The Social media was awash early last week with the story of Mallam Yakubu Chanji, who got married to a young girl, Adama Yakubu. DAN ATORI, who visited Lapai, Niger State, where the love birds reside reports that the groom who paid a bride price of N300, 000 is the third man she is tying the nuptial knots within 5 years
Lapai, headquarters of Lapai Local Government Area, Niger State has become Mecca of a sort. People are trooping to the sleepy town to validate the story making the rounds that a 70 years old man married a girl of 15 years old. They are curious and want to know the attraction between the two, especially the septuagenarian whose pass time now should be playing with his great grandchildren.
Welcome to the worlds of Mallam Yakubu Dikko Chanji and Adama Amadu, whose recent marriage has broken the Internet.
Yakubu Dikko Chanji, speculated to be over 70 years old, tied the knot with his belle, Adama Ahmadu, also speculated to be a teenager (15 years old) after parting with the sum of N300,000 which included her bride price and compensation to a suitor who had sought Adama's hand in marriage weeks earlier.
Everyone now visits the bride's community to find out her true age after the wedding Fatiha, which was attended only by a few friends of Chanji. The event took place on Monday, 10th December, 2018, in Lapai, Niger State.
Sunday Telegraph investigations revealed that the bride, Adama Ahmadu, who, until recently, hawked the popular 'Fura da Nono (cow milk and millet), met Mallam Chanji, a businessman and farmer. Their relationship started when Mallam Chanji jokingly proposed to her that he would like to get married to her and take her to Minna. This turned her on. She has been looking forward to life in the city.
Adama, who, according to those who know her, is about 20 yers had been married to two husbands before now. She walked out on the two previous ones because she was fed up with the nomadic way of life they lived. "I was tired of living in the bush," she was quoted to have said. So when Chanji proposed to her, it was an answered prayer.
Chanji was not only talking, he matched words with action. He said: "I am 61 years old and my wife is over 20 years. You can see, this is her international passport. She was born in 1998. Is that not more than 15 years? She is 20 years and eleven months old.
"I am not the first man she will be married to; I am the third husband. She was married to her first husband at the age of 15, over five years ago. She left the marriage and returned to her parents and then got married to her second husband whom she left because he also lives in the bush like the first husband. She walked out on the second marriage only last year."
Perhaps, this is what curious Nigerians wanted to know, as they trooped to their home.
When Correspondent arrived Lapai, a Black Mercedes Benz E Class drove in to the compound. He was barred from gaining entrance into the lady's family compound. Surprisingly, Mallam Changi was the one. He fumed and warned that, some persons have used the media to try to tarnish his image, but that he will speak to Sunday Telegraph because he has come to verify and get the truth.
Mallam Chanji denied that he is in his early 70s as being speculated in some sections of the media, saying he will sue any media house which publishes wrong information about him and his wife.
It was reliably gathered that Mallam Chanji, on Friday, reported the invasion of his in-law's home to the Emir of Lapai, seeking to restrain people, adding, he will arrest and sue anyone who intrudes on his privacy.
The visibly livid Chanji, while threatening to sue those who spread fake news about him and his newly wedded wife, said, "Before we got married, I already did her international passport for her because we are going to travel abroad together.
"This whole thing has gone viral and people are spreading wrong information about me; I am her third husband; she is my fourth wife. Is it wrong for me to marry her or is it wrong for me to divorce a wife and marry another wife?"
He further disclosed that he is very comfortable with her. "We are happy together, and her family are very okay with us. I am ready to go any length and I am ready to sue every media organisation for spreading false information about me. Now that you have come to ask me, I am giving you the true situation of things and our real age."
Father of the bride, Mallam Muhammadu Ahmadu told Correspondent that he was not forced or cajoled to give his daughter out for marriage and that his daughter is over 20 years old and not 15 years old.
According to him "I want to thank you for coming to get the true situation of things. I am in total support of this marriage. I gave my child to Chanji because my daughter said she doesn't want her former husband anymore.
"Ever since she brought him (Chanji) and said she liked him, I approved their union and by God's grace, I joined them willingly and it was never a forced marriage. Mine, as a father is to support and bless whoever she brings and as God will have it, the man came and said he loves her too. Since both of them love each other, there is nothing more other than for them to be joined in marriage."
