Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ese Oruru - metaphor for Nigerian disconnect

Nigerian school children...preyed upon

I have been following the abduction or kidnap of Ese Oruru, the 13 year old girl from the South-South by a man from the North of Nigeria. I have also read the commentaries and observations of a lot of people. One side of the divide headed by Prof Wole Soyinka contend that the incident is a sporadic crime while the other believes that there is a religious undertone to the ‘abduction’ of Ese Oruru – if you are from the east, west or southern Nigeria, and if you are male, a girl from the North will never agree to marry you no matter how heads up in love you are with her or her with you.  The expectation is that you are kefir – an unbeliever whose marriage to one of theirs will only bring about the depopulation of the religion to which the girl belongs. Marriage to a girl of Northern extraction may likely begin to take place if you would disown your tribe and tongue and most of all your religion. I have lived in the North of Nigeria, have fallen in love with some of those incredibly beautiful damsels but marriage between me and them was a no-no. No fault of mine I can assure you.

But if you are a guy from the North, traditional and religious institutions may discourage you from taking an older girl from your tribe, tongue and religion, but encourage you to take a wife, and a young one, from the group of kefirs. It is subtle evangelism, and the import is that marrying a young kefir from either the west, or east or south is a fulfillment of the requirements of attaining Nirvana, and which bestows some sort of largesse on the hero either from God himself or from the man who represents him on earth here. If you are in doubtful of what I am trying to say with respect to the ‘kidnap’ of Ese Oruru, has it not struck you that the ‘marriage’ of a Southern girl and a Northern boy both with no aristocratic links suddenly caught the attention of the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi?  Recall that sometime ago, the terrorist group Boko Haram, stormed a school in Southern Borno state, Chibok, and made off with nearly 300 school girls.  Chibok is a Christian town, and till date from the day of their abduction nearly three years ago, the girls have not been rescued. Even though Mr. President insists that he does not know where the girls are, certain groups are still adamant and still seek their return…alive. And if the stories making the rounds after Ese Oruru’s abduction are anything to go by, more than 9 other Christian girls have been ‘abducted’ and married to their abductors. 

But we may not be able to come to terms with why it was that easy for Ese Oruru to elope – that’s the way I see it – with her lover and blended into the culture and tradition of her captors so easily to the extent that she seemed to have been hypnotized upon her return to her parents – Ese is already pregnant, and in five months she is fluent with the Hausa language. The answers are two fold - the chaps from the North know how to take care of their women and down here in the South-South of Nigeria we don’t. In the five months that Ese Oruru would have spent with her lover, she would be in Purdah. In the compound that she would live, a menacing signpost – BA SHIGA – don’t you dare enter here - would warn wannabes to stay away. Everything she would need would be provided for by her ‘husband’. Ese would not need to go to the market to purchase the food – her ‘husband’ would, she wouldn’t need to fetch and carry – her ‘husband’ would, Ese wouldn’t be outside there selling food to meruwas and exposed to the hyena that she eventually eloped with. 

For that, a life of toil, a life of matrimonial endurance rather than enjoyment, is the lot of the women and girl child in the South-South.  The chap from the South-South would rather sit in front of his house every morning guzzling Sapele Water, and leave the toil and sweat to his wife and girl child.  Ese’s story is archetypical of the lot of our women in the South-South, and my thinking is that if Ese wasn’t left to the wind, sun and rain the way she was – her mother left her to sell food to strangers, and there is no record that her father was close by – the hyena may not have preyed on and made off with her.

Let us use the opportunity of this incident to look inward and look after our own. Our women are not prostitutes and definitely not beasts of burden.  Their place is not only the kitchen, and they are not baby-making machines. It is only in South-South and South-eastern areas like Benin City and Ebonyi that you hear that girls move in droves to Italy to work as prostitutes to take care of their families; it is only in some places in the east that you hear of young girls of Ese’s age being used as baby-making machines. Looking after our own may translate to us all empowering our women, girls and boys with basic skills and knowledge that insulates them from the hyenas lurking around. We can’t do that if one man makes off with all the monies needed for their empowerment.  

Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku, Lagos