Thursday 20 March 2008

In Nigeria, can wives make independent choices?

PDP, an unruly party

Once again, a rather inauspicious news report catches my eye and exposes an issue of social significance that it elicits commentary.

Nigeria’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is an enigma; it has a way of gathering a storm to create a Force-10 gale, the impending hurricane accompanies a tsunami and everything else tumbles to a full magnitude earthquake – all this in a cracked teapot.

Sometimes, I wonder which organ gathers the most news inches; the government of Nigeria which should too busy solving Nigeria’s problems to be distracted by frivolities or the overwhelmingly disconcerting in-fighting that consumes the party that produced the leaders, such that they have no time to do Nigeria’s business.

Split down the dining table

In Enugu State, rival factions have dug-in to face-off each other; one camp being that of the current state governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime and the other being that of the former state governor, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani – I would name each camp for the chief protagonists.

There is nothing unusual about this development, if Nigerian politicians cannot be involved in intra-party conflict, they get bored; they are born to be in difference, in dissent, in disagreement, disruptive, in dissimulation and add to that, be held in disdain and hounded into disgrace.

What makes this worthy of commentary is this intra-party has hit the smallest unit of assumed Nigerian responsibility – a husband and wife have ended up in different camps – The husband is a member of the Enugu State House of Assembly as Hon. Tony Chigbo in the Chime camp and the wife; Mrs. Ngozi Chigbo is listed as the Financial Secretary of the Nnamani camp.

Any vibrant marriage should allow for the traditional marital bliss whilst being able to discuss ideas, especially professional and political ones where the partners might have differences of opinion – that, I would think is a marriage in maturity.

The sway of Unreconstructed Male Chauvinists

However, in what is a throw-back to the patriarchal hegemony that refuses to recognise the possibility of women having differences of opinion from their husbands and even worse, expecting the wife to be devoid of the intellectual capacity to make informed choices that are not dictated and commanded by her husband, the man finds himself fighting for both his honour and his marriage.

There probably is no reason for wives to discuss their political allegiances with their husbands but a mention can maybe avoid embarrassment if they end up on opposite ends.

My wife should be subject

The man declares that he did not know that his wife was associated with the Nnamani camp – below the scrutiny of essential news coverage, the unreconstructed male chauvinists (UMCs) would contend that the man has no control of his house that he does not know what his wife is up to.

He then says he is opposed to his wife’s participation in the Nnamani camp, but the instructive part is that the UMCs are not calling Mrs. Chigbo to persuade her but are putting pressure on the husband to call his wife to order.

Most definitely because, if I were to afford myself the broadest generalisation I could aver, men are schooled and traditionally expected to present their wives as beauty companions but really treat them as pseudo-slaves without rights, independence of thought and sometimes means – they are supposed to be constant supplicants to their husbands who then give them status in society – they must be subject to the broadest purview and authority of the husband.

This is a deep thing, but we have all bought into this concept and women have found themselves subsumed into what is the “norm”

Do wives have rights?

Obviously, societal pressure leads him to say, “I vehemently disapprove of her association with any other political grouping or faction outside the mainstream state PDP led by the State Governor, Mr Sullivan Chime.” Read, I am her husband, she has no right to have an alternative political allegiance.

It would be a while before we find men who would proudly promote their wives to be the best they could ever be without thinking they are in competition – the emancipated man would have said, my wife and I can have disagreements, but that is no one’s business – we have a strong marriage that thrives on mutual respect.

Meanwhile, no one bothers to contact the wife and interview her for her independent opinion, because the society we have does not reckon a married woman should be given that level of courtesy and respect.

That is the way things still are in many places.

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