AJ Odudu’s ‘Manhunting with My Mum’ is awesome! We need more of this on our TV screens!

Photography by Nathan Gallagher

Photography by Nathan Gallagher

Tuesday was one of those days… I got home from work and decided before I do anything, I just need five minutes to have a lay down and recuperate my energy. Before I eat, before I open up my laptop, I just needed to close my eyes but only for a moment. It was around 7pm at the time of this decision and as per usual a cheeky five minutes turned into a full blown sleep session, with me waking up a whole five HOURS later. Oh well, these things happen, especially to me so I should’ve known better. I now just need to find some things to do until I naturally feel like sleeping again.

As you can imagine, it was a pretty long night. It didn’t help that it was intensively hot neither. These London summer’s have been wonderful but sleeping through them, has been a battle in itself. Regardless, I’m definitely not about to complain about this incredible heatwave that has miraculously saved me from having a mental breakdown, due to not having a summer getaway this year. But less on that and more about my night, mental health will have to be a topic for another day.

I took a shower. Freshening up after falling asleep unwillingly, always has a magical effect on the body. I made myself a plate of food. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be eating at this hour but the headache and weakness was kicking in fast and I needed to refuel immediately. After all that was out the way, I attempted sleep again, tossed and turned for a while, paraded around on social media but I was still wide awake. By this time it’s after 4am, I come across an Instagram post that reminded me of something I was supposed to watch at 10pm. It was a clip of AJ Odudu, speaking on Channel 5 News about her new Channel 4 documentary ‘Manhunting with My Mum.’ Instantly, I was fuelled with excitement as I now had something worthwhile to fulfil my insomniac state of mind! Is it on All 4? Yes it is! Marvellous, we are now in business.

So who is AJ Odudu you maybe thinking? Well she’s a very beautiful and friendly 30 year old TV presenter, who I’m sure you’ve seen on the likes of 4Music. She’s always full of smiles, with an infectious positive energy to brighten up any dull day. Born in Blackburn, Lancashire to Nigerian parents, AJ is very much your typical westernised African woman. Independent, knows what she wants in life and does everything she can to make sure she gets it. AJ is an empowered woman and proud to be just that. I do often find myself asking, do powerful women have difficulties finding the right men, to stand beside them? This question is what led to such intrigue, to watch this very documentary.

As the title suggests, ‘Manhunting with My Mum’ is a 45 minute documentary following AJ and her mother Florence, to Nigeria in search of a suitable life partner for AJ. The documentary starts with AJ’s travels from London to Blackburn. Commuting by train, she speak's about the adventure ahead and why this circumstance has come into play. She explains that she’s had a number of relationships, some where the guys were simply too much for her, others where AJ admits she was too much for them or it just didn’t work out. She also speaks on the fact she’s been cheated on, which is definitely not a nice situation for anyone, man or woman and YES, women do cheat too.

AJ goes on to explain that her mother has lined up some men for her to meet in Nigeria. She suggests that if she’s participated in online dating and meeting total strangers on the internet, then what’s the harm in allowing her mother to align her with some potential husbands? You know what, I completely agree with AJ on this. In an age where digital dating arrangements via apps such as Tinder or Bumble are now the popular ways to meet new people, it makes you question if consensual pre-arranged marriages by your family, should be such a taboo for Millennials and younger generations. I mean think about it, what would you rather… Meeting an absolute stranger, who could turn out to be that suspected murderer you heard about on the news recently or a vetted potential, that’s already had to pass the basic requirements and tests set by your family members? I think the latter option would be my preference however, my hand is already spoken for.

Florence’s marriage to AJ’s father was in fact an arranged marriage, they have been together for over 40 years. This was interesting to know, as I wasn’t aware that arranged marriages were common within the Nigerian culture. Florence details the arrangement to AJ, sharing the very photo that was provided to her parents of her soon to be husband, along with the picture of her that was sent to his family. AJ questions, “So you married a man, that you’d never met before?” In which Florence responds, ”It was strange, let’s be honest. When you go to bed. Oh God help me!” This moment indeed must be the most anxious for any woman in an arranged situation, especially back in earlier years when such strong demands were expected, from the moment you became a wife. This is also something, we will look to speak on further, at a later date.

Touchdown in Nigeria and the man hunt begins. In the same tradition that Florence was introduced to AJ’s father, she hands AJ a picture of each candidate and shares basic details ahead of every meeting. The first of the batch was Prince Joshua, heir to the throne of the Ajara Vetho Kingdom. “You hooked me up with a prince? Mum, well done. You’ve got the connects,” gasps AJ in excitement however, the accustomed honour of respect towards men and lack of towards women, wasn’t quite the glitz and glamour of royal living that AJ had expected.

Candidate number two was labelled the “good churchgoer.” A man who had lived in abstinence, as a want to save himself for his wife. The topics of conversation within this meeting were very interesting. In a society where it’s common for women to abstain from sexual relations until they are wedded, how does this work when the roles have reversed? Is it a women’s role to be the teacher in this situation? Is this the case anyway, I mean some men just have no clue, even with years of putting their penis any and everywhere!

Candidate number three, I had high hopes for. A local musician, that seemed to have a little more spark to intrigue the lovely AJ - but it seems their ways of thinking, were just not compatible. The role of a woman was spoken in depth, with little room for compromise or understanding. For a traditional Nigerian man, it’s common for a woman to be seen as second. There is no 50/50, even if the woman is the one bringing in the money. Regardless of the woman working all day, when she comes home she must cook and clean, in honour of her man’s ego. I find this rather difficult to comprehend. In theory it sounds like a nice fairytale for a woman to do it all, in order to make her man feel like a man however, I strongly believe, the sharing of duties is necessary for things to function adequately and it shouldn’t really matter who is doing what, as long as it’s fair.

At this stage, probably feeling majorly overwhelmed AJ admits to her mother that she wants to meet a guy that is more like her. So onto Nollywood Actor candidate number 4. Now he was definitely a pleasure to look at and seemed more like the kind of guy for AJ. He works within the entertainment industry so has an understanding of the lifestyle AJ lives, he’s a very modern man and appreciates the ways of a modern woman too. Could this be the man for AJ? Well I guess you will just have to watch the documentary to find out.

There are many reasons why I absolutely loved this documentary, the first being that there is not enough TV documentaries highlighting African cultures in the first place. This wasn’t just a man hunt, it was a reconnection of origin, acknowledgement and learnings of native traditions and a reminder that African women are the strongest and funniest of them all. There was opportunity to open conversation around societal expectations, with the allowance of certain norms to be respectfully challenged. Lastly, I just feel that more women and especially women of colour, need to be highlighted and represented on TV in this way. AJ and her mother (who is so cute and seems like such a sweet and wonderful lady), both graced our TV screens with such beauty, class and the most effortless humour. They were totally honest in their approach and AJ a born and bred northerner, showcased the most honour and respect, for a culture that’s not naturally of her own.

Be sure to watch 'Manhunting with My Mum,' on All 4 for the next 28 days. Hopefully with enough viewings, we can get an episode two in the works.