Two anecdotes of the extreme reaction of scorned women will avail you if you are looking for a corollary to Nigerian Christendom’s tempestuous anger at the choice of Kashim Shettima. Shettima, a Muslim and former governor of Borno State, was recently chosen as Vice Presidential candidate to Bola Tinubu, a Muslim presidential flag-bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In traditional Africa which celebrates centuries of polygamy, incidences of husband-wives tension, confrontations, jealousy and bitterness have led to destruction of polygynous homes. One of such is Richard Edward Dennett’s anecdotal explanation of the life of Africa through folklores. Dennett, an English trader who lived in what is today Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), translated a native story of two women in a polygyny whose husband had gone into the forest in search of games. On the day of his return, the women then decided to prepare chicoanga, a native bread, for him. As the younger wife went in search of condiments, the elder wife tried to kill the son of the younger wife, ostensibly due to perceived favouritism in the home and apparently, because the child was a “much brighter and more intelligent child” than hers. In mistaken identity, however, she killed her own son.
Orlando Owoh, late Yoruba musician renowned for his guttural voice and predilection for affixing anecdotes to his musical offering, also gave fillip to this motif. His own anecdote, not dissimilar to the DRC anecdote above, also examples the extreme that a woman scorned in matrimony, either real or imagined, can go. In the Owoh allegory, the Senior wife in the matrimony also felt an insufficiency of possibility of advancement for her schooling child. She then laced a beautifully prepared porridge meal meant for her senior wife’s son with a lethal poison. Unfortunately for her, the meal was eventually devoured by her own child.
The two allegories above example an extreme reaction and extent that Nigerian Christendom may go in its tirade against the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket. English playwright, William Congreve, explains the anger better through a proverbial line cryptically called “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” adapted from The Mourning Bride, written by him. The line, teased out of this tragic play at its first performance in 1697, has since become a phenomenal reference to the fury of the female gender when cross. It was uttered by a character in the play called Zara, a queen, who upon being captured, gets entangled in a lethal love triangle.
Like the ritual of commotion that always follows a favouristic and lopsided decision taken by a husband in a polygamous home, Kashim Shettima’s choice has kindled a fire of discontent in the Nigerian religious polygamy. In its decision to pick Shettima, the APC choice has rightly been interpreted by Christians, major co-wife in a polygynous relationship in the polity, to mean insolence, impudence, disdain and belittling of the teeming Christian population of Nigeria.
Co-wife conflict in polygamous families in Africa is often hallmarked by commotion, petty accusations, outbursts of verbal abuse, harassment, physical violence, accusation and counter-accusation. Provoked by uneven distribution of privileges and attention – whether material or sexual – the conflicts that come with co-wife’s tempestuous relationship in African polygamous marriages are a ubiquity. Those embroiled in polygamy know that one sure way to avoid its attendant fury is fairness, equity and justice. However, these are very rare qualities that can be dispassionately given by mortal men. Even the Islamic holy writ counsels equitable relationship with women as basis for delving into the stormy waters of polygny. Himself a serial philanderer and polygamist, my musical idol, Ayinla Omowura, at some critical point in his life, came to the realization of the dilemma of polygamy and counseled, in a vinyl he entitled Oniyawo pupo – Multiple Liaisons – that agabagebe – imparity, hypocrisy and injustice will ruin the home of an inequitable polygamous home. This chaotic environment seems to be a most fitting analogy that can explain the scenario that Tinubu and his APC provoked by their unconscionable choice of Shettima.
While in polygamy as a cultural practice, hierarchy of wives is a notorious fact accepted by all parties, hierarchical positioning of “wives” is hotly avoided in the Nigerian religious polygamy. Framers of the Nigerian constitution, aware of the bedlam that these wives could unfold, inserted it in the grundnorm that the State would be equitable in its dealings with and treatment of its incendiary religious wives. Non-compliance with the principle of parity and equity in polygamy has led to strives, riots and discontent in time past. Co-wives of Christianity, Islam and traditional religious practices have hotly contested spatial relevance, with dare consequences for the polity. This has bred conflicts of immense proportion. However, not minding the constitutional non-recognition of any principal wife by the Nigerian State, rulers of Nigeria, over the years, have gone ahead to delineate the marital space, not hiding their flawed affection for Islam as the principal wife. Christianity was allotted the secondary wife position.
Since 1966 when the military took over government and true federalism was thrown into the sewer, and up until about two decades ago, of all the noticeable cleavages of Nigeria’s aspiring nationhood, religion was never dominant, or at best, played superficial role in considerations for elective, selective or appointive offices. Ethnicity was a far dominant cleavage which Nigeria had battled since Fredrick Lugard selfishly soldered these uneven nations together. Even under unelected despotic military rules of Aguiyi Ironsi, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, to Abdulsalami Abubakar, where balancing was not expected to be an issue, there was less furore about the religious composition of the running of the State. That was why Babagana Kingibe could pair an MKO Abiola and their audacious similarity of religion was immaterial once the ticket held promise of a greater Nigeria. However, the infernal decision to annul the results of the 1993 election by the ruling class of the time drove Nigerians to their tents. Then emerged Nigerians’ scramble for an identity which represented a duvet that could shield and protect the people from the manic and Dracula teeth of the Nigerian State. Religion came to their rescue.
From 1999, the duo of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari have reified ethnicity and made it, as they say on the street, a big deal. In his dual appearance as Nigerian leader, Obasanjo struggled to cripple the cleavage of ethnicity. If Nigeria had had a leader with such mindset as Obasanjo’s successors, the country would most probably be on her way today to rendering prostrate the cleavage of ethnic consideration in matters of state. Obasanjo’s government made nonsense of an emilokan or awalokan (it is my or our turn) as a motive for an ethnic group to rally round a leadership. In Obasanjo, Yoruba sucked fewer oranges from the Nigerian governmental tree, even when they had their son at the top.
