Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, have said those masking the abduction of 14-year-old Ese Oruru with religion are missing the point.
The duo, at a press conference in Lagos, said the matter was purely criminal and not religious, adding that the perpetrator should be prosecuted so the victim could get justice.
Ese was abducted by Yunusa Dahiru, aka Yellow, a regular customer at her mother’s food shop, last year August, from Bayelsa and taken to Kano, where her parents said she was forced into child marriage having been converted to Islam without her consent.
Soyinka specifically faulted the Director, Muslim Rights Concern and Professor of Islamic Eschatology, Ishaq Akintola, who claimed that Islam has no age barrier for marriage.
The nobel laureate said: “Culture is not static; it is dynamic and evolves. It is of humanity. There is no culture without human beings. If you say you are religious, there are others who could come to say they are holier than you are. We should take religion out of Ese’s abduction. We are talking about criminality. Nobody should say people are Islam-phobic. We are only against criminality. Who invokes religion in criminal matters? Who brings religion into issues of government and constitution? If you want to bring religion into a criminal matter, then let us talk about other things. When we are talking about crime, don’t diffuse it with religion.”
He also said Akintola, like others hiding the case under religion, should desist from using literature to justify their claims, noting that the don likened the matter to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
“Did Shakespeare tell you that a court wants to grab Romeo and prosecute him? People bring their own intelligence into matters and think others are fools. Don’t quote Shakespeare when we are discussing criminality. The welfare of a child is more important than the money stolen. If you steal money, you commit crime against the society but when you force a child into marriage, you have ruined her for life. When criminality is in the public domain, it becomes everybody’s business, “Soyinka stated.
According to him, the society failed Ese and government must protect other underage female from child marriages like the one conducted with a teenager by a former governor now senator.
The consummate writer added, “Until we make an example of people like Yerima (Senator Ahmed), there will be thousands of Yunusa.”
He further said the Emir of Kano did what was right when the case of Ese was initially brought to his (emir’s) attention, adding “The emir represents a modern traditional ruler who will help transform the primitive chiefs in power. If I am proved wrong, I will come back and apologise.”
On his part, Falana said Yunusa did not only violate Ese’s rights to religion as enshrined in Section 38 of the Constitution but also broke the laws contained in the Child Rights Act which Nigeria is a signatory.
The lawyer added that the likes of Yerima and Akintola would not allow their teenage daughters go into child marriage.
Falana noted, “Attempt to bring religion into the matter is sheer hypocrisy. People like Akintola are playing on the intelligence of the poor. “