Connect with us

Opinion

[OPINION] Birthday: As Nigeria’s Youngest Governor, Alfred Diette-Spiff Becomes An Old Man By Godknows Boladei Igali

Published

on

The date, May 27th, 1967 will always remain a landmark in the annals of Nigeria’s history for a number of reasons. First, on that date, the country’s third Head of State and second military ruler, then Col. Yakubu Gowon took the courage to create 12 States out of the 4 regions which had existed hitherto. Secondly and of equal significance was the fact, that on that date, Nigeria’s youngest State Governor ever in the person of Lt. Commander, Alfred Papapriye Diette-Spiff was appointed amongst others, to head his own state – Rivers State at the adolescent youthful age of thirty three days to his 25th birthday. Then, a lanky naval officer standing at six feet, three inches (1.90 metres), today, fifty-six years down the lane, Pa Diette-Spiff clocked 81 years on July 30th, 2023.

2. The significance of Spiff’s present octogenarian debut contrasts significantly with when he was catapulted to national limelight a year after Nigeria’s first military coup. It came at the time, with a great promise and hope for the teeming youth of the country, many of whom today, over five decades later, are made to nurse a sense of exclusion and shut out from the process of building the country which they rightly deserve to be at the vortex.

3. Today, Spiff has transmuted from being a smart white cladded military officer to become a colourfully robed traditional monarch over the people of his hometown, Brass, which situates at the Atlantic oceanOcean. He has also garnered other accolades including longest serving Chairman of Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers, Chairman of Council of Traditional Rulers of Oil Producing Communities (TROMCOM), Co-Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), life member of the Board of Trustees of the IBB Golf Course, amongst others.

Advertisement

CAN OF WAHALA: JANUARY 1966 TO MAY 1967

4. The lives of Spiff and his erstwhile boss, General Yakubu Gowon have many resembles. Philosophers through the course of history have debated on the place of fate in the lives of men, in particular great people. The celebrated playwright, William Shakespeare once asserted in his classic play, “Julius Caesar” of the dialogue between Brutus and Cassius that: “there is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood leads to fortune”. This circumstance which an equally youthful military officer, now 88 years old Gen. Yakubu Gowon found himself in 1967 leading to the creation of States was very peculiar. Then at just 32 years of age, he inherited the reins of a fractured country as a new Head of State after three two military coups and an armed insurrections. The first was the very bloody January 15, 1966 coup led by some mid-level officers of the Nigerian Army, some of whom were his classmates and personally connected, both professionally and emotionally. That coup decapitated the country’s leadership, especially from the north. Next was the less reported but audacious military armed insurrection tagged the “12 Days Revolution” by Ijaw fighters led by one Isaac Adaka Boro (later Major), an erstwhile police officer and student activist. This happened on February 23rd, 1966, just two weeks after the bloody military coup and intended at establishing a Niger Delta Republic.

5. As if that was not enough, there was the third “counter coup” which coincidentally took place on from 29th July 1966 which was the eve of Spiff’s 24th birthday of Spiff, being July 30th, 1966. Gowon had benefitted from the first coup by being named as Chief of Army Staff, directly under Nigeria’s first military Head of State, Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (1924-1966). This counter coup organised by “loyal northern officers” brought Gowon up to inherit his immediate boss’s seat. On this note, the much withdrawn and saintly Col. Gowon from a relatively unknown Ngas (Angas) ethnic group in the hills of Jos Plateau was given the role of steering the ship of the Nigerian stateState. Unlike Ironsi who was the most ranking senior officer at the time, Gowon’s ascension to lead the country was itself surrounded by a veil of contradictions as there were other more senior military officers such as Commodore Edet Akinwale Wey, Brigadier Babafemi Ogundipe, Col. Robert Adeyinka Adebayo.

6. As the spate of insecurity continued, efforts at rebuilding the broken walls of confidence in the nation became his greatest challenge. Help came, as Nigerian leaders were invited to Aburi, eastern region of Ghana by J.A. Akrah, a fellow military coupist and former course mate of most of them at Sandhurst Military Academy in the United Kingdom, to talk among themselves and agree on how to keep Nigeria together. Delegates were not just Gowon and Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, Governor of Eastern Region, the most aggrieved on account of pogroms which had occurred in the northern part of Nigeria but also Governors of the three other regions.

Advertisement

7. Unfortunately, the detailed Aburi process failed. The option left for Gowon at this time was to embark on fundamental restructuring of the country by improving upon the regional structure which had existed. Rather than creating more regions, what he did was to establish, by military decree, 12 states out of the 4 regions which were in existence. This was a major stratagem to douse the build-up of tension in the country by widening the political space for those who had clamoured for some measure of internal self-governance.

READ ALSO: OPINION: In Honour Of Global Statesman Extraordinaire, Chief Emeka Anyaoku @ 90 Years

8. With the new structure, the erstwhile Western Region was left almost intact except Lagos which was excised to be an autonomous State and Federal Capital. The Mid-West region continued as Mid-West State. Further south, two autonomous states, known as Rivers and South Eastern State were created in addition to East Central State out of the former Eastern region. Up north, Kwara and Benue-Plateau States was created to cater for the clusters of minority groups in the Middle Belt, while the extreme north became separated into the North East, North Central and North Western States.

SPIFF AND THE ORIGINS OF HIS RIVERS STATE

Advertisement

9. In this gale of appointments, the spotlight beamed on the hitherto unknown southmost tip of the country which had now become known as Rivers State. The state itself was an inflorescence of diverse ethnic groups, most outstanding being the Ijaws who occupy the coastal and the swampy crude oil bearing regions of Nigeria. Other ethnic groups of note in the new State were the Ikwerres, and the Etches, both of which are Iboid in identity, and the Ogonis.

