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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Discourse 315 DPO killed Pregnant Woman, Baby

Discourse 314
By Dr. Aliyu Tilde

DPO killed Pregnant Woman, Baby

The Sunday Trust of 26 December, 2010 carried the distressing story of how the brutality of a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) at Rigasa neighbourhood of Kaduna led to the death of a nine-month pregnant woman, Binta, and her baby.

Binta’s painful journey to death, as reported in the paper, started when her three year old child lost a slippers belonging to a co-tenant who used the opportunity to insult Binta continuously. For the sake of peace, Binta bought a pair of new slippers and sent it to the co-tenant. Instead of receiving it and let the matter die, the co-tenant beat the daughter who took the slippers to her and also engaged the nine-month old Binta in a fight. By the time she was done, Binta was bleeding.

Not satisfied that she has beaten the hell out of Binta, she went to the divisional police office and lodged a complaint that Binta has fought her. The DPO ordered three policemen to arrest Binta immediately. She was taken to the police station and detained all night in spite of pleas from her relations and husband. The complainant was not arrested.

When the police realised that her condition may lead to death, they called her brother whose name they found on her cell phone. With him, the police conveyed her to a nearby clinic in a police van. The clinic declined to treat her seeing her condition and referred them to Yusuf Dantsoho General Hospital at Tudun Wada, Kaduna. There, Binta gave birth to a baby girl who died five minutes later. And Binta too died that evening.

The husband called the DPO on phone and told him that he, the DPO, has killed his wife. It was then the DPO ordered the arrest of the complainant who is renowned in the neighbourhood for her quarrels. It was too late. She has run away.

A number of things made this story very sad. One, the brutality and subsequent death was over a bathroom slippers of just N80 (50 cents)!. The DPO should have reconciled the two instead of killing one of them and her baby.

Two, relatives of the deceased begged for Binta’s bail but the DPO denied it and insisted on incarcerating the woman even as she was bleeding from the beating she received from the complainant. He was so heartless an animal that he even refused to allow her drink water which she asked the husband to provide her with.

Three, unlike Maimuna who survived her serial rape to demand for justice, Binta did not survive to even tell her story, let alone demand for justice. Nor would her baby girl know the circumstance that killed her mother, for the baby died immediately after her birth.

Four, the response of the Kaduna Police Command is most irresponsible. All it did was to transfer the DPO to another division, as if he did nothing wrong. The Commissioner of Police even refused to answer a question raised by a journalist about the incident at a press conference. The command is keeping the result of the autopsy hidden.

This story, like that of Maimuna, epitomises the callousness of many in the Nigerian Police. By the refusal of the Kaduna command to sanction the DPO, the Police have clearly chosen to side with him in the case. It is not worth any punishment, in their judgement. The police by their action are asking the nation the following questions: So what, if a Nigerian loses his life in a police cell? How many such deaths happen across the country every day in police cells? Why would Binta’s be different even to warrant a whole oga DPO to be reprimanded? It is normal!

It is this camaraderie that damages the police beyond correction. The good among them are not ready to punish or expose the bad. The guilty is hidden and protected, unless he is inconsequential when he will be used as a sacrificial lamb. That is why Inspector Dantalle escaped from being charged in Kano despite his participation in the rape of Maimuna. The girl insists that he too raped her. But the police commissioner only demoted him to sergeant. Nigerian Police Force!

The police should not therefore blame the public for any generalisation. The Police force is one of the worst institutions of government in Nigeria and one of the worst human rights violators in the world. There is no crime that its personnel have not been committing in this country. They rape the vulnerable; they kill at the slightest provocation; many have been caught in armed robbery; they provide politicians with the security cover to rig elections and harass the opposition; they extort money from drivers; they hesitate to provide security to civilians when their help is needed; just name it. Only few people were able to come outsatisfied after having any business with the Nigerian Police.

The only two explanations they give to their incapacity are their inadequate numbers and lack of sophisticated equipment. If we may ask, did the DPO in Rigasa need three policemen to arrest a pregnant woman? Did he need any equipment to detain her in her bleeding state under the subhuman conditions of the Nigerian police cell, without food or water? All he needed to do was to behave like a human being, not an animal who is animated by the little bribe from a complainant to kill an innocent mother and her baby. It is that humanity that is missing in the Nigerian police. Its personnel could freely engage in human right abuses with impunity. And because their officer corps is raised through such a regime of violations it hardly reprimands its subordinates for any misdeed. Instead, the subordinate is encouraged by the assurance of espirit de corps to violate the rights of Nigerians again and again. The police have lost the power and wisdom of self-control.

The image of the police is in its hands. It can improve it by standing up to those who violate its ethics among its rank and file, if it likes. Who is surprised that the DPO of Kwali before whom the complaint of Maimuna’s rape and sex-slavery was brought pleaded with her relations to “forgive his men”? Who is surprised that the Police command in Kano has not reprimanded him too? They have grown through the rank and file of one of the most corrupt institutions in the country. They cannot be different. Ringim has the arduous task of proving himself different by changing the pattern of behaviour of his officers. He must punish where punishment is desired. He must show his men that Nigerians are more important than the uniforms the police wear.

On our part, I think Nigerians have been handling the police with kid’s gloves. We let them go with literally anything. We call ourselves educated when we do not even know the basic elements of our rights. There are institutions we can use to seek redress, not simply sitting down and crying before a newspaper reporter. The judiciary is there. Nobody is above it. What stops victims from lodging their complaints immediately their rights are violated with public complaint commissions, with their elected representatives, with their pastors and imams, with the human rights groups in their states, with just anyone they revere?

The police, for example, shiver at the sight of a lawyer and immediately start to do the right thing. Why do we fail to avail ourselves with the services of lawyers? If the victim cannot afford one, what of the state legal aid that offers free legal services just as does the NBA to such poor victims? Going public should even be the last resort, though the radio and the newspapers have been forthcoming here.

Educating us on our legal rights I think is the best contribution any government or private agency can offer towards curtailing these abuses. It will yield more dividends than concentrating on the present approach that is largely post-mortem and very costly. Let people know that where the police are involved in a violation, very little would naturally come out from them. They cannot be judges in their own course. This is a basic presumption in law. Recourse must be found in avenues outside the rotten department. Had the relatives of Maimuna not sought the help of the Hisbah and human rights groups in Kano, her case would not have been heard by the world. The police would have suppressed it as they suppressed millions of human rights abuses before. Even now, I agree that a more prudent independent investigation needs to be carried out by an independent body on Maimuna's case as suggested by many contributors.

Since the story of Binta broke out last Sunday, I have been informed that WRAPA is working on this case. Also pursuing the case are FIDA, PSC, the NHRC and a few other NGOs. They, along with WRAPA, are ascertaining the facts of the case as a first step.

The DPO in Rigasa was instrumental to the death of Binta. He should be charged with voluntary homicide. Simple. Binta did not need to be his mother before he could know that a bleeding pregnant woman requires urgent medical attention, not detention in a filthy police dungeon. His classroom training must have told him that his most important duty as a policeman is the protection of life, not destroying it. Here, he chose to destroy both the mother and her baby. His training also must have taught him the principle of fair hearing, the right for the accused to be heard before he is charged.

It is, however, regrettable that his practice taught him something different. It taught him to take bribe, take sides and kill the life. In addition, it taught him that he is a sacred cow.

Not this time. After killing his victim, the coward rushed to cover his ass by ordering the arrest of the complainant and seeking a transfer. He got it. But Binta too will get justice, even in her grave. The cow must be slaughtered this time. Let the coward be rest assured.

This case makes me to suggest the formation of an NGO that would specifically address issues bordering on police human rights abuses. It can be called “Friends of the NPF” or any other suitable word because the Police force cannot have better friends than members of such organisation. The police should not see this as a threat but rather as an aid that will help them solve one of their most pressing problems. Saving the police from itself must concern every Nigerian, in my estimation. The abuses are just too many and endemic for the force to extricate itself from. It requires a concerted external pressure. The cases are also too many for existing NGOs to be tackling while they also address their primary areas of concern.

The funding of such a group should come from individuals, groups and the government, which can channel its own through the NHRC and the police departmental vote. Such a group should be composed of human right lawyers, interested ex-police officers with proven integrity, human rights groups, community leaders in its branches and interested individuals. It could even be formed jointly by human rights groups. I hope readers will help to refine this rudimentary idea and go ahead to source the people who would be ready to follow it up to fruition.

May the souls of Binta and her baby rest in peace.

28 December 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Trivial 10. Jos Again (updated)

Trivial 10
By Dr. Aliyu Tilde
Jos Again (updated)
Jos is at it again. Two bomb blasts a day before Christmas in Christian dominated areas have today sparked off skirmishes in a number of neighbourhoods at the peripheries of the main city. The number of lives lost from the blasts is officially put at 32 while over 70 people are reportedly injured. The number of victims from today’s skirmishes is not reported. There are reports that lives have been lost and properties burnt.
Officials have not yet ascertained those behind the bombings. No group has claimed responsibility. From his comments over the BBC Hausa Service, Governor Jang is pointing a finger at his political opponents who want to use the crisis situation to their advantage. There are at least nine gubernatorial aspirants contending with the governor for the ruling party’s gubernatorial ticket. The governor claims that his government has evidence on the involvement of such people in the incident.

His opponents in the party accused the governor of mastermindin the bombs, pointing to the large amounts of weapons discovered in various locations in his local government of Jos South recently.

