This week, my twitter timeline was an utter mess. It isn’t surprising as the working week begins, because those in the immersive cult of the Game of Thrones constantly lose their minds over the events in the fictional world of Westeros. This week however, more sad news came from outside Winterfell, but in the real world. It was much closer to home: it was in my backyard as a matter of fact, only but a few minutes away. Sometimes, the veracity of the situation never quite hits the heart as much, unless the tragedy occurs across the street.
The Nigerian police force raided my city and arrested scores of women for the way they were dressed, being out late or alleged prostitution. They were sardined at the Utako police station, denied bail and sexually abused by the people who wear badges, take up firearms and harass civilians under the guise of serving and protecting. Nigeria is plummeting even further than imagined, into the eternal dark abyss. The stories in graphic detail were scarring; there was one told of the police officers forcing themselves on the women, substituting used sachets of pure water for condoms; there was another of many women on their periods, being denied the chance to take care of themselves and observe proper hygiene. I should fulfill my ethical obligations of stating that these stories are only allegations at this point in time, but I find it staggering that most accusations towards the police remain just that. We all know the truth in the Nigeria that we find ourselves in; calling them allegations is but a naïve formality. In the same child-like naivety, I sometimes close my eyes, hoping that the monsters will go away. But alas, I open them and still find us a Nation going deeper into the dark.
If some of the women were being arrested for offering the services of worldly pleasures, then I wonder why their clients were not arrested. One does not storm in on a drug deal and arrest the drug seller, only to let the buyer skip away; one does not catch a fraud and not apprehend the accomplices to fostering the act. This case should be no different, but Nigeria is an overtly male dominated society, where young ladies in the civil service are warned of the evil tricksters, while those who practice evil are allowed to carry on. It is the country where a lady is raped and the first statement blames her for being out late at night. It is the nation that makes being female harder than usual.
Eventually, the opinions on the arrest and assaults came, as some people have the compulsive need to weigh in on everything. Everyone has an opinion, but it isn’t every opinion that should be given. Others simply condemn the acts online but do nothing in actuality, as Nigeria is a very difficult place to practically operate; theoretical assertions are enough for most people. It is however unfortunate, that those in the positions of power hold thoughts that should not be harbored in a twenty-first century society. Certain thoughts are to be nipped in the butt and buried under a pile of ashes; others are simply head scratchers, like the little children whose future ambitions require constant prayers and fasting, soliciting a change of heart.
A high-ranking official in the Police force tweeted out to shed light on why and how the arrested women were justifiably apprehended. Many of his reasons revolved around tradition and religion, which are never good reasons to excuse the violation of the fundamental rights of a person. The history of the world has shown us that tradition and religion have a track record of being misconstrued, modified and re-adapted to oppress others. This situation is nothing but the same. One of my acquaintances tweeted out that the unjust treatment of women in Nigeria is something that we picked up from our colonizers, and in that singular moment, I came to the realization that Nigerians are masters of playing the illogical blame game. Someone else chimed in and said it isn’t an injustice against women, but one against those who are financially powerless. Everyone has their own hot take of the situation, but many will not be actively bothered unless such unjust actions fall upon their relatives. A lot of us are bigots when untouched but we become freedom fighters when affected, because it is much easier to be passionate about a cause that one has a connection to. Where is the light that supposedly comes at the end of the tunnel? To some it comes in the peace of death. To others, it is but a frivolous quest that results in fruitless, unending travels; it is the journey of a thousand miles that has no destination.
I am unsure how this is going to end, as I refer to both the Utako trauma and this column piece in itself. What I am certain of however, is that Nigeria needs to do a better job of enforcing the rights of her citizens, holding people accountable, and making the system operate in such a way that the monsters who abuse human lives do not freely strut the streets.
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