Ese Narrative, A Laxative For Ethno-religious Evacuation
The “abduction”, “eloping” or “kidnapping” of Ese Oruru from Delta State, resident in Bayelsa has won an “Oscar” in sudden stardom and subsequent diatribes based on evasive, subjective, defensive and ruthless attacks along ethno-religious persuasions. Many people in their haste to evacuate their religious venom have become oblivious of the fact that Ese's case represents one of many injustices done to Nigerian children regardless of ethnicity and religion. They also forget that beyond the abduction fiasco, Nigeria must move on as a nation.
Her case might be one of “consenting” underage taken advantage of, but cannot be tagged as recklessness of teenagers, but must be seen from the perspective of a prospective future gloom for the 14 year old expectant mother, due to birth a child in the next four months. All the narratives will not reverse the harm on the underage, all the narratives will not whittle on the energy of pain ebbing through the tired veins of her parents. First, they had to survive through the twist and turns of her abduction, secondly they will have to bear with the pregnancy which might define her life probably for worse.
The case of alleged abduction of Ese has serially revealed how diverse, intolerant and mostly how stupid many Nigerians reason when issues of ethnicity and religion rears its ugly head on a matter. Christian or Muslim, adopting and converting an underage girl or boy to a new religion will certainly draw flaks. But the dosage of hate speech, distasteful analysis and reckless innuendos suggests some Nigerians are indeed “murderously” polarized on ethno-religious matters, primitively inclined to be held in ancient territorial conquest and pathologically without emotional discretion to place empathy before sentiments.
Also last year, another girl, Patience Paul allegedly left her family in Sokoto and allegedly Islamized and kept in the “emirs place”. Later the narrative changed, as she was rumored to have willingly asked that she be adopted by an Islamic cleric. At the age of 15, the law requires that she needs her parents to decide for her, hence the noble thing to do was to have alerted her parents or possibly send her back home until she can decide for herself. Are we witnessing a growing trend? Certainly, to craft this development around religious underpinning will be begging for a bucket-list of doom wish.
Nigeria may not be seeing abductions for marriage in its first instance from the Ese unfolding story. History of couples eloping for marriages long before the intrusion of the colonialists was a common practice in the country. In the past, eloping couples consent, decide on how to go about it then execute their plan. In some places in the middle belt area, women were taken on market days. While all that was tradition within a cultural and mostly same religious understanding, the case of Yunusa Dahiru also known as “Yellow” and Ese is different.
Calculation crafted against the religious backlash, some writers took to social media provoking more hate speech and probably trying to mischievously heat the system by engaging in “social media religious rascality”. The Muslim divide of the onslaught insisted the girl is not underage, maintaining that whoever is angry she is converted to Islam should 'go and die'. Meanwhile, the Christians were quick to insist that Islam encourages “rape” of children – as names of prominent emirs were dropped and some out rightly called pedophiles.
Many Nigerians quickly forgot the girl in question is a minor (14 years), many forgot she has lost her right to innocence, her virginity and probably her future – measured along academic choice and prospect. The usual narrative of people demonizing each others religion, claims and counter claims over what is right have indeed made the issue another theatre for dissecting issues agitating the minds of religious extremists and politically aggrieved members of the opposition.
At the height of the religious tirade on the abduction issue, those in defense of Islam insisted that Rev King committed heinous crime against humanity when he burnt five church members, killing one and inflicting serious injury on the remaining four, but Muslims never held the dastardly act against Christians or pastors. In sharp and rather puerile response, some Christians insisted that Rev King wouldn't have been convicted but for President Muhammadu Buhari's insistence. In their religious induced madness, those insisting Buhari is instrumental to the death sentence on Rev King have forgotten that only continuous appeal has kept him away from the hangman's noose years before Buhari won election in 2015
Interestingly the hate speech, religious provocative innuendos and libelous utterances impugning divides of commentators and prominent personalities suddenly turned political, heralding a predictable twist to which ethno-religious divide is in power and which one has been booted out. Suddenly those working for some paymasters quickly changed the theme. The argument continues to go back and forth, now some people are trying to sell concocted claims that Buhari wants to Islamize Nigeria, alleging that abduction's like that of Ese was part of the entire plot.
Minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun was pictured wearing a veil recently in Saudi Arabia. The media was immediately agog with speculations that President Buhari is surely on the path towards Islamizing Nigeria. Scammers peddling these poisonous allegations insist Adeosun was “forced” to wear the hijab. The rest of the battle continued with pictures of world leaders visiting with scarfs or hijabs, all in twisted effort to defend or assert on religious based claims.
For those claiming the minister was “forced” to put on a hijab, isn't she as a Christian, isn't she aware of the fact that wearing a native dress she wore on that day demands she cover her hair? Is headgear forbidden in Christianity? Nuns cover their hair as part of their dress code, even the queen of England. Women in the bible dressed more like today Muslims. The question begging for answer is where is the rule, where is the ruse for all the “forbidden” claims against Christian women covering their hair?
Until Nigerians especially the South-East and “Core” North religious pontifications are dumped for common national interests, Nigeria will continue to be enslaved to religion and all its attendant challenges. If the truth must be told, a section of the North never liked the idea of Jonathan succeeding Late Umar Yar'Adua. It was therefore not difficult for people under this categorization to reject him. From 2011, the focus was 2015, when they hoped to kick him out. He couldn't do anything good in the thinking of some sections of the country. It was indeed in a bid to carry people along, he allowed waste, impunity to drown Nigeria. This isn't however meant to defend leadership deficit which was indeed the Achilles Heels of his administration.
For the Christians of the South-eastern part of Nigeria, Buhari is a terrorist, a religious bigot that shouldn't be allowed to rule Nigeria. The pattern of votes in the 2015 presidential polls showed clearly the religious undertone. Immediately a movement called Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was activated in full swing. The motive is to actualize a Republic of Biafra. The latent reason beside the financial gain for those leading the ragtag agitation is in defiance to the Buhari (Muslim) President.
Religion, ethnicity is indeed the bane of Nigeria. Ese's case is just a molecular drop of ocean of inbuilt hate, searing dread and insidious decay of love and oblique propagation of unquenchable thirst for blood along ethno-religious divide. We must indeed pray for the souls lost to religious bigotry as a we paddle towards achieving a Nigeria devoid of all cleavages.
Written by, Israel A. Ebije.