10. The creation of Rivers State had actually come against the backdrop of years of agitations from the smaller ethnic groups in the former Eastern region who were very discontented with what was termed as marginalisation in the politics and affairs of the region. Such forms of agitation hobbled around what was known as a request for “Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers State” or “COR Province” out of the former Eastern Region. Niger Delta leaders, including such personalities as Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, founder of the Niger Delta Congress Party, Prof. Eyo Ita who at a time was Leader of Government Business in the Eastern Region, and legal luminaries – Dr. Udo Udoma and Dr. Okoi Arikpo, Chief Melford Okilo, and others from their fold among the minorities of the Eastern Region led the trail. It was part of this quest that enamoured these personalities from the Niger Delta at the London Constitutional Conference of 1957 to demand the colonial government to grant them an autonomous province without which their people will suffer political discrimination and deprivation of development. The British constituted a Commission which was set up on 27 November 1957, headed by British law maker, Sir (later Lord) Henry Willinks (1894-1973). In its report, the Commission agreed that the fears of the Nigerian minorities in the south were well founded and needed to be addressed. But, coming just on the eve of the country’s independence, it reluctantly indicated:

i. the problems of domination cannot be solved by setting more or new states but fundamental human rights should be entrenched in the constitution to allay such fears.

ii. The Commission further recommended that the concerns of the minorities could also be assuaged by creating Special Councils for them and that the Niger Delta area should be declared a special zone with a board appointed for that purpose. (This led to the creation of the Niger Delta Development Board which was announced in 1961).

Advertisement

11. Taking the work of Sir Willinks forward, the move by Gowon on May 27th, 1967 was partly to address the existing cries for some form of internal self-expression. Secondly, it was definitely to take away the carpet from under the feet of Lt Col Ojukwu by fragmenting the former Eastern region. the separatists in the Eastern Region, led by Ojukwu. Naturally, the creation of Rivers State came with great euphoric outburst and more so, as a young, promising and dynamic Governor had been appointed for the State.

HOW SPIFF GOT THE PLUM JOB

12. Conjectures of all manners have been advanced as to why Gowon and his cabal saw more worth in giving such responsibilities over a war-ravaging area to a 25-year old. Like Gowon, the young, indifferent, jolly good youngster, Spiff was a child of circumstance. No wonder, beyond Shakespeare, the wise man had stated in Ecclesiastic’s Chapter 9 verse 11 of the Holy Bible: “I have seen something else under the sun. The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned but time and chance happens to them all”. This definitely holds true for Spiff as he was definitely not the oldest nor the most senior military officer from Rivers State. Indeed, at the time of his appointment, Col. George Kurubo (1934-2000) from the coastal town of Bonny in the State was already Nigeria’s first indigenous Chief of Air Staff but soon moved to Moscow as Nigeria’s Ambassador to the Soviet Union. In the Nigerian Navy itself, there were more senior officers such as Commodore Edwin Kentebe (1931-1985) and Admiral Bossman Soroh (1928-2006) who later became Chief of Naval Staff in 1975. Spiff was almost a son to both of them and a few others.

READ ALSO: Jonathan Bags Democracy Icon Award In Kigali, Charges Leaders To Prioritise Service

Advertisement

13. So, definitely, time and chance and the inscrutable Grace of God worked in favour of Spiff who according to records, was not particularly close to Gowon or had any godfather. So, what happened and a greatly didactive? But he had created a niche as a young naval officer within the service which was quietly noticed by many. However, appointing a 25-year old was quite audacious.

14. Growing up, Spiff’s life had been exposed to the most challenging and personally rewarding of opportunities. Both of his parents were civil servants, a career that was greeted with postings within parts of Eastern Nigeria, as well as in Western the former British Southern Cameroons when that area was administered from Nigeria as a Trust Territory of the United Nations. At the time, his father was serving the colonial government as the Postmaster for Western Southern Cameroons. He therefore started his primary school in 1947 at Government Primary School, Buea on the foot of 4,700 metres high Mount Cameroon. Thereafter, he got admitted to the famous St. Joseph College, Sasse in Buea, Cameroon which was established in 1939. He studied along with many who later became leading political figures in Anglophone Cameroon as well as Chief Tom Ikimi, Nigeria’s one-time Minister of Foreign Affairs, equally born in Kumba, Cameroon.

15. As part of his formative years in Cameroon, young Spiff had the opportunity to be involved in activities of Man O’War Bay in the town of Victoria (Limbe) where one of the biggest youth camps in Anglophone West Africa existed. This obviously propelled a great interest for the sea and the adventurous life for mountaineering and aviation all of which he still practisespractices till date. According to accounts, the senior Spiff saw the future of his child and from his twiddling years nicknamed him “The Captain”. On completion of his secondary education, he got employed and trained as a Meteorological Officer then under the Ministry of Transport in Lagos. He was thereafter posted to Ikeja Airport, Lagos and worked for some time before moving on to the Waterways Department as a Marine Officer in Training. As a marine cadet, Spiff was deployed to Elder Dempster Shipping Line and found himself aboard several ships. This was before he proceeded to the United Kingdom to study at Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth whose reputation from its takeoff in 1863 remains vintage. This paved the way for him to join what was then known as Merchant Navy and eventually got transferred to the Nigerian Navy in 1962. Finally, he was commissioned as Ship’s Diving Officer in 1964. Early in his career, he was opportuned to command two major ships, “NNS“ and “NNS Benin”.

HOW THE “BOY GOVERNOR” OUTPERFORMED ALL

Advertisement

16. Mounting the saddle, Spiff is credited to have performed most exceptionally in Rivers State and stood out in the country. Since the territory of state was then occupied by the rebel Biafra side, his government operated from Lagos until late 1968 when he moved to Port Harcourt. He started off the huge task of infrastructural development and more than 50 years later, his impact is still visible in Port Harcourt and around the two successor states, Rivers and Bayelsa. These include the Rivers State secretariat complex which is a cluster of six units of 9-storey buildings. The most noticeable is a so-called “Point Block” which stands at 20-storey high and for many years was regarded as the tallest structure in the South-South of Nigeria.

17. Pa SpiffHe is also credited to have been the brain behind the building of the College of Science and Technology in Port Harcourt which was slightly short of his original dream of establishing a university for his people. That was in 1972 when the flood gate for such state-owned institutions was not lifted. What was approved for him was good enough and became the main breeding ground for training the next generation of persons from old Rivers State. This school was later upgraded to the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and is currently known as Rivers State University. He also established the Government Sea School, Isaka, which gave the state a head-start in flooding the Nigerian Navy and Merchant Navy with cadet officers.

18. Spiff’s efforts were also robust in other aspects of human capacity development where he left an indelible mark. He also came up with the most robust scholarship and bursary scheme. He was the first Nigerian Governor to give scholarships in hundreds to eligible young people of his state to all parts of the world and ensured that the full amount needed for their full study durations was paid upfront. This worked out well as his exit from office as Governor in 1975 did not in any way affect the beneficiaries of his scholarship from continuation of studies.

19. In addition and to his credit, Spiff has to his credit, initiating ofinitiated the construction of the present Port Harcourt International Airport which was quite outstanding. At that time, there was already a city airport which was holed up in the town. His vision was an international airport similar to what was obtainable in Lagos at the time.

