WANTED: 9 YEAR OLD WIFE FOR A SENATOR
If the women groups agitating for the head of a senator who has the powers to chop off people's hands for stealing goats sail through, I would congratulate them a million times. In fact, even now, for just taking that step, I say cheers to them. I salute their courage so far. It would have been improper for all of us to fold our hands and listen to the Senate tell us that it is the private life of a certain person who may do better in a psychiatry than in a legislative house to ridicule humanity.
An insult on that 13-year-old who does not know her left from her right is insult on humanity. I can't see the justification in law, in religion or in customs and traditions. Bring the matter closer home and ask yourself how it would feel that a man in his 50s comes to your house to break the news to you that he wants your baby's hand in marriage. I call her a baby because she is not yet a woman. What would be your response? To start with, would you call the man a sane or insane person? Taken in another way, would this same man who says it is tradition find any kind of justification to accept to marry out his own 13-year-old budding girl?
Many questions indeed. And I thought again, in marriage, partners say funny things to each other in their privacy. One of them is to joke and tease and maybe tell your wife 'I love you' 'you are wonderful' etc. And some may deceive and say 'you are my angel'. For goodness sake is that what a man tells a 13-year-old in his right mind and senses? Would she understand it? Would you look normal to stay close to a minor of such age for coitus? I can't just situate this.
I will forever support the women agitating that the senator be called to question because these are some of the things that taint the image of the nation - that a federal lawmaker who is part of the endorsement and enactment of the law on child rights protection would be part of this uncanny drama. This is not about the law, and the senate should not give us the crap about somebody not offending any rules.
Please, go to the law books and show us where it is enshrined in any legal writ in US that a president of the country should not have a girlfriend. There is none. Yet Bill Clinton was nailed for his foray with Monica Lewinsky. So the issue now is not about breach of any law, it is about breach of the ethics of public office to live as a role model. If our lawmakers start marrying and exchanging minors as wives, what happened to the role model status? Who do we copy as good example?
If that matter had been trivialized before now, it should today receive a serious look after the demonstrating women revealed that the same actor in his bizarre marriage tragi-comedy two years ago took a 15-year-old, divorced her this year to go for a younger breed. The trend shows that if we all watch until he breaches a section of the constitution to be called to order, in the next two years, he would go for an eleven year old. After that we would place an advertorial scouting for a 9-year-old for his next act. This is more than just a harmless joke. It is serious bad business.
But on grounds of law, the senator has questions to answer.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on Child Rights and opened it for signature on November 20, 1989. It came into force on September 2, 1990. As at November last year 194 states had ratified it including Nigeria and Egypt. The only exceptions are US and Somalia. At ratification and domestication, parties apply their rights to reserve on some of the provisions according to their local nuances.
But the Convention generally defines a child as any human being under the age of 18. Based on this in Egypt and in Nigeria as parties to the law, the senator married a minor, a child, and a non-adult.
The charter provides that a child should not be treated as private possession or chattels (a personal property).
That implies there are certain things that should be done to the child consistent with the law and not personal discretions as to make one arrogate to himself the final authority to do as he cares.
The treaty requires that a child be 'protected from abuse or exploitation, to have his/her privacy protected and requires that a child's life would not be subject to excessive interference.' Marrying a child of 13 as wife is interference of the highest order and breach of this treaty and Act in Nigeria.
Even in the laws of Nigeria, a child like every human being is entitled to basic rights including that of education, and that child married at 13, would you say she accepted the marriage out of free will or by inducement and if divorced two years later, hasn't her future been ruined?
The act is despicable and we need be told why a senator involved in this absurdity should remain a lawmaker for us when he has not obeyed the basic laws already in existence including the UN Child Rights law and indeed our constitution that upholds the rights of the child to freewill.
We need to arrest situations like this to enforce sanity for the sake of our image, and the provisions of the law clarify that the child is not a chattel, therefore, the plea of acting within the confines of one's privacy in that marriage is not tenable and can never be. I urge the women to go to court and slug it out with the senator so that if he were found culpable he would leave that seat. He can't be making laws for us with such dent. If the Senate wants a good image, it should shove him aside until he clears his name.
A farewell to Edo, friend and colleague
So many years back, we walked the streets of Lagos Island moving from one court to the other in search of news. It was an itinerary between the High Courts at Igbosere, the Magistrate's Courts, the Court of Appeal and the Federal High Court in Ikoyi.
Together we reported the judiciary especially the Bamaiyi, Al-Mustapha trials and of course the Oputa Panel. There were days we had high hopes on what we intended to be.
I came to know the heavily built man called Edo Ugbagwu, a Kano boy from Benue State through this professional calling. It was rude shock last Sunday when one of us then, Achilleus Uchegbu, called to break the news to be that Edo had been assassinated. And that shock has not paled.
I still remember vividly a day we wailed and lamented the incessant killings in the north in whatever name. That was in Kaduna over Beauty Pageant slated for Abuja and Edo made a statement that: 'These people that kill in the name of religion will be shocked to get to heaven only for Allah to turn them back that he never created human beings for them to kill.'
He never knew he would be a victim of killers of whatever shade one day. Edo embodied life to the fullest and with his degree from BUK in Sociology, and in fact the first child of the family he blended erudition with the kind of caution age and responsibility confer on men.
Today, Edo is lowered in mother earth. His dreams go down with him. Edo, it is painful to say goodbye to you at this age and time. It is now all distant memories of how we used to argue over seniority as you and myself had one-year age difference.
I don't forget a statement you made to me in your Idoma language 'eche une, eche ugbagwu'. You related it to your surname, and your explanation of the meaning is that life is like the wave of the sea that comes and goes. Today, that wave, back and forth has washed you offshore. Good night Edo, Goodnight my friend and colleague as you depart for real today. The cowards will have no peace until the barrel of the assassin pays them back in their coin.