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Separating kitchen politics from democracy

24 November 2016, 15:53

Like everyone else, I believe that the most popular definition of democracy is “government of the people, by the people and for the people”. Democracy is equally a political process that allows plurality of political parties to ensure popular participation in the political decision making.

Other manifestations of a democratic government include a free and independent judiciary, a free press and the recognition that is given to the provisions of the constitution, especially on those clauses that concern fundamental human rights. Most of these rights, apart from their inclusion in the nation’s constitution, are also enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights.

The most frequently and popularly exercised rights among other rights are the right of association and assembly and the right of freedom of thought, religion and expression.

Regrettably, since the rebirth of Nigeria on May 29, 1999 democracy has been under various threats posed by politicians themselves, and to some extent by their wives.  One of the threats has been the one that is in this context described as “Kitchen Politics.”

The term “Kitchen Politics” may sound bizarre to many readers but the fact remains that the kitchen has for ages remained a recurring political decimal in the equation of global politics to the extent that if the collective heat that is literarily coming from the kitchens of wives of the politicians, particularly in this part of the world, is not put under control by their uxorious husbands, it may end up spoiling the national objectives which the adoption of democratic system of government was set to achieve. It is a pity that for more than 16 years that democracy has come to stay in the country that some pessimistic and myopic politicians still refer it to be a nascent one.  To my view, the most dangerous threat that our democracy is presently faced with is the one that is emanating from the kitchen.

It is plausible for anyone to disassociate the kitchen from the monkey business that politics is fast becoming. It is not an exaggeration to say that disassociating the kitchen  from politics is not ill-advised as the decision of who eats which food and who chew which meat  invariably starts and gets concluded in the kitchen. To a Carpenter, the term Kitchen Cabinet simply means   “A cupboard built into a kitchen or a chest of drawers for kitchen use, as for dishes and silverware.” However, in politics, the same term means “a group of unofficial advisers on whom a head of government appears to rely heavily.” There is hardly any government at any level that can boast of not making use of kitchen cabinet. In a kitchen cabinet, the relationship is usually on the basis of “Paddy-Paddy” or “Na-we-we.” That is to say, anyone that holds a political appointment must be known by the numero uno in a given government. To large extent, some managing directors and top managers cannot afford to be carrying out their responsibilities without relying on a kitchen cabinet. In a kitchen cabinet, merit is usually thrown to the dogs while lies and blackmailing of colleagues is elevated to high heavens, so to say.

In a recent interview which the soft spoken wife of the president, Aisha Buhari, granted BBC Hausa which was monitored in Kano, she said that Buhari’s government has been hijacked by cabal who are “behind presidential appointments”.  She reportedly added in the interview that she “…does not know 45 out of 50, for example, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either despite being his wife for 27 years.” For the sake of clarity, a typical kitchen cabinet demands that those in power should be known; even in the kitchen. To me, Kitchen cabinet, which some people prefer to call cabal is not democratic enough as millions of credible people that are neither known by the president or his wife are denied the opportunities to serve. To me, it should not be encouraged in the country, and I totally disagree with the wife of the president on this and agree with the husband as all those considered for appointments by him were strictly selected and appointed on merit. Virtually all the ministers and some diplomats were screened by the Senate and most of us viewed the screening on the television as widely transmitted by the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA.

As published by an online encyclopedia, Wikipedia,  “The Kitchen Cabinet was a term used by political opponents of President of the United States Andrew Jackson to describe his ginger group, the collection of unofficial advisers he consulted in parallel to the United States Cabinet (the "parlor cabinet") following his purge of the cabinet at the end of the Eaton affair and his break with Vice President John C. Calhoun in 1831.”

“Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet included his longtime political allies Martin Van Buren, Francis Preston Blair, Amos Kendall, William B. Lewis, Andrew Jackson Donelson, John Overton, Duff Green, Isaac Hill, and his new Attorney General Roger B. Taney. As newspapermen, Blair and Kendall were given particular notice by rival papers.”  To my view, Kitchen cabinet should never be encourage in the country’s prevailing democratic system of government as it would literarily kill it and defeat the purpose that necessitated the adoption of democracy as a system of government in the country.

Another danger which the Kitchen, which has now assumed a political coloration, poses to the nation is the annual huge amount that is often allocated for the purchase of kitchen equipments in government houses and guest houses. The somewhat profligacy hit the media during former president Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure like a thunder bolt. But alas! Even under the prevailing political dispensation, the 2016 budget also allocated a total of N89.172 million for the purchase of canteen/kitchen equipment to the consternation of many political observers that wished government could be separated from the kitchen.  There is no denying the fact that the phenomenon of the kitchen in our body politics is making democracy to be extremely expensive.

Viewed from another prism, President Buhari recent response to an interview granted by his wife to the BBC, were he was quoted to have said that his wife’s place belongs to his kitchen and that he knows not which party she belongs to was neither seen as a faux pas nor as a joke as his media aide, Garba Shehu effortlessly tried to make people believe. Many people were of the opinion that the statement violated the principle of gender equality which democracy espouses. It would be recalled that Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations during his opening speech at the Round Table on “Democracy and Gender Equality” held on May 4, 2011 in New York said that  “Gender equality must be treated as an explicit goal of democracy building, not as an add on’’.

Permit me to conclude this piece by saying that for our democracy to continue evolving in order to achieve the national aims and objectives that necessitated its adoption in our body polity that the idea of dragging the kitchen into governance should be discarded. Also, our leaders should shelve the idea of making comments that show that they have or do not have an excessive or submissive fondness for their wives. The reason for the foregoing cannot be farfetched as it is obvious that no matter how they tend to exhibit their uxorious disposition that it would be misinterpreted by those who are gender-sensitive. As we all know, gender-equality is very key for the efficient operation of the democratic machinery of any nation.

Isaac Asabor,

- News24

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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