While hanging out with friends at the restaurant in Eko Hotel some months ago, I saw Senator Ahmed Yerima at a table having dinner. The first word that came to my head was paedophile. I wanted to scream that word at him but thoughts of what his mobile police aides would do to me kept me from such foolishness. I kept threatening my friends that I was going to scream PAEDOPHILE from our table and we all will be dealt with as people in power deal with ordinary citizens in Nigeria.
The on-going brouhaha over the ‘childbride’ bill is amusing in many ways. That we are debating this nonsense in this age and time is itself a pointer to how we haven’t grown our collective consciousness beyond the pedestrian level of bare, materialistic existence. Almost everywhere else in the world, it would be quite clear, without even a debate, that Senator Yerima and his cohorts cannot legally insert their 53 year-old penises in the vagina of a 13 year-old girl, religion and culture be damned. This needs no debate at the senate, on Twitter, in the newspapers or anywhere else.
If any elected official attempts to even broach the subject, he’ll be stripped of his political post, recalled by his constituency, stripped of his clothing, have ash poured on his pubic hair and made to dance naked in the market with music made from discarded tins and refuse bins. The reason we are having this debate at all is because there’s a Yerima in all of us, at least most of us.
My good friend Feyi Fawehinmi talks about not letting government start something as the best way of getting government to stop anything. Once government starts, it’s always difficult to stop. When the homosexuality bill was being debated in the senate, it got resounding support from all over the country. To the best of my knowledge, it is actually the most supported law this country has ever passed. That bill was passed on the strength of homosexuality being foreign to our culture (a lie) and against the will God.
The words, culture and religion, have been employed in the ‘childbride‘ case. It is easier to cut the tree when it is just sprouting than to fall an Iroko. They got away with criminalizing homosexuality, with support from a majority of Nigerians; they have become emboldened and now seek other preys.
When I wrote about homosexuality and our puritanical tendencies, many accused me of supporting homosexuality because I’m most-likely closet gay or, being irreligious, having disdain for God. I laughed. I do not support homosexuality; I do not think homosexuals need my support. They need me to respect their choices, as I need them to respect mine. We both need government to stay out of our choices, as long as we are not harming others in any way.
Vesisco Vaginal Fistula (VVF) has been around in Nigeria for a long time. It is concentrated in the north. Over 200, 000 Nigerian girls/women currently suffer from the condition. Early marriage/pregnancy/childbirth is a contributing factor. The federal government spends around N300 million yearly on VVF. I have had access to this information for as long as I can remember. Senate president, David Mark, knows it.
Legalizing ‘childbrides’ is injurious in many ways beyond the physical. So, why would we even have this debate in the first place? Well, because some will make excuses for this anomaly, using religion in their defense, however incorrectly. The problem with religion is that it is open to many interpretations and those who are willing to do evil, like Senator Yerima, can always find somewhere in the Holy Quran to justify their bestiality.
Isn’t it silly when we talk about culture as if it is static? Let’s for a minute assume that it somehow made sense to marry off a 13 year-old girl 100 years ago. What in the world makes that sensible today? Shall we always do things, however detrimental they are, just because we have always done them? Why aren’t we still killing twins then?
Religion and dynamic cultural attachments have their place in society. Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life and we should encourage it for those who so desire. What we must not do, in the formulation of policies and laws that guide our co-existence in society, is to give either religion or static culture primacy where human engagements are concerned. We should not continue to seek in public that which we fear to face in private. Religion and culture have their place and they should stay there.
I am hopeful that this battle will be won, that somehow the legalizing child marriage will be reverted and our little girls will not have their lives ruined by the likes of Senator Yerima. But let us prepare for they will come again and as we have fought this time, as we all should have fought the anti-homosexuality bill, so should we fight when they come again. There’s a little Yerima is most of us, anchored on religious and cultural sentiments. And we must slay them all.