STATE OF THE NATION : Sex-for-mark as metaphor
Sex-for-mark as metaphor
By Louis Odion, FNGE
His guttural voice oozes the geniality only long practice at the game could confer. Excitement over the coming harvest would, in fact, seem telegraphed subtly by his very ring-tone - a line from a classic number by Miliki grandmaster himself, Ebenezer Obey, to wit: “Adura fun awon to ‘nsoro wa lehin o, Edumare dari ji won o” (Prayer for the backbiters, Forgive them O God).
But just when you thought he had already secured the mug’s handle, came an accident between the cup and the lips. So, his intumescent smile turns detumescent frown. Since the audio of the x-rated conversation went viral last week, the owner of the complicit male voice has been identified as Professor Richard Akindele, thus a suspect in a clear sex-for-mark deal gone awry, casting a sleazy shadow over Obafemi Awolowo University.
So, it is clear the lyrical prayer invoked at the outset against “backbiters” was not granted after all.
The details are no less lurid. In the viral audio posted on the social media obviously by the no less suspect prey, we hear the predator - a supposed professor of Accounting and, worse, described as a senior pastor in the local church - haggle over sex with the ardour of a parsimonious housewife at a grocery store. But wait, could the tongue that preaches holiness also be incubating carnality in the same breath?
Inverting some strange mathematical logic into a clearly illicit transaction, the audio Prof then postulates that nothing other than five bouts of sex would incentivize the upgrading of the soliciting female student’s miserable 33 point to 40.
Scared apparently by the whopping quantity, the young lady expressed wonder, “Is it food?”
While the 4-minute bargain lasted, it was clear the presumably young lady has been dodging the Prof’s cocked short-gun for a while.
Since then, the Prof has not only gone into hiding but also kept a silence that can only incriminate. How ironic - a professor of Accounting is now shy to give account of what really happened.
It will, however, be myopic to assume that it is only the tutor and his female quarry who are in the dock here. Equally on trial is the moral integrity of those sociologists call “significant others” in a society increasingly challenged ethically.
In more ways than one, both characters, therefore, hold a mirror on the larger society. The Prof speaks to those in a position of power who prey on the vulnerable. Be they the prosperity cleric who bears false prophesy to the gullible flock and so soil their cassock with filthy lucre. Or lawmakers who parlay legislative license to award unconscionable pay to themselves. Or the reporters who feast on blackmail.
In the female student, we see a covetousness to bag what was not earned. Maybe, she was doing “runs” (euphemism for campus prostitution) while her mates were burning the proverbial candle. Her male counterpart does “sorting” (cash offer) to lecturers instead.
To be sure, no one is saying sexual harassment in ivory towers is a new phenomenon. Back in my student days many, many years ago at the Federal Poly, Ado- Ekiti, for instance, I won’t forget hearing a senior lecturer at the department office telling a female classmate of mine sobbing over her poor score, “You caused it by not cooperating and your arrogance”.
The same lecturer - old enough to be our dad, if not grandpa - later began to eye me with malice and envy. At the next slightest opportunity, he went as far as singling me out in the middle of a lecture in a packed auditorium for a vicious ridicule, simply because he always seemed to find me around his target.
From my subsequent UNILAG days, I am also still haunted till date by the echoes of lamentations by hapless fellow female students returning from a particular lecturer who, though often camouflaging with a cleric’s white collar around campus, was said to have perfected the art of pulling female students by the strap of bra on the shoulders while pretending to be playful.
Of course, then, there was subtlety to such sexual extortion and victims would discussed in hushed tones. Not on the scale of impunity now on display.
Today, it is a perhaps a measure of our now clearly vandalized moral universe that indifference - rather than outrage - has been the response from both high and low quarters. It only suggests the normalization of an abnormality, the tendency of quibble or equivocate - if not surrender - in the face of evil.
We see that in the apparent double-speak by the OAU management. When the scandal broke initially, there was a pledge to get to the bottom of the infamy. We would hear another tale last weekend. But the university only mocks itself if it now says it can no longer act simply because the lady in question had refused to step forward.
Really, the debt OAU owes the public here is a moral one, not legal technicality. Phone numbers and call logs can be verified, if indeed there is a strong commitment to seek the truth. To say nothing of the aforementioned Miliki ring-
There was also a mention of ongoing MBA exams in Moro. Was the Prof present or billed to attend? Was it a mere coincidence that the lady repeated the Prof’s name and the addressee, in what would then seem a fleeting moment of gumption and discretion, had to bark at her to stop mentioning his name?
A good precedent was, in fact, set in 2016 following similar media reports of an epidemic of sexual predation at Auchi Polytechnic. The Federal Ministry of Education did not demand or make a public show of the appearance of any of the victims as pre-condition to do the right thing.
Working together with relevant agencies like the DSS, EFCC and the National Board for Technical Education, the Ministry unleashed a manhunt, resulting in the dismissal of 12 lecturers for trysts and extortion.
Elsewhere at the University of California, authorities did not shop for legal technicality when a professor of Architecture, Nezar AlSayyad, was accused of sexual harassment by a Phd student in 2016. An enquiry instituted by the school management eventually established numerous other incidents of inappropriate behavior by the tutor dating back to 2012, though the man at the centre of the storm continued to deny. The school had to pay the student $80,000 compensation.
No less disturbing also is the continued silence from the Ife Diocese of the Anglican Church (where the Prof is said to have built a reputation as a powerful preacher) since the scandal broke. If the accused chooses to keep sealed lips, the church, as a supposed bastion of chastity and the repository of social virtues, cannot afford such luxury. The least expected of the church in the circumstance is to encourage him to come out and defend his integrity or have him excommunicated until his innocence is established.
Again, we expect the women-based NGOs to take up the gauntlet. It is possible that the chief reason the lady is reluctant to step forward and state her case is the fear of victimization by other sex rats lurking around the OAU faculties. It is the duty of such bodies to rally around her and help broker a deal of protection.
In the final analysis, the challenge lies ultimately with the larger society to return to the building block of the community - the family unit. Social re-orientation is sorely needed for a rebirth rooted on strong moral values.
Confident and conscientious children don’t fall from the sky; they are often the products of stable and ethically-grounded