What is the world turning to?
How come we are being driven by a new strain of negative feminism? With all the people that Boko Haram killed and kidnapped, it was when 200 plus girls were kidnapped that the global media descended on Nigeria in the Jonathan days. The unspoken message was passed quite eloquently; “we care less if boys were killed, kidnapped or drafted to the warfront as child soldiers. Men and boys are savages anyway and deserve whatever they get. It is even better if women and girls were killed. What we cannot bear is if they are likely to be raped!”
It’s the world we now live in; a world where masculinity is criminalised, where men have become mere tools in the hands of powerful women, where the lives of men get easily destroyed and manipulated. In the western world, it is commonplace. Men get ruined everyday. The story was carried by Punch newspapers just yesterday about the pitiful death of one Mr. Ihediwa, a Nigerian in the US, whose former wife ensured that he was totally ruined and his children turned against him. Men are paying for past sins in the Western world. They have no rights whatsoever and are being trampled upon. Maybe men will get wise and speak up for themselves as a group someday. In Africa too, it is an increasing phenomenon, as we copy verbatim what goes on in these countries that we admire.
The problem is that the world has deceived itself for too long; women are actually the stronger sex. I see the weakness of men daily and I pity us. Apart from the capacity to carry heavy objects, I doubt if we are stronger in any other sense than women. I fear them. You dare them at your peril. And fearing women does not preclude one from loving them. Any man that disrespects a woman will live a miserable life.
And so it was, that delectable Isha Sesay, and a bunch of others from global media swooped on Nigeria and made thorough media mincemeat of us. We will probably never recover from that episode. The girls have not been found. The Buhari administration has ‘almost’ told the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaigners to go to hell. But what is of deeper concern to me, is that the world did not rage when over 20,000 other Nigerians – and some foreigners – were butchered by those crazy guys. The world did not even wince, as thousands of boys were recruited against their wills into war fronts. We don’t even know yet what Boko Haram is, and how a bunch of allegedly ragtag illiterates routinely beat our army and sophisticated global intelligence anytime they wish to, very easily.
This is just to provide a premise for the Ese Oruru saga.
I did not get involved early. I had other things to worry and write about. But trust Nigerians to be very interested. There was sex involved. The possibility of rape. And then… ehmmm…. Islamisation! Ha! Everyone went into overdrive. The debate raged about how old Ese was. We finally concluded that she was 13 when abducted. And today, she is probably 14. Newspapers went into a rage to ‘rescue’ Ese, who was allegedly forcefully ‘married’ to one Yunusa ‘Yellow’ from Kano State, and had changed her name. She has even learnt very fluent Hausa in a short while! Some people said the Emir of Kano was party to the abduction. This news occupied the media for almost two weeks.
Of course the usual recriminations increased. Many Nigerians from the South seized the opportunity to excoriate Northerners for their ‘backward’ culture. The religious ones amongst them pointed out the ‘Islamisation agenda’. An old video clip from Kenya, wherein four old people were lynched and burnt to death was shared by an ‘Apostle’ on social media and people were asked to pray for Christians in Nigeria who are being persecuted. Religionists again went into overdrive. I pointed out to the so-called ‘Apostle’ that he was sharing false information and heating up the polity. People wanted ‘Yellow’ to be jailed. Some said ‘castrate him’. Some wanted him killed outrightly. Anyone who offered any contrary opinion was shot down by the Voltrons. It was bedlam in Nigerianistan.
Then some smart Northern guys started sharing pictures of baby factories from the South-East, such as to remind some of their persecutors that whereas they have problems with these pedophiles, the baby factory phenomenon also involved pedophilia. Some of the girls caught in baby factories – heavily pregnant with children whose father they know not; children who are carried for nine months and then sold for money – were between 12 and 16 years. Whereas these baby factories are all over Nigeria, most seem to exist in the South-East of Nigeria. It was a reminder of a greater evil. Before then, I had personally stopped thinking of baby factories. But they still exist; and many small girls are being ‘processed’ through them.
Nigerians don’t care about being ‘politically correct’. Put in another manner, many of us – especially southerners – don’t care about how what we say and do hurt others. No matter the positive change we are trying to cause in society, it is important to choose our words carefully and to know when to cease and desist. The approach we have usually taken so far has only hardened positions and driven a wedge between us, turning this country more and more into a nation of enemies. Admitted, it seems the government has no clue what to do or is deliberately neglecting its duties in uniting the people and fostering cooperation but more on that later.
Some South-Easterners did not find it funny that the baby factory pictures were being shared. Some termed as asinine, the attempt by some Northerner to ask which was the lesser evil between ‘kidnapping’ a 13 years old girl for marriage, or doing the same – or perhaps collecting her consent – to become a producer of babies for sale! I shudder at the thought.
Poverty as Enabler
My position is that at the bottom of many of these problems lies poverty. I wrote recently about slums in Abuja. I actually visit them from time to time. When one sees the conditions in which our people live, you would understand that their minds are messed up and would not be surprised by some of the things they get up to. Ese’s parents are strugglers. ‘Yellow’ was a Mai-ruwa in Yenagoa. It goes with the territory. More often than not, it is the poor, illiterate people who suffer from these afflictions. And so the solution is in better governance, resulting in better education for Nigerians, lower poverty levels through the closing of the income gap, an enabling environment for infrastructure, and giving our people a chance to prove themselves. Our children will then be able to think differently and our challenge will be how they will not adopt the oyinbo way of thinking in its entirety.
