Politics takes in the family
Politics is a very engaging business for both the individual and their immediate family. It is almost impossible to divorce the immediate family from the effects and consequences of an individual entering politics.
The politician will almost definitely have a public life, it is usually unlikely except in a scandal for anyone to see into the home life and how the dynamic in that setting dictates, controls or affects how a politician operates.
However, we have gotten used to seeing the politician’s spouse espouse causes dear to their hearts on the one hand and sometimes to soften the hard politician’s stance to the wider world.
In many places, politicians do not seek public office without the consent and support of spouse and family, it is hopefully in recognition of the reality that seeking office does cause some sort of upheaval in their close-knit setup. Some have on the advice of their families withdrawn from politics to cater to their immediate family and renew bonds.
A politician’s wife with views
In Nigeria, we have had our share of the politician’s spouse, some uppity, some intrusive, some menacing and an atrocious assault on our democratic values, arrogating to themselves power to the status of their spouses and abusing their position peddling influence with reckless abandon, yet, this does not apply to all spouses, many who go by the moniker of ‘first lady’, to decline to licence for titles less commendable.
It is in view of this that one can understand when Aisha Buhari the spouse of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gave an interview to the BBC. She expressed concern about how the political maelstrom around her husband manned by people they neither knew nor could trust was making her husband’s political agenda ineffective.
To which end, she suggested that if things continued in this manner, she will not support if her husband chooses to contest, a re-election quest. [Aisha Buhari – BBC]
On a global stage
In the Nigerian society, these are strong views, yet, in my first comment about this, I suggested it appeared pillow talk was no more effective to bringing an obdurate man to understand concerns the family had, that the media might well be acquainted with that frustration.
Yesterday, as the news media took its soundbites from Aisha Buhari’s forcefully independent opinions Muhammadu Buhari was on a state visit to Germany. He could not have been oblivious of his spouse’s interview and I would have expected that his media team and advisers would have intimated that the world press in Germany might well broach the subject.
If Muhammadu Buhari were visiting Germany for a purpose, it would have been incumbent on them not to let any other issue overshadow that purpose and be on the trajectory to a successful state visit with the world press concentrating on that. They fell at the first hurdle.
The joke in the other room
With Muhammadu Buhari standing beside the foremost female politician in the world, Angela Merkel, he was asked about his wife’s views in that BBC interview. Given a global stage, President Buhari mustered all the patriarchy and chauvinism he could at the expense of wit, tact, diplomacy or even common-sense and let rip an anachronistic embarrassment of verbiage.
“I don't know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.” He said, amongst other things about his political struggles, his losses, his victory and his opponents. Angela Merkel, if we could have read her mind might have been thinking in German, “Warum habe ich stimme diesen Chauvinistenschwein zu treffen?” [Muhammadu Buhari – BBC]
A very sad analysis
For me, there are many angles from which to view Muhammadu Buhari’s comments, but I see a wider consequence of expressing such views on a global stage and it led me to ask a few questions on Twitter, because I already knew that the main takeaway from this Nigeria-Germany summit would be, “She belongs to my kitchen.”
When a leader of a nation says a spouse of 27 years belongs in the kitchen, what do you expect the girls of that generation to aspire to?— Akin Akíntáyọ̀ (@forakin) October 14, 2016
Let's get it straight, if a spouse of 27 years cannot express independent views without being sent back to the kitchen, what gives?— Akin Akíntáyọ̀ (@forakin) October 14, 2016
What does President Buhari have an entourage of advisers for if none of the lot anticipated he would be asked about his wife's views?— Akin Akíntáyọ̀ (@forakin) October 14, 2016
I know there are men who would excuse the inexcusable belittlement of Aisha Buhari on the world stage, I will not.— Akin Akíntáyọ̀ (@forakin) October 14, 2016
Just imagine if Bill Clinton suggested Hillary Clinton belonged in the kitchen, just because she had the audacity to have an opinion.— Akin Akíntáyọ̀ (@forakin) October 14, 2016
The undercurrent of "she belongs to my kitchen" is probably a religiously heartfelt desire to have a woman in purdah in 2016 Nigeria.— Akin Akíntáyọ̀ (@forakin) October 14, 2016
The widest implication and consequence of Muhammadu Buhari’s comment can only be encapsulated in the next tweet.
I hate to think of the consequences of Buhari's 'she belongs in my kitchen' view on an unfortunate girl-child needing to go to school.— Akin Akíntáyọ̀ (@forakin) October 14, 2016
The deeper ramifications
Nigeria has many girl-child disadvantages and challenges, we still have almost 200 Chibok Girls abducted by Boko Haram in captivity for over 2 years, girls are getting abducted, religiously converted and pressed into matrimony by paedophiles and there is no criminality imputed. [Premium Times]
The problem here is this septuagenarian in a changing world failed to lead and chose to follow patrimony and by his pronouncement that some have dismissed as a jocular retort, some men will decide there is no need to invest in their girls if the leader of the 7th most populous nation in the world believes the woman belongs in the kitchen, the living room, and the other room.
The attempt at a joke here was the use of ‘the other room’ instead of ‘bedroom’, but the ramifications are deeper than that and that is why there is no excuse that can excuse what Muhammadu Buhari said in Germany.
Our culture expects the elderly to be smart, wise, wily and tactful, let us not let fealty to the man obscure the grave errors of the man.
Let’s do better
Now, I am not advocating that there should be no gender roles in the home, but a home life is only part of the total makeup of both the man and the woman. A lot is lost in the wealth of nations when only the patriarchy can decide who has opinions and whether they can be expressed so independently in public.
We must emancipate ourselves beyond this and give equal opportunity to a fulfilled life of achievement to everyone regardless of status, gender, beliefs, culture, traditions and unfortunate anachronistic views expressed by visionless leaders.