By Louis Odion, FNGE
Talk is cheap, according to a common wisecrack.
At a time hierarchs of the ruling All Progressives Party would probably be seen scratching their heads in search of answers whenever asked to furnish tangible dividends of the “Change” extravagantly promised in 2015, how soul-lifting that there remain folks truly committed to filling the void.
Through personal examples, these exemplars – consisting mostly non-state actors – have continued to raise hope while Abuja power-mongers only seem obsessed with sowing doubts.
True, only dreamers would expect the procession of broom-wielding zealots currently stomping the national landscape to literally move mountain by laundering off, within the twinkling of an eye, the offscouring that took ages to accumulate in the proverbial Augean stable.
But, if the mammon of big things cannot be subdued yet by those who had made a fetish of the “change” mantra, many, at least, expect measurable – if not demonstrable – change in soft issues like the family sector. If only to foster peaceful coexistence in communities and bolster the happiness index of the nation at large.
So, it then becomes easier to understand why public acclaim now seems showered in the direction hitherto completely overlooked. From the temples of Redeemed Church scattered across the land, to the trough of Benue, deep down to the creeks of Bayelsa, it has indeed been a deluge of innovations with a depth that bears testimony to sheer creativity and uncommon sagacity.
Consider, for instance, how distorted the marriage institution would still have been – and the inherent mortal danger to national stability – without the bouquet of far-reaching reforms recently unleashed by the Redeemed Church. In view of pervasive and persistent reports of marital unions coming under distress on account of circumstances that seem more man-made than divine, the church elders chose not to lament or wring their hands in cowardly surrender.
Taking the bull by the horns, the Redeemed Church under Daddy G.O., the impeccable Enoch Adeboye, has since decreed a regime of comprehensive clinical examination otherwise called “genital test”. Others in the soul-winning industry may shy away from such sensitive – if not sensuous – subject; not the Redeemed Church irrevocably committed to domesticating values whose historical parallels could only be “glasnot” (openness) and “perestroika” (restructuring) in Gorbachev’s Russia.
In an epistle worded without ambiguity that might be exploited by mischief-makers, the church declared that the new policy followed a studious observation of recurring cases of marital conflicts among the faithful resulting from “falsehood, especially in the case of undeclared or unconfessed reproductive/genital status”.
Apparently, in a desperation to hook their unsuspecting loved ones, many would hide biological secrets with the same cunning that Republican candidate Donald Trump concealed his dodgy tax records before the US polls of November 2016. Or sex up their physiological endowments the way our lawmakers pad national budgets, until the wedding night when the dark truth finally unravels.
So, before intending couples approach the altar for blessing thenceforth, a clean bill of health is required to be presented before hand, expressly certifying that relevant organs in the reproductive system of both the male and the female are in serviceable condition.
In what suggests more emphasis on the male folk or not minding possible accusation of gender bias, the presiding physicians are enjoined to pay particular attention to the testicles, epididymis, spermatic cord, and vas deferens (the three tubes connecting the various parts of the male reproductive system). Not forgetting the rectum/anal area and the prostate gland.
To foreclose quacks or “arrangee” certification, the church insists that only clearance originating from recognized government hospitals would be accepted.
Even as the “genital test” initiative continues to attract more plaudits than knocks from across the land as a means to stanching the spreading epidemic of failed marriages, there are however indications that the Church, mindful of growing objection to cosmetics-enabled dubiety by the female folk, might consider extending the new rule of engagement to also include a possible cap on the application of chemicals and powder, often deployed to cement layers of deceit.
As could be guessed, the complainants are the men folk lamenting that the cocktail of magic powder and some other chemical agents are now willfully used in a manner that dramatically alters the facial appearance of the female gender with a malicious intent to deceive the opposite sex. A grave allegation capable of unsettling the bourgeoning industry of make-up artists, no doubt.
Meanwhile, even while the church’s response to this latest observation is still being awaited in terms of scope and scale, authorities in Bayelsa State have chosen to blaze an entirely different trail in the family sector.
