Dialogue from the other room

By Elizabeth Ohene
President Buhari & Chancellor Merkel
President Buhari & Chancellor Merkel

Mrs Angela Merkel (AM) walks into her living room at the end of another day in her life as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

She slumps into the sofa and sighs and chuckles in one go. Her husband, Joachim Sauer (JS) knows instinctively that his wife has had a particularly hard day in the midst of the hard days that is normal since she became Chancellor 11 years ago.

She did not take off her jacket and put away carefully before she slumped into the sofa. Now that was strange. This is a woman of habit. When she is putting on her shoes, it is always right foot first and then the left foot and she reverses the order when she is taking off her shoes. You can tell the time by when she puts the first spoonful of cereal in her mouth; and here she is sitting in the sofa without having  taken off her jacket.

Usually, you can tell what type of day she has had by her sigh or her chuckle as she walks in; and here she is mixing the sigh and the chuckle.

Okay, the man said, out with it, what happened?

You will never guess in a thousand years, Angela Merkel says to her husband.

JS: Let me have a guess anyway; the Nigerian President was visiting today. You were worried he would be asking you about Nigerians hiding money in Germany and wanting you to return it all to Nigeria.

AM: Well, that did not even come up, even though I had to tell him we would be sending back most of the Nigerian asylum seekers to Nigeria. I must say I couldn’t tell from his reaction whether he approved of this or not. He certainly didn’t seem to be well disposed towards his compatriots who had undertaken the perilous journey and ended up here in Germany.

I must tell you though that he is the bravest man I have ever met in all my 62 years of life. President Buhari told me his wife Aisha belongs in the kitchen.

There is an audible intake of breath as the Chancellor’s husband interrupts..

JS: Is that because you told him I make hot chocolate drink for you every night?

Angela Merkel continues in the same impassive voice: He told me his wife belongs in the living room…

JS: Why? Do they share the rooms in their house and he belongs in which room?

He told me his wife belongs in the other room

JS: She belongs in the loo? Well I must say his wife seems to have taken all the important rooms in the house, if she has the kitchen, the living room and the bathroom.

Angela Merkel as she has never been heard in public: I will ask you not to add to my stress level, dear Joachim Sauer! In the year of our Lord 2016, the President of a country says before assembled cameras that his wife belongs in the kitchen. I have enough problems of my own, why does he say something like that whilst standing by me? And by the way, I think when President Buhari talks about the other room, he means the bedroom, calling it the other room is meant to be a joke. Sometimes I wish you would emerge from your laboratory and take me shopping and keep me in the other room. Then maybe I would look as glamourous as Aisha Buhari.

JS: I still don’t understand what provoked the President to start such an outburst against his wife.

AM: You should have heard what she said about her husband in a BBC Hausa Service interview. She said for example she wouldn’t be campaigning for him in 2019 if he should choose to run for President again.

JS: I like that idea, let me tell you here and now, if you should choose to run again, I wouldn’t be campaigning for you; not if you send back some 10,000 unsuccessful Nigerian asylum seekers.

AM: You have never campaigned for me and from now onwards you can stay in the other room all day for all I care.

Meanwhile, in a bungalow in East Cantoments in Accra, Lordina is coming out of the other room staring at the screen of her phone and the same WhatsApp message that has been sent to her by the eighth person.

It shows some dramatic footage of a woman showing her all while a group of other women dressed in National Democratic Congress (NDC) colours sing and dance. The sender of the message wrote: Do you see what is paraded before your Dramani when he says he is out campaigning?

Just then she hears the cars and her man walks in. Tell me it’s not true, she starts as she moves towards him to give him a hug.

Dramani: Tell you what is not true. I am tired of people accusing me of lying; when I get home I don’t expect to be confronted with true or not true. This business of promising to put money in people’s pockets was never my idea.

It is one of those things the Prophet asked us to say back in 2008. Now people are holding it against me that I haven’t put money in their pockets.

Don’t people know that it is not the business of the government or the President to put cash into their pockets? Don’t they know that the important thing is to get the macro economic indices right, create the enabling atmosphere and then businesses will flourish and they will have money in their pockets?

Lordina: Oh my dear Dramani, you must have had a very hard day, now you are sounding just like Mahammudu. But you know you were promising to put money in people’s pockets just a few weeks ago, the newspaper must be here somewhere. It made the front pages; you said in your second term you would put money in their pockets. I was surprised when I heard that.

Dramani: And why were you surprised, may I ask? You don’t think I can put money in your pocket? Don’t I put money in your pocket… don’t I put money in…

Lordina cuts in: sweetheart, I know. I was only surprised you said it would be during your second term when you are already putting money in their pockets. What else have we been doing since June, but put money in people’s pockets.

Dramani: Indeed, dear Lordina, these people are ingrates, do they think V8s grow on trees or outboards or branded telephones or head pans or branded cloths or cooking oil or sewing machines or roofing sheets or rice. How can anybody say we are not putting money in people’s pockets?

As I told the people in the church I went to last Sunday, when expenditure is high and your revenue is low then you will have a deficit which will keep growing until the country becomes so indebted that nobody will be prepared to lend you any money and your currency will depreciate,”

At which point Lordina starts screaming: stop it, Dramani, stop it Dramani. This campaign is getting to you. Seriously, you are sounding like Bawumia. You are even breaking the rules of this house. Words such as expenditure, revenue, deficit are not supposed to be uttered in the living room. We agreed never shall the word “debt” be uttered anywhere in this house. In case you have forgotten, “currency” and “depreciation” can only be uttered in the other room. I think I agree with President Buhari, you Dramani, belong exclusively in the other room.