By Douglas Anele
The Dino Melaye versus Oluremi Tinubu confrontation in the House of Representatives, allegations of sexual misdemeanour levelled against three members of the House and reactions of Nigerians to these events have raised once again issues of sexuality, gender relations and the hypocritical holier-than-thou attitudes of people towards sex and gender relations in the society. Just like homoerotic relationships to which most Nigerians respond emotionally based on antiquated cultural and religious prejudices devoid of scientific credibility, sex and the justifiable disgust associated with men bullying or oppressing defenceless woman instinctively elicit negative reactions to the extent that rational discussion becomes extremely difficult.
Thus, most times when a man and a woman insult and abuse one another, people, especially women, tend to put all the blame on the man without even considering the objective facts in the episode. Moreover, anytime a man is accused of sexual misconduct, there is unquestioned presumption that the man must be guilty, particularly if the accusation was levelled by a highly placed individual or by a woman. This widespread presumptive hasty attitude of people to blame and condemn without evidence lead to questions such as:
is it reasonable to assume that in a hot verbal exchange like the one between Mr. Melaye and Mrs. Tinubu, the man must bear all the blame or a greater part of it? How should a reasonable person respondto accusation of sexual misconduct levelled against someone else particularly in the absence of corroborative evidence, irrespective of the gender or social status of the accuser? What is the rational attitude to human sexuality and relationship between the sexes? What are the practical steps that can be taken to inculcate in individuals the right orientation on sex and man-woman relationship?
To answer these questions, let us begin by analysing the Melaye-Tinubuexchange of hot air on the floor of the Senate. Now, a very important point neglected by those who commented on that issue is the difficulty of ascertaining what actually happened. From media accounts of the altercation, it is unclear who triggered the confrontation and the exact insulting words Melaye and Mrs. Tinubu used against each other. The two senators blamed each other for their “unparliamentary” conduct, and virtually everyone that have spoken or written about it excoriated Melaye.
It is instructive to note that even those present during the executive session of the Senate on Tuesday, July 12 when the quarrel took place cannot be trusted to give a completely objective account of what transpired that very day. Depending on antecedent circumstances and personal relationship with Melaye and Mrs. Tinubu, each of the senators who witnessed the drama would likely give a biased report of the incident. Therefore, unless the episode was captured in a video recording device that has not been tampered with, it is virtually impossible to know the exact truth. The best interpretation that can be distilled from media reports is that Melaye and Mrs. Tinubu verbally insulted and possibly threatened each other, which is unbecoming of senators of the federal republic of Nigeria.
Now, because of his sullied reputation as an intemperate and arrogant person who has little respect for women, Melaye probably deserves the opprobrium heaped on him by supporters of Mrs. Tinubu. The widespread condemnation of the senator from Kogi state is not surprising, given that Mrs. Tinubu is the wife of one of the most influential politicians from the south west geopolitical zone and an APC stalwart, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Bola Tinubu is the godfather of a sizeable number of politicians in Yorubaland. As a result, his acolytes and loyalists would viciously attack anyone who challenges Mrs. Tinubu or acts in a manner that questions Tinubu’s overbearing influence in Yoruba politics because such a challenge, if unchecked, would gradually corrode the power and mystique surrounding the godfather, Bola Tinubu.
Meanwhile, since disciples tend to be more extremist and fanatic than their masters, Ayo Afolabi, national secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) south west, demanded that Melaye should publicly apologise to Mrs. Tinubu, the entire Tinubu family, womanhood, and to the APC in the zone. He even threatened that should Melaye fail to apologise, he would be banned from coming to the south west. This is sheer nonsense: it shows the ridiculous extent Nigerians can go to demean themselves just todemonstrate loyalty to their political godfathers and benefactors.
The 1999 constitution guarantees Melaye and every Nigerian freedom of movement within the country. Only the courts and law enforcement agencies in carrying out their lawful duties can stop a Nigerian citizen from exercising his or her fundamental right in this regard. So, Melaye is right in disregarding Mr. Afolabi’s vituperations. Just because someone had a heated verbal exchange with the wife of a political bigwig does not permit fawning factotums to issue idle threats. The protest staged by some women in support of Mrs. Tinubu is merely an exercise in idleness and unseriousness. The average Nigerian woman is too busy struggling to make a living: she does not have time to engage in a frivolous gathering simply because the wife of a well-known politician quarrelled with a colleague.
As I stated earlier, Melaye’s reputation is not squeaky clean. However, why is everybody ignoring Mrs. Tinubu’s error of judgment on this issue? If indeed she called Dino Melaye a thug and a dog, why use such annoying words? Why didn’t she ignore Melaye and present her arguments without returning abuse for abuse? How many of those who lambasted Melayewould remain calm or “turn the other cheek” if they were called a dog and a thug especially in the presence of other people? Let us not shy away from the truth by pretending that Mrs. Tinubu is blameless on this issue – she is certainly not. As a woman who wants to project the image of quiet feminine dignity and strength, she ought to have ignored Melaye and made her presentation without insulting him in the process. After all, as my people, the Igbo would say, if a naked mad man runs away with the clothes of a woman bathing in the stream and she chases after the madman, both would be considered mad.
Clearly, there is an ego problem here, or more precisely, the inability to transcend the intoxicating but transient audacity of political power and wealth. In my opinion, Mrs. Tinubu considers herself politically more powerful and connected than Melaye. She is the spouse of one of the strongest pillars of the ruling party in comparison to whom Melaye is a political toddler. Consequently, Mrs. Tinubu expects the latter to defer to her. On his own part, Melaye believes he can stand on his own, that he is beyond the political gravitational pull of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as agodfather. That was why, at a press briefing to present his own side of the story he stated, “I told her that we were not in Bourdillon, and that she should look at my face, that I am not one of those senators who come to prostrate to them at Bourdillon…”
Dino Melaye, Mrs. Tinubu and other politicians basking in the euphoria of power and wealth now should remember that everything in this world, most especially power and wealth, is transient and that verbally abusing one another is not useful in any way. People should learn to treat each other with dignity and respect, knowing full well that we all need one another working together as comrades to lift Nigeria out of the black hole of underdevelopment. That said, the quarrel between Dino Melaye and Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu is an insignificant event, which has been exaggerated in the media.
Political hirelings and sycophants who made a mountain out of a molehill on this issue by heaping insults on Melaye, claiming that Melaye’sbehaviour was an attack on womanhood and banning him from visiting any part of the country are probably idle or just doing something to please Bola Tinubu and his wife. Millions of Nigerians, particularly women,working extra hard to eke out a living in these austere times are preoccupied with the more important tasks of feeding their families, paying house rents and school fees of children, and making sure that they survive the hardships exacerbated by the lacklustre government of President Muhammadu Buhari. Conflicts, quarrels, heated disagreements are ontological. Hence, although there will always be disagreement and conflict, a wise person will endeavour to minimise it because an unnecessary or trivial conflict can degenerate into something much more destructive and prevent people from working together to develop the society.
To be continued.