Ese Oruru, the girl-child and a nation’s shame

Ese OruruTHREE different incidents in the last week cast, poignantly, in bold relief the plight of the girl-child in Nigeria. Thanks to The Punch newspaper which launched the #FreeEse, #JusticeforEse campaign and the civil society groups that took up the fight in a spirited manner. With the outrage and outcry that followed, within 72 hours, this same 14-year old girl who was abducted from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and taken to Kano, seven months ago, by one Yinusa Dahiru alias Yellow, is now free. While we were still grappling with this bizarre story, on Monday, a group of criminals stormed a school, Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary in Ikorodu, Lagos State and abducted three girls.

And if that was not shocking enough, on Wednesday, there was this other report about a 15-year old Benue girl, Patience Paul, who had been abducted by two neighbours and married off to a certain “Sarkin Musulmi” in Sokoto State. Her brother cried out, obviously motivated to do so by the Ese Oruru story. Set against the background of the abduction of 219 Chibok girls in 2014, a story that is well known internationally, Nigeria must by now appear in the eyes of the world as a large den of sexual predators, who seem to be obsessed with young, under-aged girls, and the adolescent female.

The international community would be correct to conclude that something terrible is happening here. Indeed, can we blame any analyst who may soon conclude that a girl child is abducted, assaulted or violated per minute in Nigeria, and that Nigeria is not a safe place for either a girl child or a female? The sanity and moral temperature of a society should be measured by the manner in which that society treats its underprivileged and vulnerable members. The powerful trample upon the weak, the privileged despise the less fortunate; a long journey to Hobbes’ apotheosis, which is in truth a comment on the state of our development as state, country, people and society.

It is instructive, for example, that the girls that end up being abused in the manner of the aforementioned are usually from poor backgrounds and perhaps this makes them specially vulnerable. But all the adult males who abduct other people’s daughters, marry them by force, put them in family way and convert them to Islam, not only make the entire country look bad, they give the rest of us a very bad name indeed. In the end, Nigeria is the victim, and this is why the various government agencies, which were in a position to make a difference when it mattered most in the Ese Oruru case, or similar cases, and failed to act, did the entire country a disservice. In some other countries, certain persons would have honourably submitted their resignations.

But you can be sure, it won’t happen here. The standard response in quarters that should be responsible is likely to be: “ah, wetin? So? “I beg”; Nigeria go stop because of one girl wey follow man? And life will go on and go on, and the tragedy foretold gets moved to the future. Which is why the protesting small community of men and women with conscience, who have helped to rescue this one girl from sex slavery and forced conversion to a religion that is not of her choice deserve special praise.

The Ese Oruru case is a metaphor for the plight of the Nigerian girl-child. She is a living symbol of the assault on the integrity of the girl child and her hopes and aspirations in a deracinated, dispossessed and conflicted society. She was taken away from her parents at 13 by a man who of course was well-known to her family as a tricycle rider. Initial reports identified the abductor and tormentor as Yinusa Dahiru or Yellow, but from that moment, the story further got coloured by the usual politics of identity, ethnicity and religion. Yellow was branded “Kano man”. There were also references to a North-South cultural divide: a Northerner stealing a Southern child! And then of course, Ese’s conversion to the Islamic religion was a source of boiling anger – most abducted girls tend to be Christians.

There is also the role of the Emir of Kano in the matter. Too many loud and silent indications: conflict between traditional and modern institutions, with particular accent on the relevance, influence, and undue superior station of the traditional institution in the North, ethnic and regional dichotomy, power dynamics, distortions and historical fault lines and the power of the media, old and new, to change trajectories. No one should fail to notice in this entire saga, how Nigeria and its many ugly complexities are again, sorrowfully on display. But the more urgent and painful part is that the life of a young girl has again been scarred forever. Ese could well have been one of the Chibok girls! Everyday, we are back to Chibok either as symbol, metaphor, painful reminder or elemental fact.

Mr. Yellow not only abducted her and turned her into a Muslim, all without her parents’ consent, he also allegedly put the girl in a family way. She is said to be five months pregnant. How sad and annoying. Perhaps if there had been a strong follow up mechanism in place at the Kano Emirate Council, the Emir’s order that she should be released would have saved her the ordeal of being turned into a sex slave. Perhaps if the police in the Kano zone had done their job, seeing that this was nothing but a crime in the eyes of the law, and they had remembered that the primary job of the police is to protect lives and property. But sorry, they just all forgot!

