Our ascription of certain ambassadorial roles and responsibilities to members of our community – ethnic, religious or regional – in public service, is a colonial legacy now woven into the fabric of our national life. The Federal Character Commission, while pretending to ensure fair representation of members of various groups in the public service, is an institution that projects, promotes and preserves this idea of a double allegiance – to the state, and to one’s community.
Nigeria’s President-elect, having benefited from the support and even zealotry of these scribes of responsibility who formed the largest army of volunteers in his previous presidential bids, more so in his days of ostracism by the political elite and distrust by the majority of the southern electorate, is the latest victim of this perception of a public figure as, first, an “ambassador of his people”.
Being an initially mismanaged brand as a public figure who was forced to appeal to sectional sentiments in his public commentaries, a thing exaggerated and misrepresented by an adversarial media, Buhari’s first task is to de-indoctrinate these scribes. If they had an idea what it means to manage the affairs of a plural society, they wouldn’t have expressed such virally discussed grievance, which was equally contested, over the man’s handshakes with women at public functions.
That we are even seriously talking about Muhammadu Buhari’s handshakes with women is just heartbreaking. The embarrassment is experienced more in realizing that the critics are actually models to many, many who regard them as actually perceptive people who ought to understand that the man isn’t a head of a caliphate, and that the system that even brought him to power isn’tunder the guidance from the Qur’an.
I’ve no energy for petty intellection, just wish to express disappointment in all against Buhari shaking hands with women, these class clowns and idle alarmists who are a part of the reason the world is still a hub of dangerous misinformation and hollow ideologies today. A bit of critical thinking won’t damage your faith. Secularism, as often emphasized, isn’t an absence of belief in a polity; it’s a protection of a belief system from the corrupting influence of the state and the sentiments of cunning leaders.
Perhaps a more heartbreaking trend is the fact that this league of largely northern Nigerian critics, which has long earned a reputation as the self-appointed litigators of God, even considered impropriety of handshakes between unrelated men and women as an “emergency”while theentire region is under terrorist attack and national treasury on red alert!
Our irony as a failed society is pronounced more by the contrast of our expressed religiosity and the deeply corrupt system in which we express it. We live in a country you can’t leave a mobile phone in a mosque or a church and return to find it, but we’re ever quick to arrogate our piety to all who don’t care about it, who only ask for a simple honesty in interactions and transactions with us.
In the north, while our region falls, our people terrified and killed, towns and villages burnt and bombed, we’re still being mocked by UNESCO’s ranking of Nigeria as place with the highest number of out-of-school-children in the world. Instead of being ashamed and critical of policies that led to this social apocalypse, all that matter to some of us is asking Buhari to highlight his origin, renege on diplomatic tasks that warrant handshake with women, as the President of a country held together by uncertain nationalist sentiments.
What I’m yet to understand now is the refusal of these selectively religious critics to subscribe and heed the invitation to their ideal state, already designed and presented to by the Boko Haram. Obviously they have mistaken Buhari’s relative asceticism for fundamentalism, and thus they expect the man would be the poster-boy of their extremist worldview.
Freedom to worship is a fundamental right, but that of employing religion, or distortion of it, to offend a vulnerable people is an aspect that must be regulated, and this has to be done at once. This institutional lapse has given every scoundrel an inspiration to foment trouble, and is the reason for the ongoing furore in Kano over a disregard for the Prophet of Islam by the votary of an unchecked sect. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter