Somewhere between Olajumoke and Ese… lies International Women’s day.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Image result for celebrating women
Photo Credits: www.thewhirlingblog.com



If Nigeria were human, she’d probably be  constantly diagnosed with high blood pressure. 

The amount of drama and excitement we witness is more than adequate material for a Hollywood-styled television series.


***

Earlier this year, we got our very own Nigerian, modern-day version of a Rags-to-Riches (slash) Cinderella tale, in a young oblivious bread hawker.

Olajumoke had packed her wares for sale on a fateful day, just like she did every other day.
Maybe with a little more gusto that day. Maybe less.

Or maybe with the exact same amount of effort she has expended in the “something” years she had been hawking bread.

Whatever the case is, that day turned out different. That day, she walked right through a photo-shoot, and walked into her future. She walked into a tomorrow she never saw coming; her dream she never knew she would have, or expected to be birthed.

Photo Credits: ThisDay Style
The rest…we all know it. 

Olajumoke is now a pseudo-professional model, has graced the CNN Network, and has even begun to be touted as a Motivational Speaker by her handlers.

“Motivational Speaker”… that there scares me. Why, you may ask?

It is not that Olajumoke cannot be a Motivational Speaker. 

It is that she is not a Motivational Speaker… yet.


Call it fate. Or happenstance. Luck, maybe? Or grace. 

Ascribe it to some deity… or the Universe. Her life changed overnight with no special effort on her part. That bit is true.

But her ability to sustain her good fortune (yes, call it that too) is one which lies in her hands. 

To make something out of all this pomp and spotlight, before the country the world moves on to the “next new invention”.

To taste fame, understand it, flirt unabashedly with it, dance with it, be enmeshed in its fire, face threats to be drowned in it…yet, emerge like a phoenix from it, and still be someone others in the society can look up to.

To own wealth, use it, enjoy it, make it work for her, control it, but not let it control her.

To balance out the glitter, the camera-lights, the overnight-success-syndrome with her role as an already-made mother, wife and care-giver; with the same dexterity with which she balanced her daily bread in a tray, and on her head.

To establish that she did not fall into the category of “almost was… but”, or “may have been… but”. Instead, she persevered and remains “she became and IS…” for a long, long time to come.

Not this story of sudden success… which is also the bane of the ambition of most young people today; that they would rather achieve the sudden success, than work their way to the top (or somewhere close to it).

Not that story.

But the story of who she became, and how she molded her fate/luck/favour/happenstance/good fortune into a sustainable venture, making her a force society can never but reckon with.

It is only then that she can truly have her “motivational” content to sell to the world. It is only then that reference to her as a “Motivational Speaker” would not scare me.

That is the story I look forward to telling my children, and making them memorise. Word for Word.

***

Ese.

There was this drama too.

While there were eventual sighs of reliefs, sadly, this drama was not as light-hearted as Olajumoke’s.

A young girl – barely thirteen years old – disappears from home. After several months, she surfaces as ‘married’ in a different part of the country.

Most people claim Ese Oruru was abducted. 

Some have almost romanticized Ese and her alleged abductor – Yinusa Dahiru – as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, arguing that she ‘eloped’ with him. (After all, Juliet Capulet was 13 at the time she fell in love with Romeo, the same age Ese was when she disappeared).

One could almost see reason with the ‘elopment’ story.

(Be patient. There is a reason elopement is in parenthesis) 

So I ask: Which young girl did not have a crush at 13/14??

Image result for ese oruru
Photo Credits: www.thisdaylive.com
Whether it was your pre-puberty boy classmates, who blushed when noticing the growing mounds on your chest. Or those handsome scrawny older cousins who would come visiting once in a while, and you would build a child’s fantasy around them, sighing and hoping your prince charming would be as handsome and scrawny as they were.


Thus, the Ese-Yinusa saga could almost be likened to the Romeo-and-Juliet styled romance. 
Two star-crossed lovers, bent on being with each other and damning the consequences to achieve their desire.