Advertisement

20. In the field of commerce and industry, he initiated what is still known as the Rivers State Palm Estate, built to take advantage and promote the palm oil resource of the area. In historical sense, this area and much of the South-South had been known as Oil Rivers Protectorate as far back as 1886. He also established a holding financial conglomerate known as PABOD (an acronym formed from Port Harcourt, Ahoada, Brass, Ogoni and Degema Divisions, which at the time were the existing local government structures in the state). The PABOD conglomerate still exists as one of the most enduring business houses in the country, with investments that spread into all areas of commercial, industrial and finance activities. The state under him also established the Pan African Bank which at the time became one of the leading indigenous banks in the country until the era of consolidation in July, 2004. The West African Glass Factory which again took advantage of the huge sand deposits found around the coastal areas of the state was built and produced several products such as glasses for industrial and for household use.

READ ALSO: Jonathan To Diri: Bayelsa Has Recorded Peace, Progress Under Your Leadership

EXIT FROM POWER AND FORCED RETIREMENT

21. As Spiff progressed in Rivers State, the government of Yakubu Gowon became increasingly accused of vacillating on its promise to return Nigeria to democratic rule with unvoiced tension gathering steam around the country. According to accounts, some officers such as Brigadier Murtala Mohammed who later became a General and Head of State expressed increasing impatience with Gowon and hungered for power. Indeed, the altercations and the simmering love lost between Gowon and Mohammed were palpable, with an atmosphere that was rife for any eventuality. Not surprising, the military coup of July 29, 1975 ousted the Government of Gowon just at the ages of 41 years. This affected Spiff, a day before his 33rd birthday and all the other Governors of the 12 States. Being military men, Spiff and his contemporaries were rounded up and sadly, stripped of their military ranks and sent on immediate retirement. No less was the injustice suffered in the seizure of all his hard-earned properties that subjected him at the time to a state of great personal challenge after such high elevation.

Advertisement

OPENING OF NEW HORIZONS

22. The exit from political power at a relatively young age created vast opportunities for Spiff to engage in active business. He was able to apply himself in different aspects of businesses which have continued till today with modest level of success. More prominently, however, was his elevation into aristocracy which he rightly deserved as his father by inheritance rights, later became a traditional ruler of his hometown, Twon Brass, titled “Amangi”. Spiff in 1978 became crowned as the “Amanyanabo” or King of that coastal port city. Located on the Atlantic springboard, it is perhaps in addition to Bonny, one of the biggest coastal settlements in Nigeria’s extreme coast. His community, Brass, had been a major entry port during the times of Trans-Atlantic Sslave Ttrade and the Oil Palm trade. At thisIn contemporary time, it wasBrass remains also one of the main export terminals of crude oil business in Nigeria, hosting one of the foremost bases for Agip Oil Company as well as the proposed Brass Liquefied Gas Company, Brass Fertilizer Company and the Brass Shipyard.

23. In course of time, King Spiff was elevated by his peers to Chair chair the Bayelsa State Council of Traditional Rulers, a position which he held for a whooping period of about 10 years. Being a former ranking military officer who had ruled one of the original 12 states of the country, he brought much colour and respectability to that traditional institution. He enjoyed the respect of his top military constituency who later came to rule in high capacities including former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and not the least Muhammadu Buhari. He had also headed the Traditional Rulers of Oil Minerals Producing Communities of Nigeria (TROMPCON) which brings together all his colleagues from the entire nine oil producing states in the country. He also chaired the platform called the Niger Delta Dialogue which aimed at conflict resolution, conflict management and peace-making in the troubled oil producing areas.

24. Another major area that Spiff has contributed at making peace and contributing to peace in Nigeria is the role he played in the formation of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) which brings together the entire people of the Niger Delta. He remains the Co-Chairman of the Board of Trustees of that body. In that capacity, Spiff has also served as the Chairman of the Council of Ijaw Traditional Rulers and Leaders, a powerful body that is at the apex of deciding all matters pertaining to Nigeria’s fourth largest ethnic group who are indigenous in 6 states.

Advertisement

25. At national level, Spiff served as member of Federal Government boards and agencies over the years. At present, he is Chancellor of the Nigeria Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko in Delta State from being the Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano. In other respects, King Spiff was elected and serves as the National Chairman of the Nigerian Association of Auctioneers since December 2019.

26. Outside the shores of Nigeria, his international royal voyage got him honoured as “The special Royal Envoy to AFRIDU and the African Union (AU) Sixth Region. He was also elevated as the Chairman of the African Diaspora Council of Traditional Rulers and Chairman of the African Disapora Investment and Development Forum”.

THE FLIP SIDE OF LIFE

27. Like all persons that found themselves in military government, especially at the time when people like Spiff served, the temptation for excessive outburst was quite rife. For example, it was widely publicised following an article published in the defunct Nigeria Observer newspaper of 1973 “Spiff ordered his aide, Ralph Iwowari to publicly shave the head of a Nigerian Observer, Minere Amakiri reporter and had him beaten with 24 lashes of the cane for publishing a story about an impending teachers’ strike on Spiff’s birthday which he considered an inappropriate. However, exit from power at a young age gave him ample time to square up and make retrieve with the concerned person, who was from the straddling Ijaw community of Kalabari.

Advertisement

ENDING NOTES

28. As Nigeria celebrates the 81st birthday of this extraordinary individual, it is evident that his has been nothing short of awe-inspiring. What an a life?; His accomplishments in various fields stand as a testament of his unwavering determination, relentless pursuit of excellence, and boundless creativity despite the undulating vissicitudes of life. From breaking barriers and redefining what is possible, to leaving an indelible mark on countless lives, his legacy is one of inspiration and admiration. He got one of the most plum jobs in Nigeria as a young man, on merit and proved his mettle and outpaced all others while in that office. What was his secret? He focused on the job and got the best of minds and energy to work with him. But then, Spiff’s life and achievements is a metaphor, indeed testament of what Nigeria youth can still do, if given the opportunity. Perhaps we need to try them again!

