By Dele Animasaun
People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead – turns himself into a monster.” — James Baldwin
It is often said that if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing. True, but in this age of free speech, people often do not understand that with freedom comes responsibility. So, it is perhaps better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt. We all have access to the mountain of information and we can process and dismiss any information that insults our intelligence.
You would think so, won’t you? That would be the logical thing to do. Too many people take everything they read or hear as gospel. What followed my article, interesting times, the trouble with Dino was not a revelation to me, it was a watershed on how badly behaved some people are.
I was expecting the usual suspects. It only confirmed what I have always thought; Nigeria is neck deep in misogyny and narcissism. In attempting to be right some people lost the message in the story, these people are out of touch with the real world and they do not understand that women have got a key role to play in Nigeria’s development. Women around the world are holding key positions in International politics and they are not appendages, handmaidens, baby receptacles, property and punching bags. Until the value of women are recognised and promoted, it will be hard to fulfil the country’s full potential.
I maintained that no woman regardless of her status, her religion, her tribe or political affiliation should be threatened with rape either publicly or privately. Provocation is not an excuse. Some men and (some women) simply do not know how to have a heated discussion without resorting to their supposedly primal muscular strength or the need to subjugate with actual and verbal sexual abuse. This is not a sign of strength but a sign of weakness. And it is high time that people in high office lead by example and if they fail to do so, then they should not be holding such position of honour.
I have no intention of rehashing old grounds and by all means, people are free to give their six kobo’s worth of comments when it comes to the badly behaved political elites. The same people are not so vocal when I write on salient subject matters such as: that thousands of displaced people from Borno fleeing from BH have starved to death, two million displaced people within Nigerian borders, That Nigeria accounts for 14% of the world’s total maternal deaths and 11% of deaths of children, that is shockingly, 2.5% of the world’s population. One million children under five die in Nigeria every year.
We have not got over religious, tribal and political hatred and there is a need for a truth and reconciliation dialogue and restorative justice. There are genuine anger, marginalisation and discrimination festering over and left unchecked for decades.
More than 75 % of young people are not in training, education or employment and of course, do not get me started on how many workers have not been paid in months. There is the stupendous level of corruption never seen before and the amount of money siphoned from the nation’s vault.
So the political deflections will not solve these problems and it will only serve one purpose: to avert the gaze from what really is going on in the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
The truth: Nigeria has a serious gender equality problem, domestic violence is commonplace, with one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Africa and it is not an accolade to be proud of. What happened in the last couple of weeks has everything to do with the lawmakers and how Nigerian women are treated.
Earlier this year, the wife of the vice president, Mrs.Osinbajo, highlighted this very concern that she regretted that girls who are supposed to be mothers of tomorrow were no longer safe in the country and were under threats; many are passing through difficult times: sexually abused, abducted and killed. She said : “What do you teach them because they cannot give what they don’t have? The mothers of tomorrow cannot be mothers if they don’t have what it takes.”
The wife of Oyo State, Governor, Mrs Florence Ajimobi, cut through to the heart of the matter when she expressed her total dismay and dissatisfaction by the rejection of the Equal Opportunity Bill by the National Assembly. She said it was “a very retrogressive step for us as women. If we are to achieve parity, we need to have a strong legal framework in place. When bills like this are laid to rest, what hope do we have to achieve gender equality?”
So the lawmakers rejected the gender and equality opportunity bill and did so, on the grounds of religious observations and beliefs. If they had passed the bill into law, it would have introduced 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage as opposed to 43% of Nigerian girls who are married off before the age of 18. This would have had a significant advantage to girls; they could stay in school for longer, have children later and reduce infant mortality and poverty. Research has shown that when the lives of women improves the whole of society benefits.
Nigeria can look to Rwanda, where they have made strides: in its lower house it has 64 % of its seats occupied by women and its judiciary is at 40% and 43% of its councillors are women. Rwanda are miles ahead in every aspects and the standard of living of its citizens have exponentially improved.
So our lawmakers should know that Gambia and Tanzania have banned child marriages and have instituted tough penalties for those who breach the rulings.
The Gambian President Yayha Jammeh announced that Gambians marrying a girl below 18 would be jailed for up to 20 years and in Tanzania; its high court has imposed a landmark ruling outlawing marriage under the age of 18 for boys and girls. So if Gambia and Tanzania can, so what stops the world’s highest paid lawmakers in Nigeria?
So for those who do not like the truth, I have news for them: the truth has to be told but you have a choice to accept it or dismiss it, the choice is yours alone.
I get it, empty stomachs breeds beasts. And what beasts some people have become. For so many years, the political elites have sucked the country dry of its resources, its social structures, its values, morals and the future of the young people.
The young people watch helplessly as the old are getting rich and richer and holding on the vestiges of power. They have seen honest hard work left unpaid and the get rich quick scheme is lauded above everything.