Posted by By Reuben Abati on
Today, the Parents/Teachers Association (PTA) of Queens College, Lagos would be having a special meeting in the school premises to discuss a reported case of rape involving one of the students, a 12 year-old Junior Secondary School (JSS) girl and a technician in the school's physics laboratory. The incident would have gone unnoticed were it not for the Tempo magazine which brought it to public attention in its May 9 edition in a sad story entitled "Rape of Innocence". The young girl was said to have gone to the physics laboratory to check with the technician who normally brought messages from her parents, whether she had any message.
The technician who must have been eyeing the poor girl for a while, considering that girls tend to grow very quickly these days, (by the time they are twelve, they are already looking feminine), tricked her into a corner of the laboratory, and reportedly overpowered her. Then she defiled her. It was the poor girl's screams that attracted the attention of other students who also alerted the school principal. An emergency school assembly was summoned. The rapist, husband of two wives and father of four children, has been handed over to the police. The school principal, according to the report, wept profusely. The students were told to steer clear of the male teachers in the school. This is the first time such an incident would be reported in the school since its establishment in 1927.
Rape is perhaps an under-reported crime in all schools across the country and in the Nigerian society in general. If the incident had occurred in a village school in the middle of nowhere, or away from the school premises in the house of the schoolteacher, where no one would listen to the girl's cries, it would have most likely gone unreported. There are many young girls out there who have been defiled by male teachers who lure them to dark corners, or to their homes. Out of fear or shame or a combination of both, the girls keep quiet forever, but the psychological scar remains. In co-ed schools, the villain may not necessarily be the male teacher, but the male student or a gang of male students who have formed a habit of raping their pretty female colleagues.
Sexual harassment may take a different form in higher institutions of learning, but indeed, at all levels, it is the single biggest threat to the education of female children in this country today. If you have a daughter, you have to keep praying that she doesn't get into the hands of the sexual perverts in every corner of the country. If you are a woman, you must be worried about how so unprotected women are in this land. We have had cases of men raping girls that are under five. Bizarre but true. Inter-personal, inter-sex discourse is laden with so many sexual imageries and innuendoes that are sub-textual indications of lust and veiled criminality. In home videos (no thanks to Cossy Orjiakor, Sandra Achums, Shan George, Halima Abubakar and Jolade Ekeinde etc), also, in popular music (Juju, Fuji, Afro, Rap), the subsisting pervasive imagery is that of sex. And so, sex is the central image in the Nigerian male consciousness.
Every male in this land is a rapist waiting to break loose, what differs is the degree and form of animal expression. A man sees a well-dressed woman or lady, he thinks it is his business to make a comment: "Hi, I like your dress, you look edible, or delicious or great". It is perhaps only in Nigeria that a man would tell a woman that she is "delicious, edible". It is as if Nigerian men are all repressed carnivores.
Married women are not spared. They are subjected to all kinds of irresponsible compliments on their looks and dressing. For example, "Madam, your husband must be enjoying oh!" (Enjoying what?). Or "Madam, you don't look bad at all, you don't look like you have been to the maternity ward" (So?). Or "Madam, I hope your husband appreciates what he has" (What if he doesn't?). Or "Madam, if you were not married, I would have given everything to be your husband" (Now that she is, what are you going to do, commit suicide?). Young girls are particularly vulnerable in the face of this widespread chauvinism. They can be easily overpowered. Poverty, parental negligence and the moral crisis in society have also all combined to make rape so tempting. Besides, rape is stigmatized. Very few women are willing to press charges for rape.
One courageous young lady once took her case to AIT, she reported that when she got to the police station to report that she had just been raped, all the policemen on duty laughed. They didn't take her seriously. She sounded like a married woman who had gone to the police to report that her husband had beaten her. No Nigerian policeman would take such a case seriously. The woman is likely to be asked to go and settle with her husband. It is for this same reason that bigamy is a dead law in our country. Rape is equally difficult to prove in a court of law, the processes and requirements are humiliating for the affected woman. May be our women are also guilty, but I shall come to this later.
A woman grows up around here under the illusion that her greatest ticket to the future is her body, and that her life mission is to give pleasure to men and bear children. In many ways, cultural norms reinforce this. In the Northern part of the country, girls under 10 are married off to rich Mallams and Alhajis. The girls are deflowered too early; many of them are in the hospital, victims of a medical condition called VVF. When this is criticized, we are told that it is the culture of the North. Generally, young girls face other risks associated with adolescent sexuality - early pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and the truncation of their educational careers.
