Opinion: Child marriage debate and the ignorance of emergency activists

by Adeola Adelabu

education in Nigeria

All the energy and airtime we spend criticizing President Jonathan can address legal and political impediments to social justice and good governance.

I am a Nigerian. Our movie industry (Nollywood) is rated as the 2nd or 3rd biggest in the world. I personally think we deserve a better rating, considering the amount of domestic, industrial and political drama we witness. Those who rated obviously limited their scope to home video.

Our politics is particularly dramatic. Hardly will a week pass without the release of a blockbuster! From the time of prisoner that became president, to the indisposed Commander-in-Chief and now to the unwilling and indecisive president, it’s been drama all the way. If it’s not the ¬†Harliburton scandal, it will be a vegetative Commander-in-Chief. If it’s not about N1 billion for food, it will be about our Boko Haram ‘brothers’.

Our political drama is not limited to Aso Rock. It is everywhere. The NGF saga is a tale of betrayal and desperation worthy of airtime on M-Net. A new mathematical formula was designed to make 16 greater than 19. (This formula also proves that 5 can be two-thirds of 32). The drama is evident in our various Houses of Assembly. We saw the video of thugs taking over proceeding at the Oyo State House of Assembly and ‘impeaching’ the Executive governor. That drama could win Oscar Awards. If this was comic, that of Rivers was action packed. Honourable cultists led their ‘Aro mates’ to the House to impeach common sense. They had started by ‘impeaching’ the Speaker. In that process, empty seats voted. After all, the bible says God can raise trees if human do not do the needful. The Governor will have none of it. The five errant members have misbehaved and must be whipped (or maced) in line. No one could do the job better than the Leader of the House, who ‘led by example’. Now Rivers state’s Chief Security officer is insecure.

The National Assembly is no different. Probe committees set up to the House of Representatives end up being probed. Now our Distinguished Senators have caught the bug. The latest drama is on a certain section 29 of the Constitution which defines who an adult is. In their ‘wisdom’, our Senators decided to reverse their own earlier decision to amend that section, to make it consistent with the Child Right Act

Our Senators decision (or indecision) means that our fathers can take a 13 year old as wife. In South-west Nigeria; from Lagos, through Ibadan to Ifaki-Ekiti, the condemnation of the Nigerian Senate was almost unanimous. To my people, no sane person will give out a teenager in marriage. However we forget that some of our grandmothers married at 16. That’s the effect of civilization. Unfortunately, the civilization is not evenly spread nationwide. Of note is the socio-economic and educational regression in the Northern part of the country. Before the Child Right Act, the age of consent in Nigeria is 13, which is the lowest I have heard worldwide.

As usual in Pollywood (our political variation of Nollywood), every Tom, Dick and Harry became a public commentator. Even those who do not know the colour of the 1999 constitution presented ‘informed’ position. Many people think the Senate proposed a new bill , not realizing it was a failed amendment. In other words, status quo merely remained. Status quo in this case is even legally contradictory, with the Child Right Act on one side and the Constitution/ Islamic Marital law on the other side. What made it the matter more dramatic is the fact that the amendment had previously been passed by 2/3 majority before Sen Sani Yerima (who hit the headlines for marrying a 13 year old ‘adult’ from Egypt) ‘woke up’ and moved for the recall of the bill (against rule of proceeding in the Senate). I guess Senator David Mark was confident the amendment will still pass through, because our Senate is ‘Anything Goes’. However, he obviously overrated the distinguished Senators. Even the amendment as it were did not ban child marriage. It only refrains from conferring adult status on married juveniles.

The crux of the matter is our ignorance as a people. All emergency activists need to bow their heads in shame for not being aware of this situation. The last Constitution review process would have been a perfect opportunity to address this. However, it’s better late than never. As we converge and sign that petition, we must ensure that our laws expressly state the minimum age at which a girl can be given out in marriage, so we can protect our sisters, future wives and daughters from the likes of Senator Yerima.

However, we must must not limit the scope of this struggle. There are other important civic duties, beyond the anti-paedophile petition. We may not have a better opportunity to address the madness in our nation. All the energy and airtime we spend criticizing President Jonathan can address legal and political impediments to social justice and good governance. Let’s push the National Assembly to pass the PIB. Let’s push our governors to allow local governments deliver dividends of democracy. Let us promote and force political change to put an end to the mediocrity in governance. We shouldn’t let the fire in us die. The time for justice is always right now.

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Adeola Adelabu is a contestant at the 2012 NANS Presidential Election. He tweets from @Sirlabzy

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (2)

  1. Am not an Advocate of Child marriage, because paedophiliac in my view is simply a thought of Lust. Come to think of it, why do we punished a Defiler, is it not because he has taken advantages of a young girl, or whosoever by de-jure? A child need to be mentor by her mother and father for 20-23 yrs before she can think of marriage. The policy of Child marriage is none of my view, because, this will expose them to negative influences. At early age, a chid supposed not to think of marriage, but her Education. This policy wil make them reliable, dull and nerdy. Pls, i call for REVIEW, now that is not widespread.

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