You see, Nigerians are beautiful people, cerebral, diligent, resilient and happy people. The exciting aura of a Nigerian anywhere in the world is infectious. Forget the lure to go to other countries, they go but like the proverbial newly bought chick that stands on one leg, they still know where home is, they still crave the enchanting ‘chaos’, the delicacies, the resort to pidgin especially when they want to exclude others from a banter or a conversation. They still seek out the ‘African’ shops not to buy or sell artifacts but to buy those food items and spices they are used to, they grew up with and to temporarily ‘feel at home’.😂😂
But at home, it might be a different story, we are either Christians or Muslims, Igbos, Hausas, Efiks, Yorubas or Binis, itshekiris, etc. Thanks to the politicians, it pays that those differences help during (s)elections. But make no mistake about it, ordinarily, these ethnicities come with all the beauty and varieties they each have been blessed with. Each ought to be a colour stripe in our rainbow, but the human propensity to access and wield power often throws in a spanner in the wheel.😢😢
So today like never before, I will write about a cultural practice in Igboland that I have seen but have never understood. This might be happening in other ethnic societies but I talk from the perspective of one closer to me, the one I have observed and shudder at the larger implications.
There is more preparations for the after-life than there is for a good life before death. A man is expected to grow up and be successful (forget that often there are no laid out plans to assist him succeed), he is expected to get married, he is expected to have children, it does not matter whether there are medical conditions that can make that virtually prolonged or totally impossible. The man is expected to build a house, not so much as where he would live comfortably as that of a place that his funeral would be held 😡. Then he dies and the family is coerced by relations to almost break the bank for “befitting” funeral obsequies, sometimes family lands are sold, they go borrowing or begging for funds…to bury one who possibly died in penury.🤷♀️🤷♀️😢😢
More often than not, the inability to achieve all these milestones drives the men into depression or other social problems. So, the question is often, “Mr./Miss A …when are you getting married”? one can count on the fingers those that ask whether they can give you a scholarship to study or assist you acquire a skill for life.
There is too much pressure on individuals to marry and to bear children and a demand for children who are already given roles…to ‘bear’ your name and inherit either your wealth or poverty when you die!
Some families go ahead to arrange and sponsor marriages for men who are neither economically nor emotionally ready for marriage. Too often, there are no plans to raise or assist the individual raise the kids that come from such marriages. Then socially unbalanced kids are left to the vagaries of life.
Make no mistake about this, there is nothing wrong with marriages or expectations of procreation, No, they are all in order. However, with the recent news coming from Anambra about a minor being given out in marriage to a mentally challenged Izuchukwu, it is apposite to unbundle the hypocrisies surrounding the introductory rights.
Many ‘Outrage Mongers’ (apologies to Chimamanda) have surreptitiously employed various innuendoes that suggest that those who have discussed the impropriety of the introductory rites of a minor (in 2019!), a girl who has a tale of anguish and negligence that have made her life hell on earth are mere busy-bodies and are out to mock the challenges an Izuchukwu was born with the issue. NO. You are either being unconscionably sentimental and willing to rob the girl of her childhood as a way of validating your actions or there is mischief or both.
It is the mental fixation that marriage validates an individual that makes the society to mock unmarried or widowed individuals. To deny them certain socio-economic and political rights, it is why so many people are stuck in abusive marriages. It is reason there is over population without requisite productive capacity with the attendant social crimes that fuel insecurity and poverty. But I digress.
There are those saying that Izuchukwu’s published pictures is a mockery of his condition. How? Is he not entitled to the social nuances like taking pictures or dressing the way he wants? Why do we reduce everything to sentimental and emotional blackmail? He is human and must be treated as a human who can take pictures and have his pictures taken too. That is more normal than deleting his face or treating him like he should never be seen – a fate suffered by most physically and mentally challenged in our society to our collective shame.
I want readers to look closely at the picture of an Izuchukwu carrying his future bride. There is an adult lapping the couple whose hand we can see holding his back. That pictorial evidence says a million words. It is very telling of his emotional state as he undertakes to start an institution that requires good emotional status so that he can manage his marriage as an adult male who being ready for marriage made his own choice.
However, my point in this issue is not the propriety or lack of same of his getting married but the fact that getting him a wife seem to have taken precedence over getting him to live a happy, fulfilling life. How would trusting a minor as a wife on him improve his living standard? Could more effort not have helped him at least acquire a skill and live a happy life? Why should his having an heir take precedence over his total wellbeing?
Some of the outrage mongers seem to question whether all those opposed to the marriage want him to die without an heir? Really? There is nothing wrong in his getting married to his choice of an adult wife who would love him. People have a problem with the fact that the would-have-been-bride is a minor whose odyssey in her short life would melt any heart. A Chinwe and others in her situation must be nurtured to be girls, allowed to develop into womanhood and allowed to make life choices including who, where and when to marry. No, her innocence and sad life tragectory must not be exploited further because she has no voice! No!
