In works of fiction, a character’s makeup (mind) can be revealed by what he says of himself, what the narrator says of him and what other characters say of him in the work in question. A character’s mind can be revealed to some extent by what the critics (readers) say of him. Silences either by the narrator or the character can say something of a character’s psychology.
Permit me, therefore, to use this simple analogy of appraising a character’s mind to attempt a critical reading and evaluation of the recent BBC interview granted by the First Lady, Aisha Buhari and the response by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The topic of the discourse is an assessment of the current APC-run Federal Government by Aisha. Although the discourse is about Nigerian politics, especially the inner workings of the administration in Aso Rock Villa, the seat of power but, the setting is in two locations in Europe, Britain and Germany. The thesis of Aisha’s criticism (interview), which to me reflects the general feelings of most Nigerians about the Buhari administration, is that a cabal has hijacked the government from Buhari, who Nigerians gave the nod to preside over the affairs of the country in 2015.
This cabal, which Aisha said consists of two or three unnamed persons who are visible on national television, is in charge of the administration. The cabal literally runs Buhari’s kitchen cabinet. Without mentioning their names, the members of this cabal are probably card-carrying members of APC, the ruling party.
Members of this powerful cabal may not have openly campaigned for or voted Buhari into power. Nevertheless, they are indeed the unseen hands behind the throne. No doubt, they wield enormous powers. They are responsible for the lopsided appointments and the delay in the formation of Buhari’s cabinet that needs rejigging. They should be held responsible for the failings of this administration to deliver on its numerous campaign promises. The most annoying aspect of the entire drama is their penchant to deny some of their promises to Nigerians.
Aisha’s threat that she will not campaign again for Buhari in 2019 if he comes out is the fallout of her frustration with the cabal and its hostage of Buhari. Aisha is not alone. Some key APC figures have been kept outside the power fulcrum since inauguration of the new government.
If you want to read more on Aso Rock cabal and the demons in the nation’s seat of power, see Reuben Abati’s “The spiritual side of Aso Villa” in The Guardian of October 14, 2016. Nigerians, especially those in power should not ignore the revelations from Abati’s expose, as he wrote from personal experience. There is a parallel between fictional world of a character and the lived experience of the people, the epoch and the society the work of art mirrors. This is true of the short story, prose, poetry and drama. These art forms are realized through text, whether written or oral. What I am saying is that there is a nexus between fiction and reality. The two are two sides of a coin, life, human existence and experience.
The Aisha interview and Buhari’s response are regarded as text in this discourse. I have so far explicated on Aisha’s thesis. Let me also examine the thesis of Bhari’s response. The thesis of Buhari’s loaded but short response is that Aisha belongs to his kitchen, the living room and the other room and not the political arena where Buhari claims being better informed and knowledgeable than Aisha.
In a conservative and patrilineal society, especially in Africa, the woman or the wife operates from the precincts of the kitchen. The woman is indeed in charge of that domestic sphere in the family. While the man is the owner of the house and the breadwinner, the woman is practically in charge of the kitchen, palour and bedroom, the baby factory chamber of the family.
What Buhari is saying in essence is that Aisha should leave the political sphere for Buhari and the men of experience. In all honesty, Buhari has experienced power as a military head of state. Perhaps he knows what he is saying. He vied for the presidency three times and failed. He won only in the fourth attempt. But Buhari’s response is also masculine and full of male chauvinistic bile and muscles. Has Buhari forgotten that Aisha went to the trenches with him and worked day and night for his emergence as the president?
I dare say that Aisha’s beautiful face and those of her daughters brought more votes to Buhari as well as his alliance with the Bola Tinubu’s South-West power base more than those of the cabal. If Buhari wants to succeed, he should listen carefully to what the First Lady said. What the First Lady said is indeed the home truth.
It came rightly from the horse’s mouth. Aisha is not an outsider as Buhari wants to cast her. She does not belong to the kitchen and other rooms as being portrayed. She belongs to the levers of power. She actively participated in the cooking and giving birth to this change administration that has refused to give Nigerians the change it promised about a year and half ago. Nigerian men should be thoroughly schooled that a woman’s destiny does not begin and end in the kitchen or the bedroom. It goes beyond these primitive confines and spheres of influence. A woman with first and second degrees belongs to the public sphere of human existence, even though she is a wife and mother. We should stop defining women by marriage and motherhood alone. Our women should be given a pedestal to stand and a voice to air their views in our macho and phallic political arena. We need a feminine touch to moderate the overt masculinity of the nation’s political sphere.
Nigeria will not know any meaningful change and development until her women (more than half of our 180 million people) are factored into our political, economic, social and educational decisions. This, to me, is the major thesis of Aisha’s BBC interview. Where are the women that queued behind Buhari in his appointments so far?
The affirmative action for women should start with allocation to women some representation in our polity at executive and legislative arms of government. President Buhari and his APC should listen to Aisha and do the right thing and fulfill their campaign promises. Let them understand that the era women belong to the kitchen and the bedroom is gone forever. Our women need a big space in our political arena so that the labours of our heroes and heroines past will never be in vain.