Buhari’s cross is getting heavier. Anybody with his or her faculties together can sense it. The cross is ethno-religious crises. El-Rufai is trying to rein in our runaway relgion. One Apostle John Suleiman and another funky yellow one who recently ‘raised’ a baby from the dead, have given him all of two weeks to die. Suleiman promised that El-Rufai’s commissioners will start dying. We have unleashed madness on this land and insane people will one day burn down this country as a whole. In Mile 12 market, Lagos, the embers of ethnic crisis just simmered down, probably to re-erupt in the near future. The ‘Islamisation’ agenda is the reigning bogeyman with which Nigerians are scaring themselves. The government seems disconnected from the reality on the streets, at its own peril.
The Islamisation Thread
An evil thread that runs through the reportage is this islamisation business. Governor Fayose recently said the president is trying to Islamise Nigeria, maybe by visiting the Middle East. In all the cases of abduction that jars the sensibilities of Nigerians, Islamisation has also been thrown into the basket.
And so, it will not make the news if some Southerner kidnaps another Southerner of 14 or 15 years and they elope together. In fact, no one asks the ages of the girls at that level. But when the ‘enemy’ kidnaps the same girl – the enemy here being some Northerner of a different religion – Nigerians go bunkers.
Recently, a popular musician from Ogun State, Adewale Ayuba, went public that he is no longer a Muslim. I didn’t see a single comment condemning him for that, or blaming people around him for ‘Christianising’ him. Every blessed day, thousands of people ‘convert’ to the funky version of Christianity, which they deem easier and more enjoyable than Islam or even orthodox Christianity. I don’t hear of Muslims and others complaining that they were forcefully ‘Christianised’.
At the bottom of the Ese Oruru saga is our aggressive fixation on religion, and the way we have allowed it split this country down the middle. Let Buhari build all the infrastructure in the world, if he does not deal with our wrong mental wiring, he will achieve nothing.
Unpacking Our Demons
Is there anything wrong in telling someone who is busy pointing fingers at another to mind his own backyard? Matter of fact, all of us have shortcomings that we should always remember and work on, and that should temper our criticism of others. That is the way life should be. I see nothing wrong in what some internet-savvy Northerners did by pointing out that baby factory is at least as bad as this abduction-for marriage epidemic up North. For me, both – and other similar malaises in society – are powered by poverty, and perennial misgovernance.
Then one Yoruba woman chipped in that her ‘Housegirl’ went back to the village when she turned 13 and started her menstrual period. She said the girl told her she wants to start having babies. She said she pitied the girl, probably for destroying her own life.
Halt! Was the girl making a career as a house-girl? As a matter of fact, the concept of house-girl is not recognised anywhere in the western world. So, as we are fighting against pedophiles and early girl marriages, we should also remember that most of us are practicing modern-day slavery. Housegirl-Madam relationships are always difficult. To the children and the head of the house, it is slightly different. Many children treat house-girls like trash. To most ogas, they just don’t exist. Imagine a house-girl growing up in a house and passing through all the ups and downs of adolescence. Meanwhile she is not allowed to make mistakes. She should not have a boyfriend. She is meant to be a stoic worker and carer, with no blood running through her veins or out of her body. That is why they sometimes go crazy and do crazy things. Many Madams take out their frustrations on their house-girls, some regularly beating them to pulp and scarring them.
It will be a great time to bring out the skeletons in our cupboards, and keep them permanently in view for the sake of receiving redress. We cannot hide some from public glare and focus on those that make us look good and put others in bad light. For how long can Nigeria afford the house-girl phenomenon? Does it not mean that governance is not getting to the villages where they come from? If every Nigerian had government helping them with sundry stuff like education, health and social security – like is done in the western countries we hope to copy – would we still have house-girls thronging the urban areas?
Therefore when properly considered, this Ese Oruru case boils down to ‘He that hath no sin, let him cast the first stone”. But my own take is that we should be careful how we make others feel, and not turn every event into a circus just because…
Government Neglect of Reorientation
There is a mosque in the street next to where I live. It is built on a green zone. Indeed, a valley that runs through the entire area has been sold, and is now being fenced and marked for possession by the new owners. When the muslims in the area contributed money and started building the mosque, the FCDA Development Control people came and marked the place for demolition. They were asked to stop.
The next thing was that the cooperative building the mosque decided to change plans. Instead of building with blocks that can be easily demolished, they decided to build with steel grids – like you would a ‘burglar-proof’. They have since completed the mosque and now worship there; complete with a loudspeaker mounted outside for the muezzin to call for prayers. They painted the steel mesh, white. It looks neat. The other day, I jogged past the mosque and heard the preacher talking to his congregation in English, later switching to Hausa.
Now, get angry all you want. Rail about the disobedience of the law. I felt that way initially, but not anymore. I now support the building of that mosque. But the upcoming clashes between religions and cultures are what our leaders consciously worked towards. Why do I support this ‘illegal’ mosque? It occurred to me that around that mosque are probably 15 churches. There is a sedate Anglican Church down the road, then a massive Pentecostal church, commissioned by El-Rufai, 100 metres away; two churches are just next door to this mosque where a new plaza was recently opened and the first two tenants were… you guessed right… churches. If you are angry about the muezzin and loud speaker, let me tell you for free that the two churches in the plaza nearby make even more noise. It is what Nigeria has become. There will be no reversal any time soon, to the penchant for the building of religious houses at the expense of more productive ventures. Nigerians have only one ability – to sit in one place and keep praying, gyrating and contorting to God that their country should change for the better. All the while, when not praying, they are actively destroying the same country. Some, even in their prayers of hate.
This government had every chance, in the beginning, to cause a permanent change in our mentality and re-orientate Nigerians. I think they deliberately pissed that chance away. By Jove, they only remembered last month to remove the DG of the Orientation Agency.
As you lay your bed, so shall you sleep on it.