I have had to draw attention to all these not to justify the rape of the young lady at Queen's College, Lagos, but to show just how serious the problem of sexual perversion is in our country. It is treated with levity because we assume wrongly that man-woman relations is strictly a biological affair. But not so for the father of the girl who has been violated at Queen's College, Lagos. If he lays his hands on the laboratory technician who turned his daughter's body into a laboratory, he may commit murder!. Queen's College is a special school with a distinguished tradition. Parents struggle to get their daughters into that school. Part of the reason is that they expect that a girls' only school would offer their daughters a few years of protection from lecherous Nigerian men. They didn't bargain for male teachers who are closet rapists.
Every parent who has a child in that school today must be worried. As they meet today with the teachers, they must be wondering: how many girls have been raped in the schools laboratory? How many other male teachers are involved? The male teachers are said to be angry. What are they angry about? That they can no longer pinch the breasts and buttocks of other people's daughters? They are perhaps most likely to claim that they are the ones being harassed by the girls and that parents should give their daughters proper upbringing. After all, that is the standard excuse offered by university teachers who often insist that female students who dress indecently and make passes at teachers should expect a response in kind.
True, many Nigerian women, young or old, debase womanhood, with their fashion and attitudes. They dress indecently. They think being feminine means being cheap. Could it be then that the 12-year old girl at Queen's College is one of those "ajebota" girls who grow up so fast they are interested in men at an early age? Could she have been the laboratory technician's girlfriend before now? Did she scream on this occasion because there was a disagreement? She had known the technician as her parents' emissary. Parents have blame in this matter. Many of us are so busy we do not have time for the children. Why can't the young girl's parents go to see her themselves? Why appoint a middleman?
However, the myth that schools like Queen's College and the Federal Government Colleges are really special has been exploded. The reputation of Queen's College has been tarnished. The Parents and Teachers Association should institute a thorough investigation into the incident. Many of the girls would have useful information. They should be encouraged to talk. The laboratory technician should be paraded around the school premises, he should be made to face the full wrath of the law. If he is found guilty by a court of law, his photograph should be published in the papers. If there are other male teachers still living in the school premises, they should be expelled. The Federal Ministry of Education should review the policy of allowing male teachers in an all-female school. The two wives and four children of the offending technician need not worry about the devil: this is not the devil's work, the truth is that their husband and father is sick. Male teachers in our schools should be subjected to occasional psychiatric tests. At Queen's College, Lagos such a process should be considered part of the solution to the present crisis.
Niran Malaolu is a hardworking, self-respecting journalist. He has been invited on several occasions to leave Nigeria and go abroad to work under better conditions. But he doesn't want to play Andrew. He loves his ewedu and amala. He believes in Nigeria. But at every turn, Nigeria disappoints Malaolu. In 1997, General Abacha accused him of plotting a coup with his pen and jailed him alongside Generals Diya, Adisa and Olanrewaju. But God was on Malaolu's side. Abacha died. He lived. He has since returned to active journalism at The Anchor newspapers where he is Executive Director and Deputy Editor in Chief. Since his return from prison, Malaolu has also managed to build a bungalow in a place called Oko-oba in Agege, Lagos. Towards the end of last year, he and his family moved to the place. The children loved it. Madam was so excited she decided to have another baby. Malaolu's Old School Boys Association wanted to have a meeting; he invited them to his house. Everything was sweet until one night, about two months ago, when armed robbers bore a hole through the brick fence and through Malaolu's bedroom, and for about four hours, they unleashed mayhem. Malaolu and his family had to run away from the house. For about two months, they lived as displaced persons in a friend's house. They were advised not to go back home because the armed robbers could return.
Two Sundays ago, the armed robbers, true to prediction, returned. They met only security guards and an empty house. They were annoyed that the Malaolus had fled, despite information that they had been seen around the building the previous day. They destroyed all the doors in the house and smashed all the glass doors and windows. It looked like a scene from a Mafia movie. It looked as if a stray bomb had exploded in Malaolu's compound. After the first attack, Malaolu had restored the house and effected the required repairs. But now the robbers have broken his walls again. They visited four other houses in the neighbourhood. In one place, they met a pot of soup. They sat down, had a meal, drank wine and asked the Madam of the house to give them water. Malaolu is furious. "Bola Tinubu must come here to see what we are going through in Lagos", he said. "I have petitioned the IG. Obasanjo himself must come here to see things for himself", he added.
But how many houses can Tinubu and Obasanjo possibly visit? Everyday, Nigeria is becoming unsafe for everyone. Inspector-General Tafa Balogun is talking about the new face of the police but his policemen always manage to arrive at armed robbery scenes, only after the hoodlums have fled. Malaolu has access to the press, so his case may hit the headlines, but he is not alone. There are many other Nigerians who are frustrated and others abroad who would love to come home, but would not, because they are afraid of armed robbers. If President Obasanjo can guarantee the security of life and property, then, he can have a second term.