LOUD WHISPERS: The Timelessness Of Scandal


I just came across a video and story of how a man somewhere in Ghana was making advances on a sixteen-year-old school girl on a public bus. The girl was trying to avoid him but he was persistent. There were two older women on the bus listening. When they had heard enough, they asked the man to stop. He was rude to them and told them to mind their own business. The women thought otherwise. It takes a village to raise a child, they decided. So, they descended on the would-be predator and started to beat him up. It is unlikely that the man concerned will have the effrontery to approach a minor in public again. Hands up to those wonderful women! It is however very hard these days to know what should be public business and what should remain private.

 On the one hand, we believe that privacy is very important to us as Africans, we never put our business out there for all to consume. On the other hand, we hardly ever keep things to ourselves. When I was growing up, even if it was merely whispers, everyone knew what was going on with everyone else. On the street where we lived, there was a tailor (let me call him Bayo) who was having an affair with a married woman who sold provisions. The woman had a son who looked so much like Bayo, that the mischievous ones on the street would call him ‘Omo Bayo’ (Bayo’s son). There was a mechanic who was rumoured to be having an affair with another married woman, and her husband allegedly laced his wife with ‘Magun’ (a well-known charm to guard against adultery). As a result, the ‘invading’ mechanic had an erection that refused to subside (the medical term is Priapism, but let us not let medical facts get in the way of juicy gossip) and he had to be ferried back to his village for treatment. Then there was the case of one of our neighbours who had three wives. The youngest wife, who was a trader who imported textiles, gave birth to a baby that was obviously mixed race. When the scandal erupted, the mother of the wife claimed her daughter had been to England recently and that is why she had a baby that looked like her white hosts. To the best of my knowledge, the woman remained married to her husband and the sun still continued to rise every day. Concerned family members gave up and started calling the new addition to the family ‘Oyinbo’. There was the day our peace was disturbed by a wife screaming at the top of her voice after catching her husband in bed with his Aunt. One of my father’s friends came to report his wife to my father. She had built a house without his knowledge! A five-bedroom house! My father summoned his friend’s wife to settle the matter. Not only did the this very mild-mannered wife admit that she had built a house, she calmly used the opportunity to inform my father (and his friend) that she was moving in to her own house because she has high blood pressure courtesy of her husband of twenty-five years and she wants to live the rest of her days with peace of mind. According to her, she was tired of firing maids because her husband could not be trusted to behave himself. The straw that broke the camel’s back was that one of the maids got pregnant.  For once in his life, my father was speechless. True to her word, she lived the rest of her days in her own house. I could go on and on. Scandals in our communities are nothing new. We have always had errant and deviant behaviour. Men impregnating their maids or sisters in law. Women pinning children of other men on their husbands. Incest in families. Men have always behaved like entitled creeps and women have always played their own tricks. As the Yoruba say, ‘Áà rí irú eléyìí rí, ẹ̀rù l’a fi ń dá b’ọlọ́rọ̀’ roughly translated as ‘There is nothing new under the sun’.

Of course, in those days there was no social media, so scandals were localized, but it did not take away from the fact that S..T happened.  It was expected that acts of indiscretion should be considered too shameful to bring to the public domain. Family meetings for the purposes of fact-finding and reconciliation was the furthest such information usually went. These days, the information is out there for millions of strangers to see. The scandals have been coming fast and furious lately, one after the other, accompanied by the usual commentaries online run by judgmental busy-bodies.

Even though many of us are alarmed at the rate people use social media as a substitute for good friends, family, a sympathetic spiritual guide or trained therapists, we have come to accept that it is a place many turn to in desperate need of support, solace or attention. Once the private is made public, the public then take it upon themselves to respond to the information available to them. There is often very little by way of context, just lots of information that is way too much to be shared with strangers. Like the two women who rose up to defend the young girl who was being molested on the bus in Ghana, it would be nice if the public could rise to defend the defenceless and the voiceless. Many of the cases in the public domain recently might not have been typical victims, but they come across as hurt, angry, disillusioned, sad, desperate, and therefore deserving of empathy and compassion. We can argue about the desirability of social media as an arbiter of personal problems till the cows come home, it is an argument many are deaf to, so let us not belabour the issue. In place of the whispers and innuendo that fueled gossip on our streets when we were young, we now have the modern equivalent of town-criers.

Scandals are as old as the hills, they have simply evolved over time. People make mistakes, they do things they are not proud of, it simply makes them human beings. When we sit on our moral high ground to pass judgement (often without all the facts of the matter) it does not make us better, it just makes us potential hypocrites. If we know of someone going through a hard time, let us do what we can to support them. Let us not be the ones to urge them to put their business out there, and if they do so anyway, let us still do what we can to coax them away from such a toxic space. We cannot stop the multitude of fingers itching to jump in to comment on the misfortunes of others, but we can keep our own fingers and lips still.

Another way of looking at some of the recent issues ‘trending’ online is that there are those who will do anything to acquire or hold on to fame. If that is the game being played, then it needs to be understood for the cynical act of survival that it is. If political, business and religious leaders are concerned about the unwholesome engagement of young people with these antics, then something needs to be done to create better opportunities and choices.

People have been asking, ‘Where are the role models? Why are there so many young people being led astray?’ The wrong questions will always produce undesirable answers. The role models are not just the eighty something Grandmas and Grandpas who have led ‘spotless’ lives. The hardworking male student who ties Gele over the weekends to make money is a role model too, and so is the young female student who works as a bricklayer to earn money for her fees.   It is not only young people who are being led astray, there are many adults who cannot tell right from wrong and cannot be expected to pass the required information on to the next generation. We should be asking what kind of values we need to bind the fabric of our communities together. The values of hard work, empathy, compassion, honesty, respect, humility, kindness. The more we invest in these values, the better prepared we will be to face the next human frailty that presents itself online or offline. By then, we would have learnt that we are all human beings with limitations, from generation to generation.

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is the First Lady of Ekiti State, and she can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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8 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: The Timelessness Of Scandal

  1. Femi Diipo September 8, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    Shit indeed does happen and no be today. There also have always been very judgemental and sentimental people, the sad part is that social media have now given most of them a platform and they can’t help but shade other people all the time.
    We need to imbibe common virtues and do better and yes, the onus is on all of us

    Reply
  2. Olaniyi James September 9, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    This is so true, I have always said it that nothing is new. All this orisirisi we are seeing now na social media cause am o. Hmm. No one is spotless.

    Reply
  3. Maureen September 9, 2021 at 1:00 pm

    we need to invest in the right things. hmm

    Reply
  4. Ejiro September 9, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    Gistlover contributed to our own that’s why we think it’s never happened before. Thank you for shedding light as usual ma. May God help us. There is indeed, nothing new under the sun.

    Reply
  5. OluwaYinka Oluyemi September 12, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    Nothing is new under the sun.

    Reply
  6. Faniran Oluwayinka September 12, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    That’s true. Everything seems or should I say feel alright nowadays.
    Thanks for sharing ma’am.
    We as females should also cultivate the habit of standing up for our fellow women.

    Reply
  7. Oluwatosin September 12, 2021 at 9:53 pm

    It has always been so from the beginning, civilisation, social media and even feminism has louded this ills. As women we are to be worthy examples to our sons and daughters. To be able to break this terrible circle. We commit our future into the Almighty’s hands.

    Reply
  8. Oluwabukola Ayelabowo September 13, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Women are more daring this days.. Boldly ignoring the “it’s never done” tag

    Reply

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