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I Am Ochanja!

Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe writes that the painful death of 13-year-old Ochanja, who was brutally and serially raped by her uncle and his son should not be in vain…

Ochanja was serially and brutally raped by her 51-year-old uncle and his son for five years till she died of complications from VVF at 13 / Photo credit: LIB
Ochanja was serially and brutally raped by her 51-year-old uncle and his son for five years till she died of complications from VVF at 13 / Photo credit: LIB

I never knew I would be writing about rape again so soon. But then, I never reckoned on an Ochanja happening upon us so soon too.

There we were in our default mode of irritating complacency, when she came, charging with the forces of Hurricane Katrina and all her other sisters combined, to jolt us all from our leaden slumber.

I tell people around me that Ochanja was special. So special that her death has achieved what numerous activists, genuine and pretended, successive ministers of Women Affairs, effective and nominal, have never been able to achieve; a national outrage against sexual violence

It took the horrible and avoidable death of a 13-year-old for Nigerians to realise the horror many of children have and are still living through, while we all go about our businesses, with smiles on our made up faces and the latest fabrics on our bodies. Faces and bodies covering evil in its worst forms…tueh!

It took Ochanja’s sufferings and pains to get us together denouncing the darkness that crept into our home long ago and has continued to reign therein, unfettered, unchallenged and unperturbed. 

Yes, it took a little girl’s bloodied tears to wash away the beautiful façade with which many of us have shielded this despicable monster and suddenly, we can all see it in its entire miscreation, and not fit for our homes and certainly, not fit to be allowed again near any child.

In the end of it all she paid with her life. It wasn’t enough that she was raped and sodomised from when she was just eight years old by her aunt’s 51-year-old husband and adult son. It wasn’t enough that she had to bear the pains of Vesicovaginal fistula (VVF).

It wasn't enough that she had to know and bear the shame of knowing she smelt always due to the uncontrollable drip of urine and faeces that had become her lot in life at such a tender age.

No, it wasn’t enough. She had to also pay the ultimate price for our collective negligence.

Alas, we had to sacrifice Ochanja Elizabeth Ogbanje before the reality that had stared us right in the face all the time finally sank in.

I know how hoarse the likes Princess Olufemi-Kayode of MEDIACOM, Josephine Effah-Chukwuma of Project  Alert VAW, Betty Abah of CEE-Hope and other activists have shouted themselves in the past against this scourge.

But who was listening?  Rather, many of them have been branded alarmists and hysteria-mongers even by other women, many of whom have Ochanjas in their exquisitely furnished homes. 

Yes, many of us have Ochanjas in our homes, just as many of us have been Ochanjas in our homes while our parents and guardians looked the other way in disgusting cowardice and unforgivable apathy.

Right now, even as I write this, a child not old enough to spell RAPE is being defiled by a lecherous and shameless adult, while those supposed to protect the child are waltzing about in reckless indifference.

"I tell people around me that Ochanja was special. So special that her death has achieved what numerous activists, genuine and pretended, successive ministers of Women Affairs, effective and nominal, have never been able to achieve; a national outrage against sexual violence."

It’s always been all about protecting the family image even at the expense of a child. It’s always been about what the people would say and so we keep sacrificing one child after the other for varied reasons ranging from protecting an already cursed marriage and family image to political correctness.

Or you don’t know that your union has become abominable the moment your spouse sexually abuse any child in your care and you do nothing?

Pray, how do women see and know of these vile acts of their partners and still live, eat and even have sexual relations with them? How do you feel when he uses the same hands and other body parts used to violate an underage on your own body?  How do you sleep at night after ‘protecting’ such marriages?

Let’s not even talk about our government officials and how complicit they have always been in all these since 1914. That is a story for another time.

Today, the Primary school in Ochanja’s community has been renamed after her. The same school that the government abandoned by depriving it of teachers and other teaching aids. You see, Ochanja had no business leaving her community to go and live with an irresponsible aunt and her pedophile husband and son if that same school had been functional.

But Ochanja must not die in vain. With her death, every pedophile in this country has now swallowed a pestle and therefore shall have to sleep upright henceforth. There cannot be any hiding place anymore.

"Pray, how do women see and know of these vile acts of their partners and still live, eat and even have sexual relations with them? How do you feel when he uses the same hands and other body parts used to violate an underage on your own body?  How do you sleep at night after ‘protecting’ such marriages?"

Ochanja has died but every other Ochanjas in our homes and communities must be rescued now so we don’t become lifetime protesters, forever carrying placards for tragedies we could have prevented.

And so, while we all carry placards and chant #Justice for Ochanja in our different ways, may we also all resolve to speak out now for every Ochanja around us even it’s not politically and socially convenient to do so. 

May heavens forbid that we ever let another Ochanja befall us in our lifetime…Never again!

 

Written by Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe

Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe is the Editor of The Interview Abuja, has worked as a journalist in Punch Nigeria Nigeria Limited and also LEADERSHIP Newspapers where she rose to become the Editorial Director.

Chris Okotie is a Nigerian televangelist and the pastor of the Household of God Church International Ministries / Photo credit: The Trent

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