Ese Oruru: How the North and Islam Became Scapegoats of a Teenager’s Folly

Ese photo

There is a usually predictable, almost robotic, pattern of reaction to any story in which an individual or a group from the north of Nigeria is a major character. This is the error of contemptuous generalisation, taking the action of a few individuals for a collective decision of the entire region. Or visiting the “sins” of the colonial north upon the millennial. This diseased lockstep of the mind is then applied to our social interactions, influencing both the outcomes of our political activities and even one’s sense of safety or social integration in any region other than ours. 
The case of Ese Oruru, a girl of 13, 14 or 17, depending on the narrative one subscribes to, only opens a big playgroup for some of the most bigoted suspects to amuse us with their insularity. These analysts and emergency activists proudly exhibit how they were influenced by stereotypes and sincere ignorance to perceive and portray the north as a continent of barbarians. This is an easy inference from the barrage of insults and condescending commentaries that attribute the travail of the “southern girl” to the religion of Islam and people of the north. 
The bottom line of her story, as popularised by the north-shaming narrative is, Ese was kidnapped in Bayelsa by an 18 year-old Yunusa Dahiru, also known as Yunusa Yellow, and taken to Kano where, against her will, she was forced to become a Muslim, married to the boy, and then sheltered in the palace of Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II of Kano Emirate. Thus, the catch lines, especially for those yet to forgive Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for his part in the fall of a “southern President” became: “Emir Sanusi Abducts Bayelsa Girl”, “Emir Sanusi Forces Bayelsa Girl into Islam”, “Emir Sanusi Justifies Kidnap of Bayelsa Girl”, and the stories came in various screaming headlines and sensationalised by both the mainstream media and blogs desperate for massive web traffic and mischief. A pathetically ingenious blog even carried that Ese was abducted by Yunusa to be made the Emir’s concubine, citing the former CBN Governor’s recent marriage to an 18 year-old and describing him as paedophile!  
The embarrassed Emirate Council countered the sensationalised narrative, confirming its awareness of the story and the role it played. The Council was approached by the family of Yunusa and, in its disapproval of the mode of union between Yunusa and Ese, it wrote to the Kano State Shari’ah Commission and the Office of the Assistant Inspector General of police, Zone 1, to have the poor girl reunited with her family. This was the last the Emirate heard of the case until it became a viral advocacy that attributed to it a role it didn’t play. 
“At the police office,” according to Yunusa’s 55-year-old father in a March 2 interview with the Premium Times, “And before Ese’s family, the girl cried that her life was in danger and that she rather died than go back with her family. In sympathy, the police said Aisha should be taken back to Kura.”
That account of Ese’s “father-in-law”, Malam Dahiru Bala, indicts the Police as culprits in this story, and also contradicted what she told newsmen at the Police Headquarters in Abuja: that she didn’t know how she got to Kano; that Yunusa wasn’t even her boyfriend, just a patron at her mother’s restaurant; that she didn’t remember consenting to elope with Yunusa; that she didn’t recognise her mother when the latter came to Kano; that she wasn’t married to Yunusa; that her conversion to Islam was not consensual; and that she regretted what happened and that, if she sees her alleged husband, she wouldn’t even know what to do, because “I’m confused… I don’t know what to do.”  This is from her interview with The Sun of March 3, 2015. Ese’s post-freedom accounts are even more intriguing, as claims of her love affair with Yunusa is now even dubious. But what may frustrate the denial is her mother’s version of the story, that when she found out her little girl was missing, the first suspect was the 18-year-old Hausa boy. But what matters now that she’s regained her freedom is the legal perspectives of this unfortunate, as the dual legal systems operational in both the south and north have provisions for penalising the guilty party at the Court of Law.
While we await the outcome of that, it’s pertinent to challenge the mischievous labelling of the north and its people in the court of public opinion by a legion of bigoted southerners who wore the garb of activism not truly out of sympathy for the girl, but to amplify their bigotry. Some of them are the same hypocrites who dismissed the abduction of Chibok girls as a hoax and anti-Jonathan propaganda. Because the case of Chibok is, as expressed in pidgin, “na dem-dem!” – a northern affair. Their empathy is thus geographically responsive.
If the welfare of the girl was indeed their concern, why are they silent about the growing baby factories across the southern half of the country? They can’t claim to have no knowledge of the existence of these dehumanising places. A few months ago, in Asaba, police detectives raided a place opposite the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria office to free 8 pregnant teenagers. On June 13, last year, Enugu State Police Command raided a baby factory in Etiti in Amankwo-Ngwo Udi Local Government Council to free pregnant girls as young as 17. And even in Ese’s place of origin, activities similar to such advocacy-worthy atrocity takes place. Not long ago, the State Coordinator of Child Protection Network, Ms. Mariam Kombo-Ezeh shared stories of child abuse in Bayelsa State including the death of a 7-year-old from HIV/AIDS acquired from a rape. She also recounted the story of a 4-year-old girl raped to death by a 40-year-old man, but how many of these self-styled activists know the 40-year-old monster or bother to track this case and ensure delivery of justice? Theirs is only to sensationalise that of a particular people, which they generalise to register their savagery.  
If ignorance had not been applied in our clamouring for the freedom of Ese, whose case is of course heart breaking to all sane minds, the north and Islam wouldn’t have been made scapegoats of a teenager’s foolish adventure. A simple enquiry would’ve shown that Islam does not condone elopement, and it’s perhaps the same wisdom the Kano Emirate Council identified with, in admonishing the Police and Sharia Commission to “repatriate” her.  The Muslims have their tradition for formalising union between a man and woman, referred to as “Katb el-Kitab” – marriage contract. In a famous Hadith, the Prophet of Islam said: “Any woman who gets married without the permission of her guardian, her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid, her marriage is invalid.” Note the repeated clause. What Yunusa did is a crime that has no place in Islam or the northern society. Activist-types barely disguising their pet bigotries insisting that it is, for purposes of their own devising, will not make it so. They will only make communication and mutual understanding more fraught. My God save us from us! 

