IGP Solomon Arase

…the most significant thing for this our deeply traumatised nation in all this drama is how this whole episode will deepen the mutual suspicion between the Hausa community all over Nigeria and their hosts. I can easily see the host community in Yenagoa protesting and attacking the Hausa community with the inevitable retaliation in Kano! Our leaders need to lead and speak out now!

Sunday, February 28 was an epochal day for me as I lost all remnants of hope in the institutions of these meaningless contraption of amalgamated states called Nigeria. It was the day I read the most ridiculous news article in one of the most widely circulated newspapers in Nigeria, The Punch. The story was so ludicrous I had to ask my companion if I was reading correctly or had lost my mind.

It goes as follows. A certain Yinusa (aka Yellow), a keke NAPEP driver in Opolo, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State decided to get married. There is nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, it’s every young man’s dream and duty to marry and start a family. However, that’s where everything went downhill.

This psychotic young man then went to the head of his Hausa community (Dan Kano) and asked to marry a 13 year old from Bayelsa. He had no discussions with the family of the child, nor did he ever plan on getting their approval. After discussing with the community leader, he went to the girl’s mother’s shop and abducted her. This part is in dispute because we are not sure if she left willingly with Yinusa or even if she thought they were going somewhere else. Yinusa bundled her into a truck/trailer or whatever and took her to Kano where he converted her to Islam and then married her. Her parents have since that time, August 2015 precisely, being trying to get her back from this maniacal psychopath. They have engaged the Bayelsa Police command for assistance and they have gone to Kano to enlist the help of the Kano State police command. They have been to the Emir of Kano’s palace, as well as to other relevant authorities in Kano. In fact on one occasion while they were trying to gain audience with the Emir, some angry Kano youth forced them out of the palace and might have actually lynched them. So the 14 years old child has been married illegally for more than six months now, and might be pregnant. We are not sure about this though.

Am I dreaming or are we such a morally bankrupt country that the IG of Police who is a lawyer does not know how stupid he sounds? Is the Emir of Kano, who I really no longer hold in high esteem, an uncivilised barbarian? Are Nigerians monkeys from the dark ages whose legal rights can be completely ignored by any Tom, Arase or Sanusi?

This story is crazy! In what country could this chain of events have occurred without a SWAT unit descending on the abductors location and extracting the child? Obviously not in Nigeria! In fact, the Inspector General of Police gave an interview on Sunday where he said the only reason why the child had not been released was because the Emir of Kano had gone on a trip to Saudi Arabia with the president of Nigeria. Obviously there are no phones in Saudi Arabia and the Emir of Kano has some legal right to hold a child in his palace against the parents will!

Am I dreaming or are we such a morally bankrupt country that the IG of Police who is a lawyer does not know how stupid he sounds? Is the Emir of Kano, who I really no longer hold in high esteem, an uncivilised barbarian? Are Nigerians monkeys from the dark ages whose legal rights can be completely ignored by any Tom, Arase or Sanusi?

Does the Emir of Kano or the Ooni of Ife or any of his citizens have the right to abduct a Nigerian citizen from Calabar, Zaria or Enugu and hold him or her in his palace? Can I drive to Kaduna, pick up a nubile 15 year old Fulani woman, dazzle her with my impeccable English and my thick wallet and bring her to Lagos where, I would convert her to Christianity and then marry her at 15 and have multiple Christian babies? In what world is that even remotely acceptable? How does the Emir who is a former FirstBank CEO, a former Central Bank of Nigeria governor and who sits on the board of Black Rhino, a fund created by Blackstone Group, one of the largest private equity and alternative investment company in the world, and who occupies the second highest traditional post in the North of Nigeria, keep quiet about this? How does the Inspector General of Police, who is the head of the Nigerian law enforcement agency, allow an underage child to be held in another state more than 800 kilometres away from her parents without their consent?

In fact, what is the difference between what this Yinusa has done and what Boko Haram militants did to the Chibok girls?…Yinusa took Ese from her mum’s shop in Yenegoa, moved her to Kano, converted her to Islam and married her.

In fact, what is the difference between what this Yinusa has done and what Boko Haram militants did to the Chibok girls? Boko Haram took the Chibok girls (who were mainly Christians) from their school, converted them to Islam and married them off to smelly homicidal terrorists in Sambisa forest. Yinusa took Ese from her mum’s shop in Yenegoa, moved her to Kano, converted her to Islam and married her.

However, the most significant thing for this our deeply traumatised nation in all this drama is how this whole episode will deepen the mutual suspicion between the Hausa community all over Nigeria and their hosts. I can easily see the host community in Yenagoa protesting and attacking the Hausa community with the inevitable retaliation in Kano! Our leaders need to lead and speak out now!

Femi Akinfolarin, a lawyer, writes from Lagos.