The Flipside - Eric Osagie

Ese’s sad, sad story!

BEFORE her story became headline news, she was just another young Nigerian girl, living her quiet life with her parents in rural Opolo, Bayelsa State, where she served her food vendor mother as a shop assistant.
Those who patronised her mother’s shop were themselves low income earners, who did mostly menial jobs, including commercial bike rid­ers, water vendors, bricklayers and the sort. She served them diligently as expected.
Of course, like girls her age, Eseoghene, Ese for short, meaning ‘God’s gift’ in her native Urhobo dialect, certainly had dreams for the future: A good education, decent job after graduation from the university, mandatory service after school, a husband and family of her own later in life.
Even though her name means ‘God’s gift,’ it’s most unlikely she would consider a five-month pregnancy allegedly by a man, who eloped with her at 14 as a gift.
Would she achieve her dreams for the future? That now remains in the inscrutable hands of fate, destiny and in the realm of conjectures. In her present confused and distraught state, she is un­likely to dream big dreams of anything. Even as a kid (of 14), she surely would know this is no kidding matter!
Ese, as the story goes, had been abducted, or for the benefit of those who do not like big words, forcefully taken away, from her parents’ home in faraway Bayelsa to Kano, by one of those she served at her mother’s shop, called Yinusa, alias Yellow, a tricycle rider and water vendor, since August 2015. Yellow took her away to his par­ents, also according to the narrative, with intent to marry her. Ese became Aisha, after being con­verted to Islam (forcefully, according to Ese’s parents, willingly if we believe Yinusa and his family members). What is clear is that she was not successfully married off. Those contracted to conduct the marriage buckled, because she didn’t have parental or guardian’s consent.
Did she then return home on her own after she couldn’t be wedded? Not so. She continued to live with the Yinusa family, as a ‘wife,’ engaged in domestic chores, learning and speaking the Hausa language and being a member of Yinusa’s household.
Whilst all these were going on, Ese’s family had been shuttling to and fro Kano, seeking the return of their daughter, to no avail. For eight or so long months, they were tossed from one au­thority to another; from the Hisbah to the Emir­ate Council; from the Police Commissioner to the AIG and the DPO’s office. It took the strident cries of the media, which made it a global issue, before her release was effected. And expectedly, things had gone far wrong. There has also been blame trading and buck passing over what is ob­viously a sad, tragic, horrible and messy affair.
The first thing that went awry is that Ese, a girl of 14, had been sexually violated and put in the family way, presumably by a ghost? Yinusa’ s fa­ther claims his son was kept far away from his girl in the months the farcical drama ensued. So, if Yinusa didn’t do it, we can assume some ghosts did. So, what should she do with the pregnancy: Keep it or terminate it? No easy option.
Since every known religion frowns at killing, many are likely to kick against the abortion of an almost formed foetus.
But, the dilemma is, if she adopts option two, the young lady would live with the additional burden of giving birth to a kid of questionable paternity, except Yinusa will be man enough to admit to his act of indiscretion. Even if he did, things can never be the same for the young lady, who will now be an emergency single mother with an aborted education. For the young lover boy, this would also be a silly adventure taken too far.
There’s also the raging issue of whether the young lady was abducted or not? If she converted from Christianity to Islamic religion on her own volition or not? If what happened should be viewed as a love story between two wayward kids or treated as abduction and attempted forced marriage, which has in recent times assumed a notorious dimension in the country, with two oth­er families lamenting the abduction and forced marriages of their underage daughters. As at the time of this piece, a 15 year-old girl had been re­portedly rescued in Sokoto, while another girl is still in the firm grasps of her abductors in Zaria.
Honestly, I find it extremely difficult to com­prehend the hullabaloo over what ordinarily ap­pears quite clear. I can’t understand the attempt to twist facts as they appear or politicise an issue that offends morality and decency.
The truth, from what we have read and heard, is that Ese couldn’t have gone on her own vo­lition to Kano. What kind of love would make a kid of 14 abandon her family and parents and abscond with a man for marriage? What kind of love would make her denounce her family and refuse to go home with her mother? As she stated in her interview with Daily Sun, she didn’t know how she got to Kano and why she followed Yinu­sa? We must as a people learn to speak the truth and call a spade by its name. Fortunately, not many people are sold on the idea that she went on her own volition with Yinusa, the man now called Romeo. We must also thank the elders and those who refused to conduct the sham marriage proposed by Yinusa!
Those trying to bend the story and colour it as a Romeo and Juliet story make the saga even worse. Ese’s family and the Yinusa family haven’t been at any kind of battle, hidden or open, before the incident. Secondly, they are not opposing Yinu­sa’s amorous relationship with their daughter because he’s not from Dangote lineage (as the fa­ther claimed in one of the newspaper interviews). The simple issue is that, the girl is a minor and should never have been lured away from home under any guise, and later brought back five-months pregnant! That offends our communal sense of decency and decorum. That is the issue, not whether Yinusa is Muslim or Christian, from a wealthy or poor home, from the North or South, Hausa or Urhobo. This should have nothing to do with religion or ethnicity. What the young man did was clearly irresponsible. He should be made to face the consequences of his action. Yinusa, alias Yellow, should truly see yellow as a deter­rent to other Yellows.
Am I being hard? I don’t think so. This is about the violation of the rights of a child. And I am happy that eminent Nigerians like Professor Wole Soyinka and Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, have described it for what it is: An abuse and violation of Child Rights, not a religious or ethnic issue. They have also called for a concerted action to halt the criminal perversion of underage females by demented men, running everywhere with their WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). The ram­pant cases of rape, sexual molestation, paedophil­ic conduct and other kinds of deranged conducts call for urgent attention by all, in the interest of all.
The laws of our country, which supersedes any other, are very clear: No child under the age of 18 should be married out. What this presupposes is that no minor should be contracted out for mar­riage without the express permission of her par­ents. Even with the permission of her parents or guardian, it still tantamounts to a criminal offence to give out a minor as bride. That is the position of the law as at today. Any violation is a breach.
The Yinusa-Ese issue is the shame of a nation that has neglected its duty to its teenage popula­tion by allowing it free reign in the boulevard of irresponsibility. A nation that tolerates preying on hapless girl-child, paedophilia and other forms of indecent liaison mortgages its future, even if it fails to admit it.

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