A Christian farmer living in Katsina has shared the touching and sad story how his 15-year-old daughter, Aishat was abducted and forced to convert to Islam before being married off at the palace of an emir.
Mani Bajo, a 75-year-old farmer told his story to Punch.
The incident happened in Ugwa DanDada, a sleepy agrarian community with a population of around 1,500 in the Kafur Local Government Area of Katsina State.
Can you introduce yourself and where you hail from?
I am Mani Bajo. I am 75-year-old and a farmer. I was born here at Ugwa DanDada in the Kafur Local Government Area of Katsina State. I grew up here and I married here. I have lived my life here in the community.
Were you born into Christianity or you converted to the religion?
I am a Christian and I accepted Christ into my life when I was 30 years old. I was never a Moslem. My wives and my children are also Christians and we all attend the Evangelical Church of Winning All here in Ugwa DanDada.
You mentioned wives, can tell us more about your family?
What happened was that my first wife, who was Aishat’s mother, died five years ago. The development made me marry another wife. I have 14 children, seven males and seven females. Five of my female children are already married and they are with their husbands. Four of my children are in various classes in primary and secondary schools.
What about Aishat?
Aishat is my seventh child and she was in SS3 at the Government Day Secondary School, Sabuwa Kasa, before this problem started.
Which problem and can you tell more about it?
Sometime in November 2020, I observed that Aishat was behaving strangely and I noticed some changes in her movement. I investigated and I found out that a boy, Mohammed Samaila, of Sabuwa Kasa was dating her. I personally went to the community and met the boy’s parents. I told them that they should tell their boy to keep away from my daughter as she was still in school and just 15 years old. The relationship was stopped for some time. A few months later, I discovered that the two of them were still dating.
I discussed the issue with Aishat’s elder sisters and we all decided that she should be sent to Funtua to be staying with one of her elder sisters in order to put a stop to the relationship. It was while at Funtua that the boy abducted her.
When her elder sister reported that Aishat was missing from home in February, we contacted the police. It was later that Hakimi (district head) of Kafur, Abdulrahman Rabe, called and told me that Aishat was not missing and that she had converted to Islam and that the same boy from Sabuwa Kasa wanted to marry her. I told Hakimi that my daughter was 15 and in secondary school. I pleaded with him that my daughter should be sent back to me, but Hakimi refused.
My church members and the executive of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kafur rose in my support and met the Hakimi, but he refused to listen to their appeal that Aishat should be allowed to return home.
My family also met the Area Commander of the Nigeria Police Force at Malumfashi over the issue. The Area Commander directed that Aishat be brought to his office at Malumfashi, while we should also come on an appointed day. We were at the Area Commander’s office at Malumfashi on the appointed day only to learn that both Aishat and the boy had been taken to the Emir of Katsina’s palace in Katsina for the marriage. Since then, I have neither seen Aishat nor the boy, and I have not heard anything from the Area Commander. I even learnt that Aishat and the boy have relocated from Sabuwa Kasa.
In view of the development, are you contemplating any other action to ensure that Aishat returns home?
I still maintain that Aishat’s purported conversion and marriage did not have the support or blessing of the family. I want my daughter back, at least, to complete her secondary education. I am appealing to well-meaning people all over the world to assist me in getting Aishat back. She was in SS3 before this boy truncated her education with the purported marriage. I have five other female children, who are happily married and living with their husbands.
But since Aishat showed interest in education, she should be encouraged instead of being forced into a marriage. I don’t have any influential person to fight for me, but I know that the Almighty God will fight for me and assist me in ensuring that Aishat returns home.
Since this issue started, have you been receiving threats or warnings to support Aishat’s conversion and marriage?
No, nobody has threatened me. But my worry is that in this community alone, we have had instances of no fewer than eight girls, who were either forcefully converted or married off, but later these girls were either returned to their parents a few years after the so-called marriages either with one ailment or the other. There was even a woman from this community, who died after being forcefully married off.
What I observed is that after they might have forcefully married those girls, they would now start maltreating them and within a few years, the marriage would collapse. That is why I am saying that Aishat should complete her education first before talking of marriage so that she will be able to make up her mind and take right decisions concerning her future.
How true is the claim that Aishat is over 15 years old and that one of her elder sisters had earlier converted to Islam?
The claim is not true. Aishat is 15 years old. She is my daughter and I know when she was born. It is also not true that one of her elder sisters has converted to Islam. We are all Christians in our family.