Rape And A Country’s Reputation —Akunna Ejim

Opinion

The whole nation was unanimous in its condemnation of the rape that allegedly occurred in Abia State University. Indeed, the reverberation of the dastardly act was felt in different corners of the globe. Of course, as usual, news from Africa is usually not considered particularly newsworthy in the western media unless it is to gleefully report such atrocities, and some news media reported the rape as if it is par for the course for the average Nigerian to behave in such a fashion. Anytime Nigeria is featured on the news in the west, Nigerians usually cringe with mortification because they hardly ever report any positive thing from the country. The only things that ever make it to the mainstream news are religious riots, corruption, outbreaks of polio and other diseases in parts of the country (which are reported as if Nigeria is a disease-ridden country), the infernal 419 and, of course, now rape.

To go by the slant of the stories, it would appear that rape is just one more evil out of a particularly backward third-world country that cannot seem to get its act together. The most shameful aspect of the reports are the allegations that things like the rape are considered practically normal and that the crime will never be solved, just like so many other incidents in the past. This, of course, is due to the unbelievable inefficiency and lack of motivation of the Nigeria Police and corruption among the supposedly elected public officials who for selfish purposes best known to them do not wish to pursue matters to their logical conclusion. Such a reputation is not welcome from a country that has become synonymous with advance-fee fraud, also known as 419. As a matter of fact, people around the world causally and matter-of-factly attribute any type of internet scam to the ubiquitous “Nigerian prince” whom it would appear is a very low species worthy only of the very worst kind of hatred. I cannot count the number of times I have been asked why Nigerians love to engage in such acts, as if, perhaps, I have the answer to the reason why two generations of Nigerian youth have decided that 419 is the only kind of life for them.

Recently, at a conference, one gentleman was trying to retrieve something from his email when he suddenly turned with anger and frustration written all over his face. He wanted to know if I ever received “those offensive spam mails”. He said that no matter his efforts to channel such unwanted messages to his spam mail, they still managed to wind up in his inbox and he was really fed up with the whole thing. At least, two particularly incendiary adverts had to be yanked off the primetime when both of them made direct reference to the “Nigerian prince”. But the sentiments remain and things like the rape do not help matters in any way.

If the truth be told, incidents of rape are not particularly new in the country. It is not as bad as the western media portray it but there have been isolated incidents in scattered locations across the country. Not just the vicious kind of gang rape carried out on the young girl, but even incidents of incest where the perpetrators have yet to receive the punishment they deserve.

The most cringe-worthy aspect of such condemnable activities is the apparent helplessness of the police to fish out the culprits behind the acts. Keep in mind that this is a country where even the simplest kind of forensic investigation is beyond the police. Even when cases of rape are brought to the police, they turn around and start treating the victim like some sort of criminal. There are many instances of young children who have been cruelly violated in this manner who have been questioned as if they somehow invited the acts upon themselves. Such heartbreaking incidents abound. How do grown men gather around a traumatised, young child of five and question her about a violation that she doesn’t even understand? In this child’s case, she was treated like some kind of entertainment where the policemen would come in groups to ask her totally inappropriate and perverted questions about how the rape occurred. Is it any wonder, then, that the same police have found it impossible to bring all of the culprits involved in the gang rape to justice even when they have the smoking gun in their hand in the form of a video which clearly identifies the victim?

I would think that any government worthy of being called such would have made it a priority to get to the bottom of the case, especially, when it started to garner negative publicity around the world. It is very disturbing that all kinds of people who should be moved by the sorry plight of the young girl in that video, from the first lady of Abia State to the Vice-Chancellor of Abia State University, engaged in politics of denial, even when evidence suggests otherwise. I think the government owes it to the people to give an account of the efforts they have made towards bringing the perpetrators to book, beyond the few token initial arrests they made after denying that such an incident ever occurred in the first place.

The society does not help matters because they also further traumatise the victims of rape by attaching a kind of stigma to them. This is the main reason why most of the victims refuse to come forward even when they have been subjected to such acts. In the case of the young girl in question, not only was she raped, the perpetrators also went to the extra process of putting the video of the rape out there, further making it more difficult for her to recover from the psychological effects of her ordeal. There is a very special place in hell for people like that. In the meantime, it’s not asking too much to ask the police and elected officials to do their duty. Or is it?

•Ejim writes from Lagos. May be reach on: akunnaya 25 @yahoo.com.