The recent claim of responsibility by a website claiming to be Muslim is seen as false and an attempt to fuel the crisis. Prayers have been held in various mosques calling on God to curse the perpetrators of the bombings.
The President has condemned the incident and said its perpetrators will be brought to book. The Chief of Army Staff called it an act of terrorism and blamed failure of intelligence on the part of the military and other law enforcement agents on ground.
Observers believe that the present conflict is likely to be different from previous ones in the increased sophistication of the arms used and in the presence of security agents on ground.
The use of explosives was predicted as the sophistication of weapons used by both factions in the crises continued to increase with every incident. Explosives are likely to raise casualties beyond previous figures and make the crisis difficult to quell quickly. It is doubtful whether increase intelligence is likely to bring about substantial reduction in occurrence given the poor state of security in the country. Averting bomb explosions has proved difficult even for elite armies of US and NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The presence of the military on ground will help in controlling fights in Jos town and raids of rural communities by ethnic militia in rural areas as it happened last February. In previous crises, damage to lives and property were incurred in the first 2 – 3 days before the military could be mobilized to various communities. This time around, the military has been all over the city and its surrounding communities since the February crisis.
The following days will be tense in both Christian and Muslim neighbourhoods of the city. If the governor’s claim is true, then more devastating explosions will be expected to happen soon in Muslim quarters of the city to give a semblance of reprisal by the same agents who detonated the yuletide bombs.
There has been concern in intelligence circles that politicians on the Plateau may use the vulnerability of the state to their advantage by fomenting further crisis in the build up to 2011 elections. And given the decade of mutual animosity between the communities, it is unlikely that the population of Jos will fail to be incited by such machinations.
Plateau state is predominantly Christian and the fight between the politicians there would essentially be won by who carries the heat of Christian population. It is unfortunate that the bombings that cause so much damage to lives and properties could be done for this purpose.
May God save the innocent and may the inhabitants of Jos Plateau decide to stay in peace with one another.
26 December 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Maimuna's Donations Account Number

The much awaited account number dedicated to the cause of Maimuna, the 16 year old girl that was raped and sex slaved by some policemen in Kano is given below.

ACC NUMBER: 0071060040371

There are three joint signatories to the account:

Dr Abdullahi Dahiru
Alhaji Ghazali Ado and
Alhaji Uba Tanko Mijinyawa

I travelled to Kano two days ago to meet with these people and work out some details of what needs to be done immediately. They are meeting today with the representative of Hizbah who has also been handling the matter of Maimuna to discuss the issue of the trust or foundation under which matters associated with her, including funds, will be handled. The suggestion so far is that it should inlcude representatives of government, Hizbah, women network in Kano, and Maryam's uncle.

There have been three significant developments on this issue since my last update four days ago.

1. The Police Commissioner in Kano has announced the dismissal from service of two of the three policemen; the third is demoted from Inspector to sergeant for his partial involvement. The CP said the suspects will be handed over to the DPP for immediate prosecution. 

2. The Human Rights Commission has petitioned the Inspector General of Police on the matter calling for full investigations.

3. Two days ago, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AG) and Minister of Justice has ordered the Inspector General of Police to arrest the culprits and conduct full investigation into the matter which he described as "dastardly", "criminal" and “constituted a grave violation of the victim’s fundamental right to the respect and dignity of her person.”   According to the report, "the Attorney-General condemned the action of the Police high command in remaining silent on this incident that has attracted wide publicity and public condemnation."

We remain grateful to the public and the media for the coverage. Here, the Voice of America Hausa Service deserves a special mention for its extensive coverage.

I assure donors that their donation is safe. We will be making pubic whatever accrues into the account and the source, anonymous or known, from time to time. We hope readers will contribute generously whatever they can, big or small.

As a farmer struggling with life in rural Nigeria, I announce my donation of a young cow that will deliver many other cows and bulls for Maimuna on my farm, God willing. In addition, I also donate N50,000 ($325) cash. 

"And whatever good you do God is aware of it."

Aliyu U. Tilde

Readers have been suggesting that Maimuna be tested for STD and HIV. I am glad to say that many sources have told me that she has been found negative on both, though further tests are required in later months to reconfirm the absence of HIV.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Trivial 9. The Maimuna Diary

Trivial 7
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
The Maimuna Diary
There have been significant developments since I wrote “Maimuna” and I feel that I owe my readers a duty to keep them informed about them.
The first significant development is how the police revived their investigation immediately after the three yahoo discussion groups in Kano issued a press release which was carried in many national dailies. One of the relatives of the girl said the culprits who were already released from custody were re-arrested immediately after the press release. They have been in police custody since.
The Kano State Commissioner of Police (CP) has also been up and doing on the matter since. Reports indicate that he was mad with the misconduct of his men and is trying hard to see the culprits are brought to justice with, understandably, as little damage as possible to the already battered national image of the Force. I have also received reports that following public uproar on the issue and the calls for him to intervene, the Inspector General of Police has put the Kano Police Command on its toe. The suspects now know that Maimuna, the little girl they deflowered and turned into a sex commodity over a month ago is not just any weak girl as they thought. She is more powerful than they are. She now has the world behind her. We will keep pressing, relentlessly.
The only setback here is that the three civilians involved in the crime have escaped to Lagos, said the CP. He irritated all of us in the discussion groups by showing his disappointment over the public's emphasis on the Police culprits  with little mention, he said, on their civilian accomplices. Who would he blame? Does not he know that the crime is particularly magnified by the involvement of the Police? And whose laxity was it that allowed the civilians to escape?  Do we know them? And even if we know them do we have a cell to lock them in?Anyway, he promised to apprehend them.
There are also indications that the police have completed their investigations and the accused police personnel might be arraigned in court next week, if not earlier. Here, we must commend the effort of the Kano State Attorney-General (AG) and Commissioner for Justice along with the Hisbah Board which I learned has been competently handling other similar cases before. It must not be forgotten that it was the Hisbah that demanded from the Police a comprehensive investigation on the matter. I am convinced that the two offices are on top of the matter. This will not, however, prevent us from appealing to the AG in particular to ensure that he prevails on the Chief Justice of the state to assign the case to a reputable judge that will administer the justice without undue delay or compromise. He knows his men well. And we know Nigerian courts very well too. The eyes of the world are on this case.
I will also plead with the AG to seek a trial in camera in order to safeguard the identity of Maimuna. It should not be in public; otherwise, she will live with a painful stigmatization for the rest of her life. We in the media have dubbed her Maimuna for the same reason. The same thing must, however, not apply to the suspects. Just as armed robbers are arraigned before the press, let them be exhibited in public by the Police Commissioner. This will further help to deter other policemen from similar actions.
Thirdly, I will appeal to the AG or whoever is handling the case to include a substantial plea of compensation to Maimuna which will be paid by the Nigerian Police.
Also commendable is the concern shown by various groups and the efforts they have been making since the news broke out. The Hisbah Board has opened a register for the groups that have shown interest in the case. Apart from general NGOs, the women advocacies have been pursuing the matter. Our sister Maryam Uwais has been on it since 12 December according to the thread of emails I received from the groups on the matter. They have been in contact with the Maimuna and her family, giving her the right counselling and doing whatever is possible in the circumstance. Their silence, I understand from the communications and indeed from Maryam’s published response in this blog (Maryam Fires Back!), is informed by the desire to protect the girl from a campaign that may scare the family into dropping the matter. And it almost happened.
Maimuna’s family indeed wanted the case dropped because of the stigmatization that the accompanying publicity would bring her. However, a representative from the discussion groups and from the women advocacies has each met with the family members separately and convinced them to stick to their guns at least for the sake of other girls who may fall victims of such violation in the future if this one is let to go unpunished. They have also been well informed of the interest that many of us have shown on the matter and assured the family that it will not be left alone to tread the long distance to justice alone.
I am overwhelmed by the outpour of support for Maimuna. We are trying to see a unified front is forged. The effort of Hizbah would help here considerably. However, I have my reservations about government establishments. People in this country have lost confidence that government agencies can sustain such tasks expeditiously. I still prefer the fund to be under a foundation specifically made for the poor girl, rather than left to a department of government.
Some have questioned why money would be useful in this course, arguing that justice is what the girl needs. From our experience, money and status are what guarantees justice in Nigeria, and Maimuna has neither one nor the other. Some N50,000 paid by someone to persuade the family to retreat almost compromised one of her relatives if not for the resolve of the uncle.
Maimuna and the family needs the money, one, as an inevitable provision on the long journey to justice. They must have the economic strength that will augment the moral one.
Two, I am of the opinion that Maimuna must not come out of this excruciating experience with the happiness that “justice is done” only and left to face the future as hopeless as any other girl of her class. When justice is done, her credentials would be that of a 16 year old girl that has suffered the worst humiliation we can imagine; a minor who, instead of keeping sealed lips, cried out to our hearing, even against the opinions of some of her family members until the world came to her aid. She has thus served as an example that is vital to protect other girls from such criminals in our society. In that way, she gave herself as a sacrifice for the public to fight injustice and to protect itself.
But what does she gain out of all this if we allow her to swim in the surrounding stinking pool of poverty which was the condition that predisposed her to victimhood in the first instance? If she were a girl driven in her family’s vehicle, as we the elite do to our daughters, would the police have abducted her? No. they would have saluted her, begging for a tip, saying, “Kiyaye ki Hajiya. Ana sanyi hajiya (May God protect you, Hajiya. The weather is cold)” If the car had broken down, they would have assisted her to repair it or tow it to safety for her. But Maimuna, the orphan, was riding a commercial motorcycle after sunset on her way back from her grandmother’s house. It did not have headlight. So instead of the police to protect her by getting her a taxi or another motorcycle, something that would cost them nothing more than N50 (30 cents), they used her pecuniary circumstance to abduct her and keep her as a sex slave for 28 days. We must remove Maimuna from this predisposing poverty in addition to helping her find justice.
Maimuna must be empowered by our effort to live a happy life for the rest of her life. She must have a happy marriage, a happy family in a prosperity that will prevent her children from becoming victims like their mother even in their worst dreams. In addition, we need to empower Maimuna whose experience would be an unparalleled force to fight for the emancipation of the girl child from poverty and other social injustices. We just cannot allow such a valuable experience vanish into thin air without exploiting it to her advantage and to that of the society at large.
How do we achieve these noble objectives? It is simple. Give Maimuna the best education we can find around and everything will fall in place. Though I have never met her, but having dealt with the education of thousands of children like her and given her background, I can pretty guess that she is not better than other girls who go to our public school but who, even at the age of 16, cannot construct a single sentence in English. So she needs special training to catch up and then excel; for excel she must if she is to realise our dreams for her. The fund, therefore, is also important for this purpose.
With the money at hand, she does not need to be whisked to Britain or to the States. We must protect her from the traps that others like Amina Lawal fell into. We must keep her home-grown, as much possible. Quietly, we can employ a very good teacher for her, who will train her in both Islamic and secular subjects. All this must be done without the attention that will prolong her trauma or stigmatize her. Within few years she will make significant headway. Then she goes higher and higher and higher in education and career. Along the way, God willing, Maimuna would be happily married with children and pursuing a career.
It is difficult for me to figure out a better way to help this girl than this. But this is just my opinion. Please do not hesitate to express yours below or elsewhere, in support or in objection.
On how the fund would be gathered, I still feel that a trust registered in her name into which donations made would finally be deposited and administered would be the best. The trustees should better be non-governmental, made of people of impeccable character and must include her resolute uncle, and a representative each from Hisbah, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Education. In collecting immediate donations, however, as I said, the groups can still be used. Emeka and some other readers have suggested my involvement. But I live four hours away from Kano. Moreover, the groups are made up of younger people whom I believe should be allowed to carry out responsibilities like this. This will prevent a repeat of the mistake which elders in this region have been making: They alone know the best and can do the best. That has left us without a tradition of continuity. My generation should be different.
Finally, as we look up to the beginning of the trial that will eventually lead to the justice that Maimuna deserves, possibly next week according one source, I will appeal to my colleagues in the media to continue to do all they can to safeguard her identity. The family needs to be assured of this. The Hisbah as a statutory body should also endeavour to ensure it. Nothing will break her like exposure. So far, so good! We do not know her actual name and cannot recognise her face. However, the trial risks changing this safety if it is not handled carefully. In addition to the call for a trial in camera, I would like the family to ensure that Maimuna for now wears a dress that will enhance her anonymity. A khimar – veil– even if it is only on any day in court or when she meets with outsiders will not be out of place. Better suggestions should please be made by readers below if possible.
So let us keep our eyes open and keep pressing hard. Once the fund raising arrangement is completed the public will be notified through various channels. I will also publish the details here. We will intimate you about the people involved in the collection and the accounts to deposit your contribution before the trust is registered, if that idea is accepted to the organizations at the centre of this nobleeffort.
Do not forget to contribute by giving your suggestions or expressing your views below. They will be highly appreciated now and later, as historical documents that Maimuna would gladly read in some years to come, in sha Allah.
20 December 2010

