Today, I remember the day we were taken to downtown Providence by the Brown University staff and students in order to meet with the Lt. Governor, Hon Elizabeth Roberts. It was August the 14th 2009, and it was a mild culture shock to many of us to discover that the Lt. Governor – another name for Deputy Governor – was a woman. In my case, it was not such a big deal, especially since I come from a country that could boast of having given women a chance to become almost everything they wanted to be (and then almost always craftily taken that chance back from them. Some people in Nigeria today no doubt might find similarity in that with the many instances of American political landscape when they try to compare the case of Governor Sara Palin of Alaska with Nigeria’s Representative Patriciah Etteh, even though the circumstances of their exit are actually not much alike.) In any case, the Lt. Governor recognized the shock many might feel about her position when she mentioned in her address her solidarity with, and support for women who come from such repressive countries.
I remember Providence again today because I remember home. We do not have as much a problem with gender in Nigeria today as we do with tranparency, order and discipline. I remembered walking through the legislative chambers of the Rhode Island Senators, and noticing that instead of the antiquated show of hands or a rabble-rousing ayes and nays when voting on a point, the Senators there all had a monitor and little coloured bottons on their seats which they press, corresponding with their choice of vote. In just a few seconds, as soon as everyone has cast their votes by pressing either “aye”, “nay” or “abstain”, all the votes are tallied and shown on a large electronic board, and each person’s vote shown clearly against their name. In the Nigerian Legislative houses today, it is usually a long tortuous session (sometimes involving fisticuffs) to decide whether the “ayes” or the “nays” have it, all in spite of the fact that every Friday evening, the whole country tunes in to watch the “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” game show where the simple technology of electronic voting and collation is shown to be not such a big deal. Talk about priorities.
I thought of Providence, and I thought of home when, while walking through the SIUE campus today, I saw an assembly of student legislators conducting a house meeting in an open court, all decently dressed, composed and articulate. There was no one on their feet with a folded sleeve, a bandana, or a fist raised yelling somewhat like this:
Greatest Articulate SIUE Students!!! Today’s tortuous issues must be germanely and systematically articulated to send thunderous atomic vibrations all around the precincts of this University domicile, that the Vice Chancellor is a thief and must be violently removed to show our disgust with his diabolical shenanigans etc… Aluta Continua…!!!
Everyone here was seated and decorous around the table as they made their point to the representative of the University who listened with attention. You must give America’s University this: everybody is given their deserved and equal respect. These among other things is where the country derives its unequalled greatness: order, discipline and mutual respect. We might want to learn from that.