Yusuf Odaudu writes on the pathetic story of Mr. Nwokoma Donald, a young Nigerian parent who is being hounded by his extended family for refusing to allow the circumcision of his daughter, an act that defies age-long tradition of the South-eastern part of the country
I heard strange noise coming from his apartment at about 11:40p.m., as we share the same rented building located at No 7, Ikuomola Street, Cement Bus/stop, Dopemu, Lagos. I was alarmed because few days ago, Donald called to tell me that he was going to travel with his family, and it was urgent.
I could feel his gasps intervening with the voice as he managed to express himself. It was clear that he was in a hurry to catchup with a taxi or flight. It was quite sudden and unusual of him, but since I was still at my workplace, I couldn’t probe further. He hung up even before I could ask his destination.
So, the noise couldn’t have been from the owner of the apartment who had already announced his journey few days earlier. I was transfixed in thoughts, trying to figure out the situation. But the more I ponder and peep through my windows in search of a familiar figure, the more the banging and screeching lingered until it disappeared faintly with some footsteps out of the compound.
The following morning, I was curious to know the cause of the noise. I went to his apartment only to find the place broken into and vandalised. I dialed his line but it was switched off. I saw a threatening note left at the threshold of the door with the words, “Anyikan’ebidoebido. This is just a warning for your refusal to succumb to our age-long family tradition of female circumcision”.
I was horrified for a moment as I kept wondering what brought the strange visitors, and why they vandalised my neigbour’s apartment. Perhaps they were the group of people who kidnap people for money rituals. Weird thoughts kept popping up in my head but they weren’t close to the actual motive for that nocturnal visit. Some of our neighbours also joined in the lamentation and suggested that we should report to the police because the family might be in danger.
As we kept pondering what to do,I finally got across to Donald. I told him that his apartment was vandalised by a mysterious group, though I wasn’t sure they took any property but they left a note; then I read out the note to him. He said the visitors came to circumcise his daughter, which was why he left the house. He narrated how the hunt to get his daughter circumcised started, and how it was an age-long tradition he was running away from.
It dawned on me that Donald and his family may have been in trouble, had they not travelled a few days before the incident.
I have heard and read about female circumcision and how it has gained deep roots in some cultures in Africa. No doubt, it is a barbaric practice inflicted on innocent young women. In its most extreme form known as infibulation, it can involve the removal of all external genitalia and the stitching up of the labia leaving only a very small opening for sex, urination, menstruation and giving birth. This often makes a later operation necessary to create a larger opening.
According to reports, a particularly brutal operation can leave a woman with infections ranging from hemorrhage, abscesses and, sometimes, a lifelong loss of sensation during sex.
There have been global objections to the practice of genital cutting by international organisations, especially as it involves circumstances that violate human rights. Amnesty International, a human rights organisation, reports that the operation is often carried out using blunt tools — penknives, fragments of glass or tin cans.
The Pan-African Committee on Traditional Practices estimates that two million girls in Africa undergo genital cutting each year which endangers both their health and their lives. The committee also reports that circumcised women experience chronic pain, chronic pelvic infections, development of cysts, genital ulcers, excessive scar tissue formation, infection of the reproductive system, decreased sexual enjoyment and psychological consequences, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Amnesty International also frowns at the fact that the victims of this barbaric practice are denied of their rights to make a choice on what affects their lives.
Donald has, since then, resorted to moving his family around different locations for fear of being tracked down by these predators and to avoid further contacts and anything that might endanger his life and that of his family.
The sad experience of Donald is one that would elicit pity and rage to any sentient being. Pity in the sense that he, though innocent of the customs, has been frustrated out of his country of birth. Rage in the sense that it involves an innocent young girl whose only crime is that she was born a girl.
Interestingly, the Nigerian Government took a historic step in May, 2015, outlawing the practice of female genital mutilation, a move activists have described as “hugely important” in curbing the excesses associated with the custom. But until this enlightenment reaches the grassroots, Donald’s daughter and other innocent young girls are still at the mercy of those predators.
According to UNICEF, more than 30 million girls are at risk of being subjected to FGM over the next decade and around 125 million women have undergone the procedure.
There is an urgent need to increase grassroots enlightenment with a view to curb this menace, hoping that Nwokoma’s daughter doesn’t become a victim of this ill wind that blows no one any good.
By ascribing mishaps, bad luck, deaths and all sorts of misfortune to uncircumcised women, the perpetrators are being driven by a strong illusion that is shrouded in falsehood and calumny, one that seeks to destroy the future of innocent young women.