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Buhari and the girl-child riddles


girl-child education.

Travel back in time as close as 1980s, history will reveal that the girl-child has been a subject of debate. It is tempting to think that this ugly act is behind us in the 21st century. Yet, certain displeasing cultural and traditional beliefs about the girl-child remain unbroken in some societies. This therefore, makes it clear how deeply entrenched society has been romancing the issue with bliss and pleasure. The unimaginable inequality and danger that greet the girl-child in Nigeria today have risen to an alarming proportion. The statistics are, of course, warped depending on who is on the podium. Nigerians are yet to grasp the danger of child marriage. Hence the reluctance in taking concrete steps towards the education and development of the girl-child. The underlying assumption in some quarters that it is a waste of time and money to educate a girl is not just unfortunate but an intolerable invention. Those who share the above view should wake up from slumber because a nation’s progress is indissolubly linked with the level of women’s education. Hence, nations in the developed world that place the required premium on educating women have recorded numerous technological advancements and pushed back their economic frontiers.

It is hard to figure out why the voice of reason and civic behaviour of society has refused to put an end to child marriage. Despite the fact that people read about it in the newspapers, hear of it on radio, television and from politicians who want to use it to score cheap political points, the ills persist and continue to endanger the bright future of the girl-child in multiple ways. It is, therefore, disheartening to note that in the face of the limitations before the innocent and vulnerable girl-child, it gives succour to many who prosper in the venture by taking advantage of the man-made ‘gold mine’. The danger I speak of here is certainly more insidious and potentially much more damaging on womanhood and the nation in general. Considering the rate at which young girls before the age of 18 are being married out, no doubt, the issue of early marriage for girls has become an all too familiar affair in this part of the world. The impunity and poverty of the mind that drive most parents to marry out their underage daughters are seen as a better alternative, while the government turns a blind eye.

Therefore, it is hoped that President Muhammadu Buhari would match his words with action. The other day, while speaking at the inauguration of the headquarter’s building of the women affairs ministry in Abuja, the President said, “The launch of the National Strategy to end child-marriage 2016-2021 has been the first critical step towards increasing children’s access to quality all-round education and enhancing the retention of the girl-child in our schools”. Good talk indeed. However, until results begin to manifest and translate into seeing women in important position of leadership, such remarks remain on the drawing board because Nigerians are no strangers to ‘vain’ policy statements by government and its officials. Over the years, political statements are seen to be cheap and constant, albeit not very successful. It has to be said that an intellectually worded speech with anemic law does not yet address the issue. Again, Buhari maintained on the same occasion that: “Our quest is to ensure that concerns of women, children and other vulnerable citizens are given prominence and ultimately addressed… a key priority of our government is the development and implementation of social inclusion and economic sustenance policies. Our determination is to ensure that economic growth and prosperity are felt by as wide a circle as possible.”

It is no longer news that most parents are robbing their daughters of their girlhood by giving them out so quickly and early in marriage because of poverty. It is bad enough that parents who are supposed to properly educate and bring up their girl-child to marriage age, seldom do such. Instead, many lure their daughters into early marriage with flimsy excuse of a bad economy. The general decay in the society today is a direct result of the poor state of education and particularly so about the girl-child. Despite the attribution to women as mother of the nation, and the fact that a lot of women had put their head above the parapet and become successful in various endeavours, women remain relegated and continued to be seen as weak. Therefore, they are denied opportunities such as political and elective positions to lead the nation. While it has become a daily occurrence to hear that women are being assaulted, raped, maimed and even killed at will by their loved ones.

Today, not only do we have a society that regards women, particularly the girl-child as assets, waiting to be sold into early marriage. It is a shame that government after government treats such a heinous crime with levity, while society sees it as a family affair. Instead of making it as government’s critical business, and enact a law that would enable young girls to acquire adequate education before being married out.

The Buhari administration has set itself the task of stopping not just the age long phenomenon but the invasion of the desperate on the girl-child in the name of marriage. Indeed, the challenge is going to be tough. But, the ruling government must be firm in strengthening the law to help the girl-child contest her rights to education, as well as her choice of who and when to marry. Furthermore, the Buhari government should not be pusillanimous towards anybody, or culture and tradition that still indulge in marrying or giving out underage girls in marriage. Government must be seen to take such stringent action to put an end to the ugly mess. Finally, this policy should not be used as a political theatre to showcase irrelevant political achievements or used to witch hunt political opponents or to please the International community in the guise of forging new relationships.

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