By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
Last week, the otherwise serene but joyful, smooth transition of power in Anambra State was marred by an ugly, shameful brawl between two high profile, supposedly dignified women of Igbo extraction. It turned out that were anything but dignified and noble. Highly placed persons who throw decorum to the wind in a public space simply prove that they have a poor perception of their role as models for the people that they lead. And they ought to be called out for their ‘agbaya’ behaviour and their ignominious display of juvenile rascality in their old age!
The two women – one, the outgoing First Lady of the state, Mrs. Ebele Obiano (55+), reputed to be abrasive and hyperactive, once reported, while ‘half clad’, to have ‘hit people with broken bottles’, and it took combined efforts of men of the DSS and Police to stop her. The other, former beauty queen, widow of War Lord Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu himself the physically attractive Mrs. Bianca Ojukwu (54 years), the lady who decades ago defied her father Chief Christian Onoh and married the love of her life, a man old enough to be her father. It is reported that Ebele taunted Bianca with words unbecoming and the latter responded by dishing out a dirty slap on the face of the obviously surprised Ebele.
We have not heard from Receiver Ebele. But Slapper Bianca has given a version of the shameful misconduct that in a sane clime will be treated as assault and battery. ‘While I ignored her verbal onslaught as advised by people sitting around me’, Slapper Bianca reportedly wrote, ‘I requested twice that she refrains from touching me with her hands. She proceeded to do so yet again and tried to touch my head and remove my head-tie. It was at that point I stood up to defend myself and gave her a dirty slap to stop her from attacking me’. Sometimes, great people are not wise, says the good book. You slapped a First Lady to prevent her from attacking you? Not even a kindergarten child would offer such a puerile defence or explanation!
Sadly, the focus of that day has not been the epoch-making speech of Governor Chukwuma Soludo. Bad news travels faster than good news. ‘The Dirty Slap at Awka’, a fitting title for a work of fiction has gone viral. Different memes and punchlines have been creatively and mischievously developed by Nigerians. Most of it not salutary. ‘How to slap a Bitch! ‘If you Ebele me, I will Bianca you! ‘If two women dey fight, na the wowo one go dey at fault- Warri proverb! ‘I’m not surprised, her father as governor slapped a Bishop! ‘Biancanized Slap- A hot slap that sets one ablaze! And the bomb of them all with vulgar connotations: ‘Now I understood it when Patience Jonathan said ‘Ojukwu is dead, but his manhood is still alive! And many more! Nigerians have a penchant for creating laughter out of the tragically absurd.
Almost a week after the ugly incident, the rumpus caused by the two viragos have dominated the headlines. Not Soludo. Not Obiano. Not the continuous victory of the entrenchment of sanity in the once volatile political terrain that was Anambra. Do we remember how Dr. Ngige was kidnapped as governor of the State? Do we remember Okija Shrine and the antics of one scoundrel per excellence whose name equals the acronym of one of the oldest banks in Nigeria, the bank owned by Tony Elumelu?
Public brawls are often associated with the hoi polloi, the agbero and area boys and girls of city life. To exchange physical blows in public is an indication of lack of self-discipline, poor character, and a display of infantilism. A variant of such fights sometimes erupts in parliament by some men in that dignified chamber. It is often over strongly held views. Women of the upper class, that delicate gender, are expected to restrain themselves from exchanging blows. Being upper class in education and character, such persons ought to show restraint. As for Bianca who was once a beauty queen, etiquette obliges not to engage in acts that could bring the crown to disrepute. To be beautiful in the exterior and carry the character of a motor park tout is the greatest contradiction in character formation. To be a First lady and cause a brawl during a State Event is unbecoming and such a woman should not be referred to as First Lady in the annals of Anambra history. Former Governor Sir Obiano as I know him is a gentleman. If his wife has been as terrible as she has been painted, he must have endured her excesses with great patience.
In all the fight between the two women remind us of disagreements between women in the past that later had reverberations throughout a region and the country – that of Lady Ferreira Akintola and Chief (Mrs.) HID Awolowo. But they carried themselves with some dignity though the animosity was deep rooted.
Public officials should know that their behaviour is observed by the rest of us, old and young. Teachers who preach against violence to students will have to explain to pupils and students why two women of Age 50 and above could have degenerated. Theirs is not a good example. We have passed the age of slugging it out physically to prove a point. Perhaps Bianca simply copied the model of her late husband who was reported to have tailed Umaru Dikko into the toilet during the 1995 Constitutional Conference and gave him a slap because Dikko had made some disparaging remarks about him on the floor of the Conference. If this account is true, Bianca learnt from the master himself. Yet such behaviour is an anomaly is a country where rule of law is respected. The two women ought to apologise to all girls and women, the people of Anambra State and the entire country for their shameful conduct on a day of renewal and reaffirmation of hope.
Professor Hope O. Eghagha is of the Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Lagos, Akoka