29. Happy 81st birthday celebration to a true icon of human potential!

Dr. Igali, an award winning writer is an Ambassador and retired Federal Permanent Secretary
(Ambigali.com)

Advertisement

Advertisement
Comments

News

OPINION: My Pension, Your Pension In the Hands Of ‘Lagos’

Published

on

By Suyi Ayodele

Lagos does not have restraints when it comes to spending money. His first name is Nínál’owó (Money is meant to be spent). His middle name is Gbogbo ejò jíjeni (All snakes are edible). But I won’t keep quiet while he puts my future in the incinerator of his ways. Lagos is like an agbara ojo (erosion). Yoruba elders say àgbàrá òjò ò’lóhun ò nílé wó, onílé ni ò nì gbà fun (the mission of erosion is to destroy the building; it is the owner that will resist it).

The Yoruba word for spendthrift is àpà. There is Arungún (ruiner of inheritance) sitting very close to àpà. Both are relations of ikán (termites) in Yoruba semiotic. No matter the semantic shift exercise one carries out on each of them, they give the same meaning; denotatively and connotatively. Àpà is a waster. Arungún, otherwise known as Omo òsì (child of misery) is a destroyer of inheritance or estate. He is a typical reverser of fortune. Nothing is too precious for an àpà or an arungún to destroy. Termites eat up anything, no matter how precious.

Advertisement

There is an Ekiti folk song that warns of the activities of an arungún. The song warns of the implications of leaving one’s inheritance in the hands of a waster. Èhìn ayé enin/ kò se fi sílè fún omo òsì (One should not leave one’s estate for a waster child). No parent prays to have such a child to inherit his or her estate. No matter how many years it took the parents to build their estates, once such are inherited by an arungún, the estates go into ruins within a short period.

Years ago, an elderly man, a senior journalist, pointed at a telecommunications mast on Ugbague Street, Benin, to me. “You see that mast over there, Suyi”, he said. I followed the direction of his pointed finger and affirmed. He continued: “Will you believe me if I tell you that that plot of land and all the plots that have now turned to market once belonged to an Esama of Benin Kingdom?” I answered that it was not possible. My little knowledge of Benin chieftaincy matters tells me that only the wealthiest becomes the Esama of Benin. The elderly fellow affirmed that, and added that the owner of the property was once a wealthy man and was conferred with the title of Esama by the reigning Omo N’Oba then.

But upon his death, his arungún children sold off the estate the man had such that nobody could remember that their forebear was once the richest man in the Kingdom. The elderly fellow told me the story behind the ruinous heritage of the once prosperous Esama. I reserve that story for another time when we would have the time and space to discuss it. Pray you don’t have an arungún to inherit your estates; they leave such in ruins! Terrible!

Arungún omo abound in our localities. We have wasted estates of once prosperous parents in our neighbourhoods. Nothing can be worse than for people to say the family of Mr. Làkásègbé was once wealthy. Once an arungún manages an estate, the siblings end up as paupers! Because of an arungún, children of butchers beg for bones, and those of the wealthy roam the streets in abject poverty. Nigeria has been unfortunate with its arungún leaders, especially those we have had since the collapse of the First Republic. From the North to the South; from the West to the East, all the legacies left behind by the founding fathers of the country have been laid waste by the arungún children who took over leadership positions.

Advertisement

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Northern Nigeria’s Paedophilic Mass Weddings

Nigeria is a typical example of a family once in wealth but now in poverty. Our case is not because our natural resources have dried up. No. God has blessed us more than many prosperous countries of the world. We have many other natural resources that we have not even tapped. Our problem lies in the fact that we have had termites as leaders. We have been unfortunate to have wasters in the helms of our affairs, at virtually all levels of government. We are a nation led by leaders who don’t save for the future. We have been ruled and ruined by those who eat the yam tubers and the seedlings for future planting seasons. They are the type called òjusu jègùn (he who eats both the yam and the sprouting seedlings) in my native tongue. The elders of my place, again, say an òjusu jègùn has eaten the next harvest (òjusu jegùn; àmódún ló je).

Nigeria is the only country where people work in the civil service for over three decades and retire into penury. We are not known to pay gratuities to retirees at the point of their disengagements from public service. Many of them die without collecting their gratuities. While Kayode Fayemi was governor of Ekiti State, he came up with a ‘novel’ solution to gratuity payment. He asked retirees willing to get their entitlements to let go of as much as 25 percent of their gratuities, otherwise, they will wait till only-God-knows-when! The last set of retirees in the state who got their entitlements were those who retired in March 2014. In the last 10 years, no retiree in Ekiti State has been paid his gratuity. Worst hit are local government and primary school teachers’ retirees, who have not been paid gratuities since 2012! The same thing goes for the monthly stipends to retirees known as pension. Stories abound about how senior citizens die on the queues while waiting to collect their pension. These are people who spent their youthful years serving their fatherland!

To address the problem, the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo introduced the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS), in 2003. Under the scheme, both the employers and the employees are compelled to contribute a certain percentage of the employees’ salaries to the fund on a monthly basis. The funds are also placed in the hands of independent financial institutions known as Pension Fund Operators (PenOP) to manage. The beauty of this scheme is that while government intervention in the management of pension is eliminated, employees in the private sector (corporate bodies), who were hitherto at the mercy of their shylock employers, are also accommodated.

Advertisement

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Onitiri-Abiola And The Madness In Ibadan

Speaking recently at a meeting with PenOP, Obasanjo said that one of the major reasons for the pension reform was his pain at seeing so many pensioners queuing up to collect their pensions, especially during his first term in office. The retired General stressed that he was particularly pained to see military men who had served the nation, spending hours or days to collect their pensions. “With this in mind, we resolved to see how the government could make pension management and administration private sector driven and more in line with global best practices. I was pleasantly surprised at the growth of the pension assets over the last 20 years as my administration instituted the pension reforms, and pushed to have a bill to reform the way pension administration was done in Nigeria. They did not think that the assets would grow this quickly and have the positive effect it has had so far.” The former president enthused. In the last 20 years, the funds in the various pension accounts, contributed by workers in the public and those in the private sectors, have grown to over N20 trillion. That is how leaders grow estates. That is how forebears take care of the future. But hand over such an inheritance to an arungún omo, the people will be in pain afterwards.

The over N20 trillion in the pension funds account is the next nectar that the Lagos man in charge of our affairs is targeting to lick in the name of building infrastructure. Having drained all the available resources, the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration is taking his predatoriness to the pension account. To many of us, we don’t find this behaviour strange given the fact that it fits perfectly to the financial identikit of President Tinubu as a Nínál’owó. Expectedly, since the Tinubu administration, through its Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mr.Wale Edun, muted the idea of taking the owó ojú eégún (money kept in the masquerade’s grove), hell has been let loose on the government. Also, many groups, obviously members of the government’s Hallelujah orchestra, have been unleashed on the media space to defend the government.

