We are not the only one campaigning against early marriage. Yesterday, the Presidency joined hands with the United Nations (UN), religious and traditional leaders, the Canadian government and other stakeholders to launch a major campaign to end early child marriage in Nigeria. Spearheaded by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja, making Nigeria the 16th country to join the campaign by the African Union (AU).
I did a report in 2015 at Shao town in Kwara State, a tourist site known for its annual mass wedding festival, on http://icirnigeria.org/culture-versus-the-girl-child/.
Here is what the village priest who marries off scores of teenage girls in a single ceremony, told me:
“The Awon is a spirit from the river in Shao,” Oloruntogun Ojetunde said in local Kwara dialect. “But it appeared in the form of a woman in the community when the inhabitants were still few. It introduced herself as a spirit from the waters to two hunters and a certain elder that she has come to bless the people, and when she was about to disappear, she gave an order that all women in the village must be married to men in the same village, in one single day. It also blessed us that we will be fruitful and prosperous,” he further enlightened.
The priest said that the mass wedding ceremony has been conducted every year since the day the Awon goddess so instructed.
So strict is the adherence to her instruction that if there are no women to marry off in any particular year, girls from age 13, 15, even 12, are considered marriageable. This contravenes the Convention on the Rights of the Child which pegged marriageable age at 18.
This is one of the inspirations for my book A Girl’s Calender on Amazon. Several copies have been sold already. So no more dillydallying. Believe in this cause. Get your copy as well.