So this story have been in the air for a couple of weeks now and there has been diverse opinions thrown around; some of these will initially amuse you but later ignite an anger within you (as it did me), not necessarily anger towards the act itself – not discounting the absurdity in any way, but the level of civilized intelligence or lack of it being displayed by some opinioners which can only be described as illogical at the least.
So for those of us that might be in the dark regarding the story being referred to, here’s a quick overview. It so happened that sometime in August 2015, a 14 year old girl was abducted by a young man and taken to Kano where he ‘forcefully’ converted her to Islam, subsequently married her and got her pregnant. Efforts were made by the parents of the girl to retrieve her back, but the ‘powers that be’ in Kano, under the cover of Sharia squashed all attempts made. Interestingly, the Nigerian Police Force played along with the so called ‘powers that be’ assuming the duties of the Hisbahs who are the police equivalent under the sharia system. But for the help of the social media, the fate of Ese would have been sealed by some who have appropriated the role of God to themselves. What our civil system couldn’t achieve in months, the social media did in less than a week – I cannot but wonder if the power of social media to appropriate justice (or magnify injustice) is what our lawmakers are afraid of, hence the social media bill – just saying. Now the case is in court with the parents of the girl as well as well-meaning Nigerians asking for justice. I should also mention that a few other cases of such abduction have come to fore – thanks to the power of the social media.
The whole situation just goes further to highlight the symptoms of deeper issues within our society which in my opinion need to be exposed and resolved before it grow beyond control. While I will try to be as objective as possible, I hope the issues that need our attention as a nation will be clear to all. So, let’s take a look at two of these “absurd opinions” and my thoughts about them
The girl fell in love with the young man and may have agreed to an elopement plan, so why should the guy be crucified?
If I remember correctly, Ese was just 14 years at the time of her abduction and the last time I checked, 18 years is the legal age in Nigeria. What this means is that Ese is not legally allowed to make such a quantum decision without the guidance of a parent or guardian. Yunusa (the abductor) should have known better, but for the evil in his mind. But to be fair on Yunusa, marrying under-aged girls is not a crime as it is common place in his community by virtue of their religious inclination. But on the other hand, the practice in his community comes with the support of the underage girl’s parents; this was not the case in the matter of Ese.
Another question that comes to mind is if Yunusa is aware of the position of the law with regards to his action or does he believe he operates under a higher law that supersedes that of our dear land? Or perhaps, the failure of our government to make education accessible to her people (especially those in the rural communities) is to blame for Yunusa’s ignorance. My final 2 kobo on this opinion will be to ask those who propagated it if they would accept that their daughters (underage or not) elope with a man irrespective of his religious or ethnic inclination.
You cannot blame the Emir of Kano because he is not directly involved and he even told them to return the girl. Will he chase them around to make sure his orders were carried out? And what is the place of the police in all these?
I cannot but wonder how insensitive we have become as a people, and it goes beyond just the case being referred to in this piece. The fact that the first set of elders that took deliveryof Ese Oruru could not insist on going by the dictates of the Holy Quran which requires the assent of the bride’s parent for there to be an acceptable marriage under Islam, is appalling to say the least.
So let us consider a bit of the stand of Islam on marriage;
Sunan of Abu-Dawood Hadith 2078 Narrated by Aisha, Ummul Mu`minin
The Messenger of Allah (saws) said: ‘The marriage of a woman who marries without the consent of her guardians (wali) is void.’ (He (saws) said these words three times.)
Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 3137 Narrated by Abu Hurayrah
Allah’s Messenger (saws) said, “A woman may not give a woman in marriage, nor may she give herself in marriage, for the immoral woman is the one who gives herself in marriage.”
It will be appropriate to say that these elders have an agenda they are using religion to promote and it is unfortunate that a lot of their followers don’t even know the position of the Quran on these issues except what they have been told (as seen in the case of some book haram members that were arrested) – this is manipulation. My question here is what can this agenda be especially when we have seen quite a number of similar cases come to fore after that of Ese?
Going back to the role of the Emir, is he telling us that his words/judgement are not as powerful as we have been made to believe? Else, why would his subjects disregard his judgement? But I know without a doubt that the words of an Emir carry a lot of weight. Besides, this is not just an Emir, but one who was schooled at the highest levels in Islamic matters – so he absolutely knows what the position of the religion is on the matter, hence his judgement. Could his body language have passed a different message to his subjects? Why didn’t he put a monitoring mechanism in place to ensure that Ese was returned? There are so many questions begging for answers to those that think deep.
The role of the police in this case leaves little to be desired – a classic display of the saying that some cows are sacred and so above the law. Like I described earlier in this piece, the Nigerian Police did relegate itself to the position of the hisbah by not ensuring that justice was done as recognized by the laws of our land. It is unbelievable how those ensured with the responsibility of protecting us can take a case of a crime such as abduction with so much levity, yet none of those involved has been brought to book at this moment. This is a systemic problem and needs to be addressed; I know for sure that Yunusa does not have the clout that can make the Nigerian Police tolerate this kind of crime; therefore it is clear that some influential people in that community were behind the continued incarceration of Ese Oruru. Who are these influential people? Was the Nigerian Police bribed? How can theordinary masses get justice when the extraordinary few have the organs of security in their pockets? Still more questions yearning for answers.
In conclusion, let me bring to fore a few things that if worked on, can give us the Nigeria we will all be proud to live in.
The likelihood that an educated Yunusa will commit this atrocity is slim. Therefore, we need a government that will focus on educating those who are less privileged, not only for their sake, but for the sake of the whole country where we have many like Ese; this is besides the many security risks that education will mitigate against.
The Police Force needs urgent attention and I dare to say that it’s in a state of deep-rooted rut. While I appreciate that some improvements have been seen in recent times, it is important that a reorientation program be put in place for the organisation — they need to have the consciousness that all are equal before the law irrespective of status.
I see a clear conflict between the state and certain religious sects. I worry and fear that in an unlikely but possible scenario where all the different religions in the country engage the state negatively, the nation will slide into anarchy. I know that each religion has its own form of governance which historically in certain climes formed the state, but those days are gone and never to come back. Hence, my call to the state to ensure that all activities of religious institutions are within the ambit of the law of the land. The way Nigeria is constituted can be likened to a bowl of salad with different vegetables mixed together to make a healthy meal that is beneficial to the body. Yes, we have more ethnic groups than any other nation on earth; yes, we have a good number of different religions (though two are dominant); and yes, we all live in the bowl called Nigeria. As the chef carefully regulates the ingredients that go into making a bowl of salad, so also the state needs to be in charge and not seen to entertain the excesses of certain elements within thebowl if we must produce a healthy nation.
A question I also asked myself is what happened to the natural moral responsibility that should be in every human?. We do not need to be in leadership to be able to distinguish between right and wrong. It only makes sense that we choose to be on the right side of morality if we want out nation to pulled out of this rut we’re currently in; and maybe if we flip the issues and put ourselves in the shoes of the victims, we will be more compassionate.
I hope I’ve been able to convince you and not confuse you that Yunusa, his supporters and the government (irrespective of the regime) are in the wrong (smile) — reminds me of the Literary and Debate club. Let’s all join hands together to make Nigeria the great nation that it deserves and destined to be. And just in case someone is wondering why I am looking at this issue after the buzz has gone down, that’s exactly why. We need to keep this discussion alive until we begin to see meaningful changes in all the areas of our lives that has contributed to this issue in the first place. So, join me to keep this discussion and others like it alive till we are liberated.