As I arrived Kano this afternoon, one of the leaders of Raayi Riga yahoo discussion group called me to break the news that the CP has just finished addressing a press conference on the matter. To lower the tension that he said is too much in Kano per the matter, he announced the immediate dismissal from service of two of the three policemen and the demotion of the third, Inspector Dantalle, to the rank of sergeant. The case will be immediately handed over to the DPP for instant prosecution, he said.

Let us keep pressing.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Trivial 8 Maryam Fires Back

Dear Reader,

I sought the permission of Aunty Maryam to share with the world this powerful response to my article, Yerima and Maimuna. As you can see we are sailing on the same boat with her, only that we sit on different benches facing each other. Men and women in Kano don't sit on the same bench. Do they? A daidaita sahu!

I am glad that the galant sister granted my request. May God reward her abundantly for standing on the side of the oppressed. We must be proud of a sister like her. I hope Sumpo and other younger women will follow her footsteps.

Though she just wrote an email, I find her response too important to be just a comment at the tail of my article. I have made it a topic of its own: "Maryam Fires Back". You are invited to share with other readers your views. But please do so with maturity in the spirit of mutual understanding. The girls must nto be scared please. Let this healthy debate continue.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

By Maryam Uwais

I am glad that my ' friendly fire' has finally evoked a response from
Dr Tilde, as his silence in Yerima's instance, in the face of copious
articles written on similar topics, was almost deafening. Fine, he had
written on issues that gave us reason to believe he was on the side of
justice, but this time, he was quiet.

Like so many others, unfortunately, I really do not know what is meant by the word 'activist' in your
description. I know, for some, it means troublemaker, but i hesitate
to presume that this is your own interpretation. I am just a female
lawyer that detests injustice and tries to assist those in distress,
where i can. I also have been labeled 'western', or influenced by
secular laws. I am amused by such allegations and have not bothered to
debunk them in the past, as i have always known what my motive is. I
will say a few words here, though, having seen some of the comments on
your blog.

I know that before i ever went to school, i had been taught
verses of the Qur'an, the hadith and the basic principles of the
Sharia, because i belong to a family of scholars, in their own right.
I do not claim such learning, but i know that my values, activities
and efforts are deeply entrenched in my early years of being taught
not to allow injustice to go unchecked, and to fight to protect the
'haqq' of the more vulnerable, wherever or whenever i can. I was
encouraged, at a very young age, to ask, where uncertain; and learnt
of the 5 objectives of protected rights in Islam, to be life,
intellect, lineage, reputation and property, ever before i went into
secondary school. Indeed, i did not hear of the Universal Declaration
of human rights until i got to University. But i have come to realise
that many that remain uncomfortable with enquiries some of us make,
find solace in trying to link us to the West, the purpose being to
discredit our work and our efforts. God knows best.

I need to make the point that the work we (some colleagues of mine,
both male and female) sometime engage in has little to do with
publicity, and more to do with what is necessary to salvage a bad
situation or challenge that has been brought to our notice. Just to
try and help, that is all. Many of the cases we have taken an interest
in and handled have not been made public, precisely because the
vicitms concerned are rather young and their privacy is always
paramount. Indeed, many of the concerns relate to issues that require
the cooperation of the person. Where, ultimately, the decision is that
she or he do not want to pursue their rights anymore, we have no
option but to step back, even in the face of the obvious injustice or
offence committed. Many a time, family and friends put pressure on the
victim to leave it to Allah. Where the facts cannot be proved because
witnesses are just not forthcoming, we have to respect the decision,
as we cannot prove any fact without evidence. So most times, we end up
mediating and trying to make the best of a bad situation.

In our work, we come accross so many injustices and even violations,
committed in the name of Sharia. We have striven to ensure that none
of these matters come to the public domain also to avoid the
stigmatisation that would naturally follow, if made public. The aim is
to help, not to compound the challenges of the victim concerned. So in
the same manner, after we saw the article in Trust, we went to work,
contacted Maimuna and have made some progress in trying to ensure
justice for her.

This was even before Dr Tilde wrote about her plight.
I responded to Dr Tilde's article because i was disturbed by his
apparent castigatiion of womens groups over Yerima's case, in his
piece on Maimuna's predicament. I found it to be unfair and
unecessary, as i believed there to be no relationship between the two.
My feelings were that he should know that we would need no prodding,
once alerted.

Yerima was different. Yes, we were loud, but as far as i am concerned,
we were justified in that instance. Yerima went public to say he was
emulating our Prophet Muhammad (saw) and found basis for his
'indiscretion' in Islam. He was silent on other critical underlying
issues, that we found to be fact, after investigation. I then went
public in an article that i believed to be in defence of the
perception of Islam, and to protect our young girls who fall victim to
what our parents and guardians do, usually for economic reasons, but
in the name of Islam.

I felt the need to debunk the impression given by the silence from
Muslims that the Sharia was static, rigid and inflexible, and that all
Muslims accepted the implications of Yerima's position; that the Sharia
was devoid of compassion, reason and morality.

My understanding of Tilde's argument in the instant article is that
because early marriage is NOT categorically prohibited in the Qur'an,
it cannot be outlawed. I would not hestitate to agree with him, were
early marriage a clear an injunction in Islam. Research, however,
demonstrates otherwise. I found that where the issue in contention is
merely permissible, laws can be and have been made in Muslim
countries, in the interests of the public or for public interest. That
is the way and manner Sharia has developed over the years; with a
focus on substantive justice, never selective, always focusing on the
larger picture and the context of time, but ever within the confines
of the letter and spirit of the Qur'an and the hadith.

I therefore wish to ask Tilde, is there an injunction in the Sharia
that marriage MUST be conducted with a minor? Indeed, is driving on
the left side of the road prohibited in the Qur'an? So why does he
drive on the right hand side only? Is is not because the State has
made a law for order and to avoid chaos? So also early marriage/child
birth. If it is found to cause harm, why can the State not regulate
it? Why do other Muslim countries peg the minimum age for marriage, if
it had been prohibited under the Sharia? Why has Saudi Arabia
established a Committee of experts, teachers, scholars, counsellors,
phsychologists, to determine what age is best for marriage in their
own environment? Can we not make enquiries as to the basis for their
laws? Surely where harm is evident in a society, it behoves on the State, and not just the individual, to prohibit it.

I will also add, with confidence, that the victims of vvf are 70%
girls who have given birth at 15 or below. I do not know about the
immediate environment that Tilde hails from, but there is no doubt
that narrow pelvises, in addition to accessibility, health care
provisions, etc, contribute to vvf. The statistics available to me
show that if we can reduce the number of 15year olds (or below) giving
birth at that age or earlier, we will be reducing the number of
patients in the vvf hospitals by 70%. This is sufficient, in my own
understanding. I do not need evidence that vvf is 100% caused by early
child birth, to be persuaded.