While promoting the Aliko Dangotes of this world to undeserved financial superstardom, Obasanjo was obsessed with crippling his Ogun State kinsman, Mike Adenuga Jr. on baseless and trumped up allegations, haranguing him in the process in an unexampled acrimony. Contrarily, Jonathan and Buhari clothed the amoeba-shaped buttocks of their kin with decorative pearls. I am sure Obasanjo is regretting his gross, silly selfishness in the guise of nationalism today. Buhari went even a notch higher than Jonathan in decorating the irregularly shaped buttocks of his kinsmen with pearls. Region and religion became the passport for occupying national offices under him, so much that even terrorists who kill Nigerians in droves get presidential support for their ultra violence, once they flash their shared Fulani identity with the president.
With all these as backcloth, it will be arrant nonsense to quarrel with Christendom for fussing over the poster of principal wife that Tinubu and his APC proclaimed on Islam by their choice of Shettima. The fusses can be likened to the physical and verbal aggression that is common in polygamous homes. It is a clear clone of how, in traditional Africa, frustrated at being cast a second fiddle role to play in the home, a scorned woman, trying to preserve, secure and maintain her position, resorts to the gory and diabolical antics as told by both Orlando Owoh and Richard Dennett. Wives, most times the scorned senior wife, went/go into unimaginable extent to wreak havoc on the matrimony. These negative actions range from securing dangerous love charms, potions, entering into witchcraftcy, sorcery and even, murder. Tinubu and his APC seem to have given sexual and affectionate privileges to Islam as co-wife in a secular Nigerian state and cannot now complain about the anguish and mental torture that Christianity feels as a result of this humiliation.
Having said all the above, I however think that Christians and Nigerians in general, are treating leprosy in this fuss over Kashim Shettima’s religion while neglecting a far more debilitating manifestation of leprosy. Southern Christians especially are not being as critical as they should be in this regard. From all they have gathered about Tinubu, estimating his presidency – God forbid – with the lens of religion, to my mind, is a lame mis-biology. I do not think a religious individual will carry the kind of heavy, tarnishing load of allegations of malaises which Tinubu and Shettima carry on their persons today. These are acts and individual manifestations which Christianity teaches its members not to be unequally yoked with. Methinks that the allegations against the duo are far more weighty infractions as to make Christians’ fusses over their religious colour needless, or at best. secondary.
Some analysts have labeled as misbegotten the clarion call to bring to the front burner allegations against both Tinubu and Shettima. They also label those allegations old wives’ tale. However, sane people should know that unexplained accusations of drug couriering of about two decades of existence, recently sauced with incontrovertible and unassailable loads of evidence, for which the accused has no single word of rebuttal, should rank first among our bothers. Else, we are all just going to have a Pablo Escobar reincarnate in Aso Rock. An explainer of this baggage should carry a far more consequential weight than the texture of his religiosity of that of his anointed vice. An old wives’ fuss about whether Tinubu is a czar of fakery or not is, to my mind, far more damaging and of national importance to all of us than bothers about whether same man, whose wife shares similar faith with these Christian elders, will be equitable in dealing with their faith.
Illustrated by the intervention of biblical Queen Esther on behalf of her people in King Ahasuerus’ “zi oza room,” against the rampaging forces of Haman, the power of the bedroom that women command cannot be discountenanced. This is against the backdrop of the fact that the Nigerian constitution has made robotic mannequins of vices and deputies in a presidential system of government, a fact that is always further exploited by men occupying these executive positions who harbor totalitarian and totalistic views of power. You may want to ask what Yemi Osinbajo has been able to swing the way of Christendom in his 8 years of figurative vice presidency. Now, extending this counterfactual further, what can Ifeanyi Okowa swing for the Christian fold in an Atiku Abubakar presidency, God forbid, that Remi Tinubu cannot swing far more in her husband’s presidency – God forbid?
The truth is, at this precarious stage of the Nigerian national life, religion is far too minute an issue that should bother us, no matter the frustration, mistreatment and maltreatment by the forces of Ananias and Sapphira on the prowl. Topmost of our bother, if we are truly interested in the togetherness and future of Nigeria and our children, is security, followed by economy and national cohesion. Thus, I expected that Christians will centralize their bother on Shettima around how true or not the allegation that he is in bed with terrorism.
A man who had at his beck and call a heap of classified State dossiers while in office and who should know – Goodluck Jonathan – has come in the open to accuse Shettima of dalliance with terrorism while he was governor. This is a weighty allegation and in dire need of cogent explanation, not the waffling on the social media. There are also flying allegations that Shettima, as Borno State governor, prodded by Lagos, was behind the Chibok girls kidnap, so as to demonize the Jonathan government, preparatory to the final death-knell on his government by the APC. The allegation claims further that the girls thereafter entered a place of no return because the kidnap turned awry. It is also alleged that Shettima’s reward for that daredevilry was the Nigerian vice presidency. A number of other untoward allegations decorate Shettima’s neck like slave trade era neck-manacles. This is a man who, God forbid, Tinubu becomes Nigeria’s president and any evil, God forbid, happens to him, stands the chance of being Nigeria’s president. With this, he will then return Nigeria to the terror-laden years of Muhammadu Buhari where the cadavers of priests and men of God in general have become special delicacy in Fulani herdsmen terrorists’ pot of soup.
Let’s have Christendom doing more critical assessment of the candidates, please. We all know that those politicians who religionists furiously canvass to be in office because of their Islamic or Christian names are as far away from religion as gold-plated metal is far from original gold. Whether they bear Christian or Muslim names, the main religion of those office-seeking fellows is politics.