The entire #FreeEse debacle has revealed such an ugly side of Nigerians to me that it made me despair just short of submitting my passport.
When we wrote the article a few days ago, it was right in the eye of the storm and Naija social media boiled and bubbled.
Our article was attacked on all sides and commentators updated pictures, articles from bogus tabloids, and supposed videos that would support every case other than – a MINOR had been taken forcibly from her own to another location, been made to change gods, change her name and taken a husband.
I find it particularly troubling that so many people worked so hard to create an air of “No, no, no! That’s not how it happened! This is probably overblown! Really, there’s nothing to see here! Let’s all just go about our business and stop making a mountain out of a molehill.”
Lord knows I would rather have overreacted than to lose a child to a kidnapper and a paedophile, but okay.
Now that the girl is now out of Kano and on her way home, I would like to dispel some of the theories that troubled me the most about the #FreeEse story:
1. “These Muslims sha! They’re so evil and responsible for so many of our problems!” – This rhetoric upsets me the most. Christians are capable of untold horrors: child abduction, female genital mutilation, human sacrifices, rape and abuse. The list is endless so suffice to say that when I think of Yinusa, his faith is the least of my concerns.
2. “Ugh! Northerners!” – Another stupid, myopic, ill-conceived slur. Anini, the Otokoto killing, and the woman who just murdered her husband in Ibadan all happened distinctly south of the River Niger. It is ridiculous to use the plight of a child to endorse your own foolish prejudices.
3. “What was the mother looking at till they kidnapped her child and now she’s shouting? This is more about bad parenting” – Oh, I’m sorry? You’re mad that a shopkeeper didn’t have an au pair for a 13 year old? That the child wasn’t engaged in after-school club activities like ballet or perhaps learning an instrument? That she didn’t leave her daily work, sit a 13-year-old down and then just stare at her all day in case nefarious men had dastardly motives? GTFOHWTBS.
4. “Now they’re saying the girl is 17 and the boy is 18! You see, just teenagers doing love play!” – If two teenagers decide to elope and they’re out in the wild where they have made wedding rings out of twigs and subsisted on Gala that grows in the forest and diet Coke gathered from wild berries, all well and good. If we know where the child(ren) are, they must be brought back home. Simple.
Secondly, there is evidence from Oby Ezekwesili that the girl was 13 at the time of abduction and not 17. You can read her other tweets, including a letter from the Kano Emirate Council here>>
— Oby Ezekwesili (@obyezeks) February 29, 2016
5. “Hian! Have you heard the latest? There is a recording from the girl o. She says she doesn’t want to go home!” – This does not surprise me in the least bit. I imagine there will be a lot of grooming involved. What is important though, is that we do not lose track of facts: She. Is. A. Minor.
I thought my neighbour Obi had more than a passing resemblance to R. Kelly (shaved head shenanigans. What?? I was 15, gerrout!) and I was ready to move in with him and learn Igbo. My mother had a slightly different opinion (read: “The day I see you near dem Obi’s house again, you go sabi say I be real Sapele boma! Common enter dis house for me now! Nonsense!”). Today, I don’t remember the surname I practised on my exercise book and I think R. Kelly likes to pee on minors, I’m not sure…
Now there are even pictures of Ese with a face like a smacked arse and a video recording purporting to be Ese saying she didn’t want to leave without Yinusa and that she was tricked into the vehicle to leave kano in the first place. All of the above – including my mother’s Sapele ways apply.
6. “We should be concentrating on bigger issues like the Sai Baba’s Bagpipe Welcome” – As entertaining as that whole thing was (seriously, what was that??), there is no bigger issue in Nigeria right now. The #FreeEse campaign and subsequent furore speaks to our judicial system, our collective and individual moral compass, the strength of social media, our empathy (or lack thereof) for our brethren, and the deep divides in our nation.
7. “There is nothing wrong with child brides. The South cannot tell us who or when we can give our daughters out! This is our tradition/religion and they should respect it” – And they’re right. As long as there is parental consent. If a man gives his daughter’s hand in marriage at the age of 13, pata pata I may decide it’s poor parenting, but I would make like Uche and face my work.
Suggesting that an objection to abduction is equal to an objection against your religion is just you spoiling for a fight.
8. A plague of stupid comments such as “There are prettier girls up north” and “This doesn’t concern us, let the north deal with problems of the north” – I have no comments. You’re idiots.
9. “I heard that the father wants to take her to TB Joshua to cleanse all that Islam and brainwashing from her” – Whilst this news makes me want to slit my own wrists with a blunt object, his child; his decisions.
She. Is. A. Minor. Her care, experience and faith must be under the tutelage of her guardian. Some of y’all got your kids up in these COZA Sunday school sturves and nobody has come for you yet.
10. “Abeg I simply don’t believe the story. It doesn’t add up” – Maybe it do, maybe it don’t. But drawing light to #FreeEse is drawing light to a great plight within our society: that actually, it IS possible for someone’s child to be taken right from under them and without adequate connections and money, the mother will simply have to cry and move on. Social media and the ever-shrinking world has created a vehicle where we can make noise and make a difference.
And because we did not keep quiet, Ese is on her way home and Yinusa is now in police custody.
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