Tilde also argues that because other offences are so rampant and
penalties are not enforced, early marriage should not be outlawed. I
hope the suggestion is not that rape or rigging should be removed from
our law books, for that reason. I maintain that they should remain offences, nevertheless. And rightly so. They should remain in our law books, as the failure of the police to enforce the
laws can never be an excuse to obliterate them from our jurisprudence.
The issue to be addressed is the failure of our law enforcement agencies,
not the laws.

And what about the opportunity for girls to go to school and learn a
vocation or skill? Is that not a priority for us now, given the
poverty that prevails in many of our rural communities? Can we
continue to close our eyes to the fact that many of our girls are
marrried off before they can learn something that will enable them
become productive in their homes? Should we not be focusing on how to
encourage our girls be self-reliant, even after marriage.

But of course, while we are striving to make parents let their
daughters achieve some measure of education, we should also be
pressurising our governments to provide quality education and
vocational skills for our children. We will not relent on all fronts.
Believing firmly that laws can be strong catalysts for change (as had
happened in the early 60's when the northern region compelled parents who kept
their children away from school, otherwise they stood the risk of being arrrested) we are
hoping that the enactment of laws permitting our girls to go to school
to learn how to be productive, manage their homes, gain some skills
and be good mothers, should be priority, especially given our
circumstances in northern Nigeria.

We can sit down and determine a feasible age, but we should agree on a minimum age for marriage.
I do not agree that the 'consent' that young teenage girls may give
(in this day and age) is informed consent, as many of them are much too young to
comprehend what they are consenting to, even where their parents tell
them who their husbands are going to be. If they were allowed to grow
more mature, they would be better placed to understand the
responsibilities of marriage and motherhood.

I have often heard the argument that if girls do not have schools to
go to by a certain age, the probability is that they would get
pregnant and get involved in some immorality. Surely parents should be
held responsible for these incidents if they occur, as the upbringing
of the child is squarely on their shoulders. How can blame for the
laxity of the parent be placed on the child, and be the excuse for
depriving that child of an education? In Islam, can a child be blamed for its action or inaction? Indeed, what age does a child attain majority? Should we not reflect deeper on
the implications of our own excuses?

I certainly have never thought that our mothers who married earlier
than 18 suffered for doing so. There was no law at that time, so there
is no reason for Tilde to even suggest that. Indeed, we could venture
into discussions of diet, nutrition, etc and how they impacted on
growth rates, if this debate were to continue along this line. The
point to make is that where there is a valid law that makes it an
offence for you to marry a girl below a certain age, you should strive
to abide by it, especially since you are part of the law making
process. Its like going against your own word, which is definitely
abhorrent in Islam.

Yerima is perceived as a leader, a role model. How can he blatantly
commit an offence, and then say he is not bound by it? How can he
divorce one, just to marry another? How can he be so extravagant in
the circumstances? Are women meant to be treated in such a whimsical
fashion, in Islam? Can he not see that those who are in awe of him
will hasten to ape and copy him? What lessons or impact on our
communties and girls? And the perception of Islam?

These recurring incidents of marriage, giving birth, then divorce is
one of the biggest challenges of our region. We focus on regulating marriage, without attempting to curb the wanton abuse of divorce. So we end up with street and stray
children, many unchecked and without 'tarbiyya', because their mothers
are not married to their fathers. Nobody to monitor their activities,
feeding, protect them, or supervise their coming and going. HIV and
disease so prevalent and on the rise. Divorce so rampant and unchecked, young wives being
replaced for the flimisiest of reasons. Currently, a Speaker in one
of our Sharia State Houses of Assembly is known to have married and divorced
19 times!

Surely we should all be fighting hard towards making the family unit
stable, as is so central and significant in Islam!

Maryam Uwais
Wali-Uwais & Co.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Discourse 314 Yerima and Maimuna

