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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Speak Up, Step Up. #MeToo

They say if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. I have always stood firmly for things I believe in such as kindness, justice, fairness, etc. When it comes to the events playing around us in recent times, we cannot just keep quiet and “unlook” simply because it doesn’t affect directly. We must stand for what is right lest we fall for all the ills and wrongs occurring around us in the world. If we keep silent while evil is being perpetrated around us, then we are just as guilty as those who do these evil things.

If you’re wondering what the rant in the paragraph above is, it is as a result of the recent ousting of a randy, lecherous and nefarious Professor in Obafemi Awolowo University. He was caught on tape negotiating sex-for-marks with a female student of his. He has been at this for over two decades now, yes I carried out a research on him. I have close family members who were affected in the past by this same professor. He would ask them for sex and then give them an “F” is they failed to comply. For some of them, it took another lecturer “pleading and cajoling” him to let them eventually have an “E” where they clearly should have scored “A’s and B’s”. 

His is not an isolated case, as I have experienced such first-hand in the past, and discovered the harrowing experiences of others along the line too. While I don’t doubt that there are some students who approach lecturers for sex-for-marks, the truth is that SEVERAL lecturers are GUILTY of sexual harassment. The first time this happened to me, I was 18 years old and wearing an oversized long-sleeved shirt and a pair of capri pants. The outfit I had not has never left my memory because I kept looking at myself over to see if I brought on this lecherous man’s advances. He was not even my lecturer at the time, all he came to do was to supervise a test inside the Amphi theatre and now, in hindsight, maybe also to prey on innocent young students. He passed  comment about how he was captivated by my eyes and asked me to come see him in his office when I was done writing my test. I was young and sassy with a sharp mouth so I immediately asked him for the reason for the “visit” to his office and this pissed him off. He threatened to tear my script if I did not cooperate and said he’ll say he caught me cheating. Just like that. I was EIGHTEEN years old.

Notice I said “the first time this happened to me”, because this issue of sexual harassment repeated itself over the many years I spent in that school. I attended lectures and studied with fear and trepidation because I had all sorts of lecturers in different departments blatantly bugging me for sex. I REFUSED to succumb but it was not an easy walk in the park. I was a CHILD and they were meant to TEACH and MENTOR me not attempt to ruin my life and trust in humanity. Under NO condition should a lecturer impose his illicit desires on his students, male or female alike. They are meant to guide us and prepare us for life after graduation. I had a lecturer order me into his office and then proceed to cry as he said “Bukola, your eyes are tormenting me”. I fleetingly considered gouging out my eyes because it seemed to be the cause of my problems with these men but I know better now that my alleged enchanting eyes did not make these men behave like a pack of wild animals on Viagra. They are solely responsible for their behaviours because control of one’s desires lies completely with the individual and not their victims. It’s ALL on them. 

I did not even realise how traumatized I was by it all until a few weeks ago when the issue was raised in a group I’m in. The lackadaisical way some people swept the issue aside got me so angry and upset that I cried and cried before pulling myself together to go into my office and commence my work for the day. The issue again came up today and it set me off again. When such issues are being addressed to be rectified, one can't but gore certain oxen. 

I know a lot of ladies want to come out and speak on these ills in our society but cannot because they either bowed to the pressure back then are equally traumatized and are afraid of being stigmatized from it all. I know a lot of guys also want to speak on this issue but because they served as pimps for those lecherous lecturers or blindly saw them as heroes for being able to wield their powers and get the girls they themselves couldn’t. Whatever your reason for sitting on the fence on these matters if you fall into the two categories I listed above, I don’t judge you for it. I would only ask you to fight for what’s right because when such things are left unsaid and left to fester, the results are usually disastrous in the nearest future. I have children and I’ll be damned if anyone tries to bully them into submission in any way. I will defend my kids with my last blood. 

I will speak my truth out and stand firm for what’s right because I lived through the horrors but came out victorious in not yielding to the persistent and intense pressure. Spare me the preaching of leaving this fight to God or Karma, they’ve both sent me to fight the fight and bring back sanity to others. The fact that something wrong is done over and over again does not make it right. Change your mind-set and open your eyes to see that we cannot keep sugar-coating and excusing the evil occurrences around us. Mind you, even beyond the schools, sexual harassment happen in the work-places and religious houses as well. Being a woman is hard but still we rise.

This is not going to be the last I would be writing on this issue and on my experiences on sexual harassment. Perhaps, just perhaps, I will find my mental and emotional healing in the process of baring my mind and speaking on this cruel act.  

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