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Much ado about child marriage (3)

By Yetunde Arebi

YERIMA’s purported message went on to list six points on activities he believes young people in big cities are exposed to and which according to him is more grievous than child marriage. Yerima may be right on all six points but has he ever read anywhere that Nigerians approve of all these vices and are lobbying for them to be constitutionalised?

No one cuts the nose to spite the face. Each problem must be tackled on its merits and demerits. I am happy that the statement acknowledged the role of highly positioned government officials and rich Nigerians in the defiling of our children. I am optimistic that it is only a matter of time, dirty, old perverts and sadists who take advantage of our youths and future leaders will be exposed, disgraced and punished.

I must quickly commend the intellect, courage and fearlessness of Mrs Maryam Uwais and other Muslim women who have lent their voices to the condemnation of the manipulation attempted by Yerima and his colleagues under the guise of Islam. Islam does not seek to enslave any human being, man or woman and definitely not a vulnerable, defenceless child.

As I write, I am still feeling this woman. It takes a lot of courage for anyone, especially a Muslim woman from a highly intense and volatile religious society such as Nigeria to speak up against the decision of Muslim male leaders, on a religious point of view. Same goes for the Minister for Women affairs and Social Development, Hajia Zainab Maina whom I recently heard her speak against obnoxious widowhood practices in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, at the First Widowhood Summit organised by Wives of South South and South East Governors.

We need more Muslim women to add their voices to this issue as well as other problems bedeviling the  average woman in Nigeria, especially from the North.

Afterall, it is only the wearer of the shoes that knows where they pinch.

It is not an easy feat for a Muslim woman to challenge a male muslim publicly on matters concerning Islamic practices and jurisprudence, especially a leader supposedly regarded as versed in Islamic teachings. This is a sign that there is yet hope for the repositioning and salvation of women and children in Nigeria, especially Northern Nigeria.

It is not as if thefigures quoted in Mrs Uwais submission concerning Nigeria’s underdevelopment, especially in relations to women and children were conjured recently for the purpose of this child marriage protest, they have always been there for anyone who cared to know and is willing and ready to address the issues. As is our attitude, we have only been playing the ostrich, full of pretense and deceit, while hiding behind religion and ethnicity as the situation might demand of us. Especially when it does not affect us personally, either because we have crossed a certain social or political class, and/or it is to our own advantage.

But, perhaps, now that women from the most affected region are adding their voices publicly to these issues, we are set to see significant changes. The ice has already been broken, it is now left for us to intensify and consolidate on this little achievement. The journey is still far and tedious, but with collective determination, social and political will power on the part of all, the promblems are not unsomountable. Change does not come in one day, neither is it easy to effect. There will be resistance of all manners especially from those who have benefited immensely from the status-quo. If other countries such as mentioned by Mrs Uwais can do it, then it is not beyond us.

For the last five years, Katsina State government has been taking giant steps in the area of education for the girl child in  particular. As I write, the State boasts of at least one Primary School each across the Local Government Councils dedicated to the girl-child. The governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Shema believes that education of the girl child remains one of the components to achieving the MDGs. As a way of incentive to the parents, each mother who releases her daughter to go to school receives a support grant of N50,000 per term. This he believes will discourage the mothers from accepting proposals  of marriage from suitors on behalf of their young girls.

After all, financial relief or benefit remains one allure of child marriages, especially among poor, uneducated and disadvantaged communities. Governor Shema is a Nigerian and a Muslim.

Perhaps, he understands something that some others have failed to key into. And I am still a little bit confused of the fact that Senators from Katsina State where this wonderful and commendable initiative is taking place, succumbed to religious blackmail and manipulation without giving the issue a second thought..

However, this is Nigeria, a country where we love our religion so much that we place it above the interest of the next man and indeed our country.  We love and practice our religion even more than those who own and brought these religions to our door step.  Pray, what has religion brought us collectively as a people and nation?  Had those countries remained stagnant and unprogressive as is the aim of Senator Yerima and his colleagues, would their societies be the way they are now?

Jesus never flew in an Airplane, just as Muhammed never rode in a tube or train, yet, technological and societal developments have taken place in their countries and continents and progress is still going on in terms of researches and studies to make life better for their people.

In Saudi Arabia and across the Emirates, the best brands of exotic cars are used even for commercial purposes.  No one is riding on camels or trekking across the desert anymore. And same goes for our Honourable Senators.  So, why should religion be our own excuse from taking steps that will benefit our people and society?  Even Prophet Muhammed advised his followers to seek knowledge from anywhere it can be found, and not to remain stagnant!


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