Discourse 314
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Yerima and Maimuna
The issue of Maimuna has reincarnated the dead issue of Yeriman Bakura’s controversial marriage to an Egyptian girl. Since I blamed us and various sectors of our society for silence over her issue in my article “Maimuna”, many readers have particularly singled out women advocacy groups, like WRAPPA and NAPTIP, for blame over their public silence on the matter. They accuse the women groups of hypocrisy, I think unfairly, as being interested only on high profile cases like that of Yerima and issues of self-interest like gender equality in appointments into public office while showing less interest on the plight of the ordinary folks like Maimuna. The comments can be reached at under the article on this lead:
The women fired back. The missile was fired by my sister and mentor, Hajiya Maryam Uwais, a respectable woman activist. She posted this comment on my blog under the article, Maimuna: “The issues are very clear and contrary to what many have said here, women groups and those that stand against abuses of this nature have been working round the clock to get to the bottom of this tragedy. And by the way, the allusion to Yerima was not necessary and unfortunate, especially in the context it appears. Yerima’s case was not necessarily about Yerima. It is about the thousands of young northern girls who get married off before they understand the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood. It is about impunity and the selective use of Islamic principles and laws, depending on what side of the divide you are. It is about the poverty and hopelessness that prevails amongst many of our families and women in our communities, precisely because our leaders choose to look the other way when atrocities are committed in the name of Islam. It is about joining issues with those who use Islam for their selfish ends, while maintaining different standards when it comes to their own lives.”
Had my sister stopped there, I would not have bothered to write this article. But she fired her missile directly into the territory of her little brother, something I consider a friendly fire. Hear her: “Tilde, some of us are still waiting for your position on Yerima, especially because the issues there are not as clear as in this instance. Or do you write only on matters that will not attract condemnation or controversy?”
I consider this a friendly fire because women know that I have been on their side since 2000 when I wrote my six-part series titled “Rights of Nigerian Muslim Women” ( I cannot recall how many women wept after reading especially the second part of that series: The Life of My Daughter. I still recommend the series for both young fathers and mothers. I have always come to aid of my sisters against laws I consider unnecessarily oppressive like when the idea of dressing code was contemplated in Kano during the heat of Sharia implementation. It was then I wrote The Hijab Controversy in Kano, Be Gone ( My sisters were very happy with these articles and Aunty Maryam herself helped to circulate some of them. I remain very liberal on women issues to this date.
On whether I write only on soft issues that do not attract condemnation, I believe my readers, including Aunty Maryam, will vindicate me. Hardly is there any reader that I have not offended at least once because I emphasize my individuality without any regard to group opinion. A conservative may think I am on his side, then suddenly an issue would come up and I would shock him by taking a very liberal stand. That is the way many Muslim conservatives were shocked by the first critical article Shariah in Zamfara ( or No to Mullah Dictatorship ( Some people never forgave me on that to date. Similarly, liberals may be shocked when I wrote another series against secularism, God Save Us from Secular Laws ( and the series on Almajiri ( Many northerners would be incensed with my articles Malam B ( and We are Boko Haram (, for example, while many of the southerners and our Christian brothers who were happy with the two articles must have hated
Dogo Nahauwa ( when a Birom village was ransacked overnight. Some abandoned my column in Saharareporters since then. After the people of Bauchi did a kasa a tsare, I wrote The Yuguda Revolution ( My life was attempted twice; from the first one I escaped by a whisker. That did not stop me from writing more on the dismal performance of the Yuguda regime in Bauchi. In the end, as always, my prediction came true and I stand vindicated.
I hope the above is enough to also vindicate me on the accusation that I prefer to write on matters that are not controversial. I am so independent that I can write on anything I am convinced is important. But I did not write on Yerima because I was not convinced about the arguments against him. And I could not defend him either because, I believe, he should have acted with better discretion. Yes, he might have married a 13 year old, something he disputed, which I would not have permitted if it were my child. Yes, he was a senator, who should have ethically protected the bill his chamber passed into law even if he were against it on the floor. Yes, the marriage should not have been contracted in Abuja, which is a federal jurisdiction in which the law applies. I understood all these and many more from the arguments of the advocates.
Yet, I was not convinced enough on the basis of reason and revelation to jump into the fray. On the basis of reason, I have many questions whose answers have not been clear enough to me from the points raised by my colleagues in women rights advocacy. I pose some of them here.
When has marriage done under consent of the teenage girl and her parents become child trafficking or paedophilia? It could be another offense under a national statute, but not child trafficking or paedophilia. So Yerima might have violated a law, just as we violate the law against adultery, theft and rigging elections, crimes far greater to the life and dignity of women than marrying a teenager. Why haven’t we heard anyone prosecuted for adultery, a common crime taking place to the full knowledge of everyone? Why not take those who rig our elections to court, or those who loot our treasury? Reincarnate our parents and try all of them for marrying our mothers at the age of fourteen as it is very difficult to come across anyone in northern Nigeria, Muslims and majority of Christians, who was born up to the mid-1960s and whose mother was married later than 15  years. Let my sisters ask the old ones still living at what age were they married. Were our parents pedophiles or child traffickers then? 
The two grounds given for preventing marriage until 18 were not sufficiently convincing to me. On health for example, the issue of VVF was the main one mentioned. However, it is known that nature, deviations apart, will not physiologically mature a girl without a corresponding matured anatomy. And where deficiency occurs, it does so irrespective of age or even body size. We have seen many huge women even at thirty and beyond who cannot have normal delivery due to the deficient anatomy of their pelvis. That said, experts have told us that VVF is also caused by other factors, especially the poor management of the delivery itself and lack of proper antenatal care. Again, let us look at the women around us, those who were married at the age of 14-15 years. Here in my village, we never had a case of VVF among them, and those reported elsewhere  are not at a frequency different from that of other problems which women face at birth, many of them lethal. Or let me put it this way: can anyone give us the statistics of VVF per 1000 births in Nigeria? And of the reported 1000 VVF cases, how many were caused by early marriage? I do not think on a matter like this we should just be talking without credible statistics. The ones I know from experience do not encourage me to stop under-18 marriage just on VVF grounds.
If my knowledge of human and animal biology is anything to go by, the quality of off-springs naturally reduces with the age of the mother, if you discount the first year of menstruation in humans or heat in animals. A teenage girl that delivers, say, at 17 or 18, i.e. three to four years after the inception of her period, stands a better chance to deliver a more robust child than a woman in her thirties, other things equal. Later than this age, intensive management of the pregnancy and delivery is required to have a safe delivery. That is how it is in the entire animal kingdom. Nature cannot be stupid.
The other ground is social, which sister Maryam has alluded to when she said Yerima’s case “is about the thousands of young northern girls who get married off before they understand the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood.” Sincerely, are under-18 girls ignorant of marital responsibilities and motherhood in a traditional society like ours where every girl grows in the company of her parents, relations and friends? What has happened to the customary internship she undergoes before marriage and when she returns home during her first or second birth to deliver, in which she learns the fine details of  maternal and neonatal care? I am not sure who better understood the responsibilities of marriage between our mothers who married as teens before and our sisters now who marry as graduates. Let this question be answered.
At least, most of us can attest that our mothers were faithful and diligent in executing their marital responsibilities in a manner that we cannot afford today. In fact, marriage to many of them was Ibadah, an act of worship. May God reward them abundantly! Though they did not go to modern school, they nevertheless brought us up with universal values of honesty, responsibility and brotherhood, only for such values to become perverted by the educational system that we underwent, which imbued us with the opposite – selfishness and materialism – whose results have brought about widespread misery and mischief in the land.
Moreover, unlike in other cultures, marital responsibilities are defined in the Muslim world because they have long been culturally imbibed to the level of norms. Our under-18 girls grow in that environment and they are not in the dark regarding what is expected of them.
So on both grounds, my reason failed to be convinced that there was sufficient ground to condemn Yerima in so vociferous manner.
Now let us move to the equally contentious ground of revelation. But before we settle on that ground to discuss what some of my sisters consider as the “selective use of Islamic principles and laws”, I find it important to state that I consider myself as a very moderate Muslim and, so far, a disciple of the moderate scholar Yusuf al-Qardawi, on most things. I am liberal with my dress, food, relationships and thoughts. Yet, I know my limits. I never dare cross the limits of God when it comes to opinions on categorical things like legislation – which is essentially the definition of halal and haram. That is His domain, as I explained in God and Legislation( and Islam and Legislation ( I implore the reader that will contend with me on this to go through the Chapters al-An’am and al-Nahl in the Qur’an. There it is made clear that legislating on what is unlawful is the prerogative of God only. So no matter my moderate tendencies, I cannot say something is forbidden if there is no legislation from God forbidding it. My guiding principle in this is what scholars of Islamic jurisprudence call “presumption of permission in what is not forbidden” – al-asl fi al-ashya al-ibahah. Put in another way, God has permitted me to do anything in life except the few things He has prohibited.
I cannot find any principle in Islam that calls for forbidding the marriage of a teenager in the manner that we seek to legislate in the Child Rights Act under pressure from secular organizations like the United Nations. I cannot find where it is prohibited in the Qur’an or in the Hadith. In my study of the problem, I came across the fatwa given by the Grand Mufti of Egypt acceding to the prohibition of early marriage. But two things here need clarification. Egyptian establishment ulama are not a good barometer of Islam, just as Egypt is not a good example of democracy. They shift with the government in power. If the Muslim Brotherhood were to produce the Egyptian President tomorrow, the Grand Mufti is most likely to change his fatwa. There have been serious pressure from the government on the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia to give such a fatwa, but he refused.
The second problem is the definition of earliness. How early is early? 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, or younger? Just who is a minor in marriage? I think citing the case of Aisha here as a defence of Yerima is irrelevant. If the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) were our example here, we would have seen most Muslim girls married at the age of 9 or even earlier. But throughout history, there are extremely few such examples, if any, to cite among Muslims. Many girls, I agree, are married as soon as they begin to observe their period; most of them much later. So in Nigeria we are not speaking about taking a girl to bed at the age of 9 because no one ever did that in the name of marriage; rather, I think the discussion centres around girls who are biologically matured but perceived as psychologically not sufficiently prepared for marriage, its responsibilities and consequences. On this, as I mentioned above, there is no cause to defend the prohibition from health, social or religious grounds. Islam has allowed this to the family to judge in the best interest of the girl. If there were any need for legislation on it, the Qur’an would have done it categorically as it did regarding many issues on the rights of women.
We are then only left with only one ground: the source of The Child Rights Act. Advocates against “early marriage” import their ideas from outside our cultural milieu, from the West that has different cultural history and practices from ours. I have earlier heard some Muslim women advocating for equal inheritance for women as for men, equal sharing of husband’s estate after divorce and so on – views totally foreign to the teachings of the Qur’an in which God has categorically given specific injunctions. Especially since the Beijing and Cairo Conferences, Islamic provisions are twisted by such advocates to enable the alignment of these strange views with its teachings. I do not think this is sincere or healthy.  This is Americanization. This is imperialism. This is unnecessary. No honest and credible scholar can lecture Islam on the rights of women. It gave women rights centuries before anybody did. It still advocates for their rights better than any other creed to my knowledge. It still has sufficient room to emancipate our sisters from traditions that arose either from our African heritage or from some outmoded interpretations of Islamic injunctions in matters that are dynamic.
Interestingly, throughout the debate on Yerima, the advocates of Child Rights Act have not weighed the difficulty that the teenage girl would face in keeping with the Islamic value of chastity when she is not engaged in education or other career building vocations. Morality, defined in these terms, I understand, is not an issue under the Act. This exposes the girl to greater risks. Even on health grounds, for example, how many teenage girls are infected with AIDS in Nigeria before marriage? Is it possible that their number is by far greater than teenage women who suffer from VVF?
Let me say that education, like I said in the case of Almajiri, is what would change things, not legislation. If you ask me why I will not give my 16 year old daughter to anyone in marriage is because the circumstance does not call for that. I want her to be a carrier woman. But I will be stupid to think that her circumstance is like that of all other girls. I do not know the circumstance of the Egyptian family or of its girl which made it convinced that marriage was better for their daughter. However, the same education is denied the ordinary Nigerians by government officials and politicians who have subjected them to a chronic regime of poverty. Now they want to gag them through legislation. The age of marriage with increasing spread of education is increasing among Nigerians, without any legislation, because the girls themselves are increasingly becoming busier with acquiring a carrier. I will rather implore for our patience than forbidding what God has not forbidden just in the quest of adopting the plans of some foreign organizations. 
My silence over Yerima, the reader must have realised by now, was even to the advantage of the advocates. In fact, my brothers would even accuse me of complicity in aid of the women rights activists. There was not just enough conviction to condemn him so much. But for others, perhaps because he is Yerima, there were more reasons than what we heard.
As for Maimuna, her case is very clear. It was rape. It was slavery. It was breach of trust. These three parameters can be established easily under any law worth its name, religious or secular, Nigerian or foreign. I would not have said anything if Yusuf’s crime were that he married the 16 year old Maimuna in a normal way. But what he and his gang did was criminal as I sufficiently explained in my article on the subject.
There is no basis for comparing Yerima’s case with Maimuna’s. That was marriage. This is rape and slavery using state apparatus of coercion. The problem here arose from the fact that, publicly, women advocacy groups did not treat the matter with the urgency they have been treating other cases before. It is a week now since the story was first published. But still not a single women group, to my knowledge, has issued even a preliminary statement to the press. That does not mean that they have not been doing anything. However, unless they come out publicly to register their disgust, what other opinion would they expect us to hold? It was in that context that I mentioned the case of Yerima.
So, though I never ran away from controversy, I do not write without sufficient conviction. I don’t follow the crowd. May be I will change my views later, but only on conviction based on new fact.
The reader is invited to share his own view with other readers by commenting below ( I will be glad if we avoid harsh language. Our sisters have been doing a lot, but, understandably, they have their own limitations, just as we have ours in abundance.
18 December 2010

After reading one of the comments below, I realized that I did not cross check the minimum marriage age under the Child Rights Act. This partially informed by haste and by our common use of the common law legal term 'minor' in place of under-age which made me to presume it at less than 18. That is why I insist that your comments are important. Forgive this oversight. This inaccuracy, though, has not affected the thrust of my argument, that families, based on circumstances, are the best judges of deciding when to marry out their daughter, not the national assembly. That best varies even within girls of the same parents. Today, except the girl shows a tendency for promiscuity or dullness or the parents are handicapped economically or such other constraining issues, the best time a parent can decide on is that which accords the girl a bright, safe and happy married future. The window is not wide. Act wisely as parents and leave the rest to God. "After you have resolved, leave your affairs to God".

