The absurd 100 orphans mass wedding, spiritual war against bandits and N90B Hajj subsidy

By Adesuwa Tsan

Just when you think you have seen it all, Nigeria throws a new one at you. Every day lived in Nigeria makes it more difficult to understand events happening around you. Like the popular saying goes, the more you see, the less you understand.

Since the administration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) President Bola Ahmed Tinubu began in May 29, 2023, what we have witnessed is one absurdity to another. Even the creative couldn’t have attempted, in all its imagination, to script a story so unreal.

It appears the crop of leaders in this dispensation are playing out a plan to constantly leave the mouths of Nigerians agape because how does one explain recent happenings across the country? For starters, how does one understand the rationale behind the Tinubu-led government trying to tax Nigerians 0.5 percent of their bank transactions for cyber security and then going ahead to approve N90 billion as subsidy for the 2024 hajj?

With pride, Vice President Kashim Shettima, speaking on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 during the inaugural hajj airlift at the Sir Ahmadu Bello International Airport, Kebbi State, declared, ”The President approved the release of N90 billion to subsidise the cost of pilgrimage for this year’s hajj,’’ adding that he ‘’places great importance on religious pilgrimage’’ because of its crucial role in changing the social vices of individuals beyond the hajj exercise.

While there is no evidence yet to prove that pilgrimages by Muslims or Christians reduce social vices in the society, it is abundantly clear that the Nigerian Constitution (1999) declares Nigeria as an official secular state. Article 10 states, ‘’The Government of the Federation or a State shall not adopt any religion as State religion,’’ so when state resources are deployed into supporting personal religious beliefs, whether for Christians or Muslims, under which law can it be explained?

According to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Centre, Nigeria has three million, six hundred thousand traditional worshippers; one million, eight hundred thousand adherents of other religions and one million, two hundred thousand people who are unaffiliated to any religion. How do they get their own slice of the religious pilgrimage cake?

Meanwhile, in Yobe State, the investment in religion is being deployed to ‘good’ use. According to a report by Zagazola, the State government has launched a spiritual war against the Boko Haram insurgents destroying electricity towers, thereby cutting Borno and Yobe states from the national grid for months running.

The towers are part of the Jos – Gombe grid serving Borno and Yobe states with electricity.

Led by Governor Mai Mala Buni, on Wednesday, May 15, a crowd of Muslim clerics recited the Holy Quran and prayers for God to punish the insurgents crumbling the towers, according to the report. This was sequel to repairs on the 330 KVA towers destroyed last February by the insurgents, cutting Borno and Yobe from electricity supply from the national grid. Now the security agents can go to sleep while the prayer warriors take over.

Still on the tale of absurdities, the head of a state legislature, the Speaker of Niger State House of Assembly, Hon. Abdulmalik Sarkindaji, against the provisions of the Child Rights Act, last week revealed his elaborate plan to resettle one hundred young female orphans who lost their parents in banditry attacks in Mariga Local Government Area of the state (his constituency) by giving them out in marriage on 24th of this month.

The Speaker, who pledged to pay the dowries for the bridegrooms, also said he had procured all the materials needed for proper wedding of the girls, stated that their comfort in their marital homes has been taken care of like any other child who gets married in the Islamic way.

Sarkindaji explained that the plan would be part of his constituency empowerment project, adding that it was being done with the best of intentions and would alleviate the sufferings of the poor. However, following widespread public outcry and the petition by the Minister of Women Affairs, Barrister (Mrs) Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, the mass wedding was called off.

The Minister opined that rather than fulfil his constituency project that way, the Speaker should rather look towards developing them the orphans through education and empowerment to break the cycle of poverty and inequality that plaques orphans, thus enabling them to marry husbands of their choices and further reduce cases of gender based violence and out-of-school children which are usually the resultant effect of such unions.

Indeed, in Nigeria, the more you see, the less you understand.

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