In a functional society, the girl’s parents and all those involved in the arrangement would be prosecuted for crass negligence and abuse of a minor. According to Prince Harrison Emefiele who was part of the team that went to rescue her, she had gone from being a home help in Onitsha to a woman who maltreated her to getting home to parents who felt she was a burden and starved and psychologically abused her. She got raped, became pregnant and was betrothed to an old man to marry as second wife ( note, not Izuchukwu). So invariably, the girl has been handed from one man to the other because she seemingly has no protection.
Her maltreatment continued and when the parents felt they were not getting enough funds from the man, decided to marry her off to anyone who as much as indicates interest. According to him, the girl was ready to just leave her house as it was no home. She was tortured daily because she is a teenage mother.
Again, no one wants to know how she got pregnant, how she had a baby, why she was not in school, but in her socio-cultural environment, she must be a wife, after all she is a teenage mother! She is not allowed to be a child but she qualifies as a wife because of some puerile reference to a culture that puts more value on the dead than the living! The world must be laughing at the tomfoolery that is this story coming from Anambra state and it is not the only such story.
It goes on to validate the perception that the girl child in Nigeria still has some huddles to cross. It shows the world that the important thing to the family of a challenged child is to get him married so he can get children to inherit his name? Why not give an Izu a good life first and let the future sort itself out?
All the defenders of the arranged marriage have not spoken about the condition of the minor, no questions were asked about why a teenager is not in school, the belief is that because she is a teenage mother, she is ‘tainted’ enough to just be married off and be a wife. None of the people defending the process cares to know how she got pregnant, how she is feeding her baby. She is by her delivery of a baby, a social outcast…condemned to be married off, to be maltreated and looked at as failure. No one questions or will question the rapist behind the condition she now finds herself, which is threatening to ruin her future and future of that baby (God forbid it).
A Chinwe is a metaphor, there are thousands who suffer from cradle to grave just because they are girls. No one holds the irresponsible parents to account, no one holds all the people involved in this to account, the government does not have a correct census of citizens. Victims of rape suffer more indignities for no fault of theirs. Many girls die procuring illegal abortions or deliver and either abandon or kill their babies so as not to be tied down or stigmatized. But the society shrugs and move on in total hypocrisy and clutching unto some weird culture and religion….all after all scripted by humans!
There are even defenses from some quarters that the practice is as old as the Igbo nation, the question is, is culture not dynamic? Wasn’t it also the Igbo practice that twins were seen as taboo thus killed or thrown away into the “evil forest”? Were Kings not buried with their slaves, and in some cases their wives? There was a time no one wore clothes, why are those practices not retained? It is so convenient to sound so culturally correct and play the Ostrich when the victim is a supposed stranger that is voiceless. But when we strive to sound culrurally correct, in justification of an evil such as this, we end up exposing the intensity of our ignorance and the depth of our lack of desire to know or grow, thereof.
Prince Harrison Emefiele and Efficient Grace Ume must get kudos for acting fast to give this girl a new short at life. The Anambra State Police and the Social Welfare department and the President of the Police Officers Wives Association must be commended for acting with the urgency needed to rescue the minor from the clutches of those who ought to nurture and protect her. One hopes she will live her life in peace and if she so desires in future marry whoever she wants including the Izuchukwu if she truly loves him.
All those throwing tantrums and behaving as though they are the oracles of Igboland must realize that culture is dynamic and they must have their own daughters in school and make efforts to protect them from rampaging pedophiles.
By the way, methinks the parents of the girl and the man who raped her must be held to account while governments in Nigeria must begin to address the population explosion and people seeing procreation as achievements without the requisite attempt to care for the children thereof.
The Anambra state government and other state governments must establish more effectual social welfare and vocational centers where the likes of Izuchukwu can be sent to maximize their innate potentials because each living being physically or mentally challenged or not can be managed to an optimal productivity.
Let families realize that living and living well and getting love and care is more important than celebrating the dead and what is left behind. Popular men in history leave their names on the sands of time through personal achievements and not some mundane illusion of heirs keeping their names against all odds.
The Police the Social Welfare departments across the country must be more proactive than reactive. A Chinwe must be deliberately purged of the trauma of the girl child. An Izuchukwu must be left to live a fulfilling life whether married or single. He must not be a pun on anyone or group’s chessboard. Let the cultural dubiety, hypocrisy and religiosity without piety stop!🙏🏼🙏🏼
This is a random rant…but requiring serious introspection in a culturally and religiously obstinate environment.🙏🏼🙏🏼