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Trivial 6. CPC Crisis Worsens

Trivial 6.
Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
CPC Crises Worsens
Just three hours ago, the former CPC Chairman of Kano, Alhaji Haruna Danzago, who was removed by the Party’s Board of Trustees (BOT), completed a press conference in Kano where he presented a fresh letter signed by the National Chairman of the Party, Senator Rufa’i Hanga, showing that the party’s Chairman has reconfirmed his appointment as the CPC Chairman in the State. The letter was also copied to the State Commissioner of Police, State Director of SSS and the State Resident Electoral Commissioner.
The development came barely two days after Engr. Buba Galadima announced the dissolution of the party executives of Kano, Katsina and Kebbi States as fallout from the decisions taken by the BOT which is chaired by Muhammadu Buhari.
The dissolved executives of Kebbi State also publicly declared their defiance to the dissolution order in an interview granted by their Chairman to the BBC yesterday. Similar statements were made by the ones in Katsina.
It is now clear that there is a dangerous power tussle within the party, with Buhari and his aides like Engr. Buba Galadima and Sule Yahaya Hamma, both BOT members and former members of The Buhari Organisation (TBO), on the one hand and the Chairman of the Party in whose name it was registered and who was not part of TBO.
It seemed that National Chairman had accepted the earlier decision of the BOT to dissolve the executive committees until his attendance of the joint meeting between INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, and Chairmen of political parties in the country.
Observers believe that Hanga made a u-turn after being bolstered by the categorical announcement of Jega that only congresses and primaries that were conducted according to the constitution of each party will be recognized by the electoral body. According to CPC constitution, the highest decision making body is the NEC which is chaired by Hanga as the Chairman of the Party, and not the BOT that is headed by Muhammadu Buhari.
Also, according to the Party’s constitution, only financial members of the party can partake in its congresses and primaries. This provision gives the Chairman an advantage over the BOT which decided a week ago that the congresses be open to all supporters of the party. In Kano where the National Chairman is preparing to contest for governorship, the much discredited ward congresses that were conducted last Saturday and which were cancelled by the BOT were attended only by card carrying members of the party. The cards, numbering only 54,000, were largely sold only to followers of the National Chairman, other aspirants allege.
This development has resulted in two caretaker executive committees in Kano, Katsina and Kebbi States, one appointed by the National Chairman and the other by the BOT.
No comment is heard yet from the BOT on the recent development.
The congresses of Katsina, Jigawa and Bauchi states are billed for next Saturday, 18 December 2010.
Until recently, Alhaji Haruna Danzago has been on the side of Buhari and was the most critical voice from the camp of the former General against Shekarau, the present Kano State Governor.
Two days ago, Engr. Buba Galadima, who has been the chief spokesperson for Buhari recently, has in an interview he gave to BBC two days ago threatened to leave the party if justice will not be done to every aspirant by following due process. The threat, coming from one of the closest aides of Buhari, has led some observers to predict that if push comes to shove, Buhari too may abandon the party, thus pulling the carpet from underneath the feet of the many moneybag politicians who have flocked the party in order to cash on his credibility to fulfil their electoral aspirations.
15 December, 2010

Trivial 5. Maimuna

Trivial 5.
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

This is not trivial at all.

Maimuna is the 16 year old girl whose plight was reported by Weekly Trust last Saturday, 11 December 2010. She was abducted on the street by Yusuf, a policeman on a night patrol team in Kano, and kept in his house as a sex slave for 28 days before she could escape. Maimuna alleged that while in his custody,  Yusuf sold her out for sex to his friends among the Police and others who could pay a handsome amount. In a plea for her compliance, a drug dealer, Sanusi Pele, told her how he repeatedly paid Yusuf before he could get her. With Yusuf, however, the rape was on a daily basis. The full story of the poor can be read at
Maimuna’s family complained to the Police but it took the intervention of Kano Hisbah Board before the Police started investigating the matter. Yusuf admitted keeping the girl but, naturally, denied raping her. He and the others, I reliably learnt yesterday, have already been released from police custody. There have been veritable reports of pressure mounted on the family to withdraw the case. The Divisional Police Officer under whom Yusuf is serving and to whom the complaint was first lodged “begged the relatives to forgive his men and let the matter die”, reported Weekly Trust. Nor was the word of his boss, the state Police Commissioner more reassuring: “If the allegation is found false, the Hisbah Board will be required to buttress their information so that the general public will know the true situation of the matter.”
From this, one can safely conclude the outcome of the investigation. The police command in Kano is famous for unending investigations. High profile murder cases have vanished in its case files after the initial promises to ‘bring the culprits to book.”
Therefore, I am not ready to squander my hope that Maimuna’s case would be  any different. Otherwise, why the effort to buy the silence of her relatives who are so poor to even afford the almost daily taxi fare to the police station? Perhaps, it is in recognition of the enormous forces against her that little declared, “If I don’t get justice here on earth, I am sure I’ll get it in the hereafter.”
My argument in this short discussion is that we cannot afford to wait for the hereafter. Maimuna is our daughter, just like the daughter of any of us. This is the first reported case of its kind. There have been cases of rape in police custody, just as there have been many cases of sex slavery. What makes Maimuna’s different is the combination of the two: the use of state instrument of law to rape and sex-slave a teenager in a traditional society like Kano. Yusuf abducted her as she was riding a bike to return home when he was on official duty to protect the civilian population of Kano. He and one Inspector Dantalle have been using the patrol vehicle to transport her from one customer to another. He threatened her with his status, his uniform, his gun, his friends, and with the authority of state. That is the difference.
Being the first also necessitates the need to show sufficient public outcry against the breach of public trust. More girls might have suffered the same fate silently in the past. But more will definitely suffer in future if we remain silent and allow Maimuna's case to fizzle away while Yusuf and his likes continue to serve as policemen. This is where I find us guilty. Since the story hit the stands, there has been no public protest over the issue except the press release made by the management of Dandali/Ra’ayi/Yan'arewa yahoo discussion groups. That Hisbah and the office of the Attorney-General are handling it is not enough; that is simply official.There is the need for the outcry to come from other quarters. The silence is sickening.
First, where are our women’s right advocacy groups who deafened our ears when Senator Sani Yariman Bakura allegedly married a 13 year old Egyptian girl? Where is their advocacy against child trafficking? Where are those advocating against child abuse?
In fact, where are the people of Kano who have in the past distinguished themselves with the culture of protest over all sorts of issues – political, economic, ethnic and religious? Why have they not protested so far to the Police headquarters and added their voice on the need to bring Yusuf and other culprits to book? Where is the Kano that could spend its fortune on regulating Hausa films not forthcoming in lending its voice collectively in support of it's 16 year old daughter? Where are its Ulama? Has any of them delivered a Friday sermon condemning this action? Where is the Shariah committee? Has its members demanded that Yusuf be handed over to any Shariah court for trial? Where are its academicians and writers? Are their pens dry? What has become of the ancient city and its great people?
Indeed, where is Governor Shekarau, the Sardauna of Kano? Would have the original Sardauna failed to rest his weight behind Maimuna until justice is done? Where is Ado, it's Emir, who inherited the throne of his father Sanusi who never wasted any time since his youth to protect the interest of his subjects and attend to their needs, as Sir Sharwood Smith once said?
Where is the larger umma that could protest the cartoons of the Prophet or the Miss World pageant, matters far smaller in Islam than the rape of a girl? One cannot imagine what would have happened were the culprits not Muslims.  Chineke! Fortunately, for the peace of Kano and the nation, the evil was homegrown. All of them are Muslims – Yusuf, Dantalle, Salisu, Shehu, Misbahu, Sanusi, name them – though, we must hasten to add that the religious identity of the girl is immaterial to a conscientious public that is threatened by wolves in uniform. When things are left to government in Nigeria, their end is more predictable than the coming of tomorrow.
All cultures place high premium on the dignity of their women. Islam in particular takes serious offense when women are molested. One of the major conflicts between the Muslims in Medina and their Jewish neighbours during the lifetime of the Prophet was over the molestation some the Jews meted on a Muslim woman in the market. Also, when a Muslim woman was once held captive by an emperor of a foreign land, the Caliph sent him a letter, threatening  him with war: “Release her immediately; otherwise, I will fight you with a force that would begin at your end and end at mine.” The emperor obliged immediately. Those were men with guts. Their dignity comes first before their material interest. For us, we are bourgeois, as Fukuyama has described us. We are the "last man" who has compromised his self-pride for the ingredients of survival.
Not all of us, though. I recount the display of courage by one medical student at Ahmadu Bello University four years ago. A visiting professor, Singh, was teaching the class how to revamp the respiration of a person that has seizure as a result of accident or other causes. It required a demonstration which is usually done on a male student. Unknown to the cultural sensitivity of the class, the professor asked a girl to come forward for the demonstration, which required her to strip her chest. She started crying. He insisted. Kabiru, one of her classmates, rose and objected, saying, “She won’t.” And that was the end. Singh complained to the Dean about Kabiru’s ‘rudeness’ but the matter was laid to rest by explaining to the professor the inappropriateness of his demand in the cultural context of the class. Kabiru is now in his clinicals. Than him, I think, Bauchi has not produced a better boy. He is my hero. Had he thought of the consequences of expulsion or so, he would have kept quiet and allowed the girl to suffer the humiliation. But he was instantly transfigured by the self-pride he shares with the girl to do the right thing, which saved the girl.
In a world of very few Kabirus, we can still accord Maimuna and her family some succour. The girl, as the press release by the discussion groups suggested, needs professional counselling to help her manage the traumatic experience. The regime of counselling should be lasting. She also needs to be clinically tested and treated immediately for any STD including HIV, now and later, especially given the type of characters that have raped her repeatedly. She and her family need money to help them stick to their guns and ward off any attempt to buy their silence. It will also help finance a private litigation if the need arises. Finally, though the voice of men will bring a lot of assurance to the family, that of our female advocates will particularly boost the confidence of the girl.
Should we fail in this, our silence makes us accomplices in the eyes of humanity.
What should be done to Yusuf and his gang? I quite agree with the calls of the discussion groups, that pending completion of investigations, the suspects need to be suspended from the Force and retained in custody without bail because they will interfere with the investigations. There is admission of culpability from Yusuf when he conceded that he harboured the girl. That is enough a circumstantial evidence. When the investigation is completed and the evidence of their culpability ascertained, they should be charged to court for rape, slavery and breach of public trust. Their sentence must be aggravated, to run successively, not concurrently, given the heinous nature of their crime. That is enough to keep them in jail forever. Other criminals among the police will not miss the signal of deterrence.

