Cold, Cold World

By Olukorede Yishau

It is girl-child day. I have a daughter, Opemipo. She likes saying she is ‘basically 13’. Her brother, Toluwanimi, will be ten next February. I love them and I believe I can do anything legal for them to be a blessing to their generation, to the kingdom of God and to daddy and mummy.

From time to time, I have refused attempts to make my daughter feel less important than her brother. Both of them are jewels of no mean value to me and neither is more important than the other. But I know our society does not see things my way. Long before the 2019 Gatekeepers Report shows that life is difficult the world over for a girl-child, I had known that this is a cold world for the female. A really cold, cold world!

Our society’s foundation is laid in such a way that a girl is at a disadvantage. I hate it when a girl is repeatedly told and ‘you are a girl o’. This happens when she does things the society believes should not be done by a girl, or when she is refusing to do something that society has labelled chores for girls.

In many homes, girls cook, wash clothes and keep the house clean. Boys watch television, play games and wait for the food to be served. So, these boys grow up to expect their wives to do everything.

Most times, when a woman cheats, she is in trouble, and when her man cheats, she is still in trouble of ensuring the other chic does not take the man forever. What a world!

Aside from the family unit, society also helps to put the female gender down. Our politicians are guilty in this respect. Women are made to play second fiddle.

The marginalisation of women in politics is just one of the many injustices the female folks face in our country. It is so bad that when a woman is doing well many of us believe she must have used the ‘bottom power’. Brilliant women abound and even when we acknowledge their brilliance, we still find a way to rubbish their records by attributing their rise to extraneous factors.

In Bisi Adjapon’s Of Women and Frogs, we see boys and men getting undue advantages just because of their gender. Esi, the heroine, rebels and is labelled a badly-behaved girl. Like many fathers in our society, her father, Edward, always sees a lady through her womanhood—her education counts less. He sees nothing wrong in Abena’s husband almost throwing her out of the window. All is well with Mansa’s husband pummelling her. To him, being a woman equals being the wrong one in any dispute with the man of the house. Ayodele Olofintuade’s amazing novel Lakiriboto Chronicles explores our biases against the female gender. A strong woman is considered rude and unfit for marriage.

In Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s Kintu, a Ugandan notes: “As a boy if you wander too often into the kitchen doubt is cast over you.”

Fathers and mothers need to stand for their girls and make them feel equal to their brothers. We should give women equal opportunities; we should stop telling a girl to do all the chores while the boys play ludo, and we should, as husbands, support our wives to be the best they can be. They are our better halves and deserve to live their dreams. If they choose to be housewives, all well and good, but we should not force it on them. Each partner in a marriage deserves respect, which should be earned and not forced.

I have travelled this route today because of the University of Lagos lecturers accused of sex-for-grades. One of them is also a pastor. He has been suspended by both the school and the church for an investigation to be carried out. He reminds me of His Eminence, Reverend Pastor Dr Biodun Fatoyinbo, who is yet to extricate himself from Busola Dakolo’s rape allegation.

In the video, Dr. Boniface Igheneghu, who is also a Foursquare pastor, promised to help a supposedly ‘17-year-old’, who was actually an undercover reporter. From their first meeting for ‘tutorials’, Igheneghu began to reveal creepy intentions.

He told the girl: “How old are you? 17, and you look very big like this? Don’t you know you are a beautiful girl? Do you know that? You are not beautiful; you are a very beautiful girl. Do you know I am a pastor? And I am in my 50s. What will shock you is that even at my age, if I want a girl of 17, all I need is to sweet-tongue her; give small money and I will get her.”

At a second meeting, Igheneghu prayed with the girl “to lead her to Christ”. He directed her to repeat after him: “Lord Jesus Christ; I confess the Lord Jesus Christ; I accept that you are my Lord and saviour. Guide me and direct me. Thank you, Jesus. Don’t worry about your admission. I will work on it.”

He soon asked her: “Have you started knowing men?” When the girl asked what he meant by ‘knowing men’, he said point-blank: “Have you started having sex? Look anything that we discuss, you are sure that your mother will not hear?”

At another meeting secretly filmed, Igheneghu spoke about a place lecturers take their prey for sexual escapades at the UNILAG Staff Club. He said: “There is an upper part of the staff club where lecturers carry out their deeds; they call it ‘cold room’.”

In this cold room, girls are meant to experience another side of the cold world they are part of. Igheneghu also said ‘cooperating’ students are favoured with good grades. “She pays with her body,” he said, “You have to be obedient to have your admission.”

Igheneghu told the undercover reporter to kiss him after locking the door and switching off the light in his office in an attempt to demonstrate what the cold room looked like.

“Do you want me to kiss you? Lock the door; I will kiss you for a minute.”

The girl asked: “Did you lock the door?”

“Yes,” Igheneghu whispered.

He asked her to come closer.

Girl: “I am close to you already, sir.”

Igheneghu added: “Sit down…Come close”

Girl: “OK.”

Igheneghu: “Look…(wrapping his arms around her)…”You are so stiff.”

He concluded: “I can call you to come any day; if you don’t come, then you know you are gone. I will tell your Mom you are disobedient.”

The girl responded: “Ok Sir”.

In the video, two alumnae of UNILAG said they were abused by Igheneghu.

The first victim said: “He will tell you to come to his office. He will lock the door. Sometimes, he will want to grope you; sometimes, he will dry hump you. He likes to pick on struggling students because he knows that they are very vulnerable and there is nothing they can do.”

The second victim said: “I never ever gave my consent once. There was a time he was preparing for Bible study, and he was groping me and he was writing down scriptures.”

Before the video evidence, there have been reports of lecturers victimising girls. What the video has done is to put faces to the randy ones. Brilliant girls are made to suffer. A senior colleague told me some days back that he had to help a female undergraduate pay a bribe demanded by a lecturer in place of sex.

My final take: Lecturers are supposed to be fathers to their students. They ought to guide them and make them become the best they can be. A lecturer who sexually assaults his student is a fit and proper candidate for castration. He is not different from a rapist.

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