For Buhari, Where is the Outrage?

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Hometruths By Adeola Akinremi: Email: adeola.akinremi@thisdaylive.com

Nigeria is not a racist country. But we have bigger problem than racism here. It is called tribal war.

We’ve lost more of our countrymen to tit-for-tat ethnic clashes than auto-accident—an avoidable major killer of Nigerians.

That’s how big the problem is.

In most cases the kind of pell-mell manner in which we respond to ethnic issues often bother me to a sore point.

It has been days of agony for Joe Fortemose Chinakwe and his family and no one seems to be outraged by injustice being melted out to citizen Joe for calling his dog a name he feels comfortable with.

For calling his pet Buhari, the police took Joe away from his family and placed him in custody without trial.

He was later charged to court and again remanded in prison custody for his inability to meet bail conditions after he pleaded not guilty to the offence.

It all happened under the nose of a supposed progressive governor who by his political leaning should understand error is being committed in the matter with the arrest of Joe.

Interestingly, the police relied on complaint by Joe’s neighbour that the name Buhari belongs to his father.

Of course the police claimed the arrest borders on “breach of peace,” in “Hausa section” of a community market in Sango Otta, Ogun State.

All my life, I have heard of “Hausa section” and Yoruba and Igbo sections probably in many cities around the country but the most common one has been “Hausa community” with a kind of no-go-zone label. Shall we continue like this and say unity should abound in our country?

What are we learning from Joe’s story?

There are a few ideas in my head: That a man cannot give his pet name as he desires; that with such a pet he cannot go around freely with the pet’s name attached to its body; that a pet is not free to answer just any name and that there’s always ethnic angle to everything in Nigeria.

Okay, let’s call it a puzzle and let’s try to place the words in the right groups.

First, I disagree with the police that the name given to the dog by Joe is inappropriate.

I grew up in Ogun State—the same state where Joe was arrested for naming his dog Buhari— and I can remember we had a neighbour who named his dog Felix.

Felix is a common name among residents of Ogun State, especially residents of the state who migrated there from the East and those who are Christians.

More than just the name Felix, there were several other pet names shared by human and animals. For instance, I remember of a cat named Alice.

Let’s go global, President John Kennedy of the United States once had a dog among his pets named Gaullie. Guess where that name came from? Gaullie was a French poodle who belonged to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

In a memoir, Jackie was noted to have had the pet before she married the president. As a growing kid she had special interest in France as a country and followed everything about the country including its leadership.

During World War II, Jackie was very impressed with French President Charles de Gaulle’s resolve not to give up during the trying time. She named her poodle after the president calling the dog De Gaulle “because he was straight and proud and had prominent nose”— attributes she found in President Charles De Gaulle. Did any police arrest Jackie Kennedy for naming her dog after a president?

I have heard of Duke, Baron, Winston, George, Jackson, Winnie and all kinds of names associated with human as dog names and there has been no fury about it.

Really, in a recent conversation I had with someone who works as a house agent, dog was described as a “family member.”

Are you surprised?

That is the difference between us and other nations. We treat dogs as unkind animal only meant for hunting and staying at the corridor. But Brandie Gonzales, director of corporate communications and PR at Rover.com explained that more people are viewing their dogs as part of the family, and thereby bestowing them human-like names.

Believe me, there’s more to the arrest of Joe than the complaint filed by his neighbour who claimed his father go by the name Buhari so a dog shouldn’t have that name.

My sense is there’s political undertone to the arrest.

With our commander-in-chief and president, Muhammadu Buhari, bearing the same name, the political sycophants in high places and the police probably feel that it’s a haram to have your pet share same name with a sitting president.

So Joe is probably paying for excising his right and that of the dog.

Of course Joe probably knew what police are not telling him. He has said contrary to the idea in the head of his neigbour that the dog shares same name with his father, his dog was truly named after President Buhari based on his soft spot for a man he described as “anti-corruption warrior.”

“I did not commit any offence. I named my beloved pet dog Buhari, who is my hero. My admiration for Buhari started far back when he was a military Head of State. It continued till date that he is a civilian President,” Joe recently said in an interview.

It is disturbing to understand that an assistant inspector general of police is now a key investigator of an innocent citizen already adjudged a criminal for naming his dog Buhari and for going out with the dog and parading the dog in “Hausa section” of a community market.

Sadly, Nigeria is one country where animal rights movement is almost nonexistent.

The human rights lawyers are tight-lipped on the case and the social media activists around the county are having the posture of a crashing computer programme with only one message of “not responding.”

I wish everyone will speak up against this intolerance and that activists will wear the red colour and go on the streets against oppression for the sake of Joe and Buhari, the pet. Until then, let’s agree that there’s Buhari the president and Buhari the pet.