If you threw a boomerang in the Nigerian Twitter community, chances are it would strike a Shola disciple. They are everywhere, these men, all of them united in suspicion of anyone who is not a man. Not only are they wary of women, they are wary of so-called unmanly men, the latter they call simps. You are a simp, the Shola Rulebook proclaims, if you: (a) are too nice to women (b) give women money and gifts so you can reach fourth base (c) listen to Chike rather than Blaqbonez — Chike wants to give women flowers; Blaqbonez, like the rapper Big L in that famous freestyle with Jay Z, has only “hard dick and bubble gum” to give. These manly men are precious even about the kind of music they consume. They consider themselves lions, and lions do not eat lettuce.
No men’s movement has bared this many teeth since Fight Club. The Tyler Durden of this Dark Web subculture is Babatunde Olushola — Shola for short. It doesn’t matter that Shola is only twenty-five: wife-less, child-less, still relatively new to the adulthood business. He claims he understands what it means to be a man, and has written a book purporting to teach men how to become a “better man”. Men much older than him, with denser forests of facial hair, afford him their time, money and obedience. The footballer Victor Osimhen is said to have invested “something very HOOGE” in support of Shola’s book launch. These men may have the years, but they agree they lack Shola’s gnostic insights. To them he is the Guru Maharaj Ji of manhood. To Nigerian women on Twitter, he is a pound of irritant flesh cut from Satan’s arse.
It’s understandable why these women find him unbearable. Men of a certain discernment would, too. Not only is Shola a card-carrying misogynist, he is one of the few who have found a way to commodify women-hate. He charges $200 for a private consultation session. With that money you can buy all the bubble gums in Sierra Leone.
Every tweet he mails the way of women comes with a poorly concealed bile. “Dear women,” he tweeted once, “may your son end up with a woman like you”. He believes women are incapable of fending for themselves; they can “only collect” from men. The fathers of such women he calls “useless”. Yet, in a fit of Orwellian doublethink, he recently thanked the Twitter user @ClassikBoo for buying ten copies of his book. Does he not see this is a woman spending her own money?
He prescribes that men should ignore women. Don’t “double text” them, he exhorts. Don’t feel the need to pay them compliments. Of course, this is what pickup artists call negging. The concept is that a man should feign indifference for a woman he thinks is a potential love interest. Rather than put her off, pickup artists say it would pique her interest.
Elliot Rodger would look down from Incel Heaven and see in Shola a worthy successor. Even at their most placid, Shola’s tweets carry the vengeful venom of a man who has either been wronged or spurned by a woman or a string of them. But one woman isn’t all women. Rather than the generic “women”, he ought to append to his tweets the name of the specific woman or women he has a beef with. Like all of us have done one time, it seems Shola is passing off a personal experience as universal verity.
He has denied his pro-men campaign — which most of the time comprises anti-women spiels — is the consequence of an unsavoury episode with a woman. But why should anyone believe him? If a humiliating experience was what made him hateful, surely he wouldn’t want to make it more humiliating by sharing it with the world.
Here’s what we know: before 2020 Shola the Scourge of Women didn’t exist. In those days he ran a Twitter account which parodied the former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan. That account had the phrase “BrezzIsLife” on its profile, brezz being Nigerian slang for breast. Unless Shola meant a man’s breast, this is the sort of simping the new Shola would not condone in any of his followers. You can imagine him saying to a gathering of bearded male faces: “An alpha male never publicly declares that he cares about or needs women”.
What happened between that time and now may lend insights into his behaviour. He was imprisoned illegally by the government for a tweet he made using his Goodluck Jonathan parody account. He’d mocked the ex-president’s wife; for that he was kept in custody for over 80 days on the charge that he’d impersonated the ex-president. That would traumatise anybody. You would expect that, given a man was behind his prison time, he’d emerge from prison as a man-hating man.
Who knows for sure why his river of disdain flows the opposite direction. Perhaps he is humbled by the knowledge that the ex-president is such a powerful man, as to make any designs of physical revenge not only impossible but suicidal. Perhaps a female lover deserted him in that trying time of his life? Perhaps, unable to face his male oppressor, he chooses as targets of his acrimony those he thinks are less threatening opponents: women. Again, this is mostly guesswork.
One thing stands out about Shola: his hyper-masculinity. He is like Okonkwo of Things Fall Apart, haunted by the fear of being perceived as weak. Why? Because underneath that tough guy layer is the mineral deposit of insecurity? Hyper-masculine Shola wants men to listen to Blaqbonez. He names his digital agency business “Alpha Media” (he is no beta). His current Twitter bio comes in ALL CAPS (small letters and small fonts aren’t for lions — refer to Burna Boy/Coachella incident). He also charges men to “hit the gym”, never mind he is himself as lean as an anorexic capital letter I. With the benefit of hindsight we may argue his hyper-masculinity was there even before his imprisonment: he did, after all, choose to parody a hyper-man, a president.
How has Shola managed such a vast following online? Here’s why, I think: he provides a rallying point for men who feel emasculated. The fictional Tyler Durden did that too, but for men who felt emasculated by the capitalist culture of thoughtless consumerism. Shola babysits men of a different stock. Nothing makes a man feel emasculated as when he is broke. And nothing makes a broke man feel even worse about himself as when he has been rejected by a woman because he cannot afford to be in love with her. Both real life and literature is littered with such men: in the latter there’s Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights and Jay Gatsby of The Great Gatsby. Rejected by the women they love due to their penury, it imbued both men with the vengeful determination to become rich.
The dating market runs on the tyres of capitalism. The financial burden of romantic affairs falls to men. It is neither ideal nor fair, but it is our reality in Nigeria at this point of human history. When a man is unable to lay hold of money, he starts to think every woman rejects him because of it, even in the times his conclusions are only imagined slights. Disgruntled and feeling emasculated, such a man would as soon give his loyalty to the first person he sees on social media who seems to be articulating his angst. Let’s call these men Misery. Let’s call Shola Company.
It’s no coincidence one of the most recited tenets in the Shola religion is: forget women; chase the bag. No wonder Shola has only scornful words for men with plenty of money to give women — simps, he calls them. It is clear, I think: money is at the heart of the man’s misogyny. We may comfort ourselves with the knowledge that our country does not permit citizens to carry firearms. At least we don’t have to worry about an Isla Vista shooting happening in Obalende or Ojuelegba. Or do we?