#FreeEse Episode: Before We All Miss The Point By Bemdoo Hulugh
It is so easy for us all to miss the point in the unfortunate story of Ese Oruru because she is from the south-south and a Christian while his abductor is a northerner and Muslim. This is a perfect story for ethnic and religious bigots to make some noise. It is also worrying that those posts or tweets filled with hate are shared more on social media than those that really make some sense.
For me this story should open our eyes to the tragedy of the Nigerian child. It is true that in the north our children are subjected to child marriage and begging. The southern part of Nigeria is also guilty of sentencing our children to child hawking and also trade our children for cash as it is evident in the numerous baby factories discovered in that part of the country. The Nigerian child is also confronted with other numerous forms of exploitation and we as a people are doing nothing about it. The most indicting is that in a survey in 2013 by the Economic Intelligence Unit, Nigeria is the worst place to be born on earth.
So the tragedy of the Nigerian child is that born in the north or south, he/she is not safe. In the north she may be given out as a child bride or he may be sent to the streets to beg and in the south he/she could become a street hawker or sold like any other commodity in the market. But the biggest tragedy is that we are all guilty of looking the other way. We all don’t really care because they are not our children.
During the #FreeEse episode, there was this line of thought by probably people from the southern part of the country that was like northerners or Muslims can marry their own little girls but they shouldn’t take such a wicked habit to the south. We too have this mind-set that it’s not our child if the evil is happening around us or its not our region when it’s happening somewhere else. Northerners who will not likely give their little children in marriage do not care if another girl child is given out to someone. We don’t give a second thought to all the children begging on the streets because they are not our children. In southern Nigeria, we do not feel anything when we see very little children carry goods for sale on their head in the hot sun. We don’t feel anything because they are not our children but do we think our children are safe living among these angry children? Is this really the best we can do for the Nigerian child?
We raised our voices and pointed accusing fingers at each other but the truth is we are all guilty. Ese may be free but she is just one girl. Ese Oruru is her name but there are many others no one really care to know their name. What about those child brides denied a better future and have no hope to break free? There are children sold to people who will use them in whatever way they choose? There are those who are taken away from their parents in the rural areas by relatives or so-called good samaritans under the guise that they will be sent to school but end up as child hawkers or domestic workers. There are those who have been abandoned with wicked uncles or aunties who use them like slaves. There are also stories of even parents who exploit their own children. The truth is 14yr old Ese was in bondage since last year and there are many children in maybe even worst situations all over the country. When are we going to speak for these children? Ese Oruru is free today because the mother was determined to free her from bondage. She travelled from bayelsa to Kano not once or twice and continued to struggle till she got her daughter back. When are we going to see it as urgent to stand up against all forms of exploitation of children in this country as if they are our children?
More than 13yrs after we passed the Child Right Act, the rights of children are violated daily before our very eyes. Frederick Douglass said it is easier to build children than to repair broken men. These angry children are a keg of gun powder waiting to blow up. The thing with social injustice is that it always gets to us in one way or the other. The root cause of our problems in this country is that we do not realise we share a common humanity. We need to understand that what affects someone else can turn around to also affect us in one way or the other. If anything, the story of Ese Oruru once again calls our attention to the plights of children most especially the children of the poor. It is telling us that we must act now for these children before it is too late. We must act now before the wickedness reach our doorstep.
Bemdoo Hulugh is an active citizen and he writes from Makurdi
You can interact with me on twitter @bumy04
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