By YVONNE ISHOLA
THE rumblings and grumblings of a good number of Nigerians against the menace of rape have increased in tempo as its prevalence has reached an all time high. It is no more an act perpetrated by strangers against strangers on farms or dark alleys but an act indulged in by close relatives against innocent minors entrusted in their care or company.
It is no more news that sexual abuse in higher institutions of learning has become an accepted norm. A two way thing that benefits the female students who use what they have (their body) to get what they want (good grades) from culpable male lecturers. On the other hand, some unscrupulous lecturers use their position (as one who holds the future of the students in their hands) to get what they want which in most cases for the female students, is their body.
Thanks to the high profile University of Lagos case, revealed under-cover, by a BBC reporter, Kiki Mordy which brought to the open the sexual abuse that most females in tertiary institutions are battling with in Nigeria in the hands of randy male lecturers. These are definitely those of them who see their position as a means to an end.
This brings to mind an incidence that occurred in our university days in the early 90s. A very close friend of my younger sister had an ugly experience that taught each one of us a lesson. She was schooling in Kaduna State. In her third year, a particular lecturer became interested in her. She avoided him in every way possible but unfortunately for her, he was her department’s examination officer. Realizing the power he had in his hands, he decided to handle the issue in an official way. He demanded for her original results, SSCE, etc including her admission letter, anything to prove that she was a student in that school. It was well timed. She was finally ushered in on Friday to see him. Acting very busy, the lecturer asked her to drop everything for him and come back for them on Monday after he would have verified them.
First thing on Monday, the unsuspecting lady who was confident that her credentials gave her admission and that she passed through the right channels, came in unperturbed. After a long wait, she received the shock of her life when the exam officer denied ever collecting anything from her. He feigned ignorance of what she was talking about that looked so believable and mercilessly drove her out of his office claiming she had no proof that she was a student of that school duly given admission through the right channel (in her own case, Direct Entry). She pleaded but to no avail. There was just one thing that could pacify him – her body and she refused to bend. In no time, she was declared an imposter and thrown out like trash but with her honour and dignity intact.
If only it was computer age, one would say; she could have reprinted her results and admission letter at a blink of an eye. But we had no such luxury. However, she was lucky she came in with her SPS Keffi results (School of Preliminary Studies), so, all she did was to purchase another Direct Entry form but this time, she went for a different course in a different university because of the bad taste of her past experience.
It took resilience and the support of family and friends to revive hope in this victim of lecturer manipulation or she would have joined the uncountable number of school drop-outs. Where is the conscience of such lecturers? The reward of teachers is in heaven, it is often said. I make bold to say that their punishment is here on earth for any wickedness or carelessness. The word of God which says whatever you sow you will reap gives credence to that. God can’t be mocked.
The above incidence brought to our understanding that on no account should one ever leave one’s original results or particulars with anyone. They are free to hold and look at it in your presence, but the moment you are leaving that place, go with your original and leave behind the photocopies. My sister’s friend found out too late.
No doubt, sexual abuse, sex for grades have always been issues. However, as always, it took the BBC Africa Eye to get our government to react. It is common knowledge that in Nigerian universities, especially the public ones, even dummies can graduate with good grades if they know which buttons to press. It is not always sex for grade. In some cases, money paves the way. In this case, it may be a staff or someone that has access to academic records that could act as the corrupt party.
The opinion of a few students were sampled and these are what they have to say:
Olalade Yusuf thinks “it is very unwise to go to a lecturer’s office alone. Anything can happen. Apart from that, if he is one of the bad eggs, if he notices you, you are in trouble. There are students who have not graduated because they refused to bend to the lecturer’s wish. Universities should start investigating such cases. You may be shocked by what it will unearth.”
Linda Babaye who refused to disclose the university she graduated from said she was a victim of sexual abuse. And because she refused her lecturer’s advances, he delayed her in school for an extra one year. On top of it, he deliberately gave her a Third class instead of Second class even though she was one of the best students in Biochemistry. Her perceived boyfriend, who was only a friend, suffered more because he kept failing him for 3 years until a lecturer hinted him on the reason and he way-laid him one early morning in his office. In the face of death, the lecturer pleaded for his life and promised to let him graduate.
As a result of that experience, Linda has developed an aversion to advancing her education. “I cannot be a puppet in the hands of any lecturer at this age”; she stated.
Mimi, who refused to give her surname, said “My lecturer harassed me in his office. He went straight for my breast as he sneaked from behind me. But I gave him an indelible mark that I pray will discourage him from preying on innocent girls. I bit him with my whole might; a reflex action I have not regretted. As he tried to stop the bleeding, I found my way out but not before warning him about what I would or could do if he tried to victimize me because of what happened.”
