Ibeg to disagree with the position of many commentators on this issue of ‘my wife belongs to the kitchen,’ but before I go on, let me first state here that I am neither one of the wailers nor the Sai-Babas. Rather, I am one of those rational commentators who subject their comments to good dictates of reason and objectivity. I comment on issues based on their merit, not on any pathological hatred or love for the person of Mr President. I had once written on the emergence of two sets of people — the wailers and the Sai-babas, who always relegate reasoning, empirical facts, logic, evidence and wisdom to the background in their condemnation or commendation of the President. I have had reasons to condemn some of the actions of President Muhammadu Buhari in some of my previous articles. But when I do so, I do it with all sense of decorum and civility, and uttermost respect for his office, unlike the obligate wailers. And when I have reasons to praise him, I do it with all moderations- unlike the die-hard Sai-Babas that sing his praises to the high heaven.
Yes, contrary to the view of some Nigerians, I said President Buhari did not goof in his response to the question “…. which party does your wife belong to?’’. For the sake of those who have not read the full response of the President, I will reproduce it here verbatim:- “ well I don’t know the party she belongs to but I know she belongs to my kitchen, my bedroom and other room.” We all know that the question itself is funny, and a president could be excused if he also answers in a funny way. Even though he meant it by all intent and purpose, as he later claimed, nothing in that response sold him out as a misogynist or male chauvinist, and/ or somebody who wanted to categorically deride his wife. Contextually, can anyone use any of these lexical synonyms -banish, limit or condemn to replace the world ‘’belongs’’ here? At least, we all at one time or the other have sat for the O-level English examination. So, he didn’t mean his wife is banished, or limited or condemned to the kitchen and bedroom. He later made further clarification by saying, “aside whatever job she does, it is her responsibility to take care of the home,’’ which he connoted as kitchen and bedroom. It is a common knowledge in all climes (black, white, hispanic, etc) that the primary responsibility of a woman in marriage is to take care of the home front, the kitchen and bedroom being the centres. In fact, that is the raison d’ etre for marriage. Even the so called “most powerful woman on earth’’ will not contract these functions out to a maid. I have visited quite a number of White couples, both young and elderly, and I can attest to the importance their women attach to cooking and taking care of their family in general, irrespective of their social status. In fact, White women hardly enlist the services of housemaids.
Furthermore, one could argue that kitchen and bedroom were figuratively used here to send a message to all and sundry that all is well between him and his wife, despite the perceived animosity in some quarters. The phrase ‘’Kitchen cabinet’’ has always been used to refer to the closest people around the Presidents. Membership of that cabinet is a position of envy, pride and respect among the President’s retinue of aides and/ or ministers. Not too long ago in the history of this nation, a serving minister, the late Professor Dora Akunyili, even graduated from being an ordinary member of the ‘kitchen cabinet’ of late President Umar Yar’dua to one of the privileged persons who could cook for him. To me, President Buhari has just told us that his wife belongs to his ‘kitchen cabinet.’ And although she has to share this with some other people which she is not too comfortable with, but she has the exclusive monopoly of the bedroom, the innermost sanctuary of his life, which is not even shared with her children.
Perhaps, with the exception of Justice Fati Abubakar, Mrs Aisha Buhari happens to be the most educated and most professional of all the first ladies Nigeria has had till date. So, if it is said that the ultimate measure of a man is not the height he has risen to but the height he has risen from, can we then because of this this statement, now pin a label of male chauvinism and or misogynism on a man who trained his wife from school certificate to the postgraduate level, and even allowed her so much professional freedom? Can we really accuse a man who has trained all his daughters at some prestigious universities abroad of thinking lowly of women folks? And despite the enormity of the obligations his office ensnares, he was still very much available to host them to a grand reception on their graduation. Again, having seen how highly he treats his daughters, is it still just to accuse President Buhari of misogyny?
Can we accuse a man who has remained unyielding in the face of an unmentionable barrage of onslaughts and pressure to fire the woman-head of his economic team and minister of finance, of male chauvinism? Can we really say a man who preferred a young lady to several old men as the head of the most economically strategic board in the country, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), of holding any prejudice against women folks? If Buhari so much believes in male superiority and/ or female inferiority as we are now being told, those two women wouldn’t have been appointed against all odds. We even read sometimes where he said he would rather resign than to relieve the Minister of Finance of her appointment. What more do we want from this man, how else do we expect him to show his believe in and respect for women folks?
Perhaps, I should ask, is the Buhari we all know so loquacious to now take his domestic issues to the international press? Is the Buhari we know so temperamental to now deride his wife in an international press conference? How much as he answered some politicians, either in the local or international press, despite their incessant disparaging of his personality?
Therefore, in defiance to public commentators, I see this statement as coming from a man who would not force his wife or any member of his family against their wish; I see it as coming from a man who does not lord it over his subjects. I see it as coming from a heart that respects the individuality and independence of his wife and by extension, all his subjects. And I am so pained that the import of his statement is lost in some Nigerians.
- Agbaogun writes from Germany.