Wákà: A Theory

First published on akomanet.com

Adaku Nwakanma
4 min readMar 19, 2018

“God punish you!” “Your papa!”

A bearded man driving a Toyota Camry brought out his left hand, stretched it over the roof of his car, and spread his fingers in that familiar way that ensured that there was maximum space between all fingers and all the muscles and cartilages were put to good use. An okada man had come from his blind spot behind the left side of his car and proceeded to scream obscenities which had resulted. in the melodrama I had just watched in amusement from the back seat of a commercial bus.

As the bearded guy screeched off, I was left wondering about the origins of this very Nigerian way of saying, fuck you.

You see, if you met someone on the road expressing his frustration at a provocateur with that very western term, chances are that he or she is trying to express. a “refined” version of frustration with another human, because even that which is considered the ultimate insult in the Western world, is a polished version and something that may elicit laughter from bystanders depending on what accent it was delivered in.

First off, a middle finger is aimed at you. You sir, are an asshole, middle finger. Go to hell, middle finger. Your opinions don’t count, middle finger.

The Nigerian Wákà isn’t that kind. The Wákà aims to annihilate you and your entire generation while calling on the Thunder to fire you. The only classification that may be attached to you is the term, Idiot, which follows the rain of fury and thunder (read: lightning) strikes. One could almost feel the strikes coming out of the palm of the one who weilds the Wákà. How else do you explain that feeling of something leaving your body?

So here’s my theory on the Wákà. The middle finger is quite easy to trace – the middle finger representing the male organ’s role in coitus with his female partner. There’s nothing insulting about being sexual with a partner though. It’s an exhilarating experience that both parties enjoy to a climax, ideally. It’s an experience of freedom and intimacy. So why did this become a derogatory term to be used in all parts of a sentence as noun, verb, adjective, pronoun and whatever term you can think of?

Conducting my research on both facts and alternative facts, this boils down to the role and the way women were and still are perceived in society. I had a man who constantly showed interest in a long term partnership with me ask me, “if you had the opportunity to come back to this world as a man or a woman, which would you pick?” To which I replied that I’ll still be a woman. He looked at me incredulously, like he couldn’t believe it. “You’d still come back as a woman?” he said, his eyebrows raised in mild amusement mixed with surprise. “Even when you’re the one being screwed?”

And in that moment, all my experiences, feelings, uniqueness as a woman was summed up into one definition: The one who lies back on the bed and gets fucked. Power and dominance was expected in the one doing the deed while subversiveness and docility was expected in the woman. Any deviation from the norm resulted in the gender being mocked with its counterpart. Therefore a woman who was too forward and untamed was seen as a man, how ever will she get another man? While a man was mocked as a woman, a dulling guy.

I would later argue that this was the reason lesbians weren’t as hated as their gay counterparts: because the middle finger is absent in one. Who is the man and who is the woman is a question that may refer to tomboyish attitudes and fashion in a lesbian relationship but refers to who’s getting the middle finger in a gay male relationship.

So when someone says or gives the middle finger, despite the fact that it’s common use has resulted in varied translations, it, in other words, simply means shut up and be dominated like a woman. It’s one that says, I relegate you to the position were you lie on your back, because you’re a man and that’s not what men are identified with. Only with the common use of the term did women join in using the middle finger and other female derogatory terms which showed how society viewed its women.

Wákà on the other hand is one that says you should not even exist. It’s one that allocates the strikes of thunder (read: lightning) to your father, mother, and their fathers and mothers. You were not the problem, the problem was that you exist today to become a problem for the wielder. The Wákà power is more effective when the wronged does not hesitate in being the first to use it, any time lost reduces the charge in the atmosphere which is needed to conjure up. invisible electricity charges which then strike the other party into silence.

Superhero movies have been said to get their inspiration from this, after the westerners journeyed to Nigeria in the late ‘30s and witnessed this unbelievable act, going on to develop these attributes into so many more visions of men throwing balls of fire and shooting webs from their hands. Nigerians though, haven’t done much refinement as is the case in many other instances. The Wákà remains, used in its crude form and passed on from generation to generation despite numerous lightning and thunder storms.

Both the foreign and Nigerian. ways of delivering succint displeasure have evolved over time in ways that can be used playfully and not taken as an affront to oneself. However, while you may experience a mild displeasure at having the middle finger pointed in your direction, best believe that you will hear thunder when the real use of Wákà comes to play.



Adaku Nwakanma

Digital product designer and amateur cyclist living in Abuja, Nigeria.