Opinion: How President Buhari’s “Kitchen” Remarks Set Tongues Wagging – Ahmad Isyaku

Let me start by saying that I have been a strong supporter of President Buhari’s administration and have spoken up for him in many of my write-ups because of his honesty and hard work which won the hearts and minds of Nigerians. Though I have been a staunch supporter, I am not a blind one that Buhari’s love and support cloud his judgement. I do not think Buhari is immaculate or that he can’t go wrong. I see him as a human being, infallible – not an angel. Lately I had to lie low for a while in my epic write-ups about him because of the growing sense of disenchantment with his policies by a considerable number of Nigerian common masses who feel that some of his administration policies are hard on them , though might be beneficial to them in the near future. Honestly, I felt the same way. But I had to grin and bear it. I have to give him the benefit of doubt since I still have some confidence in him – I know he is an honest person and God would be by his side. I do not want to talk about his policies right now, because the central concern of this piece is not about his policies that some people think are harsh or not, but rather about the current issues hitting the national and international news headlines , specifically, the controversy surrounding Mrs Buhari’s recent “explosive speech” on the BBC ( criticizing the President ) and particularly President’s response to it, which is grabbing the front headlines here, there and everywhere- setting the social media on fire. More specifically, I would like to talk about the gross interpretations of President’s remarks in response to his wife controversial interview comments about him on the BBC Hausa service. His “joke” intended remarks has set some tongues wagging over his “my wife belongs to the kitchen” speech, which has caused controversy across the country. Honestly, this is what prompted me to write this piece. Because I could not stand the misinterpretations of his remarks which read:
“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”
It is really sad that some people are misinterpreting the speech, so unfortunate that the opposition and some people who have cultural prejudice against the president are exploiting the situation and the speech to discredit the president. Some of these gross interpretations of the speech are clearly stereotypical, malicious and distorting. Because the President is a Muslim from the North, he is stereotyped as a conservative person who relegates women to only house makers (housewives) , not having any significant role, political, social and other important other roles in our society – showing the President in a bad light as a “misogynist” and ” sexist”. That’s very outrageous.
On the contrary, people who know Buhari so well and those who do not hate him or have any prejudice against him, know that Buhari would never subordinate women, and those filthy interpretations attributed to his speech are erroneous or meant to harm him. People who know Buhari also know that his remarks are nothing but a joke which we understand from the perlocutionary effect of his speech that some people may blatantly ignore or pretend to be oblivious of. Even if he didn’t mean it to be a joke, it has humorous effect which he used consciously or subconsciously. What’s more, he “laughed it off” when he made the speech, confirming the humour he covered it up with. As for the people who think President Buhari should not have made such a joke in the international community, for your information, even President Obama sometimes used to crack a joke in a situation that seemed to be no laughing matter at all. For instance, the Gateway Pundit reported that, “President Barack Obama cracked a joke while speaking about the terror attack on Munich that killed a reported six people–and his audience laughed out loud. ” So when President Buhari was asked question about his wife criticism that she labelled at him, it was awkward, President Buhari might not knew whether to laugh or cry, but it was not beyond his wit to use humour in his response. He seemed to have escaped the question or covered it up by joking – avoiding answering the awkward question.
Moreover, another embedded meaning of “she belongs in the kitchen and my living room and the other room” , could be like “My wife is my life, good at other things like ‘taking care of me’ as a wife than by shooting her mouth off about my politics and governance, which she doesn’t understand.” This statement does not in any way show the purported patriarchal view of Mr President- as seeing his wife as only a house maker whose job is only “in the kitchen” “the living room” and “the other room”, it is rather a romantic payback sting but literally he does not see his wife “only good at house works”. There is clear evidence of this, we can tell from the way President Buhari have been taking good care of Mrs Aisha as a loving wife – he helped her finished her education after her secondary school education up to masters levels, he helped in her business, he also helped her by launching her in politics and as a First Lady now – not just a housewife. We can also see how he raised his lovely female children not only as house makers in their future marital homes but also as important persons – fully educated women who have significant roles in their society.
When I first read Mrs Aisha Buhari’s BBC interview excerpt, I was shocked at her criticism of her husband cabinet composition and other things she said, though there is a grain of truth in her arguement. But “how can a woman speak ill about her husband in the public? ” Why couldn’t she advice him in private?”, “This is must be really embarassing for him”, I said to myself. But then I said “Her husband must haved pissed her off, maybe he is not a henpecked husband, she couldn’t control or tame him to accede to her wishes. He could not indulge her every whim to the detriment of his government. So that is why she is taking out her frustration and anger on him by shooting her mouth off on the BBC as a revenge” – just trying to make sense of things. These were mere ordinary thoughts and assumptions I had. After all , nobody knows truly why she did that , trying to show her husband’s Achiles’ heel in the public.

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