By Patrick Dele Cole
IT was always there, but I didn’t appreciate it: Love and, more important, appreciation. It is possible to love without appreciation, especially if one is coming from and within the fog of entitlement. She was my wife I was entitled to her care.
For well over 40 years, my wife had been there for me, for the children and for the extended family. As each child was born, I dutifully took her to the hospital and waited eagerly for the news of the birth. I was never actually there through the labour pains and in those days, the doctors and nurses shoed the husband off – go now, we will tell you when she delivers.
The children came; many nights of wailing and their mother went to them, suckled them, sang to them, watched them crawl and take the first steps. All of this development was dutifully relayed to me as I happily took them in, carried the babies only to hand them back to their mother.
My job was to provide shelter and food. Hers was to bear children, watch over them and look after me. If the children were sick, I took her and them to see the doctor, often left them there to go to work, so that I may continue to provide. A child crying at night was her duty: hush baby don’t cry, little angels will come to look after you; singing, suckling, comforting, carrying, watching as they grew. Only successes were reported to me.
If I was sick, it was her duty to see that I was comfortable. If I had to see the doctor, she’ll be there, even if sometimes the doctor would not allow her into the consultation room. But would, thereafter, instruct her on what to do to speed up my recovery.
If any of the children was hospitalised, she would spend all day and night at the hospital, darting off intermittently to make sure all is well for me at the home front. Interviews with headmasters and principals were mainly attended by her (sometimes I went) but not always as the army of children in the house, her own and those of relatives(sometimes as many as 30) marched on in the relentless journey of life.
If anyone was sick and stayed several days or overnight in the hospital, Mummy stayed with them. It never crossed my mind that maybe we should take turns – one night for her, next night for me in the hospital. About 15 years ago I developed heart problems, followed by prostrate and a host of other problems. The left ventricle of my heart was not working well – it could not pump all the blood out of my heart.
The doctors prepared to operate. They were going to replace the ventricle with an artificial one. I had been everywhere: Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical, The Heart Specialist in London and Papworth, etc. Through it all, Mummy was there: supporting, praying and helping. I expected all she did and felt entitled that she would do all of this.
As I was bounced from one doctor to another, she jumped with me. Finally came the day of the operation. The pre-operation talk had been held the night before. I had been shaved as appropriate. The surgeon had come at about 8:00pm to tell me the operation would be at 10:00am the following day. Mummy had listened to all of this and had continued to pray. At about 9:30pm, I got out of bed, dressed up and left the hospital.
I never had the operation. Weeks later I was examined by the leading heart doctor at Papworth. He said he could not find anything wrong with my heart, no ventricular problem. That heart has been beating and I am now 80. But then, a few years ago, Mummy became ill and I, too, was getting increasingly frail. But I now had to look after her as best as I could.
It was in doing this and caring for her that I realised how extremely difficult it is to look after another person with love and care. I then started to appreciate all that Mummy did for me as I stumbled and tried to give her the best care I could. I sat through all her consultations, sorted out her drugs, massaged the various cricks and painful muscles.
It gave me an immense appreciation for the colossus that women have been to men. She not only looked after me, but everyone else in my household. I now began to wonder at the incredible gift of womanhood. It took me all of 80 years to truly appreciate. I enjoyed all this munificent love, care, attention without a squeak from Mummy.
I then extrapolated. If this is what comes naturally from a woman then why is she not in politics? Why do women with all this inherent good not be political agents able to transfer that inherent goodness and empathy to political institutions and the polity?
All women are not like her, but most are like her. We would have been better off if she was in politics. Most are built with that inherent goodness in them, and we would all be better off if organisations, governments and politics had more of them contributing.
It’s really not that difficult to achieve; it just takes the will to deliver reform. A simple requirement that at any one time, half of Nigeria’s ministers, governors, commissioners National Assembly and state assembly members and local government chairmen be women. Political parties should adopt the same principles. If the Senate president is a man, the Speaker must be a woman. If the president is a man, the vice president should be a woman. At each election, it reverses.
In 1975 the then military government ordered each state to have nine commissioners of which at least one must be a woman. That was in 1975 – women had about 11 to 12 per cent representation at the top of government. If that seed had been allowed to grow women’s representation would have increased to at least the UN benchmark of not less than 30 per cent. Moving it to 50 per cent to compensate for lost opportunities and to bring greater and diverse strength to the polity would be more than justified. But instead we have regressed.
Women should be, and in many cases actually are, demanding these changes. Not only because it will bring progress to women but because it will also improve the lives of men, and perhaps most importantly, because the change will be good for Nigeria.
Their participation would enhance the social order generally. Women are often better managers and they prioritise the family unit. They would bring skill and efficiency to the job of providing better education, healthcare and childcare.
They focus on what is really important without the distraction of the ‘macho’ competition that often distracts and overwhelms the male political environment. They will help us enhance the core values of care, love, respect and regard within families that will inevitably transfer from family to family, building healthier and more wholesome communities, states and countries.
To be concluded…