Also as suggested by the groups, the Inspector General of Police needs to take over the investigation and display the resolve that is required to allow Maimuna attain justice. If the present Kano State Commissioner of Police is the same Yabo that was in Kaduna some months ago, I will cry with a loud voice for the transfer of the case for Force Headquarters.
Finally, there is a brewing idea of establishing a fund for the family by the discussion groups. When arrangements are completed, in addition to my personal contribution, I have pledged to appeal to my readers across the world to also donate. Though the stomach in us is gone, at least this much we can do for the poor Maimuna. Before then, please let me have your comments below.
15 December, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Trivial 4 Buhari May Leave CPC

Trivial 4
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Buhari May Leave CPC
The recently concluded congresses of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) at ward level in many states of the federation has left no one in doubt about the nature of the party’s leadership. All the commentators I read or listened to so far have expressed their shock regarding the extent to which some candidates went to rig the outcome of the exercise. Reports have also confirmed the widespread irregularities especially in states considered as the strongholds of the party and its presidential aspirant, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
Barely ten days after writing Fraud, Moneybags and CPC (, it is disheartening to report back that the fears I expressed in that article regarding the emerging bad reputation of the party have materialised. Unless something is done quickly, the confidence which many Nigerians have – that the party will put up a formidable challenge to the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – will be quickly eroded. The fraud that is taking place has no equal in the annals of Nigeria’s political history.
The first bad omen came from Katsina, the home state of Buhari himself. There were widespread allegations that a gubernatorial aspirant, Senator Yakubu Lado Danmarke, has bribed each member of the state caretaker committee with N5million and each chairman of local government caretaker committee with N400,000. The state committee did not waste time in sitting and declaring that it has reached a consensus to give Danmarke the gubernatorial ticket of the party, to the total exclusion of other candidates. Naturally, the likes of Aminu Masari that did follow that rule cried foul. A supporter of Danmarke was heard over the BBC admitting that indeed N5m money was given but as a “contribution” to running the party. He even rhetorically asked, “Would the party run without money?”
How could a group of few people sit and decide to give a party ticket to someone in a state of four million people, without any primaries and in a party that promises to institute social justice among 150 million Nigerians? The ward congresses of Katsina State where ward executives and three ward delegates will be elected are coming up next week. The story is not over. But I bet you it will not be different.
Yes. It will not be different from what happened in the neighbouring state of Kano where the National Chairman of the party, Senator Rufa’i Hanga, violated the directive of the Board of Trustees (BOT) not to use the initial limited registration cards of the party in last Saturday’s congresses. But having known that the cards were sold mostly to his supporters, Hanga refused to carry out the directive. Haruna Danzago, the Chairman of the party in Kano, was heard on air a day before the congresses threatening that anybody who goes to the venue without the membership card will be promptly arrested by the Police. Many people called on Buhari and other BOT members to complain of this bizarre display of injustice. One of the Board members was heard advising some of the complainants on phone that they are free to “resort to whatever is possible to fight for their rights.” It was an advice given in ignorance of what the National Chairman of the party had in store in the next few hours.
As it turned out, in most local governments the congresses did not take place at all. Results were cooked and submitted to the party headquarters in Kano. Where the congresses took place, Hanga’s supporters outsmarted those of other candidates: the congresses were started at 2am in the night in some places, others until Fajr prayers were said at 5pm! By 8am when the congresses were to start officially, all was concluded. This is a new achievement in rigging. Not even PDP can beat this record, as a commentator said on Dandalin Siyasa, a yahoo discussion group. Of course, all the officials and delegates who emerged as winners from the charade are supporters of the National Chairman, who is a gubernatorial aspirant in the state. This act of desperation now gives credence to the allegation that he purposely formed the party and lured Buhari into it in order to become the Governor of Kano State. Haruna Danzago, the party chairman in Kano and who was never short of words in criticising Governor Shekarau for ‘betraying’ Buhari, told the BBC that nothing could be perfect in this world. I do not know if Danzago has realised that by this singular act he has betrayed Buhari more than any person before in the history of Kano.
I will not leave the Kano scene without weighing the capacity of CPC for injustice in comparison to the ruling PDP. Last year or so, the PDP conducted its congress in Kano where it elected state party executives. It was carried out in broad daylight and we have not heard the losers, late Abubakar Rimi and his supporters – complaining of rigging. Parties in this country have been conducting primaries but never have we seen them rigged to the extent that is presently done in the CPC.
In Kebbi State, it was a different story. The complaint is coming from moneybags who joined the party few days ago – a candidate who is supported by Senator Adamu Aliero, the former governor of the state, and another, an ex-custom officer, who is supported by the renowned smuggler, Dahiru Mangal. As usual, they started making efforts to take over the party using money. A leaflet was circulated in Birnin Kebbi a day before the election purporting that a consensus was arrived at which conceded the ticket to the former custom officer, Abubakar Garunmalam. This made CPC supporters to further rally around K. T. Turaki (SAN) who has been nurturing the party since its formation. The congresses were duly conducted and the supporters of Turaki won. There are now hues and cries from the moneybags who, not surprisingly, have the sympathy of the National Chairman, are calling for the congresses to be cancelled. 
This morning, I heard the fire-spitting spokesman of Buhari, Engr. Buba Galadima, promising party supporters that they have not shifted from its ideology of social justice and that he will insist that justice must be done to all after a careful study of supporters’ complaints and reports from the police and INEC. Otherwise, Buba threatened to resign from his position as a member of the BOT or even from the party completely. I just learnt this afternoon that he has announced the dissolution of the party executive in Kano and Katsina, a good face-saving measure.
The threat of Buba should echo in the mind of Buhari, if we will advise the General honestly. If CPC will not be run in accordance with the principles of justice which he stood for all his life but only according to the whims and caprices of moneybags, he too should consider resigning from the party. The injustices in the party have been very much around to the knowledge of the General himself. Decisions of the BOT he chairs are blatantly ignored by the National Chairman.
Unless due process is followed, starting from the congresses, CPC will severely suffer from crisis of reputation by this time next week. The more contentious primaries of Katsina, Jigawa and Bauchi states are coming next Saturday. The National Chairman has long ago dissolved the party executives in Bauchi and Jigawa in favour of some moneybags that joined the party recently. If the same fraud is repeated at those congresses in favour of such characters, then the party should as well forget winning any state during the next election, let alone making Buhari the President of Nigeria. What would we expect from people who cannot retrain themselves at party level when we entrust them with the leadership of this country? Bauchi is a good example.
In that case, Buhari should seriously consider abandoning the party entirely as Buba threatened. (In fact Buba by his comment may be preparing the minds of Buhari’s supporters exactly for that.) It will be too crippled to guarantee his success and too undeserving for his membership. I have expressed my reservations to him few weeks before he joined the party based on some initial signals I intercepted. Now that they have disappointedly become real, he must start thinking, and think quickly, of a better option.
And who said such option does not exist? There are many ideologically credible parties around that have been tested and trusted. The Peoples’ Redemption Party of Balarabe Musa and Labour Party will welcome him. They supported his presidential bid in 2007. Even ACN is far more assuring than CPC, as it is. Besides, I do not know of any supporter of the General who will object to his joining the ACN or Labour Party. It will be a welcome decision and a revolution in our political history. It will improve his chances of victory and help to significantly reduce the north-south divide of our politics. This has been my stand. After he has left CPC, the moneybags can make anything of it. But at least we have denied them the chance of using Buhari to hoodwink the masses as it happened in Bauchi in 2007.
This is my advice to the Buhari. I implore every reader to express his in the comment box below ( if you are not reading the article from my blog). I will ensure that it reaches him immediately. Try, please. Your advice could make a difference.
13 December 2010

The BOT met yesterday and Buba Galadima announced the cancellation of the congresses conducted in Kano and Kebbi. The excos of Katsina, Kebbi and Katsina have also been dissolved. The National Chairman, apparently displeased by the decision, objected by disclaiming Buba Galadima as incompetent to speak on behalf of the BOT. (Source: BBC Hausa service, 14 Dec 2010. 6.30am)

Discourse 313 The Triumph of Tradition

Discourse 313
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
The Triumph of Tradition
It was in 1994. My 84 years old father (May God grant him mercy) was lying on his bed one afternoon when I intimated him about my interest in keeping cattle. Nothing could be more delighting to the old man than the interest of his son to continue with their ancestral tradition. But before he could answer, my mother, who has suffered all her youth in tending cattle, objected, saying in our native Fulfulde, “Aan! Torra sai,” meaning it is mere suffering. My father mildly answered her by asking, “Do you know whether he could be successful with the cattle?”

My father died two years later. The cattle he left were sold when I was away living in Kaduna and the proceeds distributed among his children. When I returned home in 1997 I set out to fulfil my promise. I bought some cows from various markets in Nasarawa, Plateau and Bauchi States and placed them in the custody of one Laamu who maintained them along with his own in the traditional free ranch grazing. After some four years, the number of cattle dwindled from thirty to eleven. I decided to retrieve the remainder. They were fattened and sold out.

I thus lost hope in the traditional way of cattle rearing through free ranch grazing as Fulani herdsmen do. With a third degree in Agriculture and visiting Sebore Farm of Murtala Nyako, I thought I can attempt the modern method of intensive husbandry using foreign breeds. In 2002, I got some eight 3 – 6 months old Frisian x Bunaji (the “white Fulani”) crossbred bulls from National Animal Production Research Institute (NAPRI) in Zaria. Curious villagers flocked my house to see the humpless calves.

