1. Let us imagine, for a moment, that you are a self-respecting northern Nigerian Muslim, one committed to bringing up a very good family.
2. You have a number of children, the youngest of whom, Aisha, is a schoolgirl aged 13.
3. Ikechukwu, an Ibo artisan in your city, falls for your daughter with or without your knowledge. She probably loves him back.
4. One day, Aisha disappears moments after Ike paid her a visit at her mother’s shop.
5. You reported her disappearance to the police, who launch an investigation involving a nationwide manhunt. Your main suspect is naturally Ike, the south-easterner.
6. Six months later, Aisha is found in Ike’s hometown, Enugu in the south-east, where Ike took her after luring her from your city.
7. She is found to have been:
a. five months pregnant. Ike admits responsibility;
b. “married” to Ike;
c. converted to Christianity and
d. her name changed to Ada Roseline.
She wears skirts instead of her former hijab, and her hair is permed. She now sports a completely new identity that is alien to your own cultural and religious values.
8. With the support of Enugu state governor, Ike is arrested by the police and brought back to your city (where the abduction had taken place) in order to face justice. He is charged to court on five counts:
a. kidnappingb. criminal abductionc. illicit sexd. sexual exploitation, and e. unlawful carnal knowledge of a minor
These charges and related penalties are within the purview of Nigeria’s Penal Code.
8. The case flounders and falters, making it look like Ikechukwu will triumph. This worsens your months-long agony. Then, suddenly, the media in your city or region, as well as some religious clerics and a powerful NGO wade into the matter and spiritedly support your family’s cry for justice. Meanwhile, your daughter has since put to bed a bouncing baby girl after nine months of pregnancy.
9. Her Lordship the Federal High Court judge in your city eventually sentences Ikechukwu as follows:
Count 1: Dismissed;Count 2. Five-year jail term;Count 3. Seven-year jail term;Count 4. Seven-year jail term, andCount 5. Seven-year jail term
Total: 26 years.
Ike will spend 24 years behind bars because of the two years the case ran in court, unless the case is overturned on appeal. The judge has ruled that the sentences will run consecutively, i.e. one after the other.
10. Now the Ibos in the East begin to cry out against the judgement. Their grouse and stand are as follows:
a. the judge, a northern Muslim, is wicked and ethnic; she should have given Ike a milder punishment;
b. the whole thing is an anti-Christian, anti-Ibo agenda;
c. the conversion of your daughter to Christianity was a good thing for their faith. In fact, like the Crusades, it serves the cause of Jesus Christ very well. The northern Muslims have no right to protest;
d. indeed, some Ibos are even changing the narrative. They claim that Aisha, like Juliet, followed her Romeo to Enugu out of her own volition, that he wasn’t the one who took her there; that she looks 18 and ripe in the pictures rather than the 13 that you, her father, gave.
11. Now my questions:
a. How do you, the father take all this in your moral and legal spectrum?
b. Did Ike, in your view, commit any crime or not?
c. Is the judgement fair to your family or did the judge overshoot her limits?
d. Are the Ibos right in their agitation that Ike was jailed simply because he is a Christian or because he has carried a Crusade to Hausa land?
e. Is the Ibo outcry on the issue justifiable and justiciable?
d. How do you feel about having an illegitimate grand-daughter of Ibo parentage in your house? Does it feel good?
I have some more questions to ask you, but let’s see how you answer these ones first. Your answers will persuade me to believe if you are dispassionate, just and level-headed or bigoted, conceited and hypocritical.
Oya, begin!Sheme writes from Abuja