by Chilee Agunanna
The fallout of the latest gaffe of Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari (or PMB as it is usually shortened on Social Media) where he remarked while standing beside the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, that his wife belonged to the “kitchen, living room and other room”, has been widespread as well as diverse. While the group of his supporters have maintained their natural stance of “Comrade Napoleon is always right”, most of the others in the opposition have screamed from the high heavens that the president does not respect women or things in that regard. Then the feminists all had a field day.
The Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, dismissed it as a joke, while the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Lagos State University, Prof. Akin Ibidapo-Obe, argued that it wasn’t the reality of the president’s attitude to women. And the senator representing Adamawa North at Nigeria’s National Assembly, Binta Garba, welcomed it and declared “I am proud to be in the kitchen and also in the Senate. I am first a woman before a senator and I am proud to be in the Senate too as a woman.” Even the former spokesman of President Goodluck Jonathan, Reuben Abati, a critic of Buhari’s government, while not condoning the president’s tone, pointed out that other First Ladies support their husbands and never air their negative views in public, which Aisha did.
On the other hand, the All Progressive Congress (APC), Buhari’s party, while not directly addressing the president’s comments on his wife, welcomed the First Lady’s interview through their Acting National Publicity Secretary of the party, Comrade Timi Frank. The main opposition party of the country, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), who just lost the last presidential election to Buhari, also condemned him for demeaning women in a statement by its National Youth Coordinator, Usman Okai Austin. Senator, Ben Murray-Bruce, an ardent critic of Buhari’s government tweeted a picture kissing his with the caption, “This is my beloved wife Evelyn. She belongs by my side because beside (not behind) great men are even greater women!”
Personally, I am not a fan of president Muhammadu Buhari because I believe he is a part of Nigeria’s not too glorious past and I think, he should have remained there because he “doesn’t get it” that the times have changed, that we are in a new world, and he has not equipped himself for this new world and is thus not qualified to be the president of a new Nigeria. There is no record of any personal, intellectual or leadership development or progress on his part since he first ruled the country in the 1980s.
My stand on this has been buttressed by the President’s grasp or ungrasp or numerous issues since his 12-year run to the presidency. He went to the courts after every defeat where he was re-defeated. His utterances also portray him as a man not in tune with the times and his response to various questions at different times have been largely clumsy. He didn’t know the meaning of the acronym of his own party, the APC. He didn’t know the meaning of the nation’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
During the electoral process, he didn’t even know the name of his running mate who he called “Osinbade” in Imo State. In an interview with Aljazeera he stated that Nigerians who couldn’t afford to send their children abroad shouldn’t do so and that he could afford it hence he sent his own children. His fight against corruption has been largely one-sided with members of the opposition the major targets.
But I think he was right on the issue of his wife and his response. His statement is reflective of the fabled chauvinistic African society and traditions which when fully realized, are actually beautiful laws—The woman belongs to the kitchen, living room and the “other room” and everywhere else.
The tragedy of the system is that we often end up at only these three areas sometimes for selfishness and convenience and to cheat the women out of their other areas they belong.
The miracle here is that our president actually identified these three areas without having to ask anyone for the answer or for more explanation. Watching the video, I was almost alarmed because from my past observation of him, he could have leaned over to Angela Merkel who he had previously referred to as Michelle, for the answer or “expo” as we call it in Nigeria.
We should not take for granted that Mr. president despite mentioning only these three areas
He later clarified it that his wife looks after him in a follow-up interview. The answer sounds crass as most of the president’s other recent answers, but at least he got it right. He spoke his mind and at least he was real and genuine. Like Ibidapo-Obe mentioned above, this in no way reflects his view of women, his wife is more educated than he is and he supported her education up to Masters level.
There is this saying in Nigeria that says, “Whenever a man starts showing excessive affection to his spouse in public, he is hiding something or has done something fishy behind her back.” This may not be generally true, but it is mostly true.
Our president handled this matter wonderfully and we should respect him for being a strong man, for being a good man, for being a feminist because he didn’t disown his wife or her statements or get angry in public, he simply reaccepted his wife and whatever opprobrium she would get for her thoughts, would be done in private.
Yes, the feminists would pop out to say she is a strong lady, a woman of her own, an independent woman, a woman who speaks her mind, a woman who says the truth and so on… But what about “Stronger together”, what about marriage, what about two becoming one, what about keeping your home, what about behind a successful man is a woman, what about all the other unique qualities of the woman, what about common sense? Would Michelle Obama come out in public to disown her husband, would she come out to divulge the workings of her home, would she just open her mouth without consulting her husband?
Abati noted this in his article mentioned above that Mrs. Aisha Buhari may have spoken her mind, but she should not make a habit of assuming the role of a radical, in-house critic, throwing her husband under the wheels.
I think, President Buhari handled this matter very maturely and we now pray that he applies this same wisdom to Nigeria. We need our president to stand up for us and tell us we belong to him, we need him to tell the five-percenters that they belong to him, he needs to tell the “Wailing Wailers that no matter the party they belong to, they also belong to him. He needs to also identify that issues of the economy should be handled by experts. If he can apply this same wisdom to all national issues, Nigeria will be out of recession in no time.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Chilee Agunanna is a Nigerian journalist. He goes by @ChileeChills on Twitter and Instagram