*by*

   *Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi*

I am angry. On a scale of one to ten, my anger is a twenty. I am furious, irate, enraged, any word you can think of that gets the message across. I have often written and spoken about Anger as being a necessary ingredient for motivation. My use of the word Anger in this context is the productive kind that wakes you up in the morning with a burning urge to go out and change something – speak up, speak out, demand, push, whatever action is required for a shift. I never mean it to be the same as wanting to go out and hit or harm someone. Why am I so angry?

PART 1: THE DUBAI VIDEO

I got a WhatsApp message from one of my young friends with a video. Her message read, ‘Erelu, can you please explain this, it is going viral’. I opened the video and my heart started to pound. There I was, holding a cake with a group of other Governors’ Wives, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to our Fiirst Lady, HE Aisha Mohammed Buhari in Dubai. According to the narrative that accompanied the video, I had led Governors’ Wives all the way to Dubai to sing happy birthday to Her Excellency and have a birthday party. I sent a message back to my friend and explained the context. The video was released at the exact time that the Nigerian government was still trying to extract Nigerian students and other citizens from Ukraine. The damned video kept circulating within and outside the country till the Nigeria Governors’ Wives Forum had to issue a statement, which reads in part,

‘Our attention has been drawn to a social media post shared on the 1st of March 2022 suggesting that some Nigerian Governors’ Wives were in Dubai to surprise the First Lady of Nigeria Dr. Aisha Buhari on the occasion of her birthday on the 17th of February 2022. For the avoidance of doubt and in the interest of the public, the Nigerian Governors Wives were on the entourage of the First Lady of Nigeria who was on an official trip to the UAE. The trip included visits to Dubai Expo 2020, and tours of the Dubai e-learning center, Dubai Youth Hub and meetings with foundations and agencies in UAE who are interested in investing in education, health and technology in Africa, with priority given to women and young people. The trip coincided with the birthday of HE Aisha Buhari. On the morning of her birthday which was February 17th, the delegation of Governors’ Wives paid a private visit to present a cake and flowers. After the brief presentation we proceeded to attend the scheduled meetings for the day. We were therefore dismayed to see footage of the visit interpreted to mean Governors’ Wives left Nigeria for the sole purpose of celebrating HE’s birthday. This is not true and we find this assumption scandalous. We are all dedicated to supporting our spouses as well as our First Lady, and we would never be a party to anything that will bring embarrassment to them our ourselves.

After sending out the statement, a number of people got in touch to say how relieved they were that what really happened was different from the impression that had been created. Sadly, the damage had been done. The truth never travels at the speed of light, that privilege is reserved for lies, gossip and innuendo. People do not think highly of government officials or their spouses, probably deservedly so in many instances. I was particularly upset because this had come just one week after I had written an essay called ‘Please Stop’ which was about the rising cases of excess and showing off which is fueling the desire for unearned riches. And here I was on display as someone idiotic and idle enough to head off to Dubai to present a birthday cake and flowers. Me and my colleagues would have deserved all the abuse if the story was true. It was not. Sorry to disappoint those who were waiting to crown me hypocrite of the year.

PART 2: 0 OVER 5

March 1st 2022 was the day many Nigerian women went to bed shocked, angry and depressed. The ongoing Constitutional Amendment exercise currently has 68 amendments up for debate. There are 5 Bills that seek to ensure gender justice and fairness. The Bills are:

  • A Bill to create additional seats for women to increase women’s representation in the Senate and House of Representatives.
  • A Bill to enable Nigerian women transfer citizenship to foreign husbands, a right that every Nigerian man married to a foreign spouse enjoys.
  • A Bill to ensure Affirmative Action of at least 35% in political party administration and appointive positions across Federal and State levels.
  • A Bill to ensure a minimum of 20% Ministerial or Commissioner nominees are women.
  • A Bill to allow a woman become an indigene of her husband’s State after five years of marriage.
    
All five Bills were thrown out. There had been a serious amount of research and analysis, intense high-level advocacy, mobilisation, media awareness, and even the First Lady of the country and the Wife of the Vice-President went to the National Assembly in person. It was still a loud No. I was angry and upset, but not surprised. When it comes to male power and domination, there is no religion, party or ethnicity to divide the men. Just Patriarchy to unite them as they keep women in their place. The House of Representatives has said they will revisit three of the Bills. We are watching and waiting.

PART 3: THE LAST BUS RIDE

Here in Nigeria, our public transport is certainly not safe for both men and women, but women are definitely more vulnerable. Ms. Bamise Ayanwole boarded a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Lagos and that was her last ride. She was found dead a few days later, and the driver of the bus, Andrew Omininikoron is the prime suspect. It is so sad that the murder of this promising young woman has thrown up serious flaws in how public buses are being run, for example lack of CCTVs and inadequate due diligence on personnel as well as lack of provision for whistle blowing in cases of breach of passengers’ safety. Apparently, Bamise was not Andrew’s first victim, and we don’t know how many others are out there. Violence against women still continues to threaten and claim lives in public and in private.

PART 4: THE NAKED WIDOW

Just as I thought I couldn’t get any angrier, there it was. A video of a young widow from a community in Anambra State, being paraded naked through the streets. Her offence was that her husband died while they were having sex, so she must have committed adultery for that misfortune to have befallen her husband. Not only did my heart break for the poor woman, it was sickening to see so many women at the forefront of the public humiliation of another woman.

There, I have got it all out, my anger in four parts. There was a part 5 (the theft of my phone at a public event) but I took it out because the article would have been too long. Do I feel any better or less angry now? Perhaps. There will always be something to make us angry. It is good when you feel anger, that means you are still human, it means you still have motivation and drive. It means you are not desensitised. Even Jesus Christ got angry enough to kick the money changers out of the temple. The struggle for justice and rights for women continues. The campaigns to make the world a safer place for women and girls continues. The call to minimize the use of social media to destroy people’s hard-earned reputations and careers continues. Our trials are limitless, so we cannot limit our anger when it is needed for a useful cause. Get angry. Go out there and change something. Speak up, speak out, do something. If you are able to, support the women who are currently occupying the National Assembly with your presence or in other ways. However, if you let your anger provoke you to assault, you are on your own!

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is the First Lady of Ekiti State, and she can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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