Not everyone will agree with me that January 20 was a great day in America. I get that! For me, it was a blessing to witness for the third time in my life a peaceful transition from one President to another. While I lived in Nigeria, there was nothing like a peaceful transition. Even the transition described as most peaceful will be the one in which a few Nigerians died.
The story of Nigeria reflects the experience of most African countries, an experience that stems from colonial amalgamation, and without the consent of the peoples, of culturally, socially, religiously and politically different ethnic nations into dysfunctional countries. As the United States was transitioning peacefully, there in Gambia, West of Africa, one sit tight leader, then President Jammeh who had ruled his country for over a decade was being forced by threats of ECOWAS military intervention to hand over power to Adama Barrow, the candidate who defeated him in the country’s presidential election.
With these contrasting experiences on my mind, anyone can appreciate why the transition event in the US is always a blessing to me. Hence, the shadow of the planned Million Women March scheduled for the day after the inauguration of President Trump’s government came to me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I wanted to remain in the joy of a new Government with all the curiosity, new opportunities and challenges that come with it. On the other hand, the events during the electoral system inclines me to support that we, the people of the United States re-affirm our commitment to the freedom of assembly and the right of all people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is with this mixed feeling that I welcomed the Women’s march. Initially, I did not want to have anything to do with it. I had thought that since the election was over, that the new Government needed to be given some time to organize itself so that we can judge it by its performance and not by our presumptions. But as the day got closer and I realized that my kids had been convinced to participate in the women’s march, it became clear to me that I must go to ensure that they are safe and not lost in the crowd. I also felt it was an opportunity to be blessed among the women, to read their posters and listen to what they are saying.
The crowd at Lansing, though not as large as the crowd in LA and Washington, was none the less outstanding. The speakers were awesome! While some posters were addressing serious concerns, some others were comical, the combination evoking a mixture of laughter and anxiety, that anxious sweet feeling that you have when approaching a new but promising relationship.
After listening to the women and reading through many posters, below are what I heard the women saying to President Trump and his Government:
1. We normally like to tell our children to be like our president. The things we heard and saw during the campaigns in video recordings about your character did not reflect the values which we would want to ask our children to uphold. While we recognize that everyone has a past, we do not want our present and future national moral ethics to be defined by your past.
2. Do all you can to protect us from terrorists and serial killers but do not promote racial profiling or encourage stop and frisk.
3. This is a nation of immigrants. All must be welcomed according to our laws and none should be discriminated against on the basis of their religion, gender or ethnicity. No to Muslim registry and yes to marriage equality, equal pay for equal work.
4. Former Secretary of State, Senator Hilary Clinton was not completely defeated in the election. Her wide margin of popular vote victory means that issues that are dear to her candidacy should not be ignored by the White House. The Affordable Healthcare Act should not be repealed without a publicly discussed alternative.
5. These women argued that a woman’s body belongs to the woman and what she decides to do with her body should not be dictated by State laws. Though these Christian women do not necessarily support abortion, they think that the decision to carry a baby to full term or abort a baby should be left to the mother and not determined by the State.
Though I do not agree with every item listed above, mainly based on my biblical convictions about the sanctity of life and the moral responsibility of governments to protect the weak and vulnerable, there are good grounds for President Trump to pay attention to the issues raised by these women. As the number one citizen of the US, the President does not need to be perfect but the conduct of presidential leadership must not only reflect the American values of compassion, equal rights and justice but must be seen to be so doing.
This I believe is the main reason why these women, some of whom are devout Christians, joined the march and may be the ground for which many Americans, if not all, would continue to see its relevance in the years to come.