By Ibraheem Abdullateef
I am not feeling so sure I can answer a Columnist. However, it’d be enough for me to call attention on the values I hold dear and the issues that matter to our existence as a people, with a view to eliciting engagement and action towards a better society. It is my hope my writings inspire and motivate other youngsters to follow their dreams. Welcome to ‘In Between The Lines!’
An Ilorin-based man, Abdul-Wasiu Omo-Dada, drew the ire of Nigerians for abandoning his blue-eyed wife, Risikat Azeez and the two children for the colour of their eyes.
Soon as the news hits the airwaves, the media were falling on each other to get a bite at the cherry news since it ticks the boxes of oddity and human interest in journalism, the vantage news angles which make a medium sold out.
It eventually became a national gist, as Ilorin and indeed the house of the concerned woman, Mrs Azeez Risikat, turned into the Holy Land hosting the cream-de-la-cream. Indeed, the path to fame is defined, it is either by hard work or luck. However, I am not attuned to the momentary recognition and succour given to the victims which does not leave a commensurate impact on their lives.
It was like yesterday when Success Adegor, the young girl from Delta was sent home for non-payment of school fees. The primary three pupil of Okotie Eboh Primary School, Sapele, Delta State, in her ‘Dem go flog, flog, dem go tire’ interview granted to a neighbour exposed her ordeals which went viral and in like manner, so many people promised her Heaven on Earth. It was exceedingly heartbreaking to watch her denouncing the phantom helpers, saying nothing has changed for them after being made to look rich in the media.
That is vantage Nigerians for you. These people scare me enough I am beginning to think they read different books. In ‘Exploiting Chaos’ by Jeremy Gutsche, one of the most popular books on making the best of bad times, there are only lessons on sparking innovation during the time of troubles, I never saw where he taught exploiting fellow human’s travails for cheap fame. And I am worried we have more persons wanting to click pictures and sweep media likes than the change-makers. Little wonder we had Success not recounting a success story but recoiling in pains of betrayal months after the incidence.
Let me make it clear at this juncture that I appreciate everyone, most especially the First Lady of Kwara State Dr Mrs Olufolake AbdulRazaq and the wife of ex-senate president Mrs Toyin Saraki for their prompt and practical intervention on the issue. It is funny but the best for common folks to see them competing to exert influence on the polity. While I do hope I made that up, this particular case should not be a one-off thing.
To do photo-ops and surface dressing is not the panacea to the plight of the many women and children facing abuse and injustice. They need education, food and shelter as well as they also need a home. Let’s leave out all those comments on Twitter, they don’t mean more than a reaction. More than anything, a good home is the bedrock of personal and societal growth. Yet, this is fast becoming a luxury in our community. It is about time we sat down for evaluation and chart a new course. Risikat and her children should not get a number on the long list of broken homes.
I remember telling my oga, Lawal Olohungbebe, someday during a conversation that the annual homecoming during Ileya which promoted unity and strengthened cultural ties became a choice thing about 20 years ago just after I was born. Many books and generational narrations say how much it used to be valued. I remember in particular one person saying the preparation for the next starts as soon as you are returning to your base. It used to be such beautiful yet people suddenly began to pull out. Why?! Perhaps, the realisation of that truncating practice inspired the innovation of Durbar by the exalted emir and his respected council. That is inexplicably thoughtful.
However, one another thing I’d love to discuss with Lawal and indeed the emirate council is the trend of divorce in Ilorin and how it appears as much as the fire keeps burning, no one is really running. The rate of divorce is alarming across Nigeria but that Ilorin is racing to dethrone Kano, Niger and other states in the North is most worrisome. To get data to back this claim is hard, so I realised, but it doesn’t submerge the reality. To get a feel of it, look carefully around you! I once challenged a friend to name 10 of his friends and pick out those with a proper family, come and see how he laboured. That was even before the blue-eyed family debacle. I challenge you, too.
We should use the latest incidence to retrace our steps. Aside from the fact that it is a patriarchal society which encourages more than a wife, a few other reasons for broken homes and divorce include — but not limited to — infidelity, drunkenness, incurable disease, criminal conviction, early marriage, illiteracy, domestic violence, and poverty. These are things that largely speak to values. Many of our women are dependent on their struggling husbands. Many husbands are emotionally unripe for marriage but because the girl is impregnated, we let them go off to those men without means. We won’t condone their mistakes and let them have a second shot at life. Our parents hurriedly arrange marriages they eventually watch the separations. Pregnancy is not the basis to start a family for people without means and a strong sense of love and discipline. It doesn’t last.
Age is different from knowledge, we must begin to emphasise on adequate training and suitability more than the fixation on age, clout, and indigeneship. Ilorin may not have realised. The unwritten preference for intra-marriage is failing and will fail for long without parents doing their pre-marriage duties and post-marriage roles.
Risikat as the poster girl
The mother of two, who spoke in Yoruba Language, said, “My husband whose name is Abdul Wasiu Omo-Dada is very aware of the condition of my eyes and he loved me for who I am. Things started getting bad when I had my first child and later my second child. He totally changed and he would shut me up and walk out on me whenever I tried to start a conversation with him.
His parents even told him, ‘Will you keep on giving birth to children with this kind of eyes?’ He changed to the extent that he would leave the house for a whole week before coming back home. There was no food and provision, so, I had to go to my parents’ place to feed.
“My parents later asked me to leave his house. Since I left till now, he has not shown up to ask why I left or ask after me.
“My first daughter who is almost five years old has never attended a school before but I will like them to be educated.”
This is the Ilorin story. The recap of everything I said above! Where are the couple’s parents? Where is guardianship? Where are our values? Why have we normalised divorce so much? Does the modern Ilorin children not deserve a proper home?
While many Nigerians have since taken to social media to lampoon Omo-Dada for dereliction of fatherly duties, we should know by now we can not join the talking team. This is the time to start running.
First, Risikat should be reconciled with her husband regardless of the millions she gets. Those children need a home. I hope it works. It is not too late to study if she is willing. But indeed, she must no longer be idle. She and other Kwara women need guardianship. This is what I ask of the incumbent First Lady and the former one. As quintessential mothers, they can do beyond sharing gifts. I will see who goes out of the way to restore her home and make her a better woman, and indeed start offering leadership for the young women.
The role of the government is limited to going by our system. I’d have suggested radical steps. But they’d find an alibi in democracy, cultural and religious belief and also lack of financial resources. Nevertheless, what was keeping five-year-old Risikat’s daughter out of school? Challenging.
Indeed, religious and community leaders must be reawakened. Same for the civil groups. The ripple implications of broken homes are the multiplication of ill-bred children who take to crime and deepen insecurity. We can see the situation in the North West. Therefore, the revivification of values must begin earnestly with mentorship on marriage, life and leadership. I must mention IEDPU, Ilorin Anchor Men and Women, Ilorin Emirate Stakeholders, and other erudite associations across the state. Your selfless services to the growth of the community are noted, but we must up the ante.
These days, Kwarans are making waves in all spheres, but I have never desired something more than a day when the precocious children of this great state will have the means to stay in healthier and happier marriages. I pray.