Thursday, November 10, 2016

Aisha Buhari’s Insurgent Self-Assertion

By Alade Rotimi John  
It is perhaps appropriate to begin with the view echoed approvingly by narrators, commentators and analysts with respect to the comments of Mrs. Aisha Buhari in her a recent BBC interview to the effect that a new meaning (or, in fact, a refreshing niche) is being carved regarding the role of the wife of the President. The facile response of her husband rather than complement the deep thoughts of his wife, sadly casts a dark pall on a subject matter that is at once profound and vigorous. 
*Aisha Buhari 
Aisha has bemoaned the absence or non-inclusion in her husband’s government, of “Change!” elements representing the matrix of APC distinctiveness. She has metaphorically contrasted the scenario with a situation in which “Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop”. In this case, the proverbial monkey has worked its arse out but the baboon is mindlessly reaping the fruits of its labour to the chagrin of the apostles of change and their hangers-on.

There may dialectically be discerned in Aisha’s diatribe an almost incoherent ideological ministration regarding conflicting but germane issues of statecraft, intra-party relations, high-wired politics, cronyism, jobbery, etc.’inter se’. All these are critical or significant factors in a moral-ideological situation of a hotchpotch political arrangement which Aisha misleadingly refers to as “a movement”. The idea of a party of all-comers is in itself flawed ab initio. No unifying sense of purpose is discernible in APC’s conception or execution of policies and programmes.
There is no allegiance or commitment, among members, to a common ideal or goal. Groups within the party are working at cross purposes for the achievement of their respective group interests. In such a situation, as we unfortunately have on our hands, governance suffers groaningly. Aisha’s worry, no matter how deep or concerned, cannot take the place of the opportunism or crass selfishness that has already been factored or ingrained into the party’s processes; it cannot reverse or undo the damage which a desultory administration has wreaked on a faithful or trustful people these one and half years. The social and ideological framework for the change of our present unethical or amoral situation lies in the cultivation of a deep-seated culture of a popular democratic social order devoid of ethnic chauvinism, disrespect for hallowed institutions of state and impunity regarding order and set rules, etc.
The response or reaction of President Buhari to his wife’s comment in which he limits her roles to the kitchen, the living room and “the other room” will appear to be anachronistic in this age of proven women super-sonic performance of roles in rocket science, engineering, the professions of medicine and law, the arts, diplomacy and, even, in governance. Buhari’s faux pas is rendered even more repulsive or distasteful as it was made in a clime that has long overcome the bogey of the presumed prowess of the male person in all spheres of life, including in “the other room”. Our exhibit is no other than the headship of affairs and events in such an advanced country as Germany by a ruthlessly efficient Mrs. Angela Merkel. At a most distinguished level, there is now an evolved distinction not glibly as between a man and a woman but between the creative energies, cultivated gravity and gracefulness as may exist between a particular man or a particular woman.
No longer is the ambiguous lumping together of virtues or vices, prowess or unskillfulness, performance or inefficiency as the preserve of one gender or the other. Buhari’s statement is a general reflection, back home, of the cultural predicament of the Nigerian woman who, even when she has been educated at great public expense, is perceived as only good for “the kitchen, the living room and the other room” – to be tucked away from public view. This attitude, expressedly shared by the leader of the world’s largest community of black people, bespeaks the perspectives of our cultural policy makers towards the girl child and, by extension, the female adult. This self-same attitude finds monumental expression in the mindless abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, their indescribable saga and the upturned or controversial sense of their real or objective.
Child abuse, exemplifying itself in forced marriages, rape, abduction, street hawking, etc. in which the girl child is a central figure or victim is no longer folk rhetoric. They are today, everyday real-life events or experiences. What is worrisome is the imputation that the seal of authority or power may have been stamped on actual incidents of the abduction, for putting in the family way, of girls of tender ages by persons in authority.
The extant story of an emir and a child bride is another outrage in which the soul of the nation has again been made numb or dispirited. Ensconced in the heretical delusion of grandeur or belief that he is himself the state, the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdul-Mumin Kabir Usman has smugly ignored all entreaties to release from abduction a mere 14-year old he has captured as “wife”. When the poor father of the abducted girl child went to his palace to seek the return of his hapless daughter, he was allegedly assaulted by the emir himself.
Mrs. Buhari should see her husband’s publicly expressed sense of limitation of her role for what it is – a degradation or downing of the place of womanhood. She should feel challenged and concerned regarding the vexed issues of religious bigotry, forced marriages, girl child abduction, etc. and take up the gauntlet to vigorously interrogate these vices. As the current First Lady, she is in a vantage position to make her voice ring true and convincing. She should send a sustained strong message to lascivious men all over the country, particularly more so in northern Nigeria, who hide under the cloak of a controversial or unclear religious creed to commit untoward offences, especially paedophilia, against the girl child. She should move the machinery of state behind women all over the country to decry the maniacal exploitation of girls through forced marriages, etc.
The opinion, often popularly held, that the office of the First Lady is one of a parasitic activity will seem to have a reasonable basis only when the occupier of the office is unable to foster a sense for the validation of issues that pertain to the centrality of the woman kind in the affairs of governance or of life generally.
*Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, sent in this contribution from Abuja.

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