I love Nigerians so much; we have an amusing way of overheating any situation and when it occurs, most of the agitators often barely know why they are throwing tantrums! I have been watching with so much awe how Nigerians have been hitting their heads against the wall for the right course but in the wrong direction. I know this agitation over the ongoing child marriage palava will end like every other protests in the country’s history book.
I’ve been pondering, wondering and imagining if the agitations would actually put paid to the frequent incidence of no fewer than 39 per cent, that is, 6,888,570 Nigerian girls below the age of 18 being married off every year. Sincerely, I don’t think so.
Yes, the Nigerian constitution is as sick as the country itself but I am very certain that the Northern part of the country, which is often accused for the dastardly act, is not the only producer of the 6,888,570 girls that are married off every year. Other parts of the country are as guilty as the North!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not holding brief for Senator Yerima who would rather give a baby penis rather than a pen. But this issue of child marriage dates back to more than four years ago when our dear Senator acquired his latest child bride. My paternal grandmother got married at the age of 13, had many kids and lived a very fulfilling life. All her kids are doing well in their various fields of endeavours. Mind you, my grandma- may her soul rest in peace, was never for a day a Muslim. She was Anglican until she passed on several years ago.
I recall during the funeral of my childhood friend’s mother which took place May this year, I learnt for the first time while reading her biography that she got married at the age of 13. It would interest you to know that her husband who is still alive was already a Pastor when he took her for a wife. He is still a pastor and presently lives in the United Kingdom where he oversees a popular church. Her family, just like mine, have no traces of Islam; we are all spirit filled and tongue speaking born-again Christians. They are from Edo state, while I am from Delta state.
Again, it would interest you that even those from the Eastern parts of the country equally give their daughters out in marriage before the age of 18. My hairstylist who is not up to four years in marriage was 16-years-old when she became a bride. Mind you, her husband is neither an Alhaji, nor a Mallam. She is married to an Igbo man.
Indeed, the section of the constitution which is now giving some Nigerians reasons to be excited and act as if they really care has always been there though many never knew about it. But now that we know- certainly not everyone knows, the big question is what next?
Before the question of what next is addressed, me thinks the female Senators who want to petition, sue and pull down the heavens on the head of Yerima and other Northerners, are exerting much energy in the wrong direction. I still cant help but ask: where were they four years ago when Yerima acquired another baby bride? Why is it four years down the line that the various groups have woken from the slumber? Why…?
There were protests on Saturday in different nooks and cranny of Nigeria over that clause in the constitution being removed. I learnt the protesters in Abuja didn’t mind the rain. It sounded really fantastic to me; as in, here goes another Nigerian habit! I really wished I was there at the protest, I had and still have just a question to ask: if and when that clause is removed from the constitution, what next? Will that stop Nigeria from occupying the 14th position among countries in the world with notoriety for such act? I don’t think so.
I don’t think so because even while that clause remained a secret to most Nigerians, child marriages were being transacted easily and effortlessly all over the country. When the clause is removed, it would be as ineffective as when it was there as more fathers would give their baby girls out while more men will go seeking unripe brides.
Rather than exert and dissipate our energies on a clause and possibly without a replacement- an effective one at that, me thinks all the energies should be directed in educating and assisting parents on why and how to stop marrying off babies! At least, clause or no clause, there must be a seller for a transaction to take place! When such education takes place and is imbibed, no matter the position of the constitution, there would be no seller, hence, buyers will adjust their shopping list.
Studies so far indicate that many parents who indulge in the act of giving out child brides most times operate from the position of ignorance. Definitely, of late, much has been said about VVF- a well known consequence of early child birth, but have there been campaigns, advocacy and all the likes as being given to HIV/AIDS? We need more of education and re-orientation to win the social-cancer which is fast becoming a norm.
Again, affluent parents who know where the next meal is coming from and still have left overs and more don’t give their babies out in marriage. Thus, poverty is a major fertiliser enabling the social vice thrive. When jobs are created and other necessities to ease living provided, there would be a drastic reduction and subsequent eradication of the vice. Doubt me? Go seek Yerima’s baby girl’s hand in marriage and behold what happens to you! No wealthy man or anyone who has a means of livelihood will give his baby girl out.
Until these anomalies are corrected, every girl child must get married! Until more and practical attention is given to child marriage through the declaration of a state of emergency on it, the same way it was done to HIV, our girls must continue being married off. Until parents are tutored on a one-on-one basis about other consequences that go with marrying off babies, as they have and are still being taught about HIV, let the tide continue. Until violence against women is made, perfected and effected as a crime which must be punishable in reality, let the noise making cease as even educated women who got married in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s are battered and violated in their marriages.
Clause or no clause, when the environment is fertile for poverty, more babies will be married off!