Wale Sokunbi CURRENTS
Let us, for this moment, suspend the raging controversies on the coming national conference, the N225 million bulletproof vehicles of the Aviation Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah, and all the other matters “of urgent national importance” staring Nigerians in the face. Let us think about a seemingly innocuous matter which, if not properly considered, may leave all Nigerians, especially our young girls and libidinous old men, not learning the proper lessons of the incident.
The matter on my mind, which has been in the public domain since last year, is the case of the Osun State traditional ruler, the Alowa of Ijebu-Ijesha in Obokun Local Government Area of Osun State, Oba Adebukola Alli, who was alleged to have raped a beautiful, 23-year old girl who was then engaged in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in Osun State.
As things that happen behind closed doors go, the beautiful maiden, identified as Miss Helen, alleged that the Oba, one day during her service year (2010-2011), forcefully took her to bed in his private residence in Oshogbo, the Osun State capital, but the Oba denied that he raped her. The king unequivocally averred that the physical intimacy between him and Helen on the day in question was consensual, and that they both enjoyed the session thoroughly. The king stridently averred that the lady in question “offered her honour” and he, being the gentleman that he is, “honoured her offer”. But, the lady protested to the high heavens that the intimacy was never consensual and immediately headed to the courts to prove that she had, indeed, been violated by the monarch.
The lot of determining what actually happened on the day in question fell on Justice Oyejide Falola of the Osun State High Court, sitting in Ikirun. The judge, on Tuesday October 9, delivered judgement on the matter. He found the monarch not guilty of the charge of rape and immediately discharged and acquitted him. The ruling brought to an end the case, which had suffered long adjournments at both the Magistrate and High Courts since it was instituted about two years ago.
Since the determination of this case by the Osun court, public opinion has been divided between those who believe that the Oba actually raped the lady and those who feel that that the case is a fallout of money issues or other misunderstanding between them.
For those who feel that the Oba was unfairly discharged and acquitted, they refer to the judge’s statement that a case of rape can only be established with exhibits such as used bedsheet, the victim’s pant and medical report indicating forceful penetration. These, the judge said, the prosecutor failed to provide.
Citing the case of Corporal Nicholas versus Nigerian Army, the judge said that there was no evidence that the monarch attacked the lady as she claimed. Neither did the prosecutor show the court the bruises on her private part or any other part of her body, and her torn clothes, as alleged in her submissions. He also said the court established that the Oba and the girl had been having sexual relations before a misunderstanding broke out between them on the day in question, and also blamed the police for failure to properly investigate the case. He, however, severely rebuked the Oba for denigrating royalty, taking royalty to the dunghill and disgracing his family and community, by sleeping with a corps member serving in his domain. But, he said since such social and moral misconduct of an Oba sleeping with a corps member was not punishable under Nigeria’s laws, he had no choice but to discharge and acquit the Oba. The counsel to the Osun State Government, who represented Helen in the case has, however, said the government, upon advice by the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, would appeal against the judgement.
What are the lessons of this case? This saga has, once again, brought to the fore the difficulty of sustaining a charge of rape, especially where there are no witnesses to the crime. The trauma of a long-drawn trial, and the requirement that a victim of a rape should show evidence of bruises on her private part and other parts of her body, and forcible entry, which was mentioned by the judge, are part of the reasons why many rape victims prefer to keep silent and nurse their wounds in secret.
Without any prejudice to the facts of this particular case, how easy is it for a woman to show her private part to anyone to confirm the fact that she has been raped? As a Yoruba saying goes, when a person is accused of having excreted in his or her pants, how easy is it for that person to go about showing his or her private part to everyone to prove that he or she has not excreted in the pant?
This requirement, alongside the well-known lack of seriousness of the police in investigating such crimes, is the reason that rape cases are so rampant in Nigeria. It is actually like Nigerians do not really accept that the crime of rape is a serious one. You only need to read how the police interrogate rape victims to know that women are better off avoiding getting raped, than trying to bring a rapist to justice. This is because the greater likelihood is that the accused person will get away with the crime, either through poor investigation of the case by the police, or in the courts. There is also so much stigma attached to rape in the country, and few women would actually want anyone to know that they had had such experience.
What should this situation tell all young girls and women? What it means is that they are on their own in the effort to ensure that they are not raped. They must avoid all compromising situations, such as willingly following a man they do not intend to sleep with into his bedroom or, or being alone with him in his private residence. Or traveling with him, as reportedly happened in Helen’s case.
But then, this is not to assume that the monarch actually raped Helen. The court has ruled that he did not. But then, should a traditional ruler be sleeping with youth corps members in his domain at all? Certainly not. He should be a father figure to them. It is too bad that the ruler left all the beauties in his domain to eat the forbidden apple that would put him in deep trouble, whether consensual or not.
Therein, also, lies the lesson for all old men who love to sleep with young girls: Be circumspect and selective when going a-hunting for prey, so that you do not fall victim of something you did not do, or lose your position for something silly that you did. Remember the case of the former president of a major international financial organisation who fell into disgrace and lost the chance to run for the presidency of France on account of a few minutes of inappropriate sexual act with a hotel maid. As I have had occasion to state before, hard work and circumstance of birth can take anyone to the top. It is only integrity and proper conduct that can sustain such a person there.