There was a family who had a son and another male servant of about same age. Graciously the father sent both to school to receive some education; though his own son to a higher grade school in the early 1950s. After completing their secondary school education he sent his son for further studies in the universities outside Nigeria and looked for a military position for his loyal servant. Despite all the education his son received it soon became clear that the success his servant made in the Nigeria military, especially because of the military intervention in Nigeria politics, proved more rewarding for the entire family, including his Professor son. The illiterate father was only trying to be fair by not ignoring his servant but gave him some opportunities for a second class level education at the time. It was a short term measure with profound lessons for the community.
Recently President Buhari of Nigeria, if allowed, we observe and perceive that he will abolish the office and the notion of a “First Lady” of his country simply because the First Lady is his wife. We must all fully acknowledge that nearly all over the world the office in not constitutionally well backed up whereas all ladies that are wives of their countries‘ President consider themselves as First Ladies nevertheless. Whilst we may wish to cut down the excesses of all Mrs First Ladies we must advocate for the good use of the office. In particular it is a better avenue for gender inclusion in governance, even without additional constitutional backing. Nigerian women, like all their colleagues word wide find a common platform, not only for fashion, political gossips, appointments and associations but redressing the relegated roles women generally find themselves as only in the kitchens and as baby sitters. If we should allow a Buhari to abolish the office of “First Lady“ simply to the office of “wife of the president”, the gender inequality and imbalance in our society would have widen the more. Yet Aisha can help to moderate the office and provide a voice for some women, while the men and social media will be working hard on ensuring their moderate behaviour.
Another example is the introduction of Sharia Law by some State governments in Nigeria led by the then Governor Yerima of Zamfara, while the then President Obasanjo was watching helplessly but just making noises that “Sharia law would die off naturally”. We didn’t want to offend our Muslim colleagues at that time or even now by predicting chaos like we eventually witness as Boko Haram. Governors who used the period to cut of the arms of unfortunate few because they were probably caught stealing goats, they should realise now that their limbs are still on their bodies because of the grace of the people. If
we are to cut a toe for stealing just one million naira of public money which Nigeria governors would have lived? Beautiful as the Sharia Laws look at correcting the ills of the society, in the modern days some ammendments are required to make it serve their intended purposes.
This is where Obama, and his extreme libra policies could be better understood. Obama is not overly Christian and many Americans even suspect him a Muslim still. I do on many occasions despite his Baptist Church outburst and singing. But he presented his country an opportunity to solve one or more problems on social issues such as same sex unions and freedom to wear whatever you wish. His otherwise relatively more conservative colleagues remain prisoners of their own conscience on such issues as right to continue to kill those who don’t look like them with licenced guns. While Obama and a number of his freedom policies may harbour unknown hidden social agenda for the future we are sure that government is attempting to preach some freedom with responsibility, rather than force for punishment. If we are punished for every wrong we commit who would have survived?
Therefore, President Buhari of Nigeria may have come on stage with a script in his hand, like ensuring a more sane social order prevailing. The script tells of him, the hero of the story, bringing light into places of darkness, repairing that which is broken, healing that which has fallen ill, creating beauty from scattered fragments of everyday life, recovering stolen national wealth, bring back our girls, etc. His soul may be tied to that script. Without it, he has no reason to be here because he may have been born only to fill that role. And should he fail to perform according to his own script, what then? Then we must write our own script, one that can heal even that which he himself has broken. We sincerely therefore wish to warn, or encourage, our leaders at all levels to be mindful and turn their inner scripts and revelations to public criticism as a further improvement machine.
The possibility to negotiate with Boko Haram is also in this class of short-term that may affect many future policies. So far Buhari has been right on the war against Boko Haram. I particularly like his speech that “these guys have strayed far away from Islam”. Our President is not shying away that Boko Haram is an Islamic sect. The Christian Faith has unnumbered sects and any sect can wage any level of war now or in the future. Is there a centroid of faith? When is someone reading and using the Bible no longer a Christian? Nevertheless negotiations with such classes of faith risk justifying and approval, or at the least being lukewarm. Yet the Chibok Girls are so dear to our national image, policies and future. It is a symbol that Nigeria will fight for you at all cost, and I hope we should. But I don’t trust any Boko Haram with any lady for one minute. These girls mostly likely might have been killed, scattered around, violated, dehumanised, and more evil unimaginable done to them in the name of a religion or a cause? Why? Overall the person of President Buhari and his personal integrity, now being put on the line, is about the only one Nigeria can use at this time to get the truth and a few of the girls if they are still alive. I would have preferred a national conference table where credible Boko Haram members are allowed freedom to address the nation and telling us our sins, where we have crossed the line with them, and also ready to surrender thereafter.
Despite the risk of misinterpretation, mismanagement, misunderstanding it is a risk worth taking. The Nigeria armed forces have made the table turned against the insurgents that “they must account for each of the girls first”, that is for example by saying that here are the remaining 150 girls, we killed 50 who refused to be raped, 20 died for various reasons while 30 ran away. Yet it is a short term measure and the president is threading uncharted terrain.
Professor Ipinyomi is of University of Ilorin