There is a caveat to the discourse of this column today. As the Yoruba would say, whomsoever the mud that is splashed hits should please forgive. Splashed mud, as you know, is a loose cannon.
Those who may be concerned should take a long term view of the problem and, for the love of humanity, take appropriate actions to right the systemic wrongs against females in Northern Nigeria.
The need of the northern female in Nigeria goes beyond mere statutory ceding 35 per cent of elective and appointive roles to womenfolk. It’s about empowering them to meaningfully contribute to Nigeria’s development.
At a recent workshop organised by Institute for Media and Society, it was established that certain categories of Nigerians – women, youths, people with disabilities, senior citizens and Internally Displaced Persons – are excluded from the political and electoral processes.
Exclusion of Northern Nigeria females from politics despite the token appointments as ministers, commissioners, deputy governors and board members, gets one worried when you hear about systemic wedges placed between women and participation in Nigeria’s political and electoral processes.
Women get little chance to express alternative views on any issue, be it political or social. If they do, it amounts to sacrilege and is therefore, sanctionable. The story was told that a female professor from Northern Nigeria could not appear on a television talk show because her husband forbade it on the pain of divorce.
This violates Section 35(1) of Nigeria’s Constitution, which states that “Every person shall be entitled to his (or her) personal liberty and no person shall be deprived of such liberty….”
Also, Section 38(1) that guarantees “freedom of thought…,” and Section 39(1) that guarantees “freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
The reason the husband reportedly gave was that any female that appears on television is an “ashawo,” another word for a wayward female. That is why articulate Aisha Yusuf, and the other Aisha, who is Nigeria’s First Lady, are practically regarded as rebels.
This patriarchal culture hamstrings many Nigerian women, from the North or South, from attaining their best. To borrow a wisecrack from Bashorun MKO Abiola, the Nigerian political bird that precludes women from participating in politics is flying with one wing.
Early marriage of girls not older than 13 years is depriving Nigeria of a lot of potential talents. You’ll get the import of this collosal waste of human capital when you understand that most of the 13.5 million out of school children in Nigeria are females who have been railroaded into the junkyard of life.
To the number of male children, described as almajirai, there are probably many more that are female, who are just as helpless, because the system pays them no judicious notice as they sink further into the abyss of life.
By the time these bride-girls turn 19, they would have had close to four or five children and would have been furloughed by their husbands, who move on to younger girl-brides, especially if they have the misfortune of the dreadful Vesico Vaginal Fistula.
Symptoms of VVF: constant leakage of urine from a female’s bladder into her genital include fever, stomach pains, diarrhoea, loss of weight, nausea and vomiting. Some scholars argue that illiteracy, early marriage, poverty, deliveries at home with quacks, in the most, are the latent causes of VVF.
By the way, Nigeria, with between 400,000 and 800,000 victims of this preventable condition has the highest number of victims in the world, with 20,000 added annually. More than 90 per cent of the cases go untreated while the old men, who caused it in the first place, just move on.
You will be right to conclude that victims of VVF practically have no lives and there are almost no hopes of escape from the biological damage to their bodies and the lifelong trauma of the inevitable social stigma that accompanies their condition.
A husband, who perennially lives in Lagos, leaving his young wife for months on end, was compelled to stick by her, whom he had stigmatised because a bottle, that she inserted into her private part in the manner of a sex toy, broke, and caused her material damage.
If those Godly elderly mallams had not insisted that he was responsible for his wife’s action, he would have dumped her. The young wife, who would have been followed all over the place by a male member of her absentee husband’s family would have had no chance of consummating her sexual urge by engaging in adultery. She resorted to the dangerous alternative of using a bottle as sex toy.
The girl-child in Northern Nigeria is weighed down by the triple tragedy of illiteracy, early marriage and the oppressive patriarchal system that gives no voice to the female. It’s very inconvenient that a significant portion of the population is kept under some kind of slavery in this 21st Century.
A panel of discussants on a radio talk show recently came to the awful conclusion that “Digital generation, Our generation,” the theme of 2021 UNICEF International Day of the Girl, marked on Monday, October 11, 2021, is not realistic for the Nigerian girl-child, who is facing a deluge of social, economic and political encumbrances.
It gets scandalous when you remember that Section 17(3)(f) of Nigeria’s Constitution says “The State (meaning the government) shall direct its policy towards ensuring that children; (and) young persons… are protected against any exploitation whatsoever, and against moral and material neglect.”
Also, Section 18(1) provides that “Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels.” Section 18(3) adds that “Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy…”
Unfortunately, the constitution that imposes these grand responsibilities on the government through Chapter II on Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, also takes them away with the satanic Section (6)6(c):
“The judicial powers vested in (Section 6(1)) on the courts established for the Federation, shall not… extend to any issue or question as to whether any act or omission by any authority… is in conformity with… Chapter II of this Constitution.”
This, in plain English, means that no one can hold any government accountable on Sections 17(3) and 18(3) of the Constitution in a court of law. This ouster clause is like handcuffs made for the elbow and not the wrists.
And that’s why the girl-child, in Northern or Southern Nigeria, is virtually without any protection from the whims and caprices of a system designed to use them for pleasure and then cast them away.
To borrow and rework a counsel given to the media by Prof Ayo Ojebode of the Department of Communication and Language Arts of the University of Ibadan, the North must be intentional in liberating its womenfolk from the systemic shackle. By freeing the Nigerian women, you are freeing Nigeria.
This is no pitch for feminism, but a call to take advantage of Nigeria’s human capital potentials. First Lady Aisha Buhari says, “I would encourage our husbands to support their wives to collectively achieve greater heights.”
The northern political establishment should hold an indaba, take a cue from its own Prof Yusuf Usman, and invest in the girl-child, even if that wasn’t Prof Yusuf’s exact words.
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Publish date : 2021-11-02 23:09:25