There must be sanctions and civil society must not get tired of this case. There are many other Eses out there, whose future hangs in the balance because certain persons remain morally trapped in the Stone Age. The atrocities that have been committed against innocent children in this land, are despicable: in Ese’s case, her right to education was truncated, she had to miss her JSS 3 exam because a man was busy changing the course of her life; she was subjected to undue imprisonment, and now she is a child bearing a child.

It is shocking to say the least that some persons, carried away by religious and ethnic prejudices, chose to justify this madness. Now that the truth is known that she is indeed a minor, and that Yellow is an adult who took advantage of her, I hope such persons will be reasonable enough to apologise, hide their heads in shame and return filthy lucre. The point has been made ad nauseam that Yinusa Yellow must not be allowed to get away with his brazen crime. The Zimbabwean sit-tight ruler has recommended castration as punishment in this kind of context, but castration not being part of our extant criminal law, we take solace in the realisation that there is more than enough in the statutes to put Yinusa Yellow away for a long time, to serve as a deterrent to his ilk. He should be tried expeditiously and a proper closure put to this particular case in line with natural justice, equity and good conscience. His accomplices if there are any, no matter who they are, should also be identified and made to face the full wrath of the law.

This is clearly a case of man’s cruelty to man. In an interview with The Sun, her innocence and vulnerability shine through, as compellingly as the madness of her tormentors. She knows Yinusa as one of her mother’s customers who comes around to buy food at their shop, and she being with her mother at the shop knows and relates with everybody, without any special relationship with Yinusa. “He is not my boyfriend”, she tells us. “I just followed him. I don’t know how I followed him.” She says she doesn’t even know how she found herself in Kano.

She was obviously hypnotized or bewitched. Her kidnappers made her to recite lines she did not understand. They even gave her some strange water to drink. They changed her name to Aisha. She comes across as a child whose childhood and spirit have been polluted by wicked souls. When Ese saw her mother at the Emir’s palace during an earlier attempt to rescue her, she had been so polluted she could not even recognize her mother: “I just looked at her. I did not know her and I did not talk to her.”

She has now regained her senses enough to now ask her mother for “Banga soup and starch”, but there are many lessons involved. She offers advice, for example, to young girls like her: “They should be careful with the people they play with or talk with because it’s not everybody that is good.” Indeed, we live in a society where “not everybody is good” and that includes those callous ones who turned this episode upside down and spilled much ink trying to protect a fictitious Northern interest. At stake is the human interest, and it is not geographical.

Child labour such as the type Ese was involved in, assisting her mother in her food vending business is, let’s admit, culturally correct in Africa, but it also comes with grave dangers. The children are exposed to risks and accidents: crazy customers who can’t keep their eyes or fingers off the female child labourer and kidnappers like Yellow who go the extra length. Parents must be careful. They must be vigilant. The need to survive and deploy all possible hands in the house may be given as an excuse, but the truth is that children lack such negotiating skills that could protect them in an adult context. Caution is the word.

The argument that obsession with children as brides is cultural and religious is the most unreasonable thing I have ever heard and to think that some of the most enlightened and privileged men in a part of our country are part of this, beggars belief. The girl child is a child, not a bride, not a sex slave: she deserves her rights to human dignity, access to education, freedom from discrimination, a decent life in a decent society and the right to fulfill her potentials as a human being and a citizen. From Chibok to Kano, to Ikorodu, to Sokoto in the episodes under consideration, we lament the shame of a nation, and proclaim the right of the girl-child to dignity.



6 Comments
  • dvapologetics

    the following article about abduction of christian teenagers in Sokoto was published in 2007:

    Victor Udo UsenSOKOTO, Nigeria, March 14 Beginning in November of last
    year, 13-year-old Victor Udo Usen, a member of the Christ Apostolic Church in
    this northern Nigeria city, went missing.

    On February 20, news that young Victor was spotted in a Muslim neighbor’s house
    jolted his family. A young Christian girl had raced to the Usens’ home in the
    Mabera area of Sokoto city with the news.

    Victor’s mother, Esther Udo Usen, told Compass that she ran to the house where
    her son had been seen. She met him, however, even as he was making frantic
    efforts to escape from the house where he has been held incommunicado for six
    months.

    “I quickly held his hands and dragged him along with me towards our house,” she
    said. “But within a twinkle of an eye, I heard shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar!
    Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar [God is great]!’ I was shocked as I saw a large
    number of Muslims rushing towards us.”