In as much as there are corrupt lecturers, as pointed earlier, it is a two-way thing. There are lazy students who have no interest in school that have made it their stock in trade to trail after lecturers to buy grades in kind or cash and there are always willing parties. Both sexes are guilty of this and students know those who can easily be swerved. This goes to say that just as serious students are jubilating that sexual abuse is coming to an end, a good number may not be happy with the new development because it means that they have to earn their grades.
As worrisome as these cases are, the worst case scenario is what obtains in some homes. An uncle is molesting his niece or even a father raping or sexually abusing his daughter. These were unheard of in the past when we had high moral standard.
A colleague in the office who lives in one of the ghettos in town says several of the teenage girls in her area have confided in her that they were deflowered by their fathers. How very sad, wicked and irresponsible of a father. They thought nobody was worthy of that, so they made sure they were their daughters’ first men. How do they expect these girls to live normal lives? It is my prayer that these girls will report it to their pastors. They need deliverance and some sense has to be put in their fathers head or they will continue to deflower their girls. Research has shown that such girls often turn out to be loose.
In our society today, it is not only the girls that are at risk of being raped, even boys are not safe now. In one of my write-ups, I shared with us what a widowed nanny repeatedly did to the boy she was supposed to be caring for. She turned him into her sex toy, doing unprintable things with him on her lap until at thirteen or fourteen, she was impregnated by him. At the time I heard about it, the family was begging the nanny to abort the pregnancy but she vehemently refused.
Some of the boys end up with veneral diseases which expose what they have been going through. One said he became sexually active before the age of 14 because his aunt introduced him very early. She was always using his hands to fondle her breast and later it became a serious sin where she made him do some shameful things. Thankfully, she did not get pregnant for him. Unfortunately, he became a spoiler in his community, always sexually abusing little girls until he was caught. If not for the fear of stigma by the little girl’s parents, he would have ended up in a juvenile home. Thank God, he is reformed today.
Another self induced case is one a pastor shared. A lady had a housemaid who lived with her and stayed in the same room with her daughters. She was the strict type so the agreement was that the housemaid could not go anywhere as far as she was with her. After some years, the housemaid left but left a souvenir for the woman. She had turned her 2 girls to lesbians. It was so bad that they were doing it with each other after the housemaid left. At the time I heard the story, she was running from one prayer house to the other looking for who to deliver her daughters from the demon of lesbianism.
The lady pastor had this to say; “Any time you bring a grown up girl to your house who may have been sexually active; make sure you give her one day off to go out and discharge all the pent up emotions. This will save you a lot. If not she could prey not only on your husband but your children.” A word is enough for the wise.
What seems to be trendy these days is perverts raping toddlers, girls between 6 months to 10 years. Are such people human? Pedophiles deserve to hang because in most cases their victims die. Even when they survive, their vital organs are badly damaged.
President Buhari says stricter laws are needed to prevent girls from being abused in our schools. Nigeria Association of Women Journalists and Female Lawyers (FIDA) must be jubilating. This has been their heart cry. They have been advocating for stricter laws and tougher punishments for perpetrators to serve as deterrent to others.
The BBC report has drawn Nigerians angst because as they put it, U.K. too is battling with the issue of sexual abuse in its schools, so why try to remove the speck from Nigeria’s eye when you have a log in your eye? The social media is awash with diverse opinions on the BBC report. Some people see it as an attempt to denigrate Nigeria in the eyes of the world.
Another school of thought suggest Nigeria treats the BBC report as not credible since their reporter Kiki Mordy invaded the school pretending to be a student in one instance and pretending to be seeking admission on another instance. She played her part-they opined; to lure the lecturers. In that regard, anyone could have fallen victim. They argue that the school is investigating what? An affair involving an outsider (who had her goal) not a student. It holds no substance, they concluded.
Whatever the outcome, so many Nigerians are happy the issue of sexual abuse in schools is now receiving the desired attention. Lawmakers are amending the laws of Nigeria regarding sexual abuse. Many lecturers will be on their toes just as students will have to gird their belts. It is not business as usual anymore.
According to President Buhari, ”the country must do more to address the incidence of sexual violence, sexual abuses in our schools, discrimination, human trafficking and cultural practices that violate women rights.” He also urged law enforcement agencies, school administrators to handle such matters with the urgency they deserve to ensure perpetrators are brought to book.
To the victims, the President said “survivors and their families must avoid cover-up. They should be encouraged to come forth and report cases of abuses wherever and whenever they occur.” My sentiments exactly. This culture of silence that surrounds rape is not helping matters. Perpetrators are getting bolder and unrepentant because they always get away with it. Our people will rather withdraw the case than face the shame of accepting their daughter was raped. They run away from stigma.
At a programme for girl-child, Barr. Mary Izam (FIDA Chairperson, Plateau State chapter) advised victims of rape and their parents not to wash-up or change anything, but bring the victim with every proof of rape to the police and medical personnel for test to ascertain that those specimen are from the perpetrator. The police need all the co-operation they can get to nail the case or rapists will continue to roam freely in our neighbourhoods.