Former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, while reacting to the development said that the move is “illegal”, as “there is NO free Pension Funds that is more than 5% of the total value of the nation’s pension fund for Mr. Edun to fiddle with.” Atiku, who was with Obasanjo when the pension reforms that resulted in the over N20 trillion being coveted by Tinubu and his Lagos boys warned: “Even at that, this move must be halted immediately! It is a misguided initiative that could lead to disastrous consequences on the lives of Nigeria’s hardworking men and women who toiled and saved and who now survive on their pensions having retired from service. It is another attempt to perpetrate illegality by the Federal Government. The government must be cautioned to act strictly within the provisions of the Pension Reform Act of 2014 (PRA 2014), along with the revised Regulation on Investment of Pension Assets issued by the National Pension Commission (PenCom). In particular, the Federal Government must not act contrary to the provisions of the extant Regulation on investment limits to wit: Pension Funds can invest no more than 5% of total pension funds’ assets in infrastructure investments.”

Advertisement

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Fubara, Wike And Day I Broke Duck’s Eggs

As it is wont to do, the Tinubu government unleashed his attack Rottweilers on Atiku and every other person that has risen against the intending daylight robbery of the pension funds. One of such nondescript groups, the Independent Media and Policy Initiative (IMPI), equally led by one Niyi Akinsiju, I am told he played the same under President Muhammadu Buhari, said that by voicing his opinion against the move to use the pension funds for infrastructural developments, Atiku had merely become “a government critic and opposition leader.” One wonders what Atiku is expected to do if he could not criticise bad government initiatives! The group quoted sections 5.1, 5.2 and 5.15 of the Pension Reform Act, 2014, to justify why the light-fingered Federal Government of Tinubu could dip its filthy hands into the pension pockets and spend the funds therein. Ridiculously, IMPI assured Nigerians that after tampering with the funds, the government would guarantee its safety on the jejune argument that the “…FGN issued securities are considered as the safest of all investments in domestic debt market because it is backed by the ‘full faith and credit’ of the Federal Government, and as such it is classified as a risk-free debt instrument.” Nonsense! Balderdash!! Bunkum!!!

It baffles me why some people deliberately choose to be fatuous. If the Federal Government could guarantee the safety of the pensions, why was the need for the pension reform in the first instance? Where was this Akinsiju of a mould, when pensioners were dying in their hundreds on the queues waiting for their pensions? Is he that ignorant to note that what this wastrel government intends to spend belongs to workers in both the public and the private sectors? That the pension funds belong to workers of the government’s civil services and those from the infamous AFAMACO JOB (work without pay) of Benin? Can Akinsiju and those in his caste tell Nigerians how many of those things committed to this government in the last one year it has been able to secure? Can he tell us how this government met our economy and how low it has taken it? What was the cost of living before Tinubu came on May 29, 2023, and what is the cost of living now? How on earth would anyone want to commit the future of hapless Nigerian workers both in the public and private sectors to the hands of these thriftless individuals who spare nothing? How long would our leaders behave like common arungún and we would clap for them?

 

Advertisement

I have no doubt that this government is both deaf and dumb. I suspect also that compassion is in abysmally short supply in this era. I am equally of the strong opinion that neither President Tinubu, nor his boys and hangers-on, have any soupcon of respect for the Nigerian masses. But I want to quickly tell them that the pension fund is the life and last hope of many Nigerians currently working in the private and public sectors. If I were Tinubu, I would not touch their money!

Continue Reading

News

OPINION: Kneeling For Imams Of Northern Nigeria

Published

on

By Lasisi Olagunju

A minister suffered severe abuse and reprimand from the elites of the North last week because she asked the North to choose mass education first before mass marriage. Sixty-four years after independence, we are still struggling to understand Nigeria’s Muslim North and its ways. A 1950 letter to the editor of Gaskiya, northern Nigeria’s preeminent Hausa newspaper, should tell us something about the mystery of the region.

The letter appeared in the newspaper’s number 391 of 8 March, 1950 on page 2.

Advertisement

It reads:

“To the Editor – I beg to lay this complaint before you, so that you may approach the Sultan in order that I may achieve my desire. I am of slave descent, belonging to one of the families of court slaves. Both my father and mother were slaves of a certain emir. My mother’s name is Munayabo, and my father’s Ci-wake. A well-to-do man has fallen in love with me, and I love him too, but he has got four wives already. For this reason, we find it difficult to make arrangements for living together. I asked a learned mallam, who told me to ask my father’s consent first, according to Islamic law, and also that of the authorities. If they agree to the proposal, I can become his concubine, Islamic law allows it. This is what the mallam told me. Well, Mr. Editor, my father, Islamic law, I myself and the rich man have agreed, only the authorities remain. May they agree to make proper arrangements for me so that I may be allowed into the harem of the man. My father’s and my mother’s names show that I really belong to a family of former slaves.

“I believe there are quite a number of girls such as me in the North. We have found that if girls in our position were allowed by the authorities, as is permitted by the law, to live as concubines in the harems of princes and well-to-do and important officials, the number of prostitutes who walk the streets would be reduced considerably. In this way, it may be possible for some of us to give birth to children who will one day be useful to the country. In this way, I may give birth to a son who may even one day become an emir. This will be better than our walking about in the towns and giving birth to children without proper fathers. Our religion permits it, but it is the authorities that are closing the door against us. I am sure that if the authorities allowed it, certain great houses in the North would accommodate thousands of us.

“Mr. Editor, I have given you a full explanation. We have come to an agreement with the said rich man, and are only waiting for the consent of the authorities on behalf of the Sultan. I wish you would lay my statement, as set out here, before the authorities and not allow room for destructive criticism. I should like the critics to understand that it is not my father who is trying to sell me into slavery. It is at my own free will that I desire to live in a big harem with a man who has already got four wives. I adjure you by Allah, Mr. Editor, to publish this letter so that I may get a reply and permission from the authorities.”

Advertisement

(Signature)”.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Taxing Hunger In Iregba

I got the above letter from Joseph Schacht’s ‘Islam in Northern Nigeria’, published in Studia Islamica, 1957, No. 8. The author said the signatory of the letter was “a well-educated young girl who had passed with distinction through the modern Government College for Girls.” Note that the letter was not written in the 19th century. It was written a few years before independence.

