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When We Put Victims In The Dock

Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe explains why victims of gender-based crimes should be spared any overt and subtle victim bashing by Nigerians.

Turkish artist, Vahit Tuna, hung 440 high heels around buildings in Instanbul, a pair for each woman killed by their husband in 2018 / Photo credit: boredpanda.com
Turkish artist, Vahit Tuna, hung 440 high heels around buildings in Instanbul, a pair for each woman killed by their husband in 2018 / Photo credit: boredpanda.com

The Turkish Vahit Tuna isn’t your regular artist. She’s proved this with the 440 pairs of shoes she recently installed around buildings in the heart of Istanbul, Turkey.

She used each pair to commemorate every woman killed by their husband in that country in 2018.

I have since learnt it’s a usual practice in some regions of Turkey to put a person’s shoes outside the door after they have passed.

Vahit Tuna’s message is as symbolic as it’s filled with a powerful message to which her people can relate.

The circumstances of their deaths rather than distract, also reinforced the need for this honour to the dead women.

Recently, as the news of the recovered decomposing body of Commander Oluwayemisi Ogundana, a Senior Officer in the Nigerian Navy and Commandant of Command Secondary School of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, was found in a well in a village close to the Jaji military cantonment, Kaduna State, became public, one couldn’t help but wonder where we should install a pair of shoes in her honour.

Should we try the Jaji Cantonment, the Kaduna State House of Assembly, of perhaps the governor’s office complex?

Then, also, what do we do about the several women brutally murdered by Gracious David West, the Port Harcourt self-styled serial killer, in the last two months before he was finally apprehended? Where do we hang their own commemorative shoes?

But we won’t. We hardly ever identify with victims in our country, especially when they are women victims of gender-based violence.

Okay, I forgot, we do. We shout and rant in the social media until our virtual vocal chords give way and then we disperse and move on to more current and important matters, leaving the victim swim or sink.

But it would have been alright, if that’s all we are capable of or do. However, we also always take it a bit further and move into the victim blaming zone.

There has to be something about her that caused the criminal to take that course.

For instance, when the news of the horrible murder of the Commandant of Command Secondary School of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, Commander Oluyemisi Ogundana, became public, we left the culprit and dwelt on the dead and what she could have done that possibly led to her death.

We clung to that one piece of information that she was dating her murderer. A claim we heard from her confessed killer. We didn’t care that this woman was dead and therefore, incapable defending herself anymore.

We chose to believe her murderer who would say anything to justify his crime and escape retribution.

When the news of the horrible murder of the Commandant of Command Secondary School of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, Commander Oluyemisi Ogundana, became public, we left the culprit and dwelt on the dead and what she could have done that possibly led to her death

Some others even went ahead to question why she was leaving alone in Kaduna while her husband and children lived in Lagos.

We had, perhaps without meaning to, put the victim in the dock.

Same goes for the victims of Gracious David West.

It didn’t take time before everyone and their cat had a say on how women shouldn’t visit hotels and even give tutorials on how they should conduct themselves whenever they had to be there.

Almost every woman in any hotel became a commercial sex worker, and therefore, deserved to be killed in such a manner.

Once more, we put these ladies in the dock, even in death.

It’s therefore not surprising that we’re doing it again with the BBC African Eye expose on the shamelessly randy and unconscionable lecturers in our universities.

Always eager to humiliate every victim even further than the culprit, we have brought such a grave issue down to ‘A’ students versus ‘F’ Students.

Whenever we blame a victim rather than face the culprit, we not only reinforce their victimhood, thereby punishing them, we also give the villains enough legroom they need to rethink their own guilt

Isn’t that laughable? According to our ‘wise’ analysts, only dull students can be sexually harassed while the smart ones are usually left alone to make first class unmolested.

They also say that students shouldn’t meet their lecturers in their offices and should perhaps rather meet them at the market square to avoid sexually harassment.

When I hear people say that when a lecturer fails a student because she didn’t give in to his amorous demands, she should call her scripts to be remarked I almost recoil in disbelief.

Sometimes, some of us talk like we’re recent immigrants from Mars.
It appears that we’re completely unaware of how clannish and cult-like the Nigerian academia has been over decades.

So, Lecturer A will call B and tell him to relinquish Miss Student C’s script so he can remark it or what exactly?

Even when Lecturer A isn’t the president of the Cold Room Members Association, he’s most likely dealing with his own skeletons locked away somewhere in a cupboard whose spare may well be in Lecturer B’s hands.

For every student that eventually wins such a battle, there would be thousands of other who became casualties because the system isn’t configured to hear them.
And that is where we must all insist this fight against sexual harassment in our educational institutions begin.

Let’s fight for a system that ensures that people don’t misuse the authority entrusted in them by the virtue of their positions in our institutions and we can never achieve that by suggesting, no matter how subtly, that the victims could have prevented the crimes.

That alone can stop libidinous lecturers like Drs. Boniface Igbeneghu and Samuel Oladipo of our time.

Whenever we blame a victim rather than face the culprit, we not only reinforce their victimhood, thereby punishing them, we also give the villains enough legroom they need to rethink their own guilt.

The only thing worse than letting the guilty go free is punishing the innocent.

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.

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