Except that Romeo-and-Juliet is fairy-tale fiction, mainly used by scholars now as in Literature classes.

Ese is a real person, living a real life.

In real life, a person of 13/14 years is not mentally capable of ‘eloping’. If we all stuck with the things we desired at 13 or 14 years, married our ‘crushes’ from when we were 13 or 14 years, we would all be a miserable bunch of beings.

Which is why removing a child of 13 years from her parents without their consent can never (in any sane society) be excused under the guise of ‘elopment’. It is simply abduction.

In real life, a person of 13 years old is incapable of making true, long-term, life-long decisions, such as marriage. Which is why the Nigerian Marriage Act (applicable in Southern Nigeria), requires the consent of parents to a minor to marry the minor.

The Child Rights Act also clearly forbids and pronounces as crimes marriage to a child, the removal of a child from the care of her/his parents/guardians without their consent, and sexual intercourse with a child. Sadly, this Act has not been implemented in all states of Nigeria, such as Ese’s State of Origin ( Bayelsa State), and cannot be enforced there.

Thankfully, the Criminal Code Act and the Trafficking in Persons Act both provide some protection for minors from abduction, illicit sexual intercourse and unlawful carnal knowledge. It is pursuant to these provisions that Yinusa Dahiru has been brought to book and arraigned.

The world is watching...

Meanwhile, I refuse to absolve Ese’s parents of the part they played – or failed to play – in the saga. (Remember 'Nicey Neighbour's' husband in "Changing the Nigerian Narrative on Sexual Abuse et al" 1 and 2??)

Who do we expose our children to? What are they doing? Who are we carelessly allowing them to be ‘friends’ with? What are they about?? Who is your 13 year old crushing on, and why do you not know???

In an interview with Daily Sun, while recounting how she met her alleged abductor, Ese says “…We sell food in Bayelsa. He is not the only one: they are many, and I used to play with all of them like my brothers…”. She subsequently advises young girls to be careful who they talk to or play with.

As parents, as a larger community, we all must play our part in protecting our children from abuse and exploitation. We should be their eyes, and see what they cannot see.

Yes, our children may help us out in our daily chores, especially if the inflow of income is low. 

No, we should not exploit them and expose them to association with just any persons. While our minds can distill between good and evil, sensible and insensible, the minds of our children cannot do same.

If we fail to play our roles, to protect the little ones we are meant to protect, we have failed our own selves. We have failed society. We have failed our children.

***

International Women’s day was earlier this week.

Despite all the drama we face as a country – good or bad, gender or non-gender based – it is a sweet, sweet thing that as Nigerians, we also took out time to join countries of the world in celebrating women.

Celebrating women, woman-hood, feminity is something we must continue to do everyday, inspite of the peculiar challenges we women face in the Nigerian society.

Inspite of the kidnapping and the continued hostage of the young Chibok school-girls by Boko-Haram.

Inspite of the poor representation of women in the Cabinet of the present Government, and in the National Assembly.

Inspite of the discrimination faced by women from members of the opposite sex and same sex alike; the unwholesome practices women are still being subjected to.

Inspite of the fact that as a woman, you may find yourself working the extra-mile, sometimes thrice as hard, to ‘prove’ you can hold your own in your chosen career, where your male colleagues hardly need to prove any such thing. It is (naturally) presumed for them.

Inspite of the fact that males are commended and clapped on the back for being ‘in-charge’ when they stand their ground; but the female is labeled from “bossy” to “bitchy” for speaking up and letting her voice be heard.

Inspite of the subconscious misogynic and condescending wave-of-hand treatment with which the woman is often regarded in our highly patriarchical society…

I could rant on about the many “Inspites” females suffer in the Nigerian/African context. Under the guise of Religious, Cultural, and Societal ‘norms’.

But I’d rather join in rejoicing with women all over the world, hug myself, give myself a pat on the back, and wish me Happy Women’s Day.


And count the many, many victories as women, that we score and continue to score…

Ese is back home.

Olajumoke is no more a bread hawker.

Hilary shall be President.

I too shall be.


Paz,

Meg.


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