By Prof R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Recently, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, the wife of President Buhari of Nigeria had attempted to sail in uncharted terrains of water when she granted an interview with BBC Hausa. She probably didn’t know the depth of some shocking revelations she made about her husband’s administration. She was probably not very comfortable that President Muhammadu Buhari might have turned his back on his long-term political associates who worked hard for him to become President whereas the president might have been associating himself with strange new politicians. Hence Mrs. Buhari is of the opinion that she might not be able to support her husband’s administration or give him support in a possible 2019 re-election. This is scene one of a simple family game turned global by media game players. But their responses have gender implications and family politics framework.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was unfortunate to be in a press conference in Germany, where a popular woman Angela Merkel is Chancellor, only laughed off on a global gender issue while responding to the controversial interview. President Buhari was quoted saying, “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.” These comments to reporters, in Germany, in the presence of a female German Chancellor Angela Merkel standing at his side, at a time another woman may be elected president in the United States of America and when a Mrs May is Prime Minister in the UK, is ball rolling to a gender inequality campaign. Mrs Buhari may be right to have aired her views but we must listen to the man in Africa’s largest population who has to campaign for men also.
Nigerian women must never forget that they are first Africans before they become members of the global community. They have the task to preserve the part of Africa’s culture and develop it as they choose with their men. They may have a lot to learn and adopt from western civilizations but it may not be the family orders, respect, arrangements or its settings. The majority of women now using the opportunity to leave their kitchens (but for whom) are themselves second or third wives and still joyfully coping therein. In the West women may not even marry, or marry and determine to have nothing to do with children around, just to remain a sex symbol or a sex machine in the house. In Africa we still adhere strongly to family values and ties. Number one, our First Lady needed clearance on cabinet reshuffling, effecting appointments of her choices, etc and nd not subject of BBC Hausa or English. The president is saying that she is a member of the kitchen cabinet, the living room cabinet or still while on the bedroom she can still be pursuing her political agendas.
Who did President Buhari think he was talking with? Probably some ancient Islamic scholars, or some of his religious travellers over the years, or only Nigerians, where he has to show that he is still the man. The generation gap would surely catch up with a 74 year old president as it is already a factor in the USA with the two leading candidates Mrs Clinton 69 and Mr Trump 71. These are not today’s presidential candidates normally. Unfortunately Mrs Angela Merkel was standing by.
Reactions from across Nigeria can only be mixed. A few would support Aisha, not because she is right but because they simply want to oppose Buhari’s administration. A number of others will oppose her views. For example we understand that some Nigerian Senators are threatening to send Mrs Buhari packing. If that is also true it would be the clearest evidence of the presence of cabalism in this administration. This is the remote control Mrs Buhari wishes to switch off by throwing it away. We shall support her in that clear objective if only it would lead to better governance.
Who constitutes a government within this government? They are not to difficult to fish out. They may include those who think they make it possible for you to get your job, your spouse, your children, get you elected, therefore they must form your government for you. Aisha is saying, no. Go home and wait for your turn. All these failures we are talking about are the cumulative or direct effects of these behind the scene cabinet members who are neither members of the kitchen, the living room nor the bedroom. We are joining Aisha to ask them to leave the scene completely. This will help Nigerian political system a lot, now and in the future. Godfathers in politics should not stay behind expecting appointments, contracts, all favour all the time. The godson may exercise his discretion as he wills but go home Mr “If not because of me”.
There is another class of people who also must be strongly recommended to go to their own houses and leave officials in Aso Rock to function properly. These are the class of people always in the corridor of power since 1960 to date. They are always “friends” of the ruling government as perpetrators of selfish agenda rather than agent of positive continuity. You can see them physically. If their suggestions are ignored they weep up religious, regional or media sentimentalities against the government. They trade with candidates as their own for appointments. If you wish to become the Director of the institution you have loyally served for years you need to see Chief so and so. We are going to support Aisha Buhari to send this group of sycophants home. Merits and record of service of individuals should suffice. If a government truly requires the services of some specialists the government has the capacity to search for them in the open market. Meanwhile sycophants please go home and be good to your own lovely family.
The other class of univited intrusion in government often include religious leaders, community leaders, and some individuals who may think they need some publicity or relevance. Our Obas, Obis, the Emirs, the Bishops and GOCs of congregation, the Chief Imams, all should henceforth cultivate greater level of self respect. If invited, then fine. In the First Republic we had House of Chiefs but not two national assemblage of Nigerians like today. Nigerian elders can seek constitutional recognisation rather thanindividually trooping to Aso Rock for “begging”.
But we must also let the wives of politicians know the class of people who also qualify to be in the cabinet beyond the kitchen or the living room. In politics there are no permanent friends or foes and wives of politicians should learn this fact fast. Each politician has to build his or her political network as robust as possible around associates, policies, ideologies, faith and religion, agendas and programmes. In some cases the husband may claim superior knowledge on whatever subject matter but the spouse needs to be carried along. My father was a politician between 1948 and 1962 at the local government level (Counsellor of Native Authority) then. Some of his associates we didn’t like them and we didn’t want their visits. Others we like them for their friendship and honesty. Therefore wives of politicians should never attempt to throw out the bad water and the baby in it at the same time. No one husband alone can rule in Nigeria. Nigeria is dynamic, mixed with ancient culture and modern culture, ethnically diverse as it’s source of strength and weakness, some believe in one man one wife whereas others don’t, the economy is individually oriented but which successive governments have failed to coordinate but depending on oil only, Nigeria is rich and should have had nothing to do about poverty at all. If the First Lady was speaking about human management, about politician betrayals, about her husband losing focus on the big issues, etc, we shall continue to support her. Of course provided she would not allow other women to take over the kitchen, the living room or the other room (the public is less informed about). This is a nice family and Nigeria should be proud of them. Because it is an indication that Mrs Aisha Buhari talks about the plights of ordinary Nigerians even in the kitchen, in the living room or while in the other room we will support her for a cabinet shake up for good.
Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi.