The only thing more mischievous than declaring a virtual manhunt for a woman that is leading a quiet life in her matrimonial home is hiding under the pretext of affirmative action to characterize her absence from her husband’s presidential campaign as proof that the candidate is a mean male chauvinist who caged his wife.
That’s what The PUNCH’s Abimbola Adelakun did in her Thursday column of January, 8, 2015, ‘’ Where Is Mrs. Buhari?’’
Adelakun hastened to demonstrate that she was not interested in the person of Mrs. Aisha Buhari: She was after Aisha’s husband – APC’s Muhammadu Buhari.
Adelakun cited the photograph of Buhari in attendance at the Lagos State interdenominational thanksgiving service without his wife beside him like his fellows on the front row: His running mate, Yemi Osibanjo; the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye and Governor Babatunde Fashola. To Adelakun, Mrs. Buhari’s no-show indicated that her husband holds the generality of womenfolk in derision. The writer ignored the possibility that some exigencies may have kept Mrs. Buhari from participating.
She broached that Buhari violated the protocol of the Christian worship space by wearing a cap. She would add that,’’ If I were a Christian, I would pardon him”. Adelakun needs to reserve her pardon for some future infractions because Buhari’s cap did not desecrate the holy ground.
Many Christian denominations require/allow the clergy and laity to wear cap during service. A writer of Adelakun’s exposure should have known this. And if she suspected that Buhari breached any inviolable rule, she could have sought confirmation from people who are versed in Christian tradition.
She writes that having a reserved wife is an anomaly. For her, a candidate who advocates ‘’change’’ needs to convince the electorate, in his fourth bid, that he himself has the capacity to change by tagging his wife along on the stump. She insinuates that sight of Buhari yoked with his wife would neutralize his perception as a bogeyman. If Buhari took his wife along, and produced some public display of affection, he might win many hearts and minds.
This is the century of exhibitionism, but should Buhari objectify his wife and pass her around on the off-chance that that would make him more electable? Is he supposed to be so desperate that he would try whatever has the remotest promise of making him win the vote; even turning himself into some pimp?
The tempter taunts one to turn stone into bread. Should Buhari convert his wife into ballot papers?
Nigerian voters would not elect the candidate who peddles his wife the most. The existential threat we face today has foreclosed the chance of any sane voter being that trivial on polls day. The overlap of terrorism and corruption has produced a synergy that cost us territory and souls. The coming Presidential vote falls on Valentine’s Day. But Nigerians won’t vote romance. They will vote for the restoration of life – its sanctity and quality.
For the avoidance of doubt, marriage is not a prerequisite for contesting elective position in Nigeria. The field is open to bachelors and widowers too. Marriage is the private affair of the candidate.
The matrimony of the Buharis is an issue exclusive to the Buharis. We are not invited to contribute unsolicited commentary. Adelakun, total strangers to the Buharis, trespassed. She did not have the right or sufficient information to pronounce on their married life. She was as wrong as the Buharis would have had if they presumed to analyze Adelakun’s relationship with her partner.
In one sentence, she simultaneously she declared her unwillingness to guess about Buhari’s bedroom and contradicted herself by passing judgment. She writes that ‘’ I do not want to speculate on his private life as a married man but I think those images portray him as a self-centered person who does not share space’’.
Adelakun also erred in hypothesizing that Mrs. Aisha Buhari has no iota of agency. Could Mrs. Buhari not have decided to participate out of her own volition? Could she not have opted to stay back because she was not cut out for campaigning?
Adelakun expects Aisha Buhari to join the fray because Muhammadu Buhari was in the race. By her logic, a candidate’s spouse must count as an automatic supporter. The fact of marriage, it would seem, merges the otherwise independent faculties of reasoning of man and wife and transfers the authority to arbitrarily exercise the shared mind to the man. So when Buhari decided that he was going to run for president for the fourth consecutive time, his wife also decided by default– in the fashion of it-goes-without-saying, assured certainties.
Buhari’s wife is a distinct human being. She is as mentally competent as any fair-minded who has ever encountered her can attest. Adelakun herself admits that she had seen Mrs. Buhari during the last election cycle. Mrs. Buhari came ‘’on TV expressing herself more articulately than the woman who would become the First Lady’’. And she reckoned that Mrs. Buhari was ‘’not just a housewife who sits at home making ‘’Fura de Nunu’’ for her husband but a distinguished person in her own right’’.
If one can discount that very condescending slur on a class of endangered species called homemakers and the many children reared on their unquantifiable sacrifice, the writer should have reasoned that Aisha’s preference for the home front may have been informed by other some other factors that don’t easily lend themselves to conjecturing.
Of course, this ‘’distinguished person in her own right’’ is not under any obligation to join the campaign fest. Being married to Buhari does not necessarily approximate to being married to his bouts of presidential contest. She has the right to decide how to relate to candidate persona of her husband.
If Mrs. Buhari determines that the most effective way to support him is conditioning their home and making it a nest of rest and recreation for a man engaged in a physically and mentally exhausting race, no stranger has a right to feel offended.
Even if all she does is welcome him at the door, run him water for a cold bath and serve him his favorite meal, she is still making a precious contribution to the campaign. That she is not part of the caravan touring the country does not make her less beneficial to his husband’s candidacy. She could be making the more impact on the campaign by working from the shadows than she could have done by accompanying Buhari everywhere and returning home as weary as he is.
Besides, who says that Aisha must support her husband? She doesn’t have to if she does not want to. Mrs. Buhari has some will and choice. She could choose to be a closet supporter of his husband’s rival. It is within her legitimate right.
Adelakun notes that Buhari promises women empowerment but has ‘’his own wife is tucked away from view’’. By her logic, Buhari would have shown the earnest of sincerity by retrieving his wife from anonymity and hawking her around. I’m sorry but you don’t demonstrate your capacity to empower women by hijacking your wife and making her a mere tool for your purpose. Railroading her into joining the campaigns would be disempowering her and trivializing her humanity.
The allusion that Buhari’s tentative proposal to abolish the Office of the First Lady constitutes another testament of his contempt for the womenfolk misses the mark. The Office of the First Lady has some positive use. It is a platform for advancing causes of pressing importance. Michelle Obama is rousing the United States to the crisis of child obesity.
In Nigeria, our dominant experience is that the Office of the First Lady is the playground of conceited wives who afflicted with the delusion that they share power with their husbands. Wives of some polygamous governors maintain parallel offices. Their husbands fund the pageantry of convoys and retinue of aides just to keep the harem peaceful.
Office of the First Lady has become so thoroughly abused that it recommends itself for excision. It is the title that gives one hyperactive wife the temerity to attempt to reverse a state government policy by fiat because she happened to marry the man who became President. Then, the land grabs – she could annex the large swath of land her predecessor had acquired. All virgin lands in Abuja had not been procured in the name of dubious charities. But the new kid on the block would dramatize her newfound superiority over a widow who used to boss her.
The question, ‘’Where Is Mrs. Buhari?’’ has no form of validity. Aisha Buhari is not missing. And her whereabouts does not constitute a subject of concern.
Boko Haram abducted over 200 girls from their school in Chibok on April 15, 2014. They are nine months old in captivity. The question of where they are should be the more consuming and urgent passion of a writer who is apparently interested in women empowerment.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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