By Ebele Orakpo
ITâ€™SÂ like every new day in Nigeria comes with new surprises, each tending to outdo the previous dayâ€™s in its degree of absurdity. When you think youâ€™ve seen and heard it all, our politicians springÂ more bizarre surprises on us, saying to us â€˜you ainâ€™t seen nothing yet!â€™
The discussion was on the recent marriage of Senator Sani Yerima, ex-governor of Zamfara State to a 13-year-old Egyptian child.
â€œFor heavenâ€™s sake! A supposedly enlightened man marrying a child? For what purpose? What would he be doing with such a minor?â€ asked Ugo.
â€œPurpose? For the purpose of marriage of course!â€ replied Timi.
â€œPlease, this is a very serious issue. The man is not just an ex-governor but presently a senator of the Federal republic!â€ exclaimed Tony, seemingly infuriated.
â€œBut I thought the lawmakers passed the Child Rights Act in 2003 which makes it illegal for any man to marry any girl below 18 years?â€ asked Joe.
â€œSure they did but Yerima was not a senator then. He was still a governor, though that does not excuse his action,â€ noted Timi.
â€œAccording to reports, the man paid $US100,000 as bride price and then flew about 30 members of the girlâ€™s family to Abuja to witness the wedding because it could not take place in Egypt as it is against Egyptian law,â€ stated Udoh. â€œHe even had to divorce another child-bride who had a baby for him in order to make way for this latest one as he is entitled to four wives at a time,â€ he added.
Said Ugo: â€œHmm! That is child abuse if you ask me. There is no other name for it And to think that some senators who must have signed the Child Rights Act attended the function! Even governors and top government functionaries!â€
â€œOf course! If dey no attend, na you go attend?â€ queried Ugo. â€œThey went to honour one of their own. This is what writers would describe as tragicomedy. It is both tragic and comic. Tragic in the sense that a child is being abused by those who are supposed to protect her, snatched from childhood to adulthood overnight.
The nation is still battling with Vesico-Vaginal Fistula (VVF) whose victims are between the ages of 10 and 15 years. On the other hand, it is comic because some of those who passed the Child Rights Act are those who are supposed to enforce the law were all there applauding, grinning from ear to ear and congratulating the man in his early 60s on his latest catch,â€ he added.
â€œI blame the parents of the girl for allowing this injustice just because of monetary reward. I am sure it was not love,â€ said Timi.
â€œNigerian women should rise up against this. I heard the story of a little girl that was forced into an early marriage by her father to an old man, about 70 years old. The girl hit him with a pestle, killing him in the process and she was charged for murder,â€ reported Tony.
â€œAnd why did she do that?â€ everyone wanted to know to which Tony replied: â€œShe said anytime the man wanted to make love to her, anger would well up in her because she never consented to that union. She was forced into it. So on that fateful day, the man was ready for action and as usual, she rebuffed his advances and he wanted to become violent so she ran out and picked up a pestle and knocked him out and ran away. She did not know she had committed murder anyway, she just wanted to run away. I feel the father should be arrested.â€
â€œYes, Nigerian women are speaking out. At least a national daily reported that the National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) stoutly rose against this marriage.
Their spokesperson said the ex-governorâ€™s action didnâ€™t surprise them because majority of northern governors have been using religion as an excuse not to pass the Child Rights Act,â€ stated Timi, but they conveniently forget that Egypt has a very large Moslem population but yet, forbids marriage to minors,â€ she added.
â€œWhy didnâ€™t he ask for a governorâ€™s little daughterâ€™s hand in marriage?