Lechers and child-brides
ON any occasion when the facade of sophistication and sensitivity to the needs of their fellow citizens crashes, our leaders are often revealed as a people who are scandalously ensconced in a notion of self-importance that negates the humanity of those outside the circle of their socio-political and pecuniary influence. It is because they are deluded by this warped notion that they do not mind neglecting the poor citizens to wallow in their abject misery or deliberately inflicting on them policies that would seal their pulverisation and reify their overbearing sense of importance. This is why our leaders steal the money meant for the improvement of the lot of the people, divert the funds meant for buying weapons and yet send soldiers to the battlefield unarmed. But the citizens still appreciate the true worth of the life of the average Nigerian. This was demonstrated in the past few days by the outrage they expressed at the abduction of the Bayelsa girl, Ese Oruru, who was forcibly Islamised and married at the age of 13.
This outrage did not come from the leaders of the society who were complicit in the ordeal of the teenager. It came from those outside the realm of power. And without this, those who had the power to set Ese free from captivity would not have bulged. But since there is apparently official complicity in the ordeal of the minor, there is the danger that beyond the outrage that has led to her release, the culprits would not be punished . And there is a worse danger in so far as a lack of punishment would spawn a recurrence of this aberration. For the case of Yunusa is only a grim upshot of the failure of similar acts of impunity in the past to tug the conscience of the nation and pave the way for appropriate sanctions. If the Yunusas of our society are not merely serving as minions for some privileged persons, they have only demonstrated that they have learnt enough to appropriate for themselves an art their masters have deployed to satiate their lecherous appetites.
Was a former governor not cheered on by his fellow senators when he prised a 12-year-old off the bosom of her mother in Egypt and brought her to Nigeria as a wife? Was there a deterrent official umbrage when a traditional ruler who ought to set the moral tone for his people acquired a minor like a chattel and made her his wife? The Yunusas of our society are abreast of all these scenarios. They know that the rich and powerful having ravished the poor economically and politically, they go ahead to prey on them sexually by coercing their children into marriage.
Thus to avert a recurrence, all the dramatis personae in this tawdry drama at the expense of the peace of the Orurus must be served their well-deserved comeuppance. Nigerians are not convinced by the attempts of the Emir of Kano, Malam Muhammadu Sanusi to exonerate himself of blame over the development. If he had actually directed that the girl should be released, why did he not follow up this directive? Or is Sanusi saying that if Ese were his daughter all he would have done would be to sit down somewhere and issue directives? The police must embark on a thorough investigation to smash all the equivocations and arrive at the truth. For in the first place, it is intriguing that Sanusi had a role to play in the whole episode. For if it is true that every person who gets married in Kano reports to Sanusi one wonders how he copes with them. But if this is not the case, then one wonders why Sanusi was so much interested in this forced marriage. The whole development betrays how the leaders in our society use their positions to keep the poor perpetually in their bleak condition. For while the powerful people in Kano would readily make their Sport Utility Vehicle available to convey Ese to the palace of Sanusi amid police escorts and thereby created the impression of closely guarding a prized asset, the same people would not lift a finger to help Yunusa to improve his life educationally and economically. For if these people who provided their SUV to convey the forced child-bride of Yunusa were so responsive to his needs, he would not have gone to Bayelsa in the first place to eke out a hard living as an Okada rider and Keke Marwa operator.
Like most crimes which have been committed in the name of religion, the sexual abuse of minors has often been justified by appeals to religious sentiments. The refrain is always that ‘‘our religion allows it so what is your business?’’ Granted that members of a religion allow their children to be preyed upon by some lecherous old men, the fact remains that this outrageous practice should be limited to their fellow religious adherents. It is scandalous that other people are being forced to change their religion in order to make child-brides out of them. One may allow himself or herself to be deluded by religion and validate the assumptions of Friedrich Nietzsche who dismisses religion as the affair of the rabble or Karl Marx who describes it as the opium of the masses. But the adherents of one religion must not force other citizens to pander to their religious inanities.
Some of these religious excesses are going on because the state has not taken seriously the need to distance itself from religion. Let the state restrict its role to only creating a peaceful environment for the observance of the citizens’ religious duties. The state should not be involved in the financing of religion. The government at the federal and state levels should disband all pilgrims’ bodies. Instead of boosting other countries’ economies through religious tourism, all the resources that should have gone into sponsoring religious jamborees should be appropriately deployed into developmental purposes.
Beyond this, a state functionary who is going to Mecca or Jerusalem or any other place for a religious purpose should foot that bill. In this regard, President Muhammadu Buhari can set the tone by refunding to the coffers all the state resources he has spent on travelling to Mecca to pray. The citizens are not interested in how much he prays but the results of the good governance he engenders that improve their lives. Besides, the case of Ese has thrown into sharp relief how the so-called traditional institution that is maintained by the tax-payers’ funds is used to oppress the poor in our midst. Like religion, the traditional institution as represented by emirs, obas and ezes should no longer be perpetuated by state funds.