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Opinion / Editorial

Ese Oruru: The New Face of Slavery

Ese Oruru
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The story of Ese Oruru, the hapless Ijaw girl from Bayelsa State who was recently rescued from the claws of a paedophile, Yunusa Dahiru, aka Yellow, is typical of a running episode in a soap opera. The intensity of the discourse generated by this unfortunate incident is bound to reverberate for a long time to come.

Ever since Ese’s case became a national topic, so many hitherto hidden atrocities committed against the girl-child in Nigeria are gradually coming to the fore. Many parents whose children had suffered similar fate as Ese have become rather emboldened to come forward to make their ordeal public. By the last count, no fewer than five other little girls had been identified by their parents as having been abducted, forcefully converted to Islam and forcibly married by their captors without any recourse to their families. Incidentally, those involved in this shameful act are from the same part of the country and they belong to the same faith.

Surprisingly, all these abductions have followed the same pattern, the same methodology. Like in a bad dream, the children are suddenly whisked away by the predators into some sort of hiding where they are summarily converted into Islam with a change of name in which the victims have no say, and then they are converted to wives of the adventurous paedophiles. Quite unfortunately too, these dastardly acts are usually wholly supported by the abductors’ families and Muslim clerics. The argument often put up by the clerics is that such arrangement is sanctioned by Islamic Sharia law. This is a puerile argument that has no basis in Islamic law. It is apparent that these so-called clerics are crooks themselves. All they do is to interpret Islamic laws to suit their evil intentions and purposes. These are the people who create doubt and suspicion in the minds of non-Muslims who view their actions as purely evil and criminal.

In actual fact, what the Muslim holy book, the Quran, stipulates is that any marriage to be consummated under Islamic law must have a guidance. This also includes a situation where the bride is even a slave. The same thing applies to the procedure or process of converting a person to Islam. In this case, it is expressly stated that nobody should be compelled to become a Muslim. It must be of his or her own personal volition or conviction, not through any threat, intimidation or hypnotism as was evident in the case of Ese and the others who are now still languishing in the den of their captors.

The sad thing about all these cases of abductions is that these criminals are just exploiting the weaknesses in our public institutions to perpetrate their nefarious acts. In Ese’s case, despite the spirited fight put up by the girl’s parents, particularly her mother, to retrieve her from her abductor, she consistently ran into a stonewall. First, the police were not that forthcoming and the Sharia Commission, set up by the Kano government to adjudicate in such matters, was transparently complicit in the crime by offering protection for Yunusa. Even the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi 11, appears to have treated the issue with levity in a most unbecoming manner for such a well-learned, well-exposed and fire-spitting monarch. What the commission members did was an affront to the Emir’s authority. It isn’t funny at all.

And come to think of it too, if a person at the level of an Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIGP, cannot solve a simple issue as that of Ese, what other knotty issue can such a high-ranking officer solve? Ese’s case lingered on for the whole of six months largely because the police that was constitutionally empowered to solve the issue by whatever means within the law, was found wanting. Their officers merely pandered to the whims and caprices of both the Emir and the Sharia Commission that apparently had no legal basis under the Nigerian law to either interfere or obstruct the police in the performance of their constitutional role of maintaining law and order.

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The questions now are: Why are these northern rascals going after mostly little southern Christian girls? Is there a shortage of women in the north? Is there anything particularly attractive in southern Christian girls that these rascals cannot resist? I could go on and on. I think poverty plays a major role in these cases of abduction. In the case of Ese, the mother sells food in Opolo area of Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital. Yunusa and his friends who are mostly tricycle riders and labourers, are her customers. It is this relationship that engendered the familiarity between Yunusa and Ese. It was that familiarity that Yunusa exploited to satisfy his amorous predilection by abducting Ese.

There might not be a shortage of women or girls in the north but it might be quite an adventure for men from that side to want to go outside their natural habitat to look for suitors. And don’t forget that marriage to underage girls in that part of the country is a norm, a very worrisome one at that. That is why you have debilitating cases of VVF, that is, Vesico-Vaginal Fistula which is very rampant in the northern part of Nigeria. This is an abnormal fistulous tract extending between the bladder (or vesico) and the vagina that allows the continuous involuntary discharge of urine into the vaginal vault. This abnormal medical condition has ruined the lives of thousands of female children in that part of the country because of their premature exposure to sex and child birth.

Unfortunately, there is no legislation against this evil practice and so it has been allowed to fester. It has assumed the status of an epidemic of a disturbing proportion as hospitals in that part of the country handle countless cases of this self-inflicted ailment year in, year out. Perhaps, not satisfied with the havoc they have so far wreaked on female children in the north, now, the paedophiles are making incursions into the southern parts of the country.

One thing is that lack of adequate parental control could be another factor aiding this unwholesome child abduction practice. Apart from financial inducements involved, some parents run after their daily bread without caring a hoot about what happens to their children or wards. Even those of them who sell food and other daily needs, sometimes use their female children as baits to either lure or attract patronage to their businesses. Like it is said, familiarity breeds contempt. That is how most of these female children get enticed and entrapped by these predators. The worse thing is that the paedophiles too, have no iota of parental control. They are simply loose cannons.

Forget about all the talk that Ese’s mother had been nice to Yunusa and that Yunusa only turned around to bite the finger that fed him. What Yunusa did is not something that could be accomplished in a day. It takes a lot of planning and strategising to carry out. He was only clever enough to have successfully concealed his evil intention before he finally struck. After all, it was Shakespeare who said: “There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”.

As things are now, it is evident that a new form of crime and criminality is on the upward swing in the society. It is the new face of slavery. There is the need for appropriate measure to check the rising cases of abduction of these innocent girls for the purpose of forceful conversion to another religion and forceful marriage without the consent and approval of their parents. If this trend is not properly checked, it is capable of leading to a major religious and ethnic conflagration in the country. Time is of the essence!


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