The Other Side of the Kitchen and the ‘Other Room’ Argument


Femi Odere
As can be expected from any nation’s First Family, Nigerians from different walks of life has ascribed different interpretations to the statements of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and his wife, Aisha. During a recent Hausa-BBC radio interview, the wife of the president had expressed some misgivings about the trajectory of her husband’s administration as regards some of the cabinet and non-cabinet members in the Executive branch that drives government policies in which her husband is the head.

Aisha’s concerns for her husband are not borne out of his non-performance, but about members of a small but extremely powerful group who never lifted any fingers in support of the president on the campaign trail, let alone voted for him.

When asked to respond to his wife’s publicly expressed misgivings about the shade of his government in faraway Germany at the invitation of the German Chancellor Mrs. Angela Merkel, president Buhari sarcastically shot back that he did not know which party his wife belong, adding that, she belongs in his kitchen, the living room and the ‘other room’ rather than the treacherous and murky waters of the Nigerian politics.

While not a few Nigerians commended the wife of the president for her courage in speaking what they consider the whispering truth never experienced with any of the spouses of their leaders in the open—which has since increased her respectability index—she was also excoriated by a small but significant segment of the Nigerian populace for washing such a delicate and light-sensitive linen in the public. But Buhari, conversely, appeared to have been shellacked the more by Nigerians with his obviously jocular “kitchen statement.” And it mattered not that the video showed the Nigerian president was half-way smiling when that statement was made.

Perhaps there’s nothing as frustrating to a good leader who is giving his all—and he’s seen to be giving his all—both at home and the international community in bequeathing a just and equitable society to his people as Buhari is doing than to feel that he’s being seriously misunderstood. While so many negative things that are not borne out of facts have been said about President Buhari—and still being said—what has not been adequately interrogated is how Nigerians’perception of the president has shaped their reality of the man which the president himself seems to be struggling to extricate them from as well as disabuse their minds.

Buhari has demonstrated, and has cemented a persona beyond measure in the Nigerian consciousness as a strict, no-nonsense and non-sentimental leader that stands unusually and unapologetically apart from everything that defines a typical Nigerian leader that no one believes he has, or should have another side, let alone have the time or the capacity for such mundane human activity as throwing banters.

The other interesting undercurrent of the president’s obvious jocular statement that should have attracted our attention is the fact that President Buhari aside that he’s unencumbered by those socio-economic and political values of Western democracies that are being cleverly forced upon us in the guise of globalisation, among many of their deceptive mechanisms, the import of the statement has such a romantic aura. Most women have expressed the desire that they will rather have their husbands use such expressions to describe them which will do nothing to their independence as career women. What the president’s critics are saying is that his statement is not “politically correct” even when the reality of the Nigerian society points to a different direction in terms of the general societal worldview.

Unfortunately, nobody has paid any attention to some of these important nuances.
Pray, how many Nigerian men that are aggrieved about the president’s statement would be glad to report to the kitchen for duty while their wives play with the TV remote control in the living room? By the same token, how many of our self-styled feminists would feel that the Nigerian women have come of age to their eternal joy because the kitchen was no longer the Most Frequently Visited Places (MFVP) in the house? It may surprise them to know that Angela Merkel still finds time to cook for her husband.
President Buhari has demonstrated that he cares about his wife in the way he had shaped, and continues to shape Aisha into a total woman that she is today.

It may interest us that Aisha Buhari (nee Halilu) married Muhammadu Buhari on December 2, 1989 with only a secondary school leaving certificate from her home state of Adamawa. Aisha would never have gone beyond the educational level she came into holy matrimony with Buhari if her husband truly believes that the women should play a second fiddle to the men. Under Buhari’s roof with his unflinching cooperation and most importantly his financial support Aisha’s education graduated from the rudimentary secondary level into the Master’s degree pedestal.

From his kitchen, Aisha holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Perhaps Buhari believed he had permanently banished Aisha into the ‘other room’ that he never knew when his wife again received a Master’s degree in International Affairs and Strategic Studies from the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna.

Buhari probably also thought Aisha was too busy in the living room that he didn’t realise when she collected—outside the country—a Diploma in Beauty Therapy from the Carlton Institute of Beauty Therapy, Windsor, United Kingdom and another Post-graduate diploma in Cosmetology and Beauty from Academy Esthetique Beauty Institute of France. As Mrs. Buhari, Aisha is a Member of the United Kingdom Vocational Training and Charitable Trust.

She’s also a Member of the International Health and Beauty Institute and an author of a book titled “Essentials of Beauty Therapy: A Complete Guide for Beauty Specialists” under her wrap around scarf, talk not of being a patron of various charity organisations s at home and abroad. Would all these impressive academic qualifications have been possible if Buhari truly believes that a woman’s place should be in “the kitchen and the ‘other room’”?

It’s one thing to accuse President Buhari of lack of understanding of the 21st century “political correctness” of the west that flies in the face of our age-old African values of which our country and her people are a part, and should be proud of. It’s quite another to accuse the president of an attempt to make Nigerian women hewers of wood and drawers of water. What is more, Buhari has demonstrated a futuristic outlook through his wife while reminding the Nigerian women not to ever relegate their primary roles as mothers of the nation, which does not stop them from excelling in their careers.

Nigerians may not have had a truthful leader since the First Republic as they’re currently witnessing in the Buhari persona. And this may well be one of the unintended consequences of the Buhari and Aisha phenomenon in the Nigerian political landscape. It’s a welcome development we all should be yearning to get used to.
––Odere is a media practitioner. He can be reached at