Religious leaders still hold tremendous influence in the African traditional setting. The Emir of Kano is not an official government position, but as the leader of the Tijaniyya sufi in Nigeria, wields tremendous authority.
The current Emir is Muhammadu Sanusi II, who took power only last year. Before then he was internationally renowned banker Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who once served as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
But he’s still a Muslim leader, and Muslims still adhere to the one man many wives doctrine. Unfortunately, in some instances some Muslims have been known to marry or perform marriage rites for underage brides, and the Emir’s recent marriage comes a little too close to the line for comfort.
The Emir is reported to have gotten married to Sa’adatu Barkindo-Musdafa, the daughter of the Lamido of Adamawa, Muhammadu Barkindo-Musdafa. The girl is 18 years old and a recent secondary school graduate.
“In addition to his first wife, Sadiya, who is the daughter of the late emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, Mr. Sanusi has two other wives — Maryam and Rakiya,” Premium Times Nigeria reports.
“The secret wedding was contracted in a low-keyed ceremony in the town of Yola on Friday.
“Insiders say that the influential emir only sent out invitation to some dignitaries across the country, as Kano government officials sneaked into Yola for the wedding fatiha to avoid journalists.
“His decision to take a new wife is in line with Islamic injunction.
“Islam allows having a maximum of four wives for those who can treat all of them equally and provide for a large family,’’ a top Kano state government official who travelled to Yola for the wedding, is reported to have said.
This is obviously an arranged marriage between the two families, which raises a couple of questions as far as I’m concerned: the question of the consent of the girl, and how long this marriage has been in the works.
It is entirely possible that the stuff of Nollywood has actually come true in this instance. Is there a paramour who is being pushed aside for the prince to come in and claim his bride? For a secondary school graduate she has probably just started experimenting with the opposite s*x, being abruptly told she is supposed to marry a near sexagenarian cannot be a pleasant experience.
Or, maybe she has been groomed since an early age to expect something of this sort, seeing as how she hails from a ‘Royal Family’. It does not change the core point of how ready any eighteen year old can ever be ready for marriage, and in the case of grooming, consent as an ethical consideration is always a grey area; but at least in that case she would be more prepared than just being dropped into her marriage unawares.
The second question, which raises a question about the child bride implications of the whole situation, is how long a marriage of this sort had to have been planned in advance. Royal family marriages do not just spring up out of nothing, so we would probably be looking at a situation where this has been planned for years before the girl came of age; which is just on another level of creepiness.
At this stage we should be moving from these kinds of systems, it seems to me. Parents should not be able to barter their children for political influence, and internationally renowned bankers should know better than marrying teenagers yet to enter into University. The Emir has three wives already, with daughters far younger than this girl.
She might be happy, and if it were certain that it was the decision of these two to get into their relationship the ethics might be less clear; but all signs point to a form of asset bargaining we really should have left behind as a species at this point in our development.
And I betcha, due to his religious beliefs, this Emir can sleep quiet soundly knowing that he is fulfilling Allah’s will.