The news was shocking, but it did not come as a surprise to some of us. A 28-year-old man in Kano State, Misbahu Salisu, allegedly poisoned his one-day-old baby girl to death, because he wanted a male child and the wife gave birth to a baby girl. The cold-blooded killing is not only shocking, but the extent Salisu went to. First, he drugged the mother of the baby, Sa’ade, with a cup of tea containing sleeping tablets making her to fall asleep before using insect killer, aka, otapiapia, to kill the baby. Of course, he was caught because when it comes to blood crying to God in heaven for vengeance, age is no barrier. Salisu has confessed to the crime and will be prosecuted after investigations are completed.
Before I move on to the main issue today, let me wonder aloud. What was going on in Salisu’s mind? At 28 years, his married life is just starting. More children would have come and he will get his almighty male children, so why this madness? As far as I am concerned, if such people must remain in the land of the living, they should be behind bars.
The death of this day-old baby, who had probably not been given a name, again brings to fore the plight of the girl-child. It has been there for generations, though much progress has been made. About 80 years ago, education of the girl-child was seen as a waste of resources in many parts of Nigeria. She was allowed to get to the age of marriage and married off. In the 80s, I still heard parents say that the education of the girl child is a waste of money. After educating them, they will get married and answer another man’s name. What is the problem with that? The wife/wives you have in the house, are they your sisters? These are other people’s children you married and they dropped their maiden names. I do not understand this hypocrisy. Tomorrow, when some women get married and refuse to drop their maiden names, the same society will call them names and haul insults at them.
In Nigeria, I have scarcely seen a girl-child referred to as heir apparent when there is a male child. Even if the son is the youngest in a family of eight children, he is the heir apparent. This foolishness has made some families to place the leadership of the family in the hands of unprepared and spoilt brats after the demise of the patriarch, when there are level-headed and competent female children. In no time, they run the family aground, wealth is frittered away and the family bond is destroyed. Look around you, they are all over.
Beyond education, another area where the girl child has been discriminated against is genital mutilation, otherwise called circumcision. In cultures where it is practiced it is a big ceremony. What is “circumcision?” It is the mutilation of the female clitoris. The main aim, according to them, is to reduce the sex drive of the victim. Why would you want to reduce a woman’s source of sexual pleasure? God created it and has no problem with sex except when it is abused. The explanation for genital mutilation is that uncircumcised women are prone to be promiscuous and unfaithfulness to their husbands. In some cultures in the past a child given birth to by an uncircumcised woman was ridiculed. Even if a girl got pregnant outside marriage, the parents would organize for her to be circumcised before delivery to save the baby the stigma of being born by an uncircumcised woman.
I have taken time to read the reasons for infidelity from various sources. Not one study talked about the clitoris being responsible for infidelity. The main reasons for infidelity are the people’s mental state. Except for rare cases of spontaneity, it is conceived in the mind and happens in the physical. So what has clitoris got to do with it that makes people to be subjected to this cruelty? Yet people in the past celebrated it as if it was a Nobel Prize. Ignorance is a disease, but we can pardon our forebears, but the practice is still on and I do not get it. A friend from another ethnic group wanted to get married to a woman where genital mutilation is practiced. When the matter came up, he told the girl’s mother that if they went ahead, he would call off the wedding. The extended family members were waiting for the ceremony. He had to give the girl’s mother money for food and drinks as if the ceremony took place. Some of my people (Urhobos) still practice it and some of those of them reading this article might feel I have been brainwashed. For such people, I challenge them to come and tell me just one benefit of genital mutilation. In Urhobo, nymphomaniacs are referred to as women with ohoro’sokpo. There is no evidence to prove that the excessive urge for sex is as a result of the clitoris, whatever the size is. Genital mutilation has ruined the sex lives of some women. There are those who say they have sex with their husbands for baby making and as a duty, not for the pleasure. What is that? Others say sex is a painful exercise because the so called circumcision was badly done. Is that the will of God?
The problem with the girl-child starts from the home front where they are made to feel inferior to their brothers. The irony is that mothers seem to make their daughters feel more inferior to their male siblings more than the fathers. I have seen it many times. The Electra Complex factor exist in many father-daughter relationships. Mothers are the main culprits. I have met women who told me they married early to escape from their mothers’ shabby treatment, as against the princely treatment of their brothers. I do not understand why some mothers behave this way. The discriminatory treatment of the girl-child in the larger society is only secondary and a spillover of the treatment of the girl-child in many homes.
I have struggled to understand the different treatment given to male and female children. My first child is a girl and everyone in the house naturally knows that once my wife and I are not at home, she is in charge. We were away from home for nine months due to circumstances beyond our control. My daughter was in charge and did a remarkable job. My friends who came around intermittently to check on them were very impressed.
One day, I decided to find out if what I put in action is working. I called my youngest child and daughter who was 13 years then. I asked her, “Who is my favourite child in this house?” She burst into laughter. Amidst the laughter, she said, “nobody, daddy” shaking her head sideways. I was very happy and fulfilled. No favourites. Beware, favoritism has destroyed families. Many women today still suffer from low self-esteem, or outgrew it, as a result of upbringing. This is very sad.