    The mob surrounded them and snatched her son away from her, she told Compass
    with tears in her eyes. Before she could send for her husband, who was not home
    at the time, members of the mob told her that her son was now a Muslim and that
    she and her husband were no longer his parents.

    “They abducted him in November last year, and I only saw him today,” she told
    Compass. “How can someone force my son into his religion?”

    Victor’s father, Udo Usen, told Compass that when he received the distressed
    call from his wife, he rushed home only to discover that the boy had been
    abducted anew.

    Victor with his family“I thought, ‘If I force myself into the house of that
    Muslim to get my son, I will not only be placing the lives of my family at risk
    but also creating room for them to attack other Christians in Sokoto,’” Usen
    said.

    Instead, Usen contacted his pastor, and together they reported the matter to
    other Christian leaders – as well as to police and the state security service.

    “The police told us that they cannot do anything at the moment until the Sultan
    of Sokoto, the leader of Muslims in Nigeria, returns from his trip,” he said.
    “They have held this boy for six months without our consent. They have forced
    him into Islam. How can they do this to a 13-year-old child?”

    Kidnapped and Converted

    Esther Thomas Tambari, a Christian neighbor of the Usens, corroborated the
    facts of the abduction to Compass. “The Muslims, we learned, have changed
    Victor’s name to Abdulkarim,” she said.

    Tambari said the Muslims had also threatened her son, Simon Thomas Tambari, several
    times.

    “When the Usens had their son abducted, as a Christian I had concern for them
    and decided to help in any way I can to enable them to find their son,” Tambari
    said. “I took Victor’s mother to my pastor, who in turn asked her to report the
    matter to the police. Now the Muslims are after my son, Simon, and me. My
    landlady, who happens to be a Muslim, has threatened me with ejection from her
    house, and my son’s life is at stake.”

    The Usens are not the only Christian family in Sokoto who have had one of their
    children abducted and forced into Islam; Christian leaders there say abduction
    of teenage Christian boys and girls has become a common phenomenon in
    majority-Muslim Sokoto state.

    “Sometimes Muslims force our young boys and girls into Islam,” said Kevin Aje,
    Roman Catholic Bishop of Sokoto. “These are some of the challenges facing
    Christians here in Sokoto.”

    The Rev. Reuben Yaro, chairman of the Sokoto district of the Evangelical Church
    of West Africa, has received reports of child abduction. In one case, Muslims
    forcefully took away a son and a daughter from a family in his church because
    the mother was a convert from Islam, he said.

    “She gave her life to Christ, eventually got married to a Christian man and the
    marriage was blessed with the two kids,” Yaro said. But intense persecution
    followed, he said, with Muslims abducting the children and placing them in the
    custody of a Muslim cleric.

    “The two children have been forced into Islam and are receiving Islamic
    education,” he said.

    The Islamists also seized the mother of the two children – her fate is unknown
    – and forced the father to leave Sokoto in order to save his life, Yaro said.

    Yaro said he has reported another case of kidnapping and forced conversion to
    the Christian Association of Nigeria, Sokoto state chapter, which is
    investigating it.

    Pastor Tayo Atiniku, Secretary of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Sokoto
    state chapter, also corroborated claims of abductions of teenage Christian boys
    and girls in Sokoto. He cited two examples.

    “Grace, a girl, 17 years old, was three years ago abducted by the Muslims
    here,” Atiniku said. “Her parents are members of the Redeemed Christian Church
    of God here in Sokoto, and her whereabouts are still unknown.”

    Another Christian girl, daughter of a Christian police officer in Talata Mafara
    town, also was recently abducted, forced into Islam and married off to a Muslim
    man without the consent of her parents, he said.

    “It took the father the use of a gun for him to rescue her from these Muslims,”
    Atiniku added.

    Christian leaders are worried that the kidnapping trend is on the increase,
    creating tensions between Muslims and Christians.

    The Nigerian government, they concur, knows of the abductions but has done
    nothing to protect Christian children from religious predators.

  • Yes.
    The right to dignity and justice.

  • KWOY

    Good contribution to a developing story. But I also disagree with resort to metaphors: “Yunusa Yellow and all those involved…” There must be a bold and blunt statement for the arrest and prosecution of the Emir of Kano. We know the punishment for the crimes of kidnapping, rape, imprisonment & sexual slavery! And since it is now obvious that this practice is widespread in northern Nigeria (& against which backdrop we can now understand Sanusi’s obsession with the emirship ambition!), the investigation of all already revealed cases, & a thorough search of all the palaces of northern traditional rulers.