I fattened them on cotton seed cake (CSC) and some traditional supplements.The CSC in 2002 was selling just at N13,000/tonne. Within a year they all became fully matured bulls, weighing about 350 kg, ready to mount cows or be slaughtered at the abattoir. It was very encouraging. I did my calculations and arrived at the conclusion that it will be profitable to raise the crossbreeds myself.

Apart from the meat, I also leant that the Frisian crosses could yield high amounts of milk. So I incorporated yoghurt making into the dream. I built a small yoghurt factory in the house and got the product registered with NAFDAC under the trade name La Vache after due inspection of the factory and the relevant laboratory analysis. It has been selling in some supermarkets in Bauchi since then. I was told that the crossbreeds would each give something between 10 to 20 litres of milk daily. If converted into naira, that will be N2,500 to 5,000 worth of yoghurt daily. My dream went wild.

So in 2003 I started to gather a full herd of Bunaji and some few Sokoto Gudale (Bokolo) cows largely from Bukuru, Mararrabar Liman Katagum and Falgore weekly markets. I got a full Frisian bull from Maizube Farm of Abdulsalami Abubakar in Minna at the cost of N137,000. It was called "Bull" in the house. Within a year, the cows started to produce crossbreeds like those I bought in NAPRI. I was very happy. By then, my spacious house at Tilde has turned into a full farm house with the necessary infrastructure for cattle husbandry. I built pens, stores, water and feeding troughs, a crush for their treatment and hectares of pastures of Cloris and Bracharia grasses, the seeds of which I also obtained from NAPRI.

The cows continued to multiply and my yoghurt continued to sell in the market. The crossbreeds produced on the farm were promising. Fed from CSC and local supplements, they grew fast. The newly born bulls were ready for slaughter and the cows were mounted in just 12 months. In 2005, the first set of bulls had accumulated meat worth N60,000 to N80,000 within a year. One of them produced a meat of N145,000 in just 18 months. CSC also doubled the quantity of milk that the parent stock gave daily. The farm became self-sustaining. From the proceeds of milk alone, it could pay for the herdsmen, veterinary drugs and other little things and still keep some change for me. I invested my hope in that within a short time we will be able to send our yoghurt to distant cities like Kano and Abuja.

I maintained the cows diligently with appropriate drugs that are administered quarterly to take care of major cattle diseases known in the savannah and contacted veterinary doctors whenever a problem arise. The cattle were equally grateful. Each of them ‘delivered’ a calf every year. The words of my old man became true. The cows have 'welcomed' me. The herd grew fast and I thought of what to do with the number. If I were to allow them go at that pace, the farm house would not be enough. I would have to relocate away from the village into the bush which I did not like, recalling my experience as a child. I chose to keep a moderate figure by curling any cow that did not produce up to 2 litres of milk daily, or which produce poor calves, or delays mounting by more than six months after its last delivery.

However, here ends the good news.

“Bull” lasted just a year and a half, having been weakened by liver flukes or hard water disease as vets call it. Frisians, I was later told at National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Vom, are easily killed by the notorious disease. We replaced it with a 75% Frisian cross that was reserved from the stock of the we obtained from NAPRI in 2002. It performed well for two years by delivering about seventy calves. However, I noticed that the calves it produced were not fast growing as I desired and it was beginning to get wild, as many matured bulls do. So it was slaughtered and part of the proceeds was used to purchase another 100% Frisian bull from NVRI, Vom, in 2007.

That bull also lasted just 6 months before giving up to hard water disease. No more Frisians, I concluded. Then in 2008 I went for a Sokoto Gudale bull which I acquired from the Tuesday market of Anchau in Kaduna State. By then the philosophy of the farm had shifted to beef due to reasons I will explain shortly. Beef requires both frame and ability to accumulate meat and the Gudale is perfect on both accounts. In addition, it averagely yields more milk than any local breed. It performed very well for two years though it was very slow in mounting cows. When it became sick early this year, most likely as a result of the cold weather and heavy rains, I thought I can go for a large frame pure ‘white Fulani’, my ancestral breed and the one acknowledged to be the most resilient in this part of Guinea Savannah.

However, nothing affected the husbandry of the herd like the high cost of CSC, the main ingredient of fattening and milk production. From the cost of N13,000 per tonne when we first bought it in 2002, it rose to N50,000 in 2008.  A kilo of meat that sold at N400 in 2004 increased only by N300 since. We did not raise our price of yoghurt to date. So by 2007, it was not economically wise to CSC anymore. What was responsible for its high cost is interesting: lack of electricity in the country.

Without ‘NEPA’, textile factories closed en masse, the need for cottonplummeted and, consequently, its production dropped drastically. Without cotton production, cotton seed oil and cotton seed cake cannot be produced sufficiently. The little that is available in the market therefore became too costly for ordinary Nigerian farmers. Most of it goes to farmers from Niger Republic who can change their currency at a high rate in Nigeria and are more desperate than us as a result of perennial draught. Those Nigerians that are keeping cattle just as a hobby or as cover to the loot they acquired from public office mop the rest. For people like me, we raised our hands in surrender before the mighty CSC.

Shortage of electricity also smashed the hope of producing yoghurt in high quantities. Being 100% natural, it requires cooling at selling points. Supermarkets in Jos, Kano and Bauchi, we came to realise, have long stopped keeping such fresh products. After a month of trial in Kano in 2006, we abandoned the idea of selling any yoghurt there. Kano could spend weeks without 4 hours of continuous electricity. The market therefore became restricted to few supermarkets in Bauchi, mostly filling stations that can afford diesel.
Poverty was another culprit. We are so poor that extremely few of us can afford to buy a 35cl of natural yoghurt at N100. We did not raise the price of our yoghurt since 2005.

The pastures which we laboriously raised were never harvested due to human reasons. I bought a new MF 375 tractor and the implements for bailing the hay but on two occasions the pastures were burnt to ashes before they could be harvested. Miscreants smoking Indian hemp were the principal suspects.  In succeeding years, I allowed the cattle to graze on the fresh grass.

Other problems related to urban grazing came in full force: shortage of grazing land and the menaces of human faeces, hay ropes, 'pure water' bags and other polythene materials that carry salty residues of packaged food. The crosses graze on these non-biodegradable wastes which clog their digestive tract and accumulate there, giving the cows a false sense of satisfaction from food. They animals grow lean and die eventually. I lost many crosses to these non-biodegradable materials. Local breeds, surprisingly, hardly feed on such bags, as I also noticed on the waste mounds along Airport Road in Kano.

The worst experience was with artificial insemination (AI). A vet from Bauchi who trained at Sebore inseminated eight cows but none conceived. I instantly abandoned the idea and continued with my natural breeding. Above all, AI is expensive: you need to buy the stimulating hormone, buy or hire the AI kit, buy the semen, pay the vet and maintain the ammonium cold cylinder. It's percentage success is at best 75%. It will amount to nothing less than N8,000 per cow. A natural bull can do the job with near 100% success at the cost of N1,000 or less  because you can recoup its initial cost when you slaughter it.

Without cotton seed cake and other food supplements, the Frisian crosses became worse than our ordinary cows when made to rely solely on natural grazing. They become skinny, stunted in growth. Early this year, many of them, despite the periodic medication, started to develop hard water and died. Surprisingly, not a single local breed was affected. With lack of cake, electricity and market for yoghurt combined with their high susceptibility to death from hard water and polythenes, the crosses were on their way out. So we curled all of them in the herd early this year and reserved only the local breeds.

The natural thing to do about the remainder of the herd which is now 100% local breeds that are resilient to disease is to send them on free grazing. There was therefore no need to keep them at home. So on May 22 this year, i led them on a 15 km trek to where they will camp for the rainy season, reverting to the natural form of cattle husbandry which has been the practice for centuries in this part of the country.
I thus relieved myself, at least for now, of the demands of intensive cattle husbandry – a ‘NEPA’ that is never forthcoming, a cake that is too expensive, pastures that are vulnerable to arson, daily pen cleaning that required labour, hay collection that required a tractor and its driver, etc. But gone with it is the joy of living in the company of the animals which accorded me many interpretations of human behaviour, especially aggression, friendship and acquaintance, territoriality, nutrition, growth, politics and reproductive behaviour. In all these and many more, the cattle told me that they behave just like humans and humans behave just like them. Since then, I had no qualms appreciating the animal in us. One area where the cattle excelled humans, however, is that they are grateful animals.

Now the cows are milked in the bush, kilometres away from home and the milk is brought here for processing. The market continues to sustain the cows while my profit largely comes from the increasing number of the herd, which still gives sufficient bulls to slaughter and an almost equal number of young cows that will in turn join their mothers in producing more heads. The only difference is time. While the Frisian crosses with intensive care would mature for slaughter or mounting in just a year, the local breeds, which graze freely in the bush, will require at least three years to start mounting and four years to mature for the slaughter house. If I am patient, I will still make the same money after the initial waiting period of three years with little effort and minimum risk.

Is this experience a triumph of tradition over modernity? I think yes, it is. Until our power supply improves and the poverty in our midst becomes substantially alleviated, the traditional form of cattle grazing is the most economically viable in the country. It has met the beef requirements of the nation for centuries. Someone may argue that some ex-this and ex-that have done it successfully. Well, I am not privy to the account books of their farms. However, if you are not another ex, you better assume that in those farms there is something more than meets the eye. My experience is almost similar to that of Magaji Danbatta, whose farm I visited in 2003 when he was almost about to give up the business of animal husbandry entirely. I am not giving up mine, though.

The conclusion here is simple: In Nigeria, it will take some time before modernity takes over tradition especially in animal husbandry. If my father were alive, he would have attempted to prevent my experimentation with modern methods because he has had many such failures before. He once told me in a pessimistic tone that they have tried various things before. All the same, I have no regrets. Experience is a good lesson. Take my advice. Play it safe. Practice it natural.
13 December 2010