June 6th, 2010
In a highly culturally sensitive and multicultural society
like Nigeria, where the manner and style of dressing deeply
reflect various ethnic backgrounds, the wearing of a
one-way-style clothing by the president, day in and day out,
appears to illustrate ethnic narrowness. This is not
necessarily an unspeakable trend as it vividly portrays
one’s ethnic pride. In this case, his own.
Of course, Jonathan have put on non-Ijaw attires
periodically, but it is strictly on the basis of regional
and special occurrences as recently observed in Kastina, in
Church and Oyo. It is a welcomed observation; however, let
the presidential dress be a matter of freewill, evenness and
on the stand of frequency.
Nigeria by definition, at least, politically, appears to
stand out as a Presidential Democracy, but if truth be told
the country is rooted, ingrained and engulfed in what could
be called a Tribal Democracy.
As a matter of fact, every aspect of action, arrangement or
display is zoned along the lines and dictates of tribal
attitude, and locked in step with the spirit of tribal
democracy. President Jonathan therein lies the dilemma.
President Jonathan ought to know that this ethnic based
reality, a peculiar reality for that matter, makes Nigeria a
continuously multifaceted society.
It is true that as an individual, one has the basic right to
wear what pleases him or her as long the dressing is
socially appropriate, and the manner of clothing is beyond
open or revealing nakedness.
Historically, past civilian Heads of States, Prime Ministers
or Presidents, irrespective of their ethnic background, in
Nigeria specially, mainly wore a more authority, power, and
commanding-placed attire like the Agbada, a grand looking,
over flowing outfit usually worn with a strikingly and
positioned oval looking hat.
The Agbada is glamorous in representation, and it is usually
a well designed outfit which is generally viewed,
nationally, and internationally, as the direct equivalent to
a formal three or two-piece suit and a tie, the often worn
official attire by an American, European or other ‘Oyibo’-based
As to President Jonathan, he is known to frequently put on a
traditional two-piece suit, popularly known as the ‘Woko’,
which is usually topped with a wide or broad brim/bowler
dark hat—a European style sun looking hat favored by his
kinfolks, the Ijaws of the Niger Delta.
Certainly, this mode of presidential attire is a great art
and a marked welcome, especially when the President is
gradually popularizing this dressing style within the circle
of the powers- that- be, and also along the lines of the
popular three piece outfits like the Agbada and Babaringa.
But there is something about this whole clothing mood.
Jonathan unlike his predecessors could now and then, include
in his clothing style other Nigerian diverse wears such as:
the Buba and Sokoto, Kaftan, Kaba, Danshiki, Agbada, and
Babaringa. There is also the Wrapper, which is usually hand
woven and topped with a wide shirt.
In addition, there is the availability of various styles of
a big long sleeve shirt usually topped over a long piece of
a wrap tied around the waist, with beads visibly worn around
There are so many elegant and dignified, looking formal and
casual brands of traditional clothing commonplace in
In our current global and interdependent world, Jonathan
could occasionally put on a Euro-American style three or two
piece suit with his known hat of choice , the bowler or
broad looking brim hat as long as it is not overly masking
his face. And in ordinary situations, he could wear a simple
shirt and trouser, even in jeans form.
These examples of assorted clothing are cultural markers of
a society like Nigeria with different ethnic, social and
cultural groups, for example: the Hausas, Fulanis, Kanuris,
Tivs, Yorubas, Rivers, Igbos, Edos, Esans, Urhobos,
Itsekiris, Afemais, Oras, Idomas, Igbirras, Okrikas, Isokos,
Akwa Iboms and others.
Also in the midst of all these diverse groups are the 21st
century Nigerian youths and the Euro-American or ‘Oyibo’-settled
Every one of these groupings wants to be represented in the
display of the presidential attire, and for a reason much
clearer to the president than anyone else—ethnic pride.
If the President was to put to practice these ethno-cultural
expressions and ideas, each of these groups which are
equally known for their culturally sensitive and territorial
charged backgrounds, could begin to see a part of their way
of dressing or clothing style in the President. A good
thing, at best.
In this regard, Jonathan could turn out to be the first
leader whose presidential attire not only represents diverse
groups but also opened the way to bring in cultural pride to
all or most ethnic groups including his own, the Ijaws.
By this way, the President, for the first time in the
nation’s history will be adding a new way to foster national
unity. God knows we need it.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D, DABPS, FACFE, is a practicing
Clinical/Forensic Psychologist and the Interim Associate
Dean of Behavioral Science, Broward College, Coconut Creek,