Sunday, February 21, 2010

You must endure because you are a woman...

That, in a few words, sums up Abidemi Sanusi's Eyo, a book about a character by that name who endures all sorts of things: living in the slums (aptly named Jungle City), being trafficked to the UK, sex slavery and finally the jeers on her return home.
Abidemi Sanusi's tale of the life of Eyo and her struggles (make that her parents hope) against poverty grips us all the way to the end.
We meet Eyo hawking water with her brother Lanre - a tough task in this hot, stinking city of Lagos. For a Kenyan, it is easy to identify with the mob justice that is meted to the man who tries to rob Eyo of her daily proceeds from the sale of water.
Kenyans reading the book will quickly flip over the pages that describe the Kibera- and Mukuru Kayaba's kind of life: human faeces in polythene bags, open drainage, drunk men idling about etc.
We are told of Eyo's inhuman living conditions, their houses built on solidified waste, how they can only shower - for the few that get to do that - when it is still dark (for there are no bathrooms), a meal - and a light one at that - a day, the paedophile bully of a landlord, the defaulting tenants, the absence of privacy (with parents doing their 'thing' a few centimetres from their sleeping children) ...
This is the life that motivates Eyo's father, Wale, to send his 10-year old daughter to the UK, for a 'better' life. Never mind that Wale is one of those that make Eyo's life hard in Jungle City (I mean, what father has sex with his 9-year old daughter, has the same daughter performing oral sex on him ... all the while with the 'silent' conspiracy of his wife?)
But as we blame this beast of a father, we are told of his wife, Olufunmi undergoing the same at the hands of her father: She(Olufunmi) fought back memories of herself at Eyo's age and her father leading leading her to a secluded spot at the edge of the village. She could hear her mother's voice,"Olufunmi, you must endure because you are a woman and that is what women do. We endure."
What a custom!
All through the book, Eyo endures all that is thrown her way.
First she endures the mistreatment at Lola and Sam's house. She is worked like an unwanted donkey, she is beaten, underfed... name it!
Lola has this great idea: Since her two children go to school much of the day, why not start a babysitting outlet, after all, Eyo will do the baby sitting and the extra sterling pound is more than welcome!
Worse, Sam turns her into his sex machine. He doesn't stop there: He turns his house into a mini-brothel, bringing in men who pay to sleep with Eyo. All the men who are forced on her agree that she is excellent at her 'thing.'
It is still puzzling how Lola didn't suspect her husband of anything. many are the nights he helped himself to Eyo's body before retiring to his bedroom where we presume the wife was waiting!).
In all these, Eyo develops a defense mechanism and turns herself into a robot: Does what she is told to do and gets on with it. (She learns of the robot and its workings from Lola's daughter, Tolu, who tries to teach her how to read and write.)
But eveything has an end. Eyo miscarries right infront of Sam's children! In a cruel turn of events, Lola demands her dismissal. Ingenious Sam sends Eyo away to The House, run by Big Madame.
The House is indeed, the house, but of sin! The sex that goes on here, trust me, is a lot. Wale, Eyo's father, was not far from the truth when he argued that by shoving his fingers, and later his penis, into Eyo's privates (and into her mouth as well!!!), he was preparing her for life. "... endure because you are a woman and that is what women do."
In a macabre sort of way, her early sexual dealings with her father, turn her into a virtuoso. She gives the best 'head' so much so that clients come and ask specifically for her.
Unknown to Stella, Big Madame herself, Eyo just endures it all. And her taking up the robot model helps her more for she is able to black out everything. But all thisngs must come to an end: Once out and on the way to a client's place, Eyo tries to end her life by throwing herself in front of a moving car and later by almost jumping out of the top room of The House. In both cases, she doesn't die but lives to service more clients.
Things come to a head between Eyo and Big Madame when Eyo talks a client into buying her off. Big Madame doesn't take it lightly and has Eyo given away to a pimp, Johnny from where Eyo - after so much sexual assault and selling sex on the streets - gets her freedom and returns home.
Johnny the pimp does just that, pimps! Here, again, Eyo's endurance is tested to no end. However, Johnny cohabits with Eyo but pretty much gives her freedom - she visits the park frequently. But that is not to say she has stopped enduring nor softened, not at all. She even changes her name to Jungle. To her, 'Eyo' long died and was buried the moment she left The House.
He loses his cool when he comes across £2000 that Eyo had hidden in the house. She'd made this money by sleeping with her 'North African' friends at the park. She is beaten to within an inch of her life. She survives ... and later, after an exhausting sexual do with Johnny, she returns the favour: Using a bat she had picked form someplace, she beats Johhny to within a millimetre of his life, and runs off to some Catholic priest she'd met on the streets. The priest had tried to get her off the streets to no avail.
From here, it's all downhill for Johnny, Big Madame, Lola and Sam as Eyo's case is taken up by a social worker who leads to the arrest of them all in the full glare of the media and its numerous cameras. . Eyo, on her part, returns to Nigeria, Jungle City.
Back in Jungle City, nothing has changed though the father has since been kicked out by the mother for she could not stand him having his way with Sade, Eyo's much younger sister. The way she is treated after her money near runs out leaves her wondering if she made the right decision to return to Jungle City.
In Eyo, the book, we come face to face with the lucrative world of human/women trafficking and sex slavery abroad and the web of deceit that covers it all. We see women at their worst - as hapless prostitutes (Nkem, Eyo, Daisy), powerful pimps (Big Madame), cruel employers (Lola), co-conspirators (Big Madame, Olufunmi); and at their best - Eyo worrying more about the younger sister than herself, Tolu volunteering information to the police at the expense of her family, Bola lying through the teeth and through her pants to send money back to Nigeria for the upkeep of her children etc.
We get to see how poverty and despair pushes well-meaning albeit ignorant parents into a world they have a very vague idea of. (Eyo's parents and neighbours think that London is everything!). But following Eyo's story, one wonders whether some people are born to suffer and never rise above their poverty.
Abidemi Sanusi has done justice to her field - human rights - with this eye-opening tale of the supposed rosy life abroad. She has made nonsense of many people's assumption that a father cannot defile his daughter with the wife's knowledge nor that prostitutes can ever have real feelings (Bola with Mark, Eyo with Johnny). She's even shown us that the so-called functional society like the UK has rogues within it. It is these that are in the employ of the Big Madames of this world (they could easily erase the unwanted portion of a street's CCTV camera) and ensuring she never faces any charges in any court.