For better or for worse, a lot has shifted since that letter was composed. I do not think girls are still born over there into ‘slavery’ and thus have to beg to be allowed to marry. What I know (and everybody knows) is that the North routinely stages mass weddings for hordes of nameless girls and ladies. Are they children of slaves?

Advertisement

I am a Muslim from southern Nigeria and each time strange things happen in the North in the name of Islam, I exchange glances of surprise with my brothers here. Schacht (1902-1969), the author of ‘Islam in Northern Nigeria’, was a British-German professor of Arabic and Islam at Columbia University in New York. He was the leading western scholar on Islamic law. In that article, he said the Muslims of our North whom he saw in 1957 “form a very isolated community.” He wrote that “most of their isolation is voluntary and intentional” and that “they are generally afraid of being contaminated by modern ideas, and particularly by the non-Islamic South.” I strongly believe they still prefer their isolation from “modern ideas” and from the South. And we are still in the same country. Shouldn’t we just restructure and redefine boundaries and contacts?

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Flying Gods, Lying Prophets And Power Bandits

I am being very careful choosing my words as I write this. I have written some paragraphs and cancelled them because I am, like the girls of Niger State, an orphan with no capacity for self-defence. But, it would appear that northern Nigeria’s biggest business today is mass wedding and mass production of children. After child-making, it has religion, very economically lucrative political religion. With this combo, it wrecks itself and stunts the country, and sows contagious poverty across the land. I hope no one is going to contest these.

I will be shocked if you did not follow last week’s big fight between the Minister of Women Affairs, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, and the northern elite led by imams from Niger State. The woman offended the North because she said no to a plan to shell out 100 orphaned girls to some randy men in a mass wedding. And because of that, press conferences and acid rains of sermons poured across the swarthy region on Friday. They said the ‘condescending’ female minister from the South overstepped her bounds. They said it was their religious culture to assist female orphans to solve their problems by marrying them off en masse, so that they can multiply and fill the earth with children. They did not tell us if their culture has plans only for the girls while male orphans are left to roam the street as Almajirai.

Advertisement

The image a mass-wedding evokes in me is that of tethered rams at sallah markets. Or, more appropriately, a mass of what slave merchants called dabukia (female with plump breasts) and farkhah (female with small breasts) in mid-19th century Sokoto, Kano and Katsina slave markets. I have read some defences for the botched mass wedding of Niger State. Some said the girls and their families begged for it and the speaker paid as a man of God. Let us assume the girls truly begged for the weddings, couldn’t their helper just give the ‘help’ without the humiliation of a mass sale?

Yet, it is said that the loud mass weddings we see in the North are followed almost immediately by quiet mass divorces. Yusuf M. Adamu and Rabi Abdulsalam Ibrahim, both of Bayero University, Kano, did a seminal work on what they call “the rashness of divorce in Hausa society.” In their ‘Spheres, Spaces and Divorcees in Zawarawa: A Hausa movie (2018)’, quoting Solivetti (1994:252), they say Hausa Muslim society has “one of the highest rates of divorce and remarriage in the world.” It is also in that piece that I see a raw passage on commodification of marriage in Hausa land. A character in the movie exclaims: “The prices of things in Nigeria are rising, especially crude oil, gold and diamond. The prices are rising. But why has the value of women fallen so low? (Tattalin arziki ya na ta tashi a Nijeriya, musamman ma na man fetur da gwalagwalai da lu’ulu’u. kullum dada hauhawa su ke. Amma farashin mata, ya a ke ya fadi wanwar?).” Read the various defences in support of the controversial mass wedding in Niger State. Do a character assessment of the suitors, especially the two said to have assisted their in-laws to pay ransom but now want “marriage without delay or their money back.” Have the angry Imams and mallams asked what kind of husbands those ones will be?

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: FG’s N90 Billion Hajj Politics

Nigeria is a composite of contradictions; what is poison in the south is sweet sauce in the north. The Ovimbundu (Bantu) people of Southern Africa say that the mist of the coast is the rain of the desert. In the place where I come from, mass children is interpreted as mass misery (omo beere, òsì beere). We also warn that marriage is easy to contract, what about soup money? Mass weddings were conducted yesterday, last year and in the last decade in the North. What happened to them? Where are the benefits beyond their adding to the hardship of the destitute? Where I come from, we say a mother does not feel the weight of her baby (omo kìí wúwo l’éhìn ìyá è). But the trunk of the North’s elephant is, by choice, made a burden for it to carry. The North’s way of life hurts where I come from – Western Nigeria. I am not the only one who has this thought. While the southern bird avoids waters that degrade the girl-child, the duck of the North preens and bathes in them. Embarrassing stories such as of this mass wedding stuff are so common with northern political and religious leaders. A hail of threats against counter views comes common too. And when they happen, questions are asked down south about the sense in sharing this Nigerian complex.

Advertisement

‘Season of Migration to the North’, described by a reviewer as a “sensual work of deep honesty and incandescent lyricism”, is a 1966 novel by Sudanese novelist, Tayeb Salih. Its setting should have been northern Nigeria. Forced marriage is part of that story. And, in that story, we hear the voice of Hosna bint Mahmoud promising “like the blade of a knife” that “if they force me to marry, I’ll kill him and kill myself.” And, she does just that. Such involuntary, fatal nuptials are routinely tied in our North. They always do it. We will always beg them to stop because their way hurts us.

The people I am begging here are the real kabiyesis of the North – the Imams and the mallams. They make the rules and reign as the lords of the north-west, the north-east and parts of the north-central. But, will they listen and stop? They will not. They are what the Yoruba call kò níí gbà, omo elétíkunkun. And we won’t keep quiet.

Nigeria is an unending struggle against conscientious ignorance. The fundamentalism that rules Afghanistan has its professors in northern Nigeria. It is not edifying to faith. Read again the letter I started this article with. Pre-independence northern Nigeria had what was called ‘Fight Against Ignorance Committee’. There is no need to ask what the result of that initiative was. If the committee succeeded, the North would not have the world’s largest number of out-of-school-children; it would not attack a minister for asking it to choose education over marriage; banditry and terrorism and mass poverty would not be the region’s stable staple.

So, when we ask the elite of the North to drop their bad ways, it is not because we hate them and their North. No. It is because we benefit from the Hausa wisdom that emphasises peace over pie: “it is easy enough to find food but hard to get away to a place where you can eat it in peace (Ba samu’n abinchi ke da wuya, wurinda zaka chishi ke da wuya)”. We live in the same house with the North, and while doing so, we strongly believe that we deserve our peace. That was why that woman minister from the south, Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, tore the North’s mass-wedding scroll and insisted on Nigeria adding real value to the lives of those 100 hapless girls. It is the reason I wrote this.

