SUNDAY NARRATIVE: You Don’t Steal Love
We were told long ago that inter-tribal marriages could be the tonic towards building a more united and cohesive Nigeria. Those who advance this idea believe that in a wildly diverse country like ours, it will make sense to have cross-cultural meeting points beginning at the family level. The idea is that if we are substantially interspersed, such a blend could induce love and reduce the tension that so easily beset us. There is no official position on this, either as policy or legislation, but those charged with national orientation and other civic assignments on behalf of the Federal Government try to subtly preach inter-tribal relationship as a way of building a tighter and stronger union among members of Nigeria’s 250 different ethnic groups.
Having lived together for more than 100 years under the 1914 amalgamation treaty and more than 50 years as an independent republic, the question could be asked if the people of Nigeria are blending well enough, in terms of social accommodation and using that to build one strong national spirit, which we commonly refer to as patriotism. Have we become sufficiently patriotic to sustain the vision of the founding fathers of a country; where no man is oppressed, and where though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand?
Just a few years after independence, the building blocks of Nigeria collapsed, leading to a 30-month civil war with very devastating consequences for the advancement of the idea of a country. But it did not collapse; and Gen Yakubu Gowon and his government thought of the brilliant idea of National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) and Unity Colleges to begin the process of reunion and togetherness. Those who had the opportunity to participate in the NYSC and attend unity colleges got their old prejudices of Nigeria reviewed and sometimes reversed. They have become more enlightened about other places and tribes. If there were to be statistics of the gains of the two programmes, perhaps, there could be as many as hundreds of inter-tribal marriages respectfully and legally contracted therefrom.
Another national programme that has given a major boost to the idea of a united Nigeria is the military. Military postings are usually carried out in a manner that supports thorough mixing of personnel and materials. The average military cantonment is a miniature Nigeria, the very idea of unity in diversity.
Military personnel take the idea of one Nigeria one bold step further; whenever they are posted to parts of Nigeria, they serve the country with pride and take good advantage of the moment to savour the good of the land. Our soldiers are at home everywhere as they make friends with the host communities and court the best in our female Homo sapiens. They fall gallantly in love and move on to contract inter-tribal marriages with pomp and chivalry, and they forever after live in bliss. They gave birth to a network of new Nigerians, who are at home in Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt and everywhere.
Late former head of state, Murtala Mohammed found love in Nigeria’s Southwest. Former military president, Gen Ibrahim Babangida beheld beauty in Nigeria’s South-south (Delta State) and fell in love. Former Chief of Army Staff, Gen. T.Y Danjuma gazed upon beauty in Benin and courageously fell in love. The list is endless among our great military officers who bravely served Nigeria and in the process overcame all barriers, cultural and religious to give a stamp of authority practicality to the idea of one Nigeria.
We also have some of our civilian leaders who believe in the concept of one indivisible country and have demonstrated it by going outside their tribes and states of origin to marry from other tribes and states. These great Nigerians are men with eyes for good things; as they travel around, they encounter beauty, they love what they see and they respectfully and persuasively ask to be part of it. If they are considered, they become part of it and join in the task of building a new civilization. Real men do not steal love because it requires a great deal of resources, mental and material, and a greater sense of responsibility to appreciate and nurture love.
Yunusa, alias Yellow, the itinerant Nigerian from Kano, who once did menial jobs to survive in Bayelsa State saw one Ese Oruru, 14-year old college student and lusted after her. Knowing that he did not merit her, since he never developed the cranium capacity to persuasively convince her to be part of his lowly space in the larger cosmos, decided to steal her. Details of how Yunusa, despite his inferior skills, conspired to charm and ferry Ese to Kano may never be told, but this is not the first time such bizarre, but crooked plots have been afield.
Ordinarily, this could have been some outlandish, but close to real life tale of two love-struck teenagers wanting to consummate their fantasies. But this is not. It is not because lovebirds don’t seek to dominate; they seek to protect. Ese had been purpose-built for achievement. Despite not being middle class, she has a picture of herself and agenda for the future. She wants to be a doctor and not a woman who would be locked up in some Kule, at some Kano outskirts. At times like this, when Kano temperatures are soaring at extremes, an Ese would not want to be suffocated in some hijab, leaving just a portion of her face to feel the atmosphere. The poor girl was grafted and transposed.
Yunusa, on the other hand scavenges for a living, apparently a young man with no future ambition. I say this not to further degrade him, but to underscore the point that had been made here, of millions of our young boys in the North. We have talked about the Almajiri concept as practised in some Northern states. Boys, predominantly from poor homes are not provided for in the annual budgets of governments of their states. Their parents also do not make any effort to wean them substantially before they are offloaded unto the streets. They do menial jobs and beg for food in order to live. Their only education is the Quranic lessons they receive in the hands of Malams (Teachers). They do not pay fees to attend classes, neither are they properly quartered as deserving of young and vulnerable boys. They roam endlessly from city to city, yielding themselves to all manner of labour exploitation and crime. And I warned here, that very soon, the boys would come of age. Yunusa had come of age and he needed a wife. His education and skill could not fetch him someone of Ese’s sophistication, so he stole her.
I know of some cultures in Nigeria where parents would drive a girl snatcher and his prize out of their home; and community leaders would frown. But Yunusa’s father, one Alhaji Dahiru Bala has reportedly claimed that his son acted when the girl fell in love with him. He did not tell Nigerians the resources his son would use to manage his young wife.
Of late discussions about the girl child in the North have received a big boost, when the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, using the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development, took up the challenge to talk about ancient practices the northern elite would rather not bring up for round-table discourses. The Sultan has also flagged off a campaign to tackle the menace of the Almajiri tradition. Unfortunately, Yunusa’s escapade and the position of his father have put a lie to the Sultan’s efforts. But it is better to start off somewhere.
Another area of worry is the role attributed to the Kano Sharia Commission in the saga. They have been reported to have aided Yunusa in converting Ese into a Muslim and participated in the marriage rites. We hope the Police will unravel the truth.
A recent report of cut off points for unity Schools is a pointer to how much value states in the Federation place on the girl child and her education. While cut off for female candidates from states like Anambra, Imo, Delta and Lagos are; 139, 138,131 and 133 in that order, those from Kano, Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto are 67, 20, 2 and 13 respectively.
Certainly, there is work to do to make Nigeria one great country. First, Yunusa and his likes should be taught to demand for love.