Muhammadu Sanusi the II is in the national news domain for his marriage to 18 year Damsel. Though, no credible news medium carries this story which has gone viral in the last one week or so. Initially, I thought that the story is one of such inconsequential and timewasting stuffs which have become the lots of social media discourse in Nigeria.
Although it may be true the highly revered Emir is married to the 18 year old young woman, but the hullabaloo, condemnation and ridicule over the betrothal is mischievous and hypocritical. When it comes to issues dealing with sex, most people pretend to be what they are not. We criticize and ridicule people who marry an 18 year old but we keep as mistresses and girlfriends, secondary school students who are under 16 in secluded and highly secretive hotel rooms and guest houses.
I have witnessed several instances where underage girls are kept by men in hotel rooms in Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Calabar and many towns and cities in Nigeria. I am therefore astonished as to why the self-proclaimed social “crusaders” who accuse the Emir of wrong doing by this marriage are dead silent on such moral degeneration, which pervades our society like a wild fire. What baffles me more is that those who snub the Emir for marrying “underage” girl are among the people who commit the heinous sin of camping girls to satisfy their orgies.
Sanusi could not have been exonerated of blame, if he had married the girl under duress. But if the girl had given her consent to the marriage before it was consummated, why should somebody blame him of doing wrong? Whoever accuses Muhammadu Sanusi for child sexual abuse, statutory rape, illegal carnal knowledge of underage girl, corruption of minor and similar sex offenses does that with the intent to bring down the name of the Emir to disrepute.
The incendiary remarks on the Emir on this issue is misplaced and illogical if the age of consent at which a girl is at liberty to engage in a sexual relationship with the opposite sex is anything to go by. Writing on mirror.co.uk, Jessica Best gave a breakdown of age of consent for a select group of nations in the world. Countries in Europe that have the age of consent set at 16 include “Cyprus, Finland, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.” For “Austria, Germany, Portugal and Italy it is 14, and in France the Czech Republic, Denmark and Greece, it is 15,” she stated. Spain, Jessica said, “did have one of the lowest ages of consent on the continent at just 13, but recently agreed to raise it to 16.”
Throughout the rest of the world, there are diverse variations among nations on age of consent. To buttress this standpoint, Jessica Best cited Bahrain, a predominantly Muslim populated state, which surprisingly sanctions “21 years” for women who want to marry without their fathers’ consent to do so. In Saudi Arabia, the report further stated: “all sex outside marriage is illegal but there are no laws limiting the age at which you can get marry.” In China and Iraq, it is set at “14 and 18 respectively, while in Japan it is 5 years lower at 13.” The likes of “Peru, Paraguay, Ecuador and Columbia all have it set at 14” according to Jessica’s report. Consent in the United States varies between “16 and 18, defending on citizen’s state of residence and, Angola has the lowest consent of just 12 years,” the report concluded.
Perhaps the Senate arm of the Nigerian National Assembly passed the bill reducing the age of consent for sex from 18 to 11 to be in tandem with global trends. Emir Sanusi’s betrothal to the girl is therefore sanctioned by law. One of the biggest problems as a nation is intolerance, rabid hatred and tribalism, as we have seen in the flurry of guile and vitriolic attack on the Emir over the marriage.
As citizens of one entity called Nigeria, we must learn to appreciate the different historical and cultural backgrounds we came from. We should avoid the one sided holier than thou attitude which is embedded in cultural exclusivist’s philosophy that gives people the wrong impression that their value system is “superior” and “modern” and others is “inferior” and “outmoded.” There is no single culture on planet earth that can be called superior. The issue of marriage is a personal matter. Individual choice of the woman to marry is nobody’s business. So Emir Sanusi should be left alone.
Saleh Ibrahim Bature