  • DAVID OGINNI

    PURCHASE INFORMATION

    =============================

    THE EMIR OF KANO SHOULD ALSO BE CHARGE BCOS I WOULD NOT UNDERSTAND WHY A LEARNED MAN LIKE SANUSI WILL OVERLOOK A CHILD ABUSE ISSUE JUST BCOS SHE IS NON HAUSA, CAN AN IGBO MAN OR YORUBA DO THIS TO AN HAUSA? BY NOW HEAVEN WOULD HAVE BEEN LET LOSS ON ALL EASTERN AND WESTERN CITIZENS IN THE NORTH.

    THIS DOUBLE STANDARD HAS TO STOP AND I THINK IT IS TIME FOR US CHRISTIANS TO GO BACK TO THE MOSES LAW EYE FOR AND EYE, TOOTH FOR TOOTH TO LET THEM KNOW THAT NOBODY AND I REPEAT NOBODY HAS THE MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE. FULANI KILL, FULANI KIDNAP FULANI RAPE, FULANI BURN CHRISTIANS ETC ALL IN MY COUNTRY NIGERIA AND NOTHING IS DONE ABOUT IT, CAN ANY SOUTHERNER DO IT IN THE NORTH? WE ALL KNOW THE ANSWER.

    LET THEM KNOW TODAY THAT CHRISTIANS HAVE HEARD ENOUGH OF THIS AND WE WILL MATCH VIOLENCE WITH VIOLENCE THIS TIME. I WANT TO IMPLORE MY BROTHERS IN THE SOUTH TO START KILLING ALL HAUSA’S IN THE SOUTH TO LET THEM KNOW THAT WE ARE NOT COWARD BUT ONLY EMBRACED PEACE AND CO-EXISTENCE AS OUR RELIGION THOUGHT US WHICH IS KNOW TAKEN AS AN ACT OF COWARDLINESS. WHILE THEY CLAIM ISLAM IS PEACE BUT THE WHOLE WORLD CAN SEE WHAT THE RELIGION REALLY MEAN. BY MOUTH THEY SAY BUT THEIR ACTION SPEAKS GREATLY OTHERWISE.

    NOW THEY SAY SHARIA LAW, IS SHARIA LAW BIGGER THAN THE NIGERIA LAW? BUNCH OF WICKED AND DEVILISH PEOPLE WHOM THEIR RELIGION DRINKS BLOOD OF INNOCENT PEOPLE ALWAYS FROM SAUDI ARABIA TO THE END OF THE WOLE MUSLIM WORLD. IF YOU HAVE PROBLEM WITH A GOVERNMENT THEN FOR THEM IF YOU CAN, NOT AN INNOCENT SOUL WHOM MIGHT NOT EVEN BE IN SUPPORT OF HIS OR HER GOVERNMENT ACTIONS. WICKED RELIGION, IMAGINE HE SLEEP IN CHURCH BUT DON`T LIKE THE CHURCH JUST IMAGINE NO MATTER HOW YOU HELP A DEVIL, HE WILL HARM YOU AT THE SLIGHTED OPPORTUNITY NOT MINDING ALL U HAVE DONE FOR HIM OR HER BCOS THEY HAVE NO CONSCIENCE LIKE THE DEVIL.

  • PowaPak

    What a wrong society. Tomorrow they will tell you Islam is the fastest growing religion. Why wouldn’t evil grow??? What message has they???? NOTHING!!! thoughts are all evil against people of other believes. Zero attitude,zero development, zero cleanliness. Dirty trash everywhere. If Yinusa would have the opportunity to listen to the word of faith and mercy, on his own, he will regret the entirety of Islam believe. The second man in the crazy yard was the emirSanusi. That’s what he had sent this boys to do. Yes, that’s God’s believe too, he loves it done. Who is sure if the young girl wasn’t given to him for the marriage. That pregnancy; emir, who get am pls????

  • Felix Asikpata

    The clouds are gathering once again! Shall it be a long night with no dawn for Nigeria? Let all governments in Nigeria that believe in a Nigeria where No One; no matter his race, religion, or gender; is oppressed wake up to nip this evil trend in the bud. The actions you take today may determine whether you have a people to govern tomorrow!

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