a few useful lessons it cannot afford to ignore. There is the powerful symbolism of breasts as a gender marker and as a sign of constructed inferiority. Take the breasts away in a priapic maneuver and all ‘dangling modifiers’ within sight are in danger! Watch those breasts! Keep them glued where they belong, lest the balls of history are taken out of your courts – and your bodies! That is the injunction every son of patriarchy hears in the story of Tirésias, generation after generation.
That is what President Umaru Yar’Adua and his handlers seem to hear every day, hence the extraordinary lengths they have gone to ensure that all breasts in
This is the boat that some Nigerian women began to rock gradually and insidiously under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Sensing opportunity in President Yar’Adua’s somnambulistic predisposition, they upped the ante and launched a full-scale invasion of the deadly male territory of corruption. First it was Iyabo Obasanjo, the former President’s daughter, who seemed determined to overthrow the troika of Babangida, Abacha, and her own father by becoming the contemporary face of corruption in
This was the worst nightmare for Yar’Adua and the boys. Suddenly, breasts seemed to appear from every direction, invading their territory. The boys were determined not to have the Tirésias scenario. They would teach Nigerian women a lesson.
Before the women reared their heads – or their breasts in this instance – into a territory Nigerian men have imagined and narrativized as male for decades, the rule of law, especially that part of it known as anti-corruption crusade, was enjoying a deserved vacation from the hot-headedness of the Nuhu Ribadu years. President Yar’Adua’s stolen mandate was bankrolled by some of the most gifted thieves in
Then the women got ideas about Tirésias and President Yar’Adua’s rule of law became gendered and double-faced. The slow and supportive side of the rule of law remained the exclusive property of the boys’ club while a much swifter and deadlier version was created for female upstarts and pretenders to the male territory of corruption. No breasts would be allowed to fly off rebellious chests in Yar’Adua’s
And now Onyiuke Okereke! This woman has chosen a bad time to catch the Tirésias bug. If you are a woman in