There is hardly any other group that has been – and continues to be – underrepresented in Nigerian literature than sex workers. The marginalization of this class is so obvious that one would think that every new Nigerian writer passes through some confirmation rites during which he or she swears to perpetuate the age-old policy.￼
It belies reason that a group that remains part of our collective reality, a group that has played significant roles in the political and social history of this country, helping to take down the treasonous Dimka’s and the outlawed Anninih’s, could be so sidelined in the country’s literature.
Apart from Chika Unigwe, there are very few other Nigerian writers who have given prostitutes lead roles in their works. Even when prostitutes are featured, it is almost always in bad lights— as criminals or accomplices to crimes; as ills of the society; as husband or boyfriend-snatchers. Olubunmi Familoni’s short story, ‘That Thing’, only scratches the surface by showing us a young girl named Grace who goes into prostitution in order to send money back home to her parents who are aged and sick. It is no secret that a lot of prostitutes are driven into that line of business out of altruism. Stories abound of some mother who paid or her son or daughter’s university education through monies gotten from prostitution. Why then, one cannot help but ask, do we not have enough books starring such characters?
Indeed, it would be hypocritical of any one to hold that prostitutes lost their rights to be heard due to their immoral ways. If that should be the case, we ought not to read Abubakar Adam Ibrahim’s Season of Crimson Blosoms and get to like the highly unrighteous Reza who eventually kills the son of the woman he once robbed and then starts sleeping with.
The best way to understand groups or individuals is to learn to hear them tell their stories. Only when we learn to look through the eyes of ‘the other’ will we get a clearer picture of the world. Having had heroes that are drug addicts, serial killers and cheats, Nigerian writers would not have committed an unpardonable sacrilege if they began to give prostitutes some voice to tell their own stories.
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