Beauties and the Boss
A SHORT while ago one Gideon Samani who called, named and addressed himself as the Senior Special Adviser Political Matters to President Buhari had started a conversation that was cut down in mid trajectory. We had no chance of enjoying the full flow of this conversation.
He said that the reason President Muhammadu Buhari will not have many females breaking the floor of the Aso Villa with their stiletto is that Buhari is a shy man where women are, he cannot even look them straight in the face because he is not used to them.
As is customary, the President’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, quickly sprang to action, telling us the office that Samani claims to occupy exists only in the figment of his fraudulent imagination, that his assertion is totally wrong, that the President loves women and he provided the exhibit: the president has a wife and female children. Actually, the President has had two wives, one after the other. That is solid evidence to support the thesis. As for the female children, he did nothing to make them female. Evidence dismissed.
The women have counted the number of females nominated as Ministers on their 10 fingers and they found that there are still four painted finger nails left. They then asked what may have gone wrong. Education they have, cognate experience they also have. By the last population census the women are more in number than the men; if Buhari believed in equality of the sexes he could have given men and women 18 slots apiece. Or if he believed in equity of the sexes he could still squeeze out 30 per cent of the positions for them since they may not have invested as much in his campaign as the men.
All these seem plausible so why did the Boss put the Beauties in the background? What does he not like about our women? Does he feel uncomfortable with their blood-red lipsticks? Or their multi-coloured finger nails or their N200,000 Brazilian hair? Or could it be their mountain-high gladiators? Well, he was a gladiator himself at some point in his life. Maybe it is their pumps he doesn’t like but, again, he may have used pump action rifles in his life, even though he never wore pumps.
Some writers have described the President as a misogynist, a woman hater, and I think this is clearly over the top. Some people think he is a gynophobist, that he fears women. That, too, does not seem tenable. How can a man, a six footer, an ex-soldier, a blunt talker, a ruthless ex-dictator, a dogged fighter, an epitome of tenacity and President of the country with the biggest black population on earth tremble before any skirt or blouse for any reason whatsoever. Not likely.
While he was in the Army he didn’t meet too many women because the Army doesn’t employ too many women. But he left the Army 30 years ago, served in the Petroleum Trust Fund and did four tours of duty as a politician during which period he must have met loads of women. At campaign venues women are the ones who light up the campaigns with their customized uniforms, highbrow headgears and shiny trinkets. So why couldn’t he find more women worthy of the ministerial chair?
Or did the past deeds or misdeeds, omissions or commissions of the women who served the Goodluck Jonathan administration hang over the heads of the female folks like the Sword of Damocles? Did the alleged sins of Stella Oduah, Miss Do-the-Needful, Diezani Alison Madueke, Miss Private Jet, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also known as Miss Wahala weigh negatively on the minds of the Boss and he then decided to visit the alleged transgressions of the trio on the rest of the female clan by offering them half a loaf of love.
Remember that these three women, shall we call them triplets, were featured in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s three volume book, My Watch, as three of five Presidents that Nigeria had, or never had, whichever turns you on. The other two are Patience Jonathan and Goodluck Jonathan who was described by Obasanjo as the “weakest of them all.” Could it be that Buhari may have feared that if he had more women, especially of the caliber of the triplets who were said to pack quite a punch under their belts, no pun intended, he may in a moment of temporary absentmindedness fall for these acclaimed mistresses of maneuverability.
Or does he think that the bulk of our women are mediocre and he therefore thought it was appropriate to grant them only token representation. In a similar situation, Senator Roma Hruska, an ally of Richard Nixon, had risen in the United States Senate to defend the nomination of Florida Judge, Harold Larswell, who lacked demonstrable gifts for a seat at the Supreme Court. He said: “Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they? And a little chance.” We may not necessarily say that of our females because many of them have proven their mettle in the brutally competitive private sector of our economy and have broken the proverbial glass ceiling.
The Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly has been ratified by Nigeria. It is the international bill of rights for women but it has not fully granted Nigerian women all the rights that the men have. Yes, there is equal pay for equal work for both sexes in Nigeria whereas there is still discrimination on that front even in America. Nigerian women have been driving cars for ages whereas women in Saudi Arabia have only just recently been able to put their feet on the throttle. In Pakistan and Afghanistan women education is not tolerated by the religious jingoists. In Pakistan, a 17-year old girl, Malala Yousafzai was shot on her way from school for daring to preach the sermon of education for girls. In Nigeria a parent can be jailed in some states for denying their children basic education.
Nigerian women can count a few more blessings but there are still many burdens placed on the way of women by the instrumentality of historical, cultural, traditional, religious and other biases inherent in the society. These forces are compounded by the searing heat of male chauvinism. This chauvinism is reflected in marriage and divorce laws, property ownership, inability of women to bail accused persons, child marriage, female genital mutilation and an avalanche of other impediments put on the way of women.
Feminist polemics seems to be in decline in Nigeria as if there is the satisfaction on the part of the women that half bread is better than none. Also, is there the possibility that the women are not certain about what they want? What do women want? That is the title of a book by an American writer, Erica Jong. She answers the question by naming four valuables she believes women, not just American women, want: Bread, Roses, Sex and Power.
Many women in Nigeria have acquired a good education, professional success, wealth and many of them have also managed to combine the triple roles of home maker, wife and worker. Most of them have also acquired bread, roses, and sex but have not truly managed to acquire power. The first three valuables can be acquired without cut-throat competitive bull-fighting. The last one, power, which Henry Kissinger, calls the “ultimate aphrodisiac,” is a tempting nectar, much like a rose, beautiful but full of thorns. Many women may desire it but are deterred by the perceived dangers and daggers that hang menacingly in the arena. There lies the problem, or part of it.
In politics, visibility is as important as eligibility. So how will the Boss, shy or not, see the women if they do not seriously seek to be seen. The narrative of femininity must be accompanied by the practical realities of contemporary competitive politics if the women must get more than a token when the booty comes to be shared.