Thursday, 22 March 2007

Shame on you! Sagamu

Literary day

When I was in secondary school (Remo Secondary School) just about 30 years ago, we used to have a day of social events called the Literary Day.

Really, I must say, I never saw anything literary about that day apart from people trying to get dressed up to the nines and each prepubescent male trying to get dance with that girl he has had his eye on since he knew he could blink.

I would say, I was never trendy, not by apparel, ostentation nor shoes, but I still tried to look my best and hoped that all that time of practice with my two friends who seemed to be better dancers than one would shine on the day.

There usually was all sorts of entertainment and though we were in Sagamu, Ogun State, the traditional Eyo parade was imported from Eko (Lagos Island), it allowed boys to dress up in white hoods, hats and white masquerade wraps holding a long branch of a shorn palm frond as a beating stick, they made whooping sounds hopping about on one foot, any female who strayed into their path got whacked on the shin.

Menace and violence

The bad side of the Literary Days was evident in Lagos where groups of students would assemble as thugs and hooligans accost other students and guests to these events and by menace strip the hapless kids of their shoes, valuables and designer wear.

In my last year at school, we were off-campus and I remember that the class after ours had planned to menace and harass with violence anyone who appeared in a particular style of fashion which was called Pinto - basically it was like the Pied Piper's costume in a variety of garish colours - an unhealthy development, one must say.

Let's dance

The highlight of the day was from the early evening when we gathered in the main hall and danced to the reggae music which was the rage of the late 70s till Boney M took on and then other American fare.

Within the campus, the girls were quite astute in accessorising themselves, never did one look like the girl in class, however, only a few wore trousers, there had always been this thing about women in trousers, the chauvinistic outlook of men feeling emasculated meant females in trousers could be harassed or even worse.

The trouser thing

When we were invited to the Literary Days of sister schools, most of the other schools in Sagamu were across town. The girls who wore trousers had to wear a full wrapper over the trousers just in case they came across nasty old men whose only mission was to curse girls who strayed from the "norm".

In fact, we did learn that there was a rule in Sagamu, large as it was and it probably having the largest community of Hausas from the North in the South, women were forbidden to wear trousers.

So, imagine my surprise 30 years on, learning that the local authorities have outlawed the wearing of trousers by women in Sagamu. It makes me feel that the cocoon of my secondary school which was on the outskirts of town then, just on the edge of a forest was oasis of freedom of expression and the emancipation of the rights of women.

Sagamu is a town of quite learned people, one does have doubts about its sophistication in the light of this development and obviously the misconception that education can bring enlightenment to people steeped in the tradition of dominating not only their wives but extending that mantle of domination to cover everyone of the female gender, it saddens and it is shameful.

This is a human-rights issue, but I would not be surprised if a bible-thumping person comes up with one verse about women in men's clothes but none about men in 40% cotton and 60% polyester shirts. Shame on you! Sagamu.

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