The talk about sexual harassment is as rampant as bad leadership in Nigeria. 8 out of every 10 ladies from most public institutions of learning will tell you about one experience or the other.
When the recent documentary by the BBC ('Sex For Grades: Undercover Inside Nigerian And Ghanaian Universities') on the spate of sexual harassment in two major African universities was announced, I quickly recalled how the problem was so prevalent in the past that a veteran musician, Eedris Abdulkareem made a hit song titled 'Mr Lecturer' out of it in 2003. The song was so big that Eedris had to drop a remix to rake in more cash. The Nigerian film industry, Nollywood wasn't left out. Movies were made about incidents of sexual exploitation in tertiary institutions in ways that made the act enticing. Young minds even felt sleeping with students as part of the benefits attached to being a lecturer.
Normally, most songs and films are supposed to help create awareness about events and possibly influence public perception of it. We all danced to the songs, watched the movies, and nobody really frowned at it. Then the NGOs and civil society organizations were not popular; we only heard about pressure groups like the Nigeria Labour Congress and Petroleum & Natural Gas Staff Association (PENGASSAN) advocating for specific interests of its members. Enjoying such contents was like a case of a failing student mocking his teacher's grammatical mistakes in class.
Scapegoats were never made out of the suspected offenders and the development was treated as mere regular rumours and possible a new norm that the society should live with. The reality of life is that a bad behaviour that is condoned without consequences will come to stay and multiply. It becomes an untreated wound that continues to fester and get worse. Let's tell ourselves the truth, sexual harassment or sex for grades in schools is like a hidden culture. Virtually every female student or higher institution graduate you meet has a story to tell about her experience with male lecturers who just wanted a share of her body before she could pass their courses.
A lecturer in my department was suspended during my first degree days at the Obafemi Awolowo University for sexually-harassing a female student. Rumours later revealed that the senior lecturer had been indulging in the act for years before the Student Union Government stood up to him. In fact, his gist was part of the informal orientation programme given to us as freshers by the returning students, meaning it his insidious escapades were common knowledge like the scandals rocking music legend R.Kelly. In another department in the faculty of Social Sciences, going under a lecturer was like a core course some female students had to take. My lecturer once cracked a joke about the madness in class and we all laughed about it like it was nothing serious. He called it 'bottom power'. The popular victims were the extra year female students struggling with mathematical academic courses. They had very limited choices about 'added times' under some pot-bellied, suspiciously scrawny and haggard-looking lecturers in their desperation to graduate and move on to other things in life.
The talk about sexual harassment is as rampant as bad leadership in Nigeria. 8 out of every 10 ladies from most public institutions of learning will tell you about one experience or the other. My girlfriend showed so much keen interest in the BBC documentary which I found quite unusual. She is normally not the news type and her medical discipline might have contributed to that. I was forced to probe further on her interest and she revealed to me that she had been sexually harassed during her early days at the University of Lagos. She didn't even have the courage to tell me her story and sincerely, I am scared about listening to the expected bombshell.
As I got to work the day the documentary dropped, a new female colleague who joined the office conversation on the sex scandal revealed how she was harassed regularly by male lecturers in her tertiary institution in the South-east. She recounted how she had to wear a fake wedding band to ward off lecturers who respected the Igbo tradition that forbids sleeping with a married woman.
It's heartbreaking to know that the brainchild of the documentary, Kiki Mordi never had a degree as she had to drop out of school due to sexual harassments. Another teary account is that Dr Boniface Igbeneghu abused a former student of UNILAG for years and even confidently said he was going to hand her over to his colleague for continued abuse. His victim claims to have attempted suicide four times as the memories of the torrid times keep haunting her.
The brazen way Boniface who doubles as a pastor at Foursquare Gospel Church led the undercover journalist in 'prayers' before unveiling his real intentions speaks volume of a lot. It shows confidence and power-drunkenness. It's also an indication of a full-blown moral decadence which is beyond redemption due to lengthy years of practice. I am forced to feel Boniface might be sick in the head thereby necessitating a thorough and immediate rehabilitation or spiritual deliverance process that could even warrant regular flogging reminiscent of how clerics in the white garment churches purportedly 'cast out demons'. The sight of the so-called 'Cold Room' in UNILAG forced tears down my eyes especially when the lady was urged to join other women of easy virtues in engaging in a dance of shame. I don't see any solution to the challenge on the ground, we can only slow the lecturers down, we can't stop them.
