By Emeka Umejei – Kano state, in north western Nigeria has garnered reputation for celebrating the absurd. Most of the time, the celebration is pvoted on religious fervour. In December of 1996, Muslim faithful in the state beheaded Gideon Akaluka, a Christian trader from the Eastern part of the country for allegations that his wife tore a piece of the Holy Koran to clean up after defecation. More bizarre is the fact that Gideon was beheaded at a Police station where he had sought safety, and his severed head was joyfully paraded in the Metropolis.
The state is on the threshold of history again. This time, it has taken its penchant for religion a notch higher by officially adopting match-making as an art of governance.
Kano State governor, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has allegedly decided to spend tax payers’ money to organise marriage ceremonies for 1000 widows, and divorcees in the state.
To underscore the religious slant, the state government has also secured the participation of the revered traditional ruler of Kano, Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero. According to Nigeria’s Daily Trust Newspaper, The Emir will give out the brides, while the state governor, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso will stand in for the grooms.
To those who don’t understand the peculiarities of Northern societies, the participation of the Emir is all that is needed to give the marriage the required religious colouration,and subsequent applauds among adherents. Kano is populated by Moslems. And the Emir is the symbol of religious authority. Hence, his participation is a seal of legitimacy.
Austin Emeilu, lecturer at Nigeria’s University of Ilorin, and Postdoctoral researcher at Rhodes University’s department of music, thinks the governor is acting in tandem with the peculiarities of his society. “Certain decisions that government will take will be influenced by religious positions within a particular society,” he says.
“It sounds like an attempt to solve a social problem. Based on the priorities of government it could be seen as a good move because they are trying to solve a social problem that could spill over to other aspects of life including, economic, political and religious.”
While this huge amount of money is to be spent on payment of dowries, majority of the would-be brides are unemployed and economically disadvantaged. Most of them live on less than $1 a day, according to United Nation statistics. Within Kano metropolis, the women eke out livelihood through begging. They contribute to the large number of beggars in the state: Kano state arguably accounts for the largest chunk of beggars in Nigeria.
Most importantly, security has remained a growing menace in the state. It is of note that Kano has recorded over five Boko Haram attacks in recent time. Yet, the government does not find it worthy to concentrate its attention on ameliorating the deplorable security situation, or to improve on the rustic social amenities in the state. Instead, it is more interested in the marriage of 1000 widows, and divorcees at the expense of delivering dividends of democracy to the people.
Though, it may be true that the women need solace in the embrace of men, they would be better off, when they are economically empowered to fend for themselves.
Emeilu buttresses this thinking that, “It would have been most worthy if government had invested the funds to empower the women, and leave them with the choice of marriage”.
The move also touches on a fundamental core of the African society-patriarchy. It dampens the pride of an African woman who believes in the leadership role of a man, if the men have to wait for the state government to pay dowries on their behalves. The pride of an African woman is her bride price, because it is an indication that the man can shoulder the economic responsibilities that come with marriage.
Emeilu emphasised that women take pride in the fact that a man paid their bride price.“In a situation where government pays bride price, it does not make for quality selection for the women in terms of their economic survival in the marriage. It only shows that the man lacks the economic power to sustain a family,” Emeilu said.
Supporting Emeilu’s position, Aderemi Bridget, lecturer at the Lagos State University, and Doctoral researcher at Rhodes University’s department of Chemistry, says it would be difficult to respect a man who cannot pay her bride price.
“A man who cannot pay my bride price cannot be a husband because he cannot provide for the well being of the family,” Adekemi who has been married for over a decade said.
For Nigeria’s Treasure Durodola, a broadcast journalist, and postgraduate researcher at Rhodes University’s department of Journalism, “the man is suppose to be my hero, my protector, and my provider. But if he cannot demonstrate the capacity to take care of me, it only means that I am insecure”.
“I don’t think this is right. It means that the woman has been commodoified. Are they going to keep paying him to take care of me? Are they going to be funding us after marriage? If it costs you something, you will value it. It will definitely lead to abuse of the woman because it didn’t cause the man anything. Government paid for him.”
Most significant is the fact that Kano state is plagued by perennial water shortage, and the state government does not think it worthy that the alleged N1billion Naira can do a lot to solve the issue of water scarcity in the state.
Spending tax payers money on match-making, instead of creating avenues for empowerment for the 1000 widows, and divorcees,will only succeed in creating more social problems for the society. Remember the women will give births to more Almajiris (street children),Yandabas(Political thugs) and potential Boko Haram adherents, and with these kind of children, the society will become a worse place to live.