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter


14 thoughts on “Ese Oruru: How the North and Islam Became Scapegoats of a Teenager’s Folly

  1. Thanks to blogs like these we would have been annihilated by the media houses from across the Niger. More ink to your pen Gimba. Permit me to share please.

  2. Hello. Thanks for your piece. I will admit that there are several generalisations from us “southerners” when considering these issues. However, the logic of your baby factory argument does not really hold water. The baby factories are held by the public to be illicit and are usually uncovered in the bushes and other hidden places. We treat the organisers as criminals and no one dares run such a factory out in the open. For your argument to hold or your comparison to be valid, the baby factory would have to have been discovered inside the Olu of Warri’s or some other traditional ruler’s compound.

    We have senators like Yerima justifying his marriage to not just one child bride, but two! When “southern people” complain about prepubescent brides, a common “Northern” response is “better for the child to marry than to be a prostitue”, as if those are the only 2 options open to the girl-child.

    You also have to acknowledge that there is a third North, in addition to the colonial and millennial categories you’ve identified. The North of the 80s and 90s, of Buhari, Babagandia, Abacha and Abdul-Salam; the North that took the fat of the country and kept it mostly to themselves. There is a “na dem-dem” sentiment because, in spite of the unfettered access (some would say plunder) of that period, the North lags behind in virtually every development index.

    There is a place for defending one’s culture. There is also a place for rejecting it if it stops being useful. That may be presumptuous of me to say, but the discussion to be had is much more nuanced than your piece suggests and I hope you will at least consider all I’ve said here.

  3. Thank you very much for writing this. I have actually given up on most so called ‘educated’ southerners because of their pattern of thoughts. Many bad things happen in the south but you hardly have these generalizations and hate coming from us. This is why I feel the average southerner is very hypocritical and is just waiting for an excuse to express his innermost HATE against the north and Islam in particular. What Yunusa did was unacceptable, but there is more that Ese’s mother is not saying. She was caught napping on duty so she pushed the abduction narrative.

  4. Alhamdulillah that we got writers like u Gimba. Kindly circulate this article to as many as u can so that those bigots will know exactly what happend, how and who are involve. In addition also what the status of nprthern and religious implication of d culprit actions. More ink to ur pen and may Allah increase the likes of u in our society. Amin.

  5. It is really sad how Nigeria has become so divided on ethnic and religious lines. Bigots everywhere and “politrickshians” making financial gains from the divide. I am Yoruba and I know many Yoruba Christians that forcibly convert Muslims to Christians before they can help them especially before they assist to send them to school. I agree with Gimba, unfortunately since GEJ the rhetorics have become more divisive. May God save Nigeria and Nigerians from themselves

  6. I think this shouldn’t be generalized… To rubbish Islam. The boy and those that help execute the action that led the young girl become a Muslim are to be punished only and I repeat if found guilty of what they’re been accused of. We should be matured in handling delicate issues like this.

  7. Islam does not support elopement… Neither does it support terrorism. But somehow, terrorists find solace in the tenets of islam and give the world the reasons for their madness from the Quran.

    Secondly, you think she wanted to elope? Did you get a chance to talk to her? On what basis did you make that conclusion?

    Thirdly, it is true that not all Muslims are terrorists, but you and I know that one of the biggest problems Islam has its tenancy for bloodlust.

    It doesn’t really matter what their concern was… Your kinsman is an animal.
    Once we have settled that part, just like the northerners suffer the biggest part of the book haram wars, the east suffer their own baby factory issues. Let it be.
    Now it is possible that she was indeed unreasonable adventurous, but then do you imagine that it is proper for him to have taken her with him without her parent’s consent? If she was your daughter, ( and don’t say she can’t be…) Would your views remain the same?

    I’ll drop my onions by saying this popular proverb.

    ” I say let’s discipline the thief, you say the owner has not kept his thing properly… Is that the stand of a sane man?”

  8. More Greece to your elbows, and more ink to your pen. We lack people like you especially in the northern part of the country, wish you the best. I’m a regular on your blogs.

  9. Pingback: Ese Oruru- Before we condemn the northern hypocrisy

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