• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Continuation from: “GOD WE NEED YOU NOWS”

The henchmen’s henchmen

I believe it is fair to say that Nigeria inherited significant infrastructure from Britain – railways; ports (both air and sea); roads; electricity etc.

Added to this was a template reinforced with the Constitution which would have ensured enduring good governance together with graduates who were comfortable working for the government. This was unlike what prevailed in the Belgian Congo where at Independence, there was only one “graduate” – Patrice Lulumba whose qualification was acquired from a teachers’ training college.

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Nigerian schools were recognised internationally. Consequently, their products did not encounter difficulties in enrolling in universities in Britain, United States of America, France etc.

In 1956, when Sir James Robertson, Governor-General of Nigeria addressed students of King’s College, Lagos on their Prize-Giving Day, he commenced his speech as follows:

“You are lucky to be a student of the premier college in Africa.”

He was absolutely correct !!!

As regards healthcare, the quality of our hospitals was world class. In the 1970’s the King of Saudi Arabia underwent surgery at the University College Hospital, Ibadan. It was a huge success. On his return to his kingdom, he decided to embark on building excellent hospitals not just for himself and his family but for all his fellow citizens.

While reflecting on where we are and how we got here, we cannot but recognize the massive damage done to our nation by dangerous drugs – both in terms of addiction and trafficking. We are not talking of marijuana (otherwise known as Indian Hemp) but the really hard stuff, especially cocaine. The damage to youths particularly Lagos and Kano is beyond anything we could ever have imagined. Another contender is gambling (especially underage gambling). These young unemployed people are literally gambling their future away while chasing illusionary jackpots.

The video about “Money Marriage” in Cross River State has gone viral.

Money marriage: how ancient tradition refuses “to die” Cross River State.

Q: “In the 1970’s the King of Saudi Arabia underwent surgery at the University College Hospital, Ibadan; it was a huge success.”

The Becheve people of Cross River still practise a tradition that allows girl children to be used to repay loans owed by their parents or as a favour to someone who has been benevolent to the family. This report looks at the lives of such girls who are turned into sex objects and why the tradition still exists despite calls for it to be criminalised.

In Cross River State, a particular archaic tradition, which has been described as a form of slavery, may never be uprooted despite outcries and campaigns against it. It is a tradition practised by almost all the men in most parts of the Obanliku Local Government Area of the state, particularly the Becheve people. It is called a money marriage.

At least 17 communities, including Katele, Amana, Ogbakoko, Belinge, Ranch, Ikwette (old and new), Imale, Ekor, Kalumo, Yindive, Makambe, Apambu, Belegete, Kajinga, Mangbe, Mbunu, and Agusor, are still neck deep in this practice. Becheve Land has a population of over 150,000 people.

Money marriage is a tradition where a girl-child, as young as two years old, is given out to a man who was benevolent or extended some financial goodwill or loans to her parents, and they are unable to repay as agreed. The parents will decide to settle such debts by giving their daughter to the creditor or benefactor in marriage.

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It would not matter whether such a girl child is still being breastfed by her mother, who may also be a money wife.’ Sometimes, if a man is as old as 60 and is interested in a girl child, he could begin to visit her parents with gifts, foodstuffs, and other things. All these are counted as part of the dowry. And the girl child has no power to reject the offer. From that time on, even while in the man’s house, these girls will begin to fend for themselves. They will not be sent to school but only become sex objects for the men, as well as cater for their needs and do all the farm work. Unlike older wives who may have been properly married through traditional means, ‘money wives’ are like house girls.

In an interview, a former principal of Obudu Ranch Secondary School, Obanliku, Mr. Nandi Bette, said it was doubtful if the people of the community were ready to end the practice. Bette, who spent over 10 years in the community, said, “A Becheve man without a money wife” is not regarded as man enough to speak in a community assembly. When he dies, he is not accorded a befitting burial.

“A ‘money wife’ normally arrives as a second wife. This is when a man has already gotten older kids from his first wife. Money wives are barely educated and are regarded as family properties and baby production machines.”