Advertisement

Continue Reading

News

OPINION: Northern Nigeria’s Paedophilic Mass Weddings

Published

on

By Suyi Ayodele

“Could you ‘please, possibly, perhaps’, send me to Kano?” I told my editor last Wednesday.

“You will meet me there” was his response.

Advertisement

I laughed.

A moment later, a friend added his voice: “Why did the Kano government do such a thing under the table? They should have called for an expression of interest.”

We laughed again. I further suggested that the Kano State correspondent “should be penalised for concealing the info!” A friend extended the penalty: “Very well. His Bureau Chief too.”

The Bureau Chief came begging: “Oga mi sir. I am sorry sir. Help me appeal to them sir”

Advertisement

We all laughed.

In my place, they say when a matter goes beyond weeping, one can only laugh. That is exactly what we did that Wednesday morning.

Our laughter was over a news item by the Daily Trust newspaper that morning. The headline reads: “Hisbah allocates 50 mass wedding slots to kano journalists” According to the report, the Commander-General (see rank) of the Kano State Hisbah Board, Sheik Aminu Daurawa, announced that journalists practising in the state had been allotted 50 females out of the number of women that would be given out in mass marriage in the state. Sheik Daurawa, who said that the previous mass marriage during which 1,800 women were married off was a huge success, disclosed that the Hibah Board had decided to expand the scope by including professional bodies as beneficiaries of the mass wedding, and he was generous enough to allocate 50 slots, sorry, 50 women, to journalists in Kano State.

I read the story and I felt that the editor should post me to Kano that moment. Unfortunately, he too had his eyes on the 50 slots! My Editor was not alone, his General Editor too was calling for an “expression of interest” – who no like beta thing?

Advertisement

As I penned this, the possibility of going to Kano was still open as Sheik Daurawa had not disclosed the date for the second mass wedding, which the Islamic scholar said was conceived “to promote moral values in the society and reduce immorality among young men and women.” We shall return to Kano presently.

When it comes to matters of the other room, it does not rain in northern Nigeria, it pours. Something bigger than the Kano mass wedding is about to happen in another state in Northern Nigeria. On May 24, in the Year of the Lord, 2024, dignitaries from all walks of life will be gathering in Mariga Local Government Area of Niger State as the Speaker of the Niger State House of Assembly, Abdulmalik Sarkin-Daji, will be marrying off 100 girls in a mass wedding. Now, wait for it! These 100 girls are not willing spinsters of marriageable ages. No!

They are children who became orphans because bandits struck their villages and killed their parents!

The children became orphans not by their choices but by the failure of the government to protect them and their parents from the killer machines known as bandits. And to ‘ameliorate’ their suffering, the “Rt. Hon. Speaker” Sarkin-Daji decided that the best way to do so is to marry them off.

Advertisement

These wives-to-be are the luckiest of the 170 females under the same circumstance.

And if you think that Mr. Niger State Speaker is alone in this shenanigan, you are damned wrong! The governor of the state, Mohammed Umar Bago, and the Emir of Kontagora, Alhaji Mohammed Barau, are to serve as guardians to the female orphans during the mass marriage ceremony! Neither the governor nor the Emir has denied this.

What about the ages of the 100-would-be wives? While the ‘father’ of the mass brides, Sarkin-Daji, did not disclose their ages, a source, who should know, volunteered that the oldest among the ‘intending brides’ should be around 16 years! “This is just the conservative age. I know that a girl of 13 to 14 years in that locality is already a multiple mother”, my source volunteered! The speaker, who had already listed the proposed mass wedding of the orphans as part of his “constituency empowerment project aimed at alleviating the suffering of the impoverished”, waxed more ‘generous’ by saying that he would be paying the dowries for the bridegrooms, in addition to procuring “all necessary materials for the mass marriage ceremony.” And of course, his soulmate in the generous act, Sheik Aminu Daurawa of the Kano State Hisbah Board would be on ground to witness the ‘grand’ ceremony.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Bobrisky And Our Other S/He Offsprings

Advertisement

The mass weddings in Niger and Kano States would be conducted without any recourse to the psychological make-ups of the would-be-brides. I don’t also know if the would-be-husbands would also be allowed to ‘inspect’, feel and touch the girls, the way a buyer feels goats on their tethers before buying them. Don’t worry; we have sunk deeper than this as a nation! Phew!

On this page last week, we discussed the issue of the age of admission to Nigerian universities by the Minister of Education, Professor Tahir Mamman, who proposed 18 years. His argument was that any child who goes to the university before the age of 18 is “too young.” The professor of Law further argued that those “too young” undergraduates “are not mature enough” to cope with the rigours of life in the tertiary institutions, and attributed most of the problems in our higher institutions to the ‘immature’ undergraduates. This is the irony of Nigeria. Professor Mamman is from the north. This is how a friend, Rev (Dr) Bola Adeyemi, responded to the referenced column last week: “In his part of the country, girls of 13 years of age ‘are mature’ for marriage; boys of under 18 years are mature enough for ‘almajarism’ and terrorism, but not for education.” I could not fault the Reverend gentleman. How on earth do we explain our situation to the sane nations of this world without sounding not all there? How do we justify the proposed mass wedding in Niger State without looking like people from the Stone Age to listeners from other countries?

Chapter Two of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (As Amended), deals with the “Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.” Section 14 (2) (b) of the same chapter states specifically thus: “the security and welfare of the people SHALL be the PRIMARY PURPOSE OF GOVERNMENT (emphasis mine)” This is exactly the responsibility the government has failed to discharge in Niger State, and in most states of the north, and the entire country in general. On a daily basis, we read, hear or witness, the killings of Nigerians in their homes, on their farms, on the highways and schools’ dormitories, by felons the state was expected to checkmate. About two days ago, bandits stormed a university in Kogi State and whisked away about 15 students.

Everywhere you turn in Nigeria, it is like the song of the iconoclast, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, “sorrow, tears and blood”. Yet we have various levels of government. We have people we voted to power to do the job for us. We have the National Security Adviser (NSA), whose only interest is to collect cybersecurity tax while bandits kill at the rate of 10 for two Kobo! We have Generals in all our Armed Forces; we have an Inspector General of Police and other top hierarchies who superintend the rank and file. Bandits struck in Niger State, as in other places. Parents were killed. Children were orphaned as a result of such crass irresponsibility on the part of the government. The only response we got is a proposed mass wedding for 100 orphans, whose parents were victims of a remiss government, to only God-knows-who suitors! Who are we as a people? What are the core values of our being as a nation?