They will feel the heat for some months and later devise other discreet means of sleeping with vulnerable female students old enough to be their daughters. This will be synonymous with the regular battles against corruption in the political space. It will shock you that the number of Nigerians hoping to steal public funds one day is more than those presently looting like it's their birthrights.
Reading different stories about sexual harassments on Twitter made me conclude that it is finished! They might not be entirely true but it's embarrassing that people lived with the epidemic all through their years in school just like we endure terrible roads across the country.
It's a welcome development that the BBC documentary has sparked conversations and the influence of social media will help intensify the pressure on questionable lecturers but there is no light at the end of the tunnel. It's the bitter truth!
One would have thought that the travails of the disgraced and jailed Obafemi Awolowo University's former lecturer, Prof. Richard Iyiola Akindele would have served as a deterrent to his colleagues in the business but it didn't. The urge to defile young women appears greater than the risks of being nabbed.
In the words of a popular Ghanaian actress, Efia Odo;
"No difference between sex for grades and sex for a job. Happens in America, Africa and all parts of the world. The f*cked up part about this "revelation" is that its not gonna stop!!"
“As long as there are vulnerable young women, there will be sex in exchange for something! This narrative ain’t gone change. What’s really gonna happen is that these assholes of men will just be a little more careful. They will start checking for hiding cameras. God help us all!” Efia Odo also added.
The world is approaching a new phase where men now see women as objects of pleasure and this is why cases of sex scandals are rocking prominent figures in America and other parts of the developed world. Recently, President Donald Trump alone has been accused of another 26 incidents of “unwanted sexual contact” and 43 instances of inappropriate behaviour, including a claim he hid behind a tapestry to grope a woman at his Mar-a-Lago property.
The fashion trends followed by women are not helping matters but men are scared to talk about it in other not to be termed, potential rapists. As you talk a walk down the streets of Lagos, cleavages, exposed hips, tummies, and protruding bums in tight clothes are common sights and the brain rapidly processes that information gathered in the speed of light. At times, it takes the grace of God not to crack after seeing too much. The social media space has also made things worse; now ladies pose in bikini wears to gather followers, attract comments and likes. Most female celebrities now post sultry photos like singer Tiwa Savage exposed her breasts of late just to trend despite being a powerhouse already. On Instagram, videos of ladies twerking has continued to compete with normal pictures for spaces and the former is winning. The Nigerian music industry is also making matters worse. The song lyrics and music videos like 'Pawon' by Olamide objectify women. They were presented as pleasure toys for those that could afford them and the general public is loving the jam. Nollywood isn't left out. Today we have stories of randy ladies with happy endings in life; they come from the ghetto and make it to the top using the 'oil well' between their legs. The audience keenly watching this will unconsciously feel this is a viable option in the face of abject poverty or other life challenges. The actresses don't only act such roles but also lead such lives, in reality, using the industry as a decoy to evade the hypocritical puritans and fundamentalists. All these factors have gradually affected the way we see life whether we admit it or not, its more a psychological problem right now.
My brutal advice for he-goats posing as men is to go and buy sex for a start so that they don't suffer from the Withdrawal Syndrome. If you know your wife can't satisfy you or you are probably tired of eating the same 'food' over the years, nothing stops you from visiting a nearby restaurant to have a taste of a new dish by paying for it and not stealing or taking it by force. Religious people will unrealistically frown at this recommendation but it's the gospel truth. It's happening already; several Nigerian ladies are selling their bodies online for extra bucks and they will readily do business with any man as far as money is concerned. That pleasure industry is so buoyant especially in Lagos state that if the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS could tax it efficiently, the debt of Nigeria will be totally paid in two years with extra revenue to develop the infrastructural facilities.
Any married woman who doubts me needs to check the smartphone of her husband for applications like Inmessage, Instachat, Badoo and Tinder to know the purposes they serve.
Osayimwen Osahon George is a journalist and a PhD student at the University of Ibadan. He could be reached via email; [email protected]