When Boko Haram strikes in Baga, for instance, the elite from the area find solace in their other mansions in Abuja, Kaduna, Lagos, etc. Some others, the non-indigenes in particular (though ruined for life) still have other homesteads to run to. But there are still those who have nowhere else to go – who can’t even make it to the IDP camp. The forgotten, voiceless Nigerians!
Another perspective to this abandonment of our people is captured by this reader’s SMS:
“Please, Dr., help us to beg God that all those who ply Enugu-Awka Road do not have to go to hell again, because they have already gone through it here on earth. Please, tell Governor Ugwuanyi.”
Now, I suspect this message, from Dan Okeke, Amichi, Anambra State (08074049984), was not originally meant for me, even though it landed in my phone. Why do I say so? I’m not a doctor – neither medical, academic nor native doctor. But the import of the message is not lost on me. Going to Enugu from either Onitsha or Awka today is like the biblical journey through the valley of the shadow of death. The only difference is that, on this journey, we fear plenty evil: Kidnappers, armed robbers and, the now-lesser-evil, tragic accidents. But the entire blame should not be on Govs. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu and Willie Obiano of Anambra. It is actually a federal road. It is abandoned because it is used by another set of forgotten citizens!
But nothing better captures this tendency to abandon our people by the way side as clearly as the recent case of Ese Oruru, abducted from her Bayelsa home and forced into marriage in far away Kano.
Late last year, the entire Nwosu clan and our kinsmen and friends congregated at Ihiala, Anambra, where my younger brother went to take a wife. Although the couple had met in Lagos, we still had to take the formal event to the bride’s family in Ihiala. That is how civilised people (whether Christian or Muslim or traditional worshippers) get married.
Apart from slaves captured during the inter-tribal wars of the ancient world, I’m yet to come across any modern society that sanctions a man abducting a woman and declaring her his wife, without her parents’ consent.
Even in the Western (as well as Arab) cultures, that have since crept into our marriages, there is always an insistence on witnesses from both the groom’s and the bride’s sides. Marriage is a celebration of two families!
So, it beats my imagination, when, in (21st Century Nigeria, a man snatches a literal baby from her mother’s cradle, absconds to another part of the country and declares the minor his legally wedded wife – and cunningly tries to take shelter under a religion he barely understands.
To make matters worse, instead of calling these perverts amongst us to order, we split into religious and ethnic camps and begin to find justification for this perversion that would make even the devil to cringe.
Thank God for the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, except for his intervention, not even the police would have had the guts to enforce the law in this latest case. Or where were the police when similar things happened in Niger State a few years ago, and, lately, in Zaria, Kaduna? The traditional institutions in those places ignored the public outrage and acquiesced to the abduction. And the heavens did not fall. Of course, these poor girls and their families are another vista of our forgotten and abandoned citizens.
Would we have protested, for instance, if a Northern Muslim man had abducted a Northern Muslim girl? Everyone would just have moved on. If a Southern Christian man had similarly abducted a Southern Christian girl, we would have waved it aside as a case of ‘elopement’, which we are now reluctant to subscribe to in this case of Ese Oruru (from Bayelsa, Southern Christian girl) and Yinusa, aka Yellow (from Kano, Northern Muslim man).
The cases in Niger and Kaduna followed the same pattern (of a northern Muslim man questionably taking over a southern Christian girl as wife and denying her original family any say in the matter – even keeping her away from any contact with them). This explains why there was some seeming interest from the media and the public. But the truth is: Every passing day, one small girl somewhere (including those that have not even been weaned from their mothers’ breasts) is being forced into marriage. Anybody who raises a voice is instantly blackmailed into silence with religion and culture (but usually, religion).
Nobody should go thinking this malaise is an Islam thing alone. It is not! Many Christian clerics are also into it. When, sometime in 2006, The Saturday Sun broke the news of the atrocities going on in Rev. King’s CPA church in Lagos, it was not only the story of Ann Uzor (who was still hale and hearty then) that attracted us. There was, among others, the pathetic story of a man who was beaten up by the bearded pastor’s thugs, as he tried to retrieve his wife (and daughters) who had been conscripted/hypnotised into Rev. King’s harem and were effective serving as sex toys of the abominable cleric. Incidentally, Rev. King’s lawyers had already served The Sun court papers, and were threatening fire and brimstone, when their ‘reverend’ client took his perversion to a new level: Dousing Ann and others with petrol and setting them ablaze. I later learnt that the fornication offence, for which two of the victims were prosecuted, judged and convicted by the pastor, was triggered by the fact that they told him they wanted to get married. How dare any male member want to poach from the pastor’s harem! What succubus and incubus took over the girl’s head to even make her agree to the marriage proposal? That amounted to a Haram! A capital offence! And the pastor aptly placed a Fatwa on the prospective couple. He even undertook the execution himself.
Nigeria is replete with many Rev. Kings – clerics and perverts who use the cloak of religion (and sometimes, unverifiable culture) to cuckold and cradle-snatch, rape married and unmarried women and have unlawful canal knowledge of minors. Time has come for the laws of the land to rise in defence of these hapless and forgotten citizens and their families.
And while we’re at it, let’s take religion out of it. Emir Sanusi, who facilitated the release of Ese, is not only an embodiment of everything Islam, he is also a First Class graduate of Islamic Law. Not too many people can be more Muslim than he. Most of the people that squealed against Rev. King (including the judges, who convicted him across three courts) are Christians. Let’s call perverts by their name!