He added that "There is one thing, I have to say. I have advised my daughter too. I told her she must be a good wife and be patient in her marriage. I told her to abide by all instructions given for marriage in Islam. Marriage is sacred with God. As for the husband, I told him I'm leaving my daughter with him with the whole of my heart. If he cheats on her, I leave him with God who is our creator."
Mallam Ahmadu, while lamenting the rate at which the news had gone viral negatively said, "I have fulfilled my role as a father by giving out my daughter in marriage to the person she says she loves and loves her too. I don't care whatever wrong news goes viral."
An elated mother of the bride, Hajia Ahmadu, told our Correspondent, "I am very happy about my daughter's marriage and I know she's happy too. I am surprised when I was told about the different news that is on the Internet about my daughter. She is not 15 years old, but more than 20 years. I am the one that gave birth to her. She is an adult, she brought the man to us, we didn't choose for her or forced her into marriage. I don't care about what people say".
Also, an Uncle to the bride, Usman Umar Dikko, confirmed that Adama Ahmadu is not 15 years old as speculated but over 20 years old.
Further investigations have it that Adama have been married to two different men in the past, and already had a suitor (who would have been a third husband) who asked for her hand in marriage few weeks before. But she preferred Alhaji Chanji because she no longer wants to be married to a Fulani man who lives in the bush.
Accordingly, Hamza said, "The other two men are Fulani who stay in the bush. The lady is not 15 years old, she is over 20 years. If you look at her pictures carefully, you will know that she looks older than a 15 years old girl which mischievous people are speculating. The thing I want to tell you is that, according to Fulani culture, they usually give their daughters away for marriage at early age.
"When Alhaji went back to finally marry Adama, I learnt he went with five of his rich friends amongst whom is Alhaji Aliyu Umar Muku Soje, whom he instructed to post the marriage pictures on social media, because the bride's family want something to hold on to, as evidence and proof of the marriage.
"The whole saga happened after Alhaji Aliyu Soje posted the pictures on Facebook. Initially, there were no comments or reactions until one Maiyaki Ahmed shared it on Arewa news and changed the story by saying 72 years old man marries 15 year old girl in Niger".
Hamza who is based in Minna, the Niger State capital,
When Correspondent went to Chanji's area in Minna, one of the residents in Kwangila, who pleaded anonymity, said, "We call him Chanji because he regularly 'changes' wives. He has married up to 20 times. But he only keeps four wives in his house, which is in accordance to Islamic Rites. Once he divorces one, or one of them dies, he immediately picks a replacement. He recently divorced one of the wives and now he has quickly replaced her with 'amaria' (new wife)."
When Correspondent spoke with a resident in Lapai, who only gave her first name as Hauwa, a Citizen Journalist, she said: "He is from a prominent and royal family. He has married more than 50 wives; everyone calls him 'Chanji Mata' because he marries and divorces women on regular basis. He married one of my friends, Amina Kagara, and immediately after they had one child, he divorced her."
Hauwa added, "Apart from Adama, Alhaji Chanji had earlier paid the sum of N300,000 to another family to marry a 14-year girl named Amina Ya'Bako, her father's name is Ya' bako. But the mother of the girl, Hajia Yakande Ya'Bako, a cousin to my mother in-law, refused. The girl's mother came to my mother in- law crying. I was inside my room when she met her, telling my mother in-law everything that transpired."
When our Correspondent spoke with some of the girls in the community, they called on the state government to come to their aid as soon as possible, saying, "Our parents give us out to old men to marry due to poverty. And Adama's parents are using her to do business."
The girls who reluctantly spoke with Sunday Telegraph for fear of being dealt with, said, "This is not the first time, this kind of thing is happening in our community. We are not happy, the Government should come and help us talk to our parents. They should set up committee to come down and talk to our poor parents. Old men usually come with lots of money and give to our poor parents who can't resist it. They then force us to marry older men."
This could not be far from the truth. Nigeria, according to a report on child marriage in 2017, is the 11th highest nation in the world for number of child marriages. Data show a 9 per cent decline in the prevalence of child marriage compared to that of 2003. The report shows that 43 per cent of girls are married off before the age of 18, and 17 per cent are married before they turn 15.
When our Correspondent spoke to the an official at the Niger State Child Rights Agency, Ezekiel Gana, he said, "For now, we cannot speak on the case, but a committee has been set up to look into the matter and until they come up with a report, we cannot speak or do anything". This is love made in Niger State.