By Paul John
FOR some time now, our electronic and printed media have been awash with news items about a recent interview granted the BBC by the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari. Following the aftermath of that interview, Mr President, while fielding questions in far away Germany, described his wife as belonging to his kitchen, his living room and ‘the other room’. This happened in a country where a woman is the Chancellor and in a year when a woman became the British Prime Minister not mentioning the fact the US is about to have its first woman President. Shortly, after this presidential faux pas, Garba Shehu lamely attempted to disabuse the minds of Nigerians as to the innocuous import and purport of that statement by attributing it to Mr. President’s sense of humour.
However, need one remind Garba Shehu of an Igbo adage: ‘Ebe a na-ama njakiri ka a na-agwa mmadu eziokwu’, one is told the truth through jokes? In other words, it is in the midst of friendly banter that the greatest truth emerges. Even if, as Garba Shehu wants the whole world to believe, Mr President was only joking when he said that his wife belongs to his kitchen, his living room and ‘the other room,’ the import and dimension of that message cannot be easily or merely dismissed offhandedly as he wishes to do. The question is: How many women have been appointed by Mr President to head Federal establishments or to be part of his cabinet? This is unlike the last administration where many women were given some key positions and allowed to do their jobs without fear or favour. A case in point happened to be the appointment of the first ever female Chief Justice of the Federation by the last administration. What is the President doing currently about the much-touted 35% affirmation? Nigerians voted for change; Nigerians wanted to do things right or even better which was why some people opted for President Buhari against ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. But, what are they getting now?
The worst of it all is that Mr President made the statement in a part of the world that never plays with women’s rights and in a country where a mother of eight is the Minister of Defence, superintending over one of the strongest military forces in the world. Thus, some feminist groups in Germany immediately called it a hate speech and demanded the immediate exit of Mr President from their territory. Did we not see how visibly angry Mrs Merkel ended the press conference to save Mr. President further embarrassment? Let the truth be told, as far as this administration is concerned, women are meant for the kitchen, the living room and ‘the other room’. I may not bother to ask the DSS, EFCC or any of their sister agencies to investigate the meaning of the ‘other room’, rather I will assume that ‘the other room’ means the bedroom. But, taking the President’s speech to a wider context, one would remember that immediately he assumed office in 2015, there was an interview equally credited to him where he said it would be unfair giving the same degree of attention he is giving to those who gave him 97% votes to those who gave him only 5% votes. Is it not absurd that the region classified under 5% is the region that sustains the Nigerian economy through its oil production? The President said this as a cryptic reference to those from the South-southern and the South-eastern states whom the President believed did not give enough support to his presidential bid. Will the presidential spokesperson also come out to tell us that it was equally part of Mr President’s numerous humours? But then, Nigerians do not need jesters, else, they would not have opted for Mr. President, neither do they need a male chauvinist in a country that has more than 43% of its population being women and girls, else they would not have voted him into power.
Before, Mr. Garba Shehu comes out to defend his master, I will like to inform him that even the blind can see and the deaf can hear the impact of the 5% voting pattern on all the Federal roads in South-southern and South-eastern states. It was a heart-wrenching experience for me on September 20, 2016, I travelled from Aba to Calabar. The road was so bad that passengers had to come down for the vehicle to wobble over a bridge that was located at a town in Akwa Ibom state, just close to Obingwa in Abia State. A visit to Onitsha-Enugu expressroad, the most strategic Federal Highway in the Southeast, explains in clear terms the true meaning of having 5% voting reward. Road users are now forced to make use of alternate state roads which are farther and longer than the Federal Highway. Talk about the Okigwe-Nnewi-Onitsha Federal Highway, you will see the same 5% voting reward in action. Port-Harcourt-Enugu Federal Highway is yet evidence of the 5% voting reward. The road has become so bad that the indefatigable Rivers State Governor, Barrister Ezenwo Wike, decided to extend his ‘operation zero pothole’ to the road, especially along Obigbo expressroad. Before then, any day I remembered I had a patient to go and review in Obigbo, my mind would sink within me because the road was so bad that no sane car owner would wish to ply it in his or her own car. Fortunately, the Abia State Governor has equally come to repair his own part of the federal road, thereby providing temporary relief to road users by reducing the incessant congestion usually witnessed on it.
Coming to the railway sector, the Eastern Railway District remains the most poorly maintained of all the railway districts in Nigeria today. It has to be noted that Eastern Railway District is the only railway district in Nigeria that still serves two geopolitical zones: the South-south and the Southeast. This is most worrisome given the fact that one of their sons is the current Minister of Transport. But then, the two regions are part of the 5% voters whose reward is maladministration and neglect. Even having a transport minister is not enough to insulate the regions from the consequences of giving only 5% of their votes to Mr. President in the last general elections.
When travelling on the train, the type of frictions experienced at the Eastern segment disappears once the train passes the Eastern region. The so-called first class coach (which in other railway districts is second class) initially found in the Eastern Railway District has been returned to the exclusive enjoyment of the 97% voters. What will one say about Federal appointments, an issue that has generated a lot of heat among concerned citizens? However, one thing that stands out is that even in the appointments, both south-southern and south-eastern states have not been given the luxury of having their sons and daughters occupy at least the so-called 5% positions in Federal appointments purportedly reserved for them to reflect their voting pattern in the 2015 general elections. Indeed, never in the history of the nation has Nigeria been so polarised! Not even during the civil war! I need not talk about the shooting going on following the clampdown on IPOB members and the wanton killings being perpetrated by terrorists who disguise as Fulani herdsmen. The land is sick, thanks to Mr. President’s arithmetic of 5% against 97% voting pattern!
Finally, I will not attack Mr Garba Shehu because he is only doing the job he is being paid for. Nevertheless, it is a joke for him to think that he can convince any reasonable Nigerian that Mr President’s statement was merely meant to be a friendly banter, or that the President does not in any way imply by his statement that women in our country are meant for ‘the kitchen, sitting room and the other room’ by the current administration the same way that people of the South-southern and South-eastern geopolitical zones have been reduced to the enjoyment of only if not less than 5% of government presence and appointments, in line with their purported voting pattern in the last presidential election. Indeed, we all know where we belong to in this present administration.
Dr John writes from Port Harcourt via [email protected]