It was about two weeks to her wedding when tragedy struck. A gang of armed robbers invaded their expansive home in the highbrow area of Lagos and after dispossessing the family of cash and valuables, also decided to rape the young woman and her mother. Done with their despicable act, the robbers left as the violated bride-to-be began to wail to lament her fate. But the mother, who was equally raped, got up and slapped her, telling her to keep quiet: ‘Why are you crying? You want to draw attention to yourself? Nothing happened! What did I say? I said nothing happened because your wedding must go on.’
The sad experience of this prominent family in Lagos is one of the several stories I have been regaled with in the last week as it would appear we actually have an epidemic of rape on our hands. But because the society has chosen to criminalise the victims, people are keeping quiet and so we can all take it that nothing is happening!
Last week, I wrote on the video clip circulating on the internet of a rape case involving a girl and five boys said to be undergraduates of the Abia State University. From the Abia state government to the federal government, the concern of all the top people I have spoken with in the last one week has been about the ‘image of the country’. But what the officials don’t realise is that our image will not be sullied because some irresponsible boys gang-raped a girl (since rape happens all over the world) but rather because of the impunity associated with the fact that they could do so and get away with it in our country.
The Kano State Police Command is, however, showing a worthy example in dealing with this crime. On Monday, they paraded two of the four men who allegedly gang-raped a youth corps member two weeks ago. The act was carried out in a classroom in a college (name withheld) where the lady is doing her primary assignment. The ‘spokesman’ for the rapists named Garba said they ran into the building for shelter when it started raining on the fateful day when the lady in her 20s approached them to enquire why there were no activities in the school oblivious to the fact of workers’ strike in the state.
Now, let’s take the story from the suspect’s mouth: ‘’I relocated to the premises of the college with my friends when it started raining on that fateful day. While we were having fun, a lady suddenly approached us and was speaking a language none of us understood. I was moved by her beauty, and immediately drew out a sharp knife and in concert with others commandeered her into one of the classrooms, where we forced her to undress and gang-raped her before policemen on patrol apprehended two of us while two escaped.’’
The State Police Commissioner, Ibrahim Idris declined to disclose the identity of the victim ‘’to avoid stigmatisation,’’ pointing out that two other suspects were also apprehended by the police in connection with raping minors in the city. PC Idris and his men in Kano deserve commendation for their sense of responsibility and they have a lesson to teach their counterparts in Abia state where there have been several twists and turns in an unfortunate saga that will not go away. Yet what seems to have been established are that some Abia undergraduates indeed gang-raped a girl (who is said to be a food seller on their campus), recorded the sordid act and made it viral. But because of the implications to the girl, the parents are not willing to pursue a matter in which they are wise enough to know that given the nature of our society, head or tail, they will end up losers. So the message coming from that end is: Nothing happened!
While I feel very sad about the sordid affair, I sincerely do not want the victim to suffer more than she has already. If she is not ready to cooperate with those who are seeking justice on her behalf, I think the matter should end there. The society and the relevant authorities must, however, find a way to deal with this social problem before it gets out of hand.
• This piece was first published in THISDAY on 29th September, 2011