Behind every great man is a woman, which says men owe their greatness to women. But women can take you either way. In fact women may have caused more downfalls than success. This is the way it is seen everywhere. In the Somali culture it is not much different; it is only a little more pronounced. A typical Somali family is run and managed by the wife or the mother. The Somali cultural wisdom says,” Nin rag ah Naagtiisa Ka adag; doqona naagtii Ka adag”. That means; a wife is stronger than her wise husband and a stupid husband is stronger than his wife. Therefore in every successful family, the wife runs the family as she proposes and the husband disposes. This is the open secret Somalis men won’t admit, although they execute their wives orders to the letter. They also say, “Laba nin oo walaala ah Naagbaa is dhaafisa” (Wives make all the difference between two brothers). So when they say behind every great man a woman; it is true in the Somali culture. But she should not be seen running in front of her husband; only behind the not so closed door. The husband in our society is like an actor, who moves his lips for public consumption, but the actual power in the house lies with the wife. A known man marries a little girl from nowhere and as soon as the marriage contract is consummated, she takes over. All decisions concerning the forthcoming wedding are totally hers. The house becomes hers and her family and the husband and his family becomes guests in their own house. In the aftermath of migration of Somalis throughout the world, families that have daughters who migrated very well survive as their daughters give them full financial support. If it is only sons who migrated, financial support is limited because they support the families of their wives. Our women traditionally took part in tribal wars by supporting their warring men and the side supported by their women usually won as no man wanted to be seen by a woman as a coward. Somali men always wanted to be in the good books of their women folks. In our present day politics, almost in every election women outnumber the men voters by a big margin. As a matter of choice, they choose men over women. They see no sense in electing a woman when they can manage the elected men from the comfort of their homes. On the contrary men do not like to elect women to public offices because they don’t want to be controlled both at home and at Office. A Somali poem which could be outside the main stream expresses the pain one man experienced when he first married and said;
qabri wahan ku kowsaday markaan qaaliga u tagaye. (my first day in grave began when I went to the Sharia court to marry). This feeling and frustration felt by this man was only part of a wider story that was too common in the Somali society. A Somali husband was aware of the above mentioned grave and the alternative. Wise men preferred to avoid the grave by obeying their wives, while those who chose to disobey went down the drain. A friend of mine said to me one day; “You wife controlled husbands have prospered, but those of us who controlled their wives are doomed”. My reply was simple, “if that is the case why don’t you do the right thing and prosper like us”. The bottom line is; allow your wife to manage the affairs of the family or else you will never rest in peace in your home. So the question is to be or not to be in peace in your home and that makes the world difference for a family and a President is only one of us. He needs peace at home more than we do, because of the heavy responsibilities bestowed upon him.
Although our cultural heritage may have changed significantly, the husband is not yet out of the woods as the wife can still make or break the family. In spite of that fact our First Ladies are the only ones accused of running the government unelected. If that is true, it is not because they acquired new extra powers to rein their husbands, but it is the nature of things in the Somali culture. The First Ladies have not relinquished their traditional roles as their husbands become Presidents. It is double standard not to expect the First lady to act like any other wife or any other mother. Every Somali First Lady is accused of meddling with the affairs of the country. If some were abusing the power of the President, there would have been exceptions; but there are no exceptions. The accusation started during Aden Abdulla Osman, where the daughters of Musa Mattan took the brunt of the gossip at the time. Khadija Maallin was the villain who was responsible for all the mess that took place during Siad Barre’s reign. So were the wives of Abdillahi Yusuf and Dahir Rayale Kahin. However the First Ladies who are currently in the gossip loop are; Khadra Haid of Djibouti, Amina Abiib of Puntland, and Amina Waris Jirde of Somaliland. Nobody told them they were controlling their husbands before they became Presidents. Logically a President should not be accused of using the advice of a trusted person whose interest and his interest are one. Any other advice from the rest is more often than not self seeking and the President should exercise caution. Thus it is inadmissible to ask a President not to heed the advice of his wife on the pretext that she was not elected. On the contrary Presidents avoid mistakes because of the presence of a trusted, knowledgeable wife. We all need people whom we trust to tell us our mistakes and shortcomings that we are not often aware of. A President needs such a person more than the rest of us. Does anybody think a President without a wife is a better option? The problem with that preposition is somebody who could not have a family cannot be trusted to run the affairs of a nation. A dictator President at his family level is not a rational option either. At any rate a husband’s love for his wife is a measure of his love for his country too as such a President will not take any action that will eventually hurt the family he loves. We have seen that in the American Presidential campaign between Obama and Romney where love of their spouses was the hallmark of the whole campaign. Even our own Sheikh Sharif brought his two wives on stage in an honest display of love for them. If I were to vote then, I would have given him my vote for that. However for a society that wants to find fault with its President, there will always be something to chew and in the Somali context, the first lady will be the first casualty. Do we want to elect stupid presidents who control their wives as the traditional wisdom implies? If not we better stop accusing our first ladies of being power maniacs by exercising their legitimate traditional rights as wives and give them the respect and dignity they deserve and see our Presidents’ acceptance of their traditional roles as vanguards of our old traditional wisdom and cultural heritage. Our women can be as powerful as Arewelo, as loving and caring as a mother, and as the sleeping beauty that gives us life and a reason to live for. To give you an indication of how they will compare with their male counterparts, the best performing Ministers in Somaliland are all females; namely Madam Zamzam Abdi, Ilham Jama, Fadumo Sudi and Adna Aden. There is every reason to expect that Madam Fozia Yusuf and Madam Maryam Qassim of the Federal Government of Somalia will perform as much as their counterparts in Somaliland. Madam Fowzia is already showing unprecedented diplomatic skill in her short tenure as foreign Minister. All that says is we better have more female Ministers if the questionable performance of our Ministers has to improve drastically. I am convinced that one day our women will change the course of history by electing a woman president as they are the majority voters and a companionate beauty will get seated on the pedestal of the State.
Omar Ibrahim Hussein (PhD).
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