Shaking Hands With Queen Elizabeth II: Is President Buhari A Hypocrite?

I have long since stopped being interested by stories of people who, due to religious reasons, refuse to shake hands with members of the opposite sex. A few years ago, when this subject interested me very greatly, I got quite dumbfounded on occasions where I observed faithfuls who bluntly refused to shake hands with members of the opposite sex.

When queried, these faithfuls claimed that shaking hands with members of the opposite sex opens unimaginable doors of temptations between men and women. God, they often argued, does not support physical contact between people of opposite sex who are not couples or blood relations.

For me, being a respecter of religious norms, I completely accepted these explanations for a while, believing that God manifests himself to people in different ways. But I soon started to discover that a vast majority of faithfuls who restrict handshakes to only members of their sex are huge hypocrites, hypocrites because they are prejudicial in their dealings.

During my undergraduate years in the University of Benin, I had a female Christian friend who would never shake hands with males - at least in public. She was stunningly beautiful and brilliant too. Notorious for wearing long sleeve shirts and baggy skirts which floated in the air on windy days like aimless smoke, Sarah was one of the most zealous students I have met. She had a triangular life, which could be summarized thus: lectures, library, and church. Sarah was revered. I revered her too.

My reverence for Sarah, however, waned completely when the news broke that she was pregnant. Consequently, Sarah deferred her admission because she could not withstand the taunts that would come from the opposite sex and, to this day, I cannot tell whether she had completed her education or not. I wished Sarah's case was the 21st century version of the story of the virgin Mary but it wasn't. Sarah refused handshake, yet said yes to carrots.

Adamu was a Muslim roommate during my service year. He had an admirable personality. He believed Allah was one and the only true God, said his prayers five times daily, fasted during Ramadan, gave alms to the poor, kept long beards, and planned to visit Mecca as soon as he was able to afford it. Adamu had a rounded, dark scare on his forehead - a testimonial he got from long hours of prayers, from the unlubricated frictions between his forehead and the soft prayer mats.

The height of Adamu's sanctimoniousness was his habit of refusing to shake hands with women, whatever colour, in public. Adam's Muslim brothers respected him greatly for this but I didn't. I didn't because Adamu secretly smuggled hijab-wearing ladies into our room nearly every night, asking me to kindly excuse him. Those ladies too, the few ones I have met, have refused to shake hands with me. They were holy sisters.

On May 29th 2015, the holiest president in the democratic history of Nigeria took the oath of office. President Muhammadu Buhari's reputation as a just man, as an upright man, was staggering. He was perceived by many as a President who would neither play the ethnic nor religious cards which his predecessors had played gleefully. In fact, President Buhari gave his assurances in his famous inaugural speech when he declared thus, "I belong to everybody but belong to nobody."

Unfolding events have seemingly revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari is a sexist. He belongs more to men than women, belongs more to influential women than less privileged women. If this is not the case, one finds it very difficult to understand why women are scantily represented in the government of President Buhari unlike it was in the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. Women, like men, have their own weaknesses and should not be sidelined in the matter of governance.

During the inauguration of President Buhari's cabinet, there were media reports that President Buhari, due to religious grounds, refused to shake hands with his female ministers. This was no news to APC stalwarts who would argue that President Buahri is a Muslim and his religious views are, without biases, to be strongly respected. Of course, the argument remained valid until President Buhari visited Guinness; I beg your pardon, Malta.

At Malta, in a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II of England in honour of Common Wealth Heads of government, President Buhari smilingly shook hands with the Queen in public. Did President Buhari stop being a Muslim immediately he landed Malta? Is Queen Elizabeth II a man? If Buhari apologists cannot answer these complex questions, then I fear that President Buhari has disdain for local women - a thing he has hung on the neck of religion for too long.

A few APC warhorses have come up with an intelligent defense to justify why the President was obliged, even against his religious beliefs, to shake hands with Queen Elizabeth II. They argued that the President represented Nigeria in Malta, and not himself, and because Nigeria remains irreligious, President Buhari was compelled to shake hands with the queen.

As valid as the above argument sounds, another event had invalidated it. It was the wedding ceremony of the 'beautiful' Governor Adams Oshiomhole and his 'handsome' wife, Lara Forte. On that occasion, President Muhammadu Buhari publicly shook hands with Lara. He did not represent Nigeria on that occasion; he was representing himself, since the event was a local event. Did President Buhari shake hands with Lara, just as he did with the Queen, because she is white? Is President Buhari another hypocrite like the Adamu and Sarah whose stories I have already narrated in the early paragraphs?

Whatever the case may be, President Buhari must understand that all women are equals, regardless of the colour of their skins and their positions in the society. He must distance himself from actions that would portray him as a religious fanatic and those which discriminates against black women.

Ademule David is a student of human society; he writes from Lagos.

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Articles by Ademule David