Sunday, 1 September 2013

Nigeria: Senator Yerima's Child Is a Bride on Friday the 6th of September 2013

Bad interview techniques
The death of Sir David Frost this morning brought into stark relief the dearth of television interviewing scholarship and skill in Nigerian media.
Prominent amongst the recollections about Sir David Frost will be his interviews of President Richard Nixon post the Watergate scandal, beyond that, he was known for getting to chat to prominent personalities and teasing out information and detail that will never be revealed if he had not done his research and placed his questions with skill.
Other interviewers with my English bias of that class will be Sir Michael Parkinson, Jeremy Paxman, Stephen Sackur, Larry King, John Humphrys and recently Piers Morgan – these are people Nigerian interviewers should study and with a sense of courage and boldness be able to address the powerful without fear to elicit facts rather than have rings run round them as they cower in fawning obsequiousness.
The debauchery of Yerima
One such notorious personality that has not only run rings round media interviewers in Nigeria but appeared smarter, articulate and more prepared for anything slung at him is Senator Sani Yerima, the one-time governor of Zamfara State in Nigeria and the proud figurehead cum advocate of prepubescent matrimony.
At 53, the man has 28 children and has satisfied himself with a full complement of wives; four at a time with decreasing age of consummation that fell to the age of 13 with anEgyptian girl in 2010, having divorced another teenager wife of a couple of years to make way for this one.
Now, nothing in the laws of Nigeria as they stand makes what he did illegal, much as it is morally reprehensible to say the least and he has been recently in the news with regards to a constitutional amendment that had nothing to do with child marriage but once it was misinterpreted and misconstrued to pertain to that, we almost had a constitutional crisis that led to the public perception and campaign labelled #ChildNotBride.
A child marriage to stop
On the 6th of September, Sani Yerima intends to give the hand of his 16-year old daughter in marriage to someone yet to be determined by the attendant news reports.
Being a Nigerian Senator, Sani Yerima is a man of great means and wealth, having also been a governor without vouching for or against his honesty, it goes without saying that he knows the need and value of education and he is enlightened enough to do what is right without resorting to the bogeyman of religion to press his case.
We must agree that a man of the Senator’s status really has no justification taking his 16-year old daughter half-educated out of school to fulfil a marital pact under any circumstances including religion, even if he is constitutionally warranted to do such if he deems it fit.
Girls have rights too
It goes without saying that the girl at 16 who will not have completed her secondary school education will be put at a lifelong disadvantage of not being able to be of independent means if this union should fail and she is left with dependants she has to fend for.
If we cannot have senior politicians stand up for the rights of girls in the 21st Century where our global village exposes both boy and girl to challenges that require a really good education to get ahead at anything, then that is unfortunate.
If the girl were kept in school until she finished university, she will at most be 24 years of age and 24 is not too bad an age for a Muslim girl with an overly religious father to find a man, get married and fulfil of matrimonial duties along with having a sense of achievement and independence in the community in which she exists.
What to do?
We need to place a greater value on our girls to ensure they are not commoditised as bargaining chattels for pacts of marriage and the satisfaction of the propensity for paedophiliac lusts of lewd old men like their fathers.
I do not know if this marriage in 5 days can be stopped but this provides a socio-economical angle to the debate on child marriage moving it away from the issue of religion and the lascivious lewdness of old men sampling the virginity of girls for their sexual pleasure to the primary and fundamental interests of the child.
Our right to protect girls
Any man can choose whatever beliefs he wants and use them to his satisfaction, but the state has a duty above any belief system to protect the child from exploitation, abuse and the termination of opportunity to gain the basic tools for independence such as a full education where the means exist to cover such.
On that basis alone, that marriage should be not be contracted by the force of moral responsibility, an injunction or civil intervention, this kind of impunity must have an end and who better to be made an example of than Senator Sani Yerima.

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