Where does your wife belong?

AFTER short derisive laugh, with a look of utter disdain to his left, the most powerful man in Nigeria, the number one figure of leadership, spat the following grim words, “I DON’T know which party my wife belongs to,” and with a smug smile finished his sentence, “but she belongs to MY kitchen, MY living room and the other room.”

On Thursday, October 14, 2016, a presidential verbal bomb that could be considered by grand feminists, as targeted towards the vulnerable of the world, hours after the world #stoodwithgirls, went off in far away Germany. The most powerful man in Nigeria, commander in chief of the armed forces, alpha male, head of Nigeria’s first family, which invariably makes him the first husband and father, while standing on an international podium, next to one of the most powerful women in the world, made a presidential banter that has evoked not just a national but an international whirlwind.

I saw the look on Angela Merkel’s face; it was fraught with shock and somewhere in there, was some pity. Pity, perhaps not just for Nigeria’s first wife but for the host of other women married to Nigerian men and girls who would be married to them someday.

But, is that who they really are? Did the words of our president, far away from home, in the land where Adolf Hitler and his Nazi’s once reigned supreme truly depict what our men think of our women?

The president’s statement has been analysed by different fronts to mean several things. Some people have called it derogatory; others see it as an affront to womanhood. To some others, it is considered a travesty on the female gender, one that should have not emanated from Nigeria’s first man. Some even see it as the truth!

A certain writer opined that “the president’s remark has further dented Nigeria’s image before the International Community, and slurred the integrity, value and reputation of not only the First Lady, but Nigerian women and womanhood in general.”

However, here is what I think. “I don’t know which political party my wife belongs to…” Really, was the president telling us or asking us? Who organised all those town hall meetings with the women during the campaigns that made him president? Who galvanised the Nigerian youth? Perhaps, Aisha Buhari campaigned on the platform of a party we are just getting to know – the ‘kitchen and room’ party! Does that sound to you like I don’t know my wife and I really don’t care?

Next, the president said, “She belongs to MY kitchen and MY living room…” note the MY. It is understandable for men to want to call the living room theirs…it has plenty of electronics, the flat screens for those that love soccer, the game consoles for the gamers…it is natural for a man to be attached to the living room but the kitchen? Nigeria’s first man referring to the kitchen as his should raise a lot of eye brows.

Then the president closed with “the other room.” In 2016, do couples still keep ‘the other room’? I want to think that ‘the other room’ in that sentence depicts the future destination of the first wife… Anyway, I am done trying to unravel the conundrum in the president’s response to his wife’s criticism.

My focus today lies here… Does this ‘banter’ according to Garba Shehu, which was later denied, depict the entirety of the Nigerian male? Are we really a people with such views of womanhood? In Northern Nigeria, millions of Naira is being pumped into the education of the girl-child. Women groups and NGOs are rising up every day, screaming at the top of their lungs for the education of the girl child… if really they all have two destinations- a man’s kitchen and his rooms, why do we bother? Are we hypocrites?

A president wields a great deal of power and influence over the people. To many, the president of a country is a role model. If our dear president could jokingly, like Shehu said, though there are some contradictions as regards his claim, utter such words about the first woman, what then is the fate of the millions of girls in the north who have stark illiterates for fathers and brothers? What then would be the fruit of all the struggle and campaigns about educating the girl child?

I would like to believe that the president meant no harm to the many women and girls of Nigeria. I would want to believe that it was just a joke gone wrong… we all must have had that moment when the joke turns sour, haven’t we?

I would like to think so because this same president spent millions of dollars, even when forex exchange was a big issue, educating his daughters in the United Kingdom. He definitely wouldn’t want to see them end up, just like that, in another man’s kitchen and rooms.

I would like to believe that contrary to the opinion of the international community, there are men in this country who would put their wives in the spot light and cheer them on.

There are Nigerian men who know that women are not just for making food and babies but have potentials inside of them. If one man chooses today to see his wife as his partner, if a bachelor decides to marry a companion and not a slave, then all the hard work we put in educating the Northern girl child and other girls across the country, will not go to waste. After all, these girls are the future of Nigeria and 2016 has come too far in civilization to push them into the abyss of smoking kitchens but it begins by knowing where your wife belongs or we may be doomed.

We may be doomed if we come off to the world like a people that are too macho, too African, to treat the female gender with the love and respect they deserve. A woman shouldn’t publicly fry ‘akara’ for you to win an election and get to be locked up in the kitchen and the other rooms. We don’t want that future for our country; we don’t want that for our girls, our daughters and our wives. A country which relegates its female is far from development. After all, in French, a nation is feminine and carries the article ‘la’ same for a car and a house…. Nigeria is a woman and we must put her where she belongs or fall into developmental anarchy.



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