Nigeria is in very dire state right now. According to UNICEF, Nigeria has the 3rd highest absolute number of child brides in the world with 3, 538,000 and the 11th highest prevalence of child marriages globally. The World Population Review has estimated that Nigeria’s population is expected to double – from about 200 million today to 401.3 million people by 2050.
By implication, somehow Nigeria has succeeded in becoming one of the countries seen globally as children producing machine. The sad part is that the huge population is mostly unplanned and unplanned for. The other global statistics about Nigeria is equally damning, almost half of the population – 94 million live below poverty line, that is on less than a dollar per day. Nigeria is sadly the poverty capital of the world.
Successive Nigerian governments have woefully failed in adequately addressing the population growth problems. Only the administration of ex-military president, Ibrahim Babangida feebly tried to peg four children per family but obviously the regime lacked the political will to implement either incentives or punitive measures for anyone that flouted the order, It fizzled out.
Today, Nigeria has the third highest absolute number of child brides! This practice of marrying babies more than any other act is pushing the country to the edge of the precipice. One is that these babies are deliberately stunted emotionally, physically, economically, educationally, productively and sexually. These have very diverse and devastating consequences.
These child brides that are literarily plucked off their own mother’s breasts to take up wifely and motherhood duties has become a blight on the image and lives of the whole country. There is a reason even in pristine times, a girl had to get to a certain ‘marriageable’ age. For a country to move on as though everything is fine while babies are forced to have babies is the reason the country is down the ladder development-wise.
Child marriage stalls the education of the girl child and an uneducated girl child is an underpowered individual who starts to procreate under very difficult conditions, some of them die due to the forced sexual acts that often tear them up and lead to loss of blood. They often develop the dreaded Visco Vaginal Fistula (VVF) as a result of premature pregnancies and labour with undeveloped pelvis.
For those who survive the harrowing pregnancies and labour, it is often a hard life for both mother and children. The child-mothers are not economically empowered to earn a living, they are neither educated nor skilled in any trade because principally they are made sex objects and baby machines. How does a baby bring up another baby? Most of them have kids they do not even know what to nutritionally feed them with so most of their children are either suffering from chronic malnutrition or retarded.
The result of all these anomalies is that the society in a twenty first century that is ruled by ideas and education have the girl child that ought to be empowered from cradle to adulthood totally bereft of any tools to be productive. What Nigeria has ended up ignoring through the deafening silence over child bride that has made more than half the population mere consumers and lacking in any productive capacity.
There is the puerile defense that child marriage is rooted in culture and religion which is some of the fallacious ideas always thrown up by retrogressive forces in the society. These same people never try to remember that culture is not divinely handed down. Culture is dynamic and changes with time and circumstances and is man-made and can be revisited especially the harmful practices.
While child marriages happen almost everywhere in the country in different degrees, the Northern part of the country has the highest demographic of child brides given that the men there often marry up to four wives given they say their religion accepts such. One expects that the northern political elite especially the governors must begin a re-orientation of the psyche of the male and female population. The increase in poverty levels, the unplanned population explosion would only continue to increase the insecurity problems in the country. The legislators in the country must begin to think as a country and make laws to make it a crime to violate or marry a minor.
When the parents are compelled by the state to send their children to school, the girls would e in school and not in husbands houses. The country is alreqady on its knees with an army of unskilled, uneducated and disillusioned youths. To continue to ignore child marriages can only complicate Nigeria’s already expoding population without the requisite education and skills for a productive economy. Hiding under culture and religion to violate children sexually cannot add value to any one’s life rather it is a disaster foretold.
pixs courtesy Google.