By Sesugh Akume
Two or so years ago, in a discussion with some middle-aged alpha male friends who solemnly believed that the rape of females was caused by what they wore, I asked them of their opinion on the rape of infants in diapers, and women in full hijab, for instance. I got no responses.
Not done, I asked them how it would make them feel if another man or a group of men overpowered and sodomised them. You should’ve seen the looks on their faces. They felt insulted that I could ever think such a thing concerning them. It hurt their manly pride that I could make an illustration, of all illustrations in the world, to communicate my point. I apologised and repeated the question.
I then explained that there are men who only sleep with other men. I charged them to imagine that such a person liked them, and the kaftan or suit they wore turned them on, would he be justified to sodomise them? I asked. They were dumbfounded, too dazed to answer.
I told them it may be an extreme example, but how they felt for those few minutes was what rape victims carry on with for years, many, for the rest of their lives. The humiliation. The feeling of defeat and helplessness. The abuse and violation. Then, worst of all, we turn around and blame them.
What one chooses to wear or not wear can never be the basis for another forcing themselves on them. I saw that it was entering. I further explained that not even with wives should husbands force themselves, if they don’t want. Marrying a person doesn’t mean you own them. I was glad they got the point.
There cannot be justification for forcing oneself on another. I’m also glad that in the past weeks these excuses have been blown away. Everyone has seen how infants in diapers have been raped. There’s this horrible image of a baby with tubes all over her body, a victim of rape. I wonder whether she can ever have normal use of her organs and not have to wear pipes and carry bags for urine, etc all her life! It’s terrible. We’ve seen people raped inside places of worship. Females all covered up forcefully raped and killed.
That was why the unfortunate outing by Ahmed Usman Jaha, the House of Representatives member for Damboa, Gwoza, Chibok (Borno) in plenary, that men’s bodies are not wood, and that what females wear can be provocative to warrant rape was greeted with such stiff resistance. To his credit, he promptly withdrew the statement, and offered profuse apologies for them.
I saw an email a constituent wrote to him. She introduced herself and expressed her feelings about his expressed opinion. He replied to her apologising for how it made her feel, and explained that it was an error which he had already owned up to and corrected himself and hoped she would forgive him and move on too.
The young lady has taught us how to be citizens. Don’t rant in your corners offline and on social media and move then on. Engage your elected officials. She didn’t mind if he would ignore her, and not reply to her mail. She did her part. Always do your own part.
The rep on, in turn, did a strange thing by owning up, correcting himself, giving no excuses, apologising and moving on. That way, nobody can hold him to account on this issue any longer. He in turn will sleep in peace any time he goes to bed and wouldn’t need drugs, and other sedatives to make him sleep, as is the lifestyle of politicians, who routinely murder sleep and are always battling with their consciences.
Never mind that at the time he had offered his apology, unknown to his online trolls and vuvuzelas, they were defending his statements, justifying, and insulting everybody, including this courageous, exemplary citizen who had received her own apology by personal email. Later, when his about-turn was made public, they shamelessly changed tunes and were the ones sharing it everywhere. Their boss was smart enough to know when to block out the noise of sycophants and do the right thing.
The Honourable Ahmed Jaha may have been your average politician who as a rep doesn’t have a known constituency office anywhere, and the type who as education commissioner in Borno would give out head pans, cobbler’s shoe boxes, wheelbarrows, and the like as ‘youth empowerment’, for which many sensible people aren’t wont not to take him serious, but everybody has important lessons to learn from his great example in this regard.
Whoever knew that a day would come all of us would have important lessons o learn from a Nigerian politician?
Akume, a public policy analyst wrote from Abuja. He tweets @sesugh_akume, also reached via email@example.com