When Nigeria’s number one blogger Linda Ikeji revealed she had bought a luxury mansion in one of the most exclusive and expensive neighbourhoods in Lagos, the Nigerian social media sphere quickly turned into a frenzy.
Some praised the former model’s business savvy noting her well-known rags to riches story. Five years ago she was broke and depressed; now she’s not only very wealthy but one of the most influential figures in the Nigerian media. According to Alexa rankings, her blog is the 13th most popular website in the Nigeria, ranking higher than every news outlet in the country.
If something lands on her blog, more often than not it’s true. It’s this reputation and her knack for getting scoops that have led to her immense popularity.
In an environment where rumour and speculation are rife, Linda’s blog has established itself as a reliable source for news as well as the gossip for which it is known. If something lands on her blog, more often than not it’s true. It’s this reputation and her knack for getting scoops that have led to her immense popularity.
Not that she hasn’t been controversy free. She’s been called out by celebrities she’s offended, branded a liar, accused many times of plagiarism, and was subjected to bizarre website hack earlier this year. So when news broke about her new digs, it was inevitable criticism would follow.
Alongside her post about her purchase, she included several pictures of the lavish property and a pep talk to young women and girls. ‘Listen, you are beautiful and you are stronger than you know, there’s absolutely nothing you can’t achieve if you set your mind to it,’ she wrote. Linda has always been vocal about her support for women and girls and recently launched an initiative to empower female entrepreneurs; the programme offers grants of 10 million naira to help chosen women to start their own businesses. In the post about her house, Linda went on to that she has ‘never..never ever slept with a man for money’ and implored other women to do the same.
It might seem like an odd thing to include but Linda knows Nigeria. And a young, attractive, unmarried woman buying a house for over 500 million naira would not only raise eyebrows but stoke a fierce debate about her personal life.
Yes, in 2015, a successful, unmarried woman buys a house and #GoAndMarry becomes a trending topic.
Sure enough instead of the achievements of a woman who single-handedly turned a hobby into something formidable being commended, social media decided to concentrate on whether her house could *really* cost that much or whether we could *really* say she hadn’t slept with a rich man at some point. The question that appeared to be on everyone’s lips was how would Linda get married now?
Yes, in 2015, a successful, unmarried woman buys a house and ‘Go and Marry’ becomes a trending topic. People forget to criticise the numerous politicians who spend public money buying such houses for themselves. Some would rather lament that poor old Linda will never be able to find herself a husband now, because not only is she pretty bloody rich, she’s revealed it to everyone. What man would be able to compete with that? What kind of man would even want that?
Unfortunately, this kind of crap is part and parcel of the reality of being a woman in Nigeria. No matter what you achieve, making the transition from someone’s daughter to someone’s wife and eventually someone’s mother is still the primary goal. A good chunk of a woman’s worth is tied to whether or not she manages to find herself a husband (sooner rather than later of course) and the functionality of her ovaries. Anything and everything else is a bonus.
Irrespective of whether you agree with Linda’s choice of career, she changed the face of the blogosphere in Nigeria.
It’s not as if women are not encouraged to achieve and be successful; we are, as long as that success doesn’t exceed a certain point. A woman’s success, for example, should never eclipse that of the man in her life (if she has one). If she doesn’t have a partner, her success shouldn’t be so undeniable (or visible) it alienates a potential husband. And that’s what makes Linda’s success so uncomfortable for some.
So the focus shifts to arguments like she ‘doesn’t have a real job’ or ‘how dare this woman who makes money from gossip try to preach to us about anything.’ Irrespective of whether you agree with Linda’s choice of career, she changed the face of the blogosphere in Nigeria.
While Linda makes no apologies for her success, her response to the critics shows she’s not totally immune to the pressure. ‘Sometimes God delays these things to bless other aspects of your life,’ she tweeted. ‘I’m ready when He’s ready! Having said that, who wants to marry me?’ Her response may seem light-hearted but why should she have to respond at all? Why does there always have to be an answer, a reason or an explanation?
If a 35-year-old old male had achieved what Linda had, he would be hailed as an entrepreneur to watch, an example for young men to learn from. If her story, of selling beer as a student while living on ‘garri and puff puff’, was his, it would be relayed over and over as inspirational tale. People wouldn’t ask why he needed to buy such a big house or whether he was planning on living with his family because it’s wouldn’t be ‘proper’ for him to live alone. Even if he were pressured to marry it wouldn’t be because his worth as a man were tied to it.
#BeingFemaleInNigeria proved women are succeeding in spite of the myriad of barriers in front of them, not that the barriers themselves are shifting.
In July the #BeingFemaleInNigeria trending topic displayed the patriarchal nature of the country, with female and male Twitter users describing the daily double standards and harassment faced by women. On the surface, it seems as if women are making great strides in the country. In some areas we are, but the hashtag proved women are succeeding in spite of the myriad of barriers in front of them, not that the barriers themselves are shifting.
To wrap up her post about her house Linda quoted writer Clare Boothe-Luce ‘Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.”’ Turns out as a woman in Nigeria even when you have succeeded, people will still question if you have what it takes.