To walk the talk on improved maternal healthcare as inelienable human right, kind-hearted Governor Seriake Dickson came up with a revolutionary idea of paying intending mothers a monthly stipend. He is obviously taking this step to ensure that indigence is no longer an excuse for the pregnant women not to attend ante-natal clinic, thus positioning his state as the first to achieve success in the much-trumpeted SDGs (sustainable development goals) by the United Nations as far as safe motherhood and zero infant mortality rate is concerned.
To political adversaries likely to insinuate conflict of interest, note that the welfare policy took off months after the governor’s wife was delivered of a beautiful set of quadruplet and had taken off successfully long before the amiable governor lost his loving mother last month.
But, alas, the devil is in implementation. However well-intentioned a policy may be, there is no silver bullet yet to completely stave-off abuse.
Apparently, local folks – including those from neighboring states in the Niger Delta – have chosen to read an entirely different meaning to the new policy. Latest surveys indicate that the introduction of monthly financial grant to pregnant women may be triggering a baby boom of sorts in that province with some randy men now conveniently assuming that all fatherhood entails is no more than the pleasure of just getting someone’s daughter inseminated and then outsourcing the responsibilities to government.
In fact, fears are already being expressed in official circles that a policy otherwise conceived with the noblest of intentions might end up only boosting sex tourism in the long run.
In Benue, it is however a tale of communal self-help. Apparently heeding the loud cries of prospective grooms and other men of marriageable age, the wise men and women of Tivland have unveiled a game-changer. And a what an opportunity to kill the proverbial two birds with a stone. Coming weeks after their governor, Samuel Ortom, decamped to opposition PDP over disputed “red card”, his kinsmen in Benue would seem to have also found a perfect platform to demonstrate, by personal example, what they probably expected of those who found themselves a career by crowing “change”.
What better way to start than the acclaimed most crucial building block of society – marriage.
So, without ambiguity or equivocation, the Tiv Area Traditional Council (TATC) has announced sweeping reforms certain to not only sanitize the institution of marriage but also remove the climate of fear for prospective grooms in these austere times.
By fiat, it has fixed a ceiling of N100,000 as total expenditure permissible for nuptials within the jurisdiction of Tivland in Benue. This covers dowry and sundry expenses.
Doubtless, this particular clause is a response to pervasive lamentations that the prohibitive demands by parents and relations of the bride only amount to having the dice loaded unbearably against the prospective groom.
By the time such shylocks name their prices and unscroll additional list of requests, you would think it is one big capital project. If nothing at all, the new cap on expenditure will certainly result in two outcomes in the times ahead: men savouring the freedom to hook ladies of their choice without stress and reduction in elopement by “rebel” love-birds on account of high bride price.
Moreover, these cultural reforms by the Tivs do not just target financial immodesty, but also the emerging vice of paedophile. While understandably maintaining very creative silence on virginity, it however insists that any Tiv girl to be given out in marriage must be 18 years and above – far above the statutory 16 that is the age of consent.
Breach shall attract a wide range of sanctions including – but certainly not limited to – boycott by traditional rulers/elders and denial of registration.
Apparently coming to full knowledge after what must have been a scientific inquiry, TATC frowned at growing erosion of Tiv cultural values by needless ostentation and conspicuous consumption: “The practice of holding festivities in the bride’s house, popularly known as traditional marriage, involving cutting of cake, dances, parties, should be discontinued as it is alien to the Tiv way of life. Celebration of a new wife is done by the Tiv people only in the husband’s house.
“Love should be the primary issue between the families concerned in marriage discussion, not money. Therefore, total expenses on marriage, including dowry or bride price and all sundry issues, which at the moment varies from one community or family to another, should not exceed N100,000 in Tivland.”
To ensure strict compliance, TATC has, therefore, conscripted elders of families involved as enforcers, forbidding the current practice of bringing friends and well-wishers to such consecrating rituals, describing it as alien to Tiv culture.
No better way to bring “change” to bear directly in people’s lives.