Before the impressions of Trevor Noah, rib cracking antics of Kevin Hart and the hilarious standup comedies of Chris Rock was a certain Eddie Murphy. Well before Eddie Murphy, there were Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby but Eddie can be said to be the bridge between old school and new school black comedians. He has dominated TV screens for decades but one of the most memorable characters he ever played was Prince Hakeem in Coming to America.
Prince Hakeem was the heir apparent to the throne of Zamunda, a fictitious kingdom tucked somewhere in mineral rich Africa. He woke up each morning to the sight of beautiful ebonies waiting by his bedside and was bathed by a flawless belle. Prince Hakeem was surrounded by some of the prettiest women God ever created. He was even betrothed to one of them even though he had never met her and was bound to marry her. It was during the “getting to know her” formalities that he had a change of heart. Hakeem wanted more in a woman.
Granted, the woman he was engaged to was a tool. She barked at his call and jumped at a whistle. But Zamunda was huge and the women in the country were definitely not monolithic, just as it is with the larger human race. So Prince Hakeem could have indeed found a wife of his liking right in Zamunda. But he chose to spin an atlas and go searching for a wife where the atlas stopped after spinning on its axis.
I know Coming to America is just a movie and you probably think the way it all turned out was not that deep. In reality, it actually is. When Prince Hakeem decided to trek to Queens New York just to find a wife, he was doing something most of us would love to do if only we had the gold and limitless dollars he had. The grass is greener on the other side for most of us.
This statement is one of the most self-sustaining truths mankind ever told itself. To the cow grazing on a ranch fenced from an abutting ranch, the grass on the other side looks greener. So even as he chews and gnaws at what he has, his eyes remain fixed on the other side. Humans are not much different. We always covet what our neighbor possesses, never satisfied with what we have. Surrounded by millions of beautiful people from both genders, we somehow have an instant affinity for anyone from beyond the borders of our country. No wonder we gullibly fell for the hoax story on compulsory polygamy in Eritrea.
Sometime last week, news emerged of a legislation passed in Eritrea which made it supposedly made it compulsory on all men to marry two women or facing prosecution. The spirit behind the legislation was in response to the dwindling number of men in the country, a situation which was leaving women who wanted to marry without suitors. The news spread around the internet like wildfire in Australia.
On all social media platforms, men, obviously, were excited about the news. From enquiring about how to get a visa to the reclusive country on the shores of the Red Seas to sharing angelic pictures of Eritrean women, Eritrea trended for days. After our euphoria reached its zenith and some adventurous folks probably punched their one way ticket to Asmara, the Eritrean government came out to debunk the entire story as a hoax. Boy did we all feel bummed?!
The entire episode had two interesting derivatives. For starters we need to question the place of satirical pieces in our society. Lately there has been an increase of such stories. From those telling people to not eat fufu on a Sunday to those purporting to be statements of some heads of states maligning other heads of states. I think comedy is a great way to de-stress and diffuse tense situations but satire demands its audience to have some level of humor. How this story was able to get most people convinced it was true is alarmingly worried. Imagine if the story was an alarmist call, inciting us to commit something heinous?
But the second take away might quell the fear arising from the previous paragraph. Maybe we fell for the story because the picture painted of Eritrea was one too good to overlook. Our base animalistic instincts saw a land where beautiful women had to accept being married to a man with more than one wife and we jumped for it. At least that is true for the men. But the realities here in Ghana are not that much different from Eritrea.
The laws on polygamy might be murky but they are never enforced. There are a plethora of polygamous marriages around the country which flourishes under the nose of the government. Heck, there are a number of legislators who are in polygamous marriages themselves. And finding a beautiful woman to consent to such an arrangement is not a herculean task. One of the former winners of Ghana’s Most Beautiful is in a polygamous marriage and is very happy in it. At least according to what she said in an interview. So why then did we think going to Eritrea was the new black? THE GRASS IS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE!
What we did not know about the grass on the other side is, a despotic one party regime is in place. Dissent is quashed with full force and the media does not have the “kabi na min kabi” (freedom of the press) atmosphere we have here. No wonder the country’s officials quickly dispelled the hoax in a bid to take away the focus of the world on the small reclusive country. This is a country which ranks just below North Korea on press freedom and has no privately owned media so any attention from the international world is bad attention.
So to all the fellow brothers who thought the singlehood streak was about to end, “Coming to Eritrea” is not going to happen. Our only way out of the single life is to actually talk to the girls around us and not bank our hopes on a despot issuing a carte blanche to his citizenry to marry or face imprisonment.