It is referred to as hallowed chambers which means it should be held in awe and those who are privileged to sit there should conduct themselves in the highest of standards to preserve its hollowness. But it appears its sanctity is being breached and people no longer accord it that reverence as the highest law making body in the land; not when its leader has been herded into the accused box like a common criminal, docked before a law court on charges bordering on corruption. In this part of the world though, graft charges are viewed more or less as political crimes rather than serious theft. That is why I suppose, Mr. Senate President is yet to step aside as happens in other western democracies where a mere allegation instantly leads to the accused voluntarily resigning. Here in Nigeria, the accused is not only presumed to be innocent but still held in high esteem and even ‘worshipped’ until pronounced guilty by the court.
Nevertheless, any foreigner, indeed anybody for that matter, watching a debate on the floor of the National Assembly for the first time last week would probably think the country is still in the Stone Age.
So if our senators are very much aware of this, why are they wasting time, energy and resources enacting a legislation on a rather tribal and trivial issue like” tribal facial marks” that is dying a natural death? I mean, there are loads of national, more important matters pressing for their attention.
Titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to provide for the Prohibition of Facial Mutilation, Offences, Prosecution and Punishment of Offenders’ , it was sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye, representing Kogi West who himself does not have facial marks. None of the senators that spoke on the matter has any facial marks except senator Olusola Adeyeye who showed off the marks on his hands which I believe is not what this bill is referring to, it not being a facial mark.
Our senators hinged reasons for the proposed bill on three planks .First, they delved into why people of olden times indulged children with facial marks which was chiefly for identification – an issue that is now overtaken with evolution of various more modern means of identification. It was also said that facial marks were to lay credence to paternity. Again this is also outdated with emergence of DNA testing.
Thirdly, they talked of the psychological and medical effects associated with it. Said Melaye, “Some of them have developed low self-esteem and most imes treated with scorn and ridicule including rejection by the female folks.
Many of the grown adults have confessed that the most terrific debacle of their lives is their tribal marks. Some have become ‘eunuchs’ because of this sigma”.
The psychological effect is true especially in childhood and teenage years when they poke fun at you but not in adult years as adults behave more maturely towards you. I can cite myself as an example with my squint eyes (half past four eye).
It is not altogether true that persons with facial marks are ‘rejected by the female folks’ or vice versa. After all, physically challenged persons of both sexes do have robust relationships and marry, how much more an able-bodied person? According to the sponsor of this bill which has now passed its second reading, “sharp instruments used by locals were not sterilised leading to risk of AIDS, including Hepatitis B and C”. It is food for thought that in bygone years when lacerating children for tribal marks was quite common, AIDS was literally unknown then. I am not supporting this practice. I totally agree
that it is harmful and a denial of rights of a child. But there are other similarly harmful traditional practices still being undertaken in parts of the country to-date, why are our distinguished senators not focussing on them too? Why single out only tribal marks? For example, there is female circumcision a.k.a. female genital mutilation which basically denies the girl enjoyment of love making or are we saying she has no right to enjoy the act? What about dehumanising practices that are foisted on widows in some parts of the country, such as sleeping with their husbands’ corpses for days, drinking water used in bathing the corpses and shaving their hairs? All of these apart from demeaning and lowering self-esteem like tribal marks are also similarly fraught with health hazards.
And talking about legislating against tribal facial marks in order to protect the rights of the child as the senators say, there are a plethora of other rights of the child that are being trampled on everyday with our lawmakers looking the other way, so to speak. Among those that readily come to mind are the Almajiri syndrome, child begging and hawking, withdrawal of girl children from school for marriage. Also, the nation still has not achieved a 100 per cent school enrolment rate which means there are children of school age that are still not in school.
Ikeano writes via: firstname.lastname@example.org