Advertisement

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Odi, Zaki Biam And Okuama: Beyond Sentiments

The education of the girl-child has been a troublesome issue in Nigeria. A February 26, 2024, article on the issue, titled: “Gender desks on frontline of girls’ education in Nigeria”, and sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO’s International Institute for Education Planning, states: “In Nigeria, where 50% of girls are not attending school at the basic education level, major planning efforts are underway to promote gender equality in and through education.” The paper posits that between 2024 and 2027, the roadmap for the Education Sector “aims to bring 15 million out-of-school children back to school in the next four years.” Again, in an earlier piece by Ada Dike of Daily Times newspaper, published on October 15, 2023, on the topic; “Problems facing girl-child education in Nigeria”, the author said: “poverty, peer pressure, early marriage, unwanted pregnancy, being their family’s burden bearers and lack of parental care are parts of the challenges hindering girl child education in Nigeria”. All these identified factors are more prevalent in the north. The most vicious of them all is the issue of “early marriage”, the type Speaker Sarkin-Daji of Niger State and Sheik Daurawa of Kano Hisbah Board, are promoting with crass impunity.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), as of October 23, 2023, gave the figure of out-of-school-girls in Nigeria to be 7.6 million, with the caveat: “mostly from the northern region.” Of the 20.2 million figures of out-of-school children in the country, the international body said that over 60 percent of the total is from the North. The figure, as given by Christian Munduate, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, in Kano, during the International Day of the Girl Child 2023, which had the theme: “Our Time is Now – Our Rights, Our Future”, said: “Nigeria, alarmingly, accounts for 15% of out-of-school children worldwide. Yet, only a mere 9% of the poorest girls have the chance to attend secondary school. This is not just a statistic, it’s a wake-up call…” She added that Kano State ranked second in the number of out-of-school girls in Nigeria, with Kebbi State leading with 67.7 percent.

The elite of the north, nay all Nigerians, should be deeply worried that the data on literacy level published, recently, by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), showed that of the 10 uneducated states in Nigeria – Kebbi, Yobe, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, and Niger States, all make the list! Little wonder then the states in the north have a large number of girls to be married off at mass wedding ceremonies. That is our collective shame as a nation. This is why Nigeria keeps crawling, and drooling, 64 years after independence. No matter the pace the other regions of the country intend to take, our stunted brothers up north would keep slowing us down!

Advertisement

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Can I Tell Our First Lady That Graduates Drive Cabs Here, Too?

The girl-child is an endangered specie in the north. We all witnessed how a former two-term governor and senator of Zamfara State, Ahmad Sani Yerima, was changing neonates as wives the way a nursing mother changes diapers. We only watched and we did nothing! The man sat in the hallowed chamber of our highest law-making body to join in making laws “for the good governance of the country” while he wantonly destroyed our future with his incurable paedophilic propensity. The best we did was to hide under the blackmail of culture and religion. We never interrogated the mentality of a man above 60 years pulling his trousers at the sight of a 13-year-old girl! And we have millions of Yerimas all over the country, prowling and devouring our young girls. Nobody says a younger girl should not marry her grandfather if that is where she finds ‘love’. Our argument here is that it is morally wrong, mentally inconceivable and legally inappropriate for any man, no matter his age, status and political exposure, to snatch an underage girl in the name of marriage. Nigeria practises universal adult suffrage. That gives one the feeling that the age of consent cannot be lower than the voting age of 18 years.

Even, on a moral scale, picking an 18-year-old for marriage while her mates are still in school is eternally despicable. But our leaders do it with impunity! The deposed Emir of kano State and former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS), secretly wedded Sa’adatu Barkindo Mustapha, the daughter of Lamido Adamawa, in 2016, at the age of 18, before making the affair public in 2020, when Sa’adatu turned 22. The former Emir of Kano was 55 years old then! But that was not all with the deposed traditional ruler. In the same 2016, SLS was fingered in the abduction of Ese Oruru, a 14-year-old girl from her Yenagoa, Bayelsa State home, by one Yinusa, aka Yellow. The girl was taken to the Emir of Kano’s palace, where she was forced to ‘marry’ Yinusa. Attempts to retrieve the little Oruru from SLS’s palace were met with stiff resistance until Nigerians rose in an outcry. One of those who fought for Oruru’s release, Fineman Peters, said then: “This case defies sanity… This is the most blatant state-sponsored case of paedophile (sic) that I have ever seen…”

The barbaric case of paedophilia which Google defines as “sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual object. Specifically: a psychiatric disorder in which an adult has sexual fantasies about or engages in sexual acts with a prepubescent child”, is not a native of the north. It has mild and largely negligible expressions in virtually all states of the Federation. The difference between the north and other parts of the country is in its prevalence up north and the tendency to wear cultural and religious cloaks on such an act of depravity. From Delta to Edo, Osun to Ekiti; Akwa Ibom to Rivers and Abia to Enugu States, cases of cradle snatchers abound. We have senators whose pastime is seeking young girls to devour.

Advertisement

One of them from one of the Niger Delta States, an unrepentant paramour, who would not go for outright under-age girls, stocks his harem with girls that could easily pass for his granddaughters! We all condoned him and rewarded him with an election to a higher legislative chamber. The shame of it is on all of us! Now, the chicken is coming home to roost. On Sunday, May 12, 2024, we all read the account of the 28-year-old father of little Faith, a five-year-old girl, who posted on his Instagram page, the naked photos of the toddler. Faith’s father, who had since been arrested in his Auchi base, by the men of the Edo State Police Command, was said to have taken the poor little girl to a hotel, took off her clothes and took her naked photos which he uploaded on his Instagram handle! Thank God for the immediate response of the police on this matter.

When one begins to read cases like these, especially from our brothers up north, one cannot but feel sad. Ironically, the region we all pity is like the proverbial troubled soul on whose behalf we all fast and pray, but who keeps on having three full meals everyday (eni aa tori e gbawe to nje osan). How do we address this issue? That informed the banters at the beginning of this piece. The elders of my place say: oro to ba koja ekun, erin laa fi rin – when a matter goes beyond weeping, one can only laugh). And like we say in the Niger Delta region: make persin laugh before persin kpai! Let me ask my editor again: Any chance of going to Kano?

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Trending