by Oo Nwoye
Let the title not mislead you, I have great respect for what twitter has become and the of course the people that have built it and have a few buddies there (this is where I do the obligatorily ‘famzing’ and link to my picture on the Twitter rooftop). However, its brilliance at broadcasting byte sized information is at the expense of documenting coherent thought.
Let me explain.
In the Nigerian senate, there a review of the constitution going on. Sometime last week, there was a review of a section that defines an adult. What is states basically is that you are not an adult until 18 except a female that is married. The ‘except’ provided a loophole that made it legally ok for Yerima a then 49 year old former governor to marry a 13 year old Egyptian girl. Frightening I tell you.
Anyway, the committee reviewing that section of the constitution voted to amend it. It was all well and good until now Senator Yerima, husband to a now 16 year old bride got a wind of it and ensured the clause was not recommended for amendment.
(Please bear with me, I’m not trying to drag you into Nigerian politics I am going somewhere with this)
So the Nigerian Twitter rebels got wind of the story and hell, or should I say re-tweets, broke loose. That’s not bad it itself but since 140 characters did not allow for articulation of the fact, what was/is being propagated is that “the Nigerian Senate voted to legalize child marriage” instead of “Nigerian Senate did not successfully vote to recommend the removal of a clause that would protect female children from getting married”
The Twitter character limit that did not allow for phrasing the factual situation right has not helped in the discussion of the situation.
To me, there are two aspects to the issue on ground.
One is the culture and right of a parent to give a way their child in marriage that has existed for hundreds of millions since teenage Mary got married to Joseph.
The medical risk borne by barely pubescent girls having sex and/or giving birth. (Note: I did not use the word ‘underage’ since it’s not definite. To me, 13 is definitely underage)
The second aspect to me is medical and deals with health. Therefore, I fully support the overriding of culture. A citizen’s life must be protected except that of children. Just like in the case of killing of twins and burying of kings with freshly cut human heads (Africa sha!!!!!)
For the first part, it is not straightforward. Marriage is a cultural thing that means different things for different people. See the case of the 8 year old boy that got married in South Africa for instance. In South Africa, a girl under 15 and a boy under 18 require special permission to get married.
(Note: barring a really bad choice or timing, I will support whomever my child wants to marry. I will never impose my choice on them. )
So how the *fuck has all this got anything to do with twitter?
Twitter encourages you to think you have made a thoughtful contribution to debates especially when you spill out a few in series like I did from here.
Another limitation of twitter/feeds is that it’s fleeting. Important stuff gets forgotten 20 tweets later. The beauty of writing in a blog format asides coherence is that is is properly documented and will come up even years later when research is being done.
Storify makes you feel you have your tweets documented like Aunty Oby’s stuff here (do read it if you really want to good overview of the #ChildBride story)
Yesterday, Teju Cole documented his trip from Lagos to Benin Republic by road. A lot of good stuff was written. Sadly, except those that follow him and were looking at Twitter at that moment, all the good stuff will most likely never be of use to anyone that needs it in future. (I just saw a Storify of it now, but still.
I really have none. Blog more maybe? Although I admit that Twitter removes the burden of inertia to publish stuff, we should remember that it limits proper framing, archiving and retrieval of important thought.
*I believe expletives have a role to play in communication. Replace them with euphemisms?
As my man Jay Levanne said – “Euphemisms of bad words are still bad words. Words are not created filthy. We give them meaning. So whenever you say “effing” or “fricking”… you’re missing the fucking point”