When issue like this gets out, Nigerians would advice you not to ‘waste your time’ talking about it as we have bigger problems to deal with. Eventually, attention will be shifted to more ‘important’ issues. If robbing a generation off their childhood is not important enough for open discussion, what is?
Senator Yarima’s attitude towards child bribe and boldness to justify his actions using religion as cover, confidence to openly challenge Nigeria constitution based on his skewed reasoning say quite a lot about leadership in Nigeria. It goes without saying that this is the country that lawmakers and religious leaders are above the law. George Orwell’s phrase in Animal Farm could not be any truer “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
A friend sent the cartoon below to me via email in 2010 to coincide with Nigeria Children’s Day. It was supposed to be funny, just as Nigerians have learnt to make light of most issues even the very serious ones through arts. This particular cartoon was not in the least amusing at all as it was a case that I am too familiar with and I am neither a muslim nor child bride. I was not sure what to make of it but I remember feeling so disturbed that I felt sick from the pit of my stomach and had nightmare that night. I was not particularly worried for the child bride, I knew then that the issue of child bride is part of a bigger problem that can not be resolved on the surface alone.
What we should remember is that Yarima’s child bride being form Egypt is immaterial, she could have been a Nigerian. I am wiser now than to point fingers at Muslims brothers as all evil and peadophiles. Northerners are predominantly Muslims and belong to Hausa ethnic group. Sabo is to Hausas as China Town to Chinese. Most towns or cities in Nigeria has its own Sabo, to get a glimpse of lifestyle of Hausas, you do not have to necessarily travel to the north.
I have visited a few Sabos in the past and have heard that children were groomed from early age. The first time I visited Sabo in Ile Ife, being a teenager from a christian home, I could not shake off what I saw, I kept telling all that cared to listen about the very young girls, some as young as six years old with heavy make up on. I was told many times from different sources that those young girls were already assigned husbands, so they are ‘dressed’ up to impress their would-be husbands. Some of the husbands are older than their own fathers.
Yarima’s indifference to the public outcry is a further evidence to the enormous amount of unwarranted privileges that lawmakers in Nigeria enjoy on a daily basis. In fact, he could do and got away with just about anything. Yarima, like many Nigeria politicians is not a leader, he is there to impose his beliefs on everyone around him. Yarima is aware that the practice of child bride commonly practiced among Hausas is no longer specific to the north, in fact I have heard a story of a 14 year old Ibadan girl being married off. Since the practice is of public knowlegde across the country, he sees no reason why he should not be allowed to do the same and because he is a politician, he didn’t have to be secretive about it, as he has power and money. For everyday citizen there might be a bit of cover up until the girl is of age however, for Yarima, being a public leader further gives him ammunition to publicise his evil indulgence.
There is no clear difference between religion, culture or indeed constitution in Nigeria. Citizens, especially lawmakers and religious leaders would do whatever they wanted and use either religion, culture or constitution to justify their weakedness, whichever one that is more favourable will be adopted. It is tough enough to fathom the reasoning behind politicians acts sometimes for example in the case of corruption, you wonder if they actually realised the value of the sum they were looting. Dealing with religious leader imposition of their beliefs is unsettling, in this sense both Christian and Muslims. Imagine having to deal with a politician that is equally religion extremist? It is wahala, I tell you.
Was I suppose to be quoting Nigeria constitution and talking about what our rights are as citizens? Realistically, there are laws in Nigeria however, enforcement of law on any individual or groups largely depend on who you are and your connections. You could easily be given a life sentence for stealing a bag of onion while a murderer, rapist, peadophile could justify their acts by either quoting Quran or bible and they would be out of prison in no time. To test this hypothesis, all you need to do is to ask random people on any city or town few questions on morality, more often than not most would quote bible or Quran as the reason for doing the right thing, hardly will you find one out of 10 quoting illegality as a reason for not engaging in unlawful acts.
While the whole nation is waiting eagerly to see Yarima’s case setting an important precedence to revolutionise child abuse case in Nigeria, I very much hope that this case would not be dragged on for too long that it gets swept under the carpet.
Also, while we are on Yarima’s case, let us remember that we have lots of Yarima all around us posing as religious leaders. In Southwest where I come from, rape happens daily and always the girls get the blame. Pastors get away with this all the time. I know this for a fact as there are just too many to forget. They never get reported in the news as the rape will continue until the victim could escape or until another victim is found. Nigerians placed so much trust on their religious leaders so much that the parents would send their young teenage girls to night vigils so pastors could do special prayers with them. The pastors’ case could only be likened to Jimmy Savile, British child sex predator case. Infact, the first time I read about him, I knew we have many like him posing as religious leaders of various titles around us, it is such an easy way to gain trust of the gullibles.
Not so long ago, I heard about a young pastor in his forties, he is a pastor at a Pentecostal church, the type that have several youth prayer warriors vigil every week and monthly out of town top-of-the-mountain vigil. Usually, these vigils are exclusive to youths. The young pastor came with infectious energies that gained most parents’ trust instantly. Pastor Hakeem organises youths program around the clock, girls barely had time to catch their breath after school before heading out again for yet another bible study. They pray, fast and believed all that Hakeem tells them to do. Most parents would never questioned any of this over-the-top weekly bible study as pastors knows best. Before long, Hakeem ran away with Sola, a fifteen year old girl in secondary school. She was supposed to be on the mountain with other girls praying for their sins and retentive memory so they could pass exams. It is only in Nigeria that you would have important exams coming and pastors would organise yet another prayer vigil for students. Anyway, while at the mountain, Hakeem took Sola aside as God had sent him a message to deliver to her, the outcome was that Sola did not return home next morning, she ran away with Hakeem and no one knew where they were. When Sola eventually showed up three days later, she had been brainwashed big time! Her mother was only happy she was back. The punishment that Hakeem got was to put end to his visit at the church only to be released to the street to search for another victim in another town. In other words, Yarima proudly marries his child bride, christian leaders don’t marry theirs, they keep their victims under their wings for as long as they are pleased.
The issue of child abuse is much worse that you might think, it is beyond religion or culture, from what I have seen, it is mostly power driven.