“Daddy there is something else which bothers me. I’m in love with one charming young lady from this place (Southern Nigeria).”- YAShuaib December, 1992
The above quote were the exact words in my harmless and innocent “Open Letter to My Parentsin the North” during my youth service. The letter which was published in some national dailies was one of my articles published during the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) between 1992-1993 in Asaba Delta State.
Surprisingly, some contents of the Open Letter, generated controversies which prompted a rejoinder from the management of NYSCand a summon from Communication Adviser to Governor Felix Ibru, Chief Paulinus Akpeki for clarifications.
Meanwhile, the intervention of Asagba of Asaba, the traditional ruler of my host community, Professor Chike Edozie was the soothing balm that boosted my confidence to serve in Igboland in the Niger Delta. While the government officials and the traditional institutions ensured the safety of youth corps members, especially those from other parts of the country, I nevertheless sustained constructive engagements with the host community through my writings.
Faiths, tribe and culture were never barriers in the relationship between non-indigenes and members of the communities as inter-tribal marriages were prominent features of Delta people. During Islamic festivities, the traditional ruler organised special feasts for Muslims in his palace. On such occasions, Muslim youth corpers, mostly from Northern Nigeria were treated to bumptious meals and non-alcoholic exotic wine.
The generous hospitality of the people, encouraged some corpers to stay behind after the service year. I accepted an offered of automatic employment in the Government House, Asaba as Public Relations Officer after the service. The government of this predominant Christian state in its magnanimity also sponsored my Holy Pilgrimage to Mecca for Islamic obligations.
I was sincere with my reference to ‘young charming ladies’ in the Open Letter because of what I witnessed with my naked eyes. I must confess that before the end of the youth service, some of my colleagues, especially from the North had picked some of those damsels legally or otherwise as their partners which in some cases resulted to marriages.
While I could not confirm if all the female partners were over-age or under-age, since only parents can determine that, most of the ladies looked very mature, intelligent and responsible in every sense. At that period Non-indigenes and corps members were not treated with suspicions but dignified and respected by parents of those ladies who welcomed them to their abodes with open heart.
It is therefore, unfortunate the current unnecessary bickering over the allegations of abduction or elopement, as the case may be involving a young lady, Ese Oruru and a young man, Yunusa Dahiru who left Bayelsa State in the Creek of Niger Delta to Kano a core-Northern state in the Savannah.
After media reports on the alleged abduction, the police have taken over the case by flying the two young Nigerians from Kano to Abuja and later to Bayelsa State. Meanwhile the police have arraigned Yunusa in handcuffs for criminal charges of abduction of the teenager.
In between these periods, the family of the two young Nigerians were being quoted in the media exonerating their wards of any offence. Rather than douse the tension through fair and objective editorials and news contents, some media were busy aggravating the tense situation by provocative coverages of the event that tend to create divisions in the polity.
Some ridiculous reports claim that a popular traditional ruler encourages abductions of young girls from other parts of the country for monetary compensation including limousines and mansions for abductors. Another news item claims the abduction saga is to depopulate a particular region and increase the population of another region.
On the social media, the debate has shifted to abusive rancour with most disparaging derogatory remarks between Muslims and Christians as ethnic jingoists are fanning ember of hatred between Southerners and Northerners.
Meanwhile it has been discovered that Yunusa who had been in love with Esese took her to Kano and claimed that he had converted the young lady to Islam. The conversion seems to be a ploy by the young man to hoodwink his parents and members of his community to accept his proposal to marry the teenager whose age is right for marriage in some cultures.
The fact that cannot be denied is that Esese was neither a victim of ritualists who could have harvested her body parts for diabolic spirituality nor a victim of kidnapers who could have demanded for ransom payments. She was neither a victim of a slave master who exploits the vulnerable into child-labour nor a victim of wicked merchants of infancy who proliferate baby factories for money-making. Ese, and to some extent Yunusa are merely victims of infatuation, foolish love that went awry.
The infatuation exposes the hypocrisy of the selfish political elites and some misguided public commentators jointly playing to the gallery for the purpose of “notice me” with their unwholesome campaigns of ethnic chauvinism and religious bigotry. Rather than managing the saga towards national unity and cohesion, they escalate it with primitive preachment towards self-destruction.
The dirty politics of ‘hailers and wailers’ social media antagonism also came to play where every issue is argued around ‘Goodluck Jonathan’ as an embodiment of Southern Christians and ‘Muhammadu Buhari’ as a representation of Northern Muslims.
The sad reality drama should have encouraged patriotic Nigerians to sponsor a Nollywood movie with central theme of “Love from the Creek to the Savannah” towards promoting love, peaceful coexistence, mutual tolerance for a united country.
While we must condemn the abduction saga, we should not lose our sense of reasoning and decency. We should eschew sectional sentiments and encourage our youths to establish relationship based on trust, love and respect.
Yushau A. Shuaib