Last week we celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child with a lot of noise. Michelle Obama celebrated by drawing a lot of media attention to her quest to educate girls around the world. Groups around the world did various things to show where and how they were standing with the girls. Our own First Lady, though not in direct celebration, displayed unusual spunk when she spoke up against her husband’s administration on international radio.
No matter how you look at it, that has never been done before; that a First Lady would say something uncomplimentary about her husband’s administration. What we have had in the past are First Ladies who were ready to defend everything their husbands did, especially in the public. What they thought or did in private was nobody’s business. So when Aisha said what she said, the feminists applauded, believing that of a truth, the day of the girl child had come in Nigeria.
But alas! Oga President Buhari poured the proverbial sand-sand in our garri with his response to the issues raised by his wife. The President, sitting next to a highly successful and achieving female leader of Germany, said that Aisha belongs to his living room, his kitchen and his ‘other room.’
What! He says stuff like that in the 21st century? President Buhari made nonsense of the gains of the week with his few careless remarks. And therein lies the problem of our society for me. Buhari by that statement shows that he is one who believes the education of women is a waste. Why do I say that? You do not need any fancy education to belong in the three rooms he mentioned. All you need is a front and a back. A Harvard degree is of little use in the living room where you sit and watch Zeeworld or in the kitchen where you stirring ‘tuwo’ and okro soup. Indeed you do not even need Primary school certificate to ‘remove cloth’ in the unnamed ‘other room.’
So if the President is saying all of that, it shows where he stands. It is inexcusable though he was talking about his own wife. By virtue of her position, she represents every woman in our society, just as he represents every man in our society. That is the burden of leadership; his own opinion matters on every issue.
I do not consider myself a feminist but please allow me to ‘vex’ very well for the man and to attempt to put him and all men who think like that where they belong. When a man says that his wife belongs in his kitchen and two other rooms in his house it says to me that he is living in delusion. Such men belong in the cave, hunting wild animals and berries for food. Women passed the kitchen stage a long time ago and no man should attempt to take us back there, not even as a joke.
The fact that it was the president who said it makes me want to weep for the Nigerian girl child. Between the three rooms in the President’s imagination are Doctors, Lawyer, Astronauts, Bankers, Engineers, Professors, Ministers and Governors. And let us not forget that, he was being hosted by someone who had escaped the kitchen and the other room. A woman who is shaping policy on an international level. Buhari should not forget that his minister of Finance is an escapee from his 3-room world, telling him how to run his economy.
I know someone will say he has the right to run his family the way he likes. I beg to disagree. He is the President of the country and people look up to him for direction. He spoke his mind and his beliefs. And that tells me that if he had his way, that would be the fate of women everywhere. And even he meant it for only his wife it is still inexcusable. His wife is the First Lady and by that position she represents every Nigerian woman. When a woman at that level is relegated to the kitchen, it says a lot to the woman or man on the street.
Somebody should please help us tell Buhari that we are no longer in the kitchen and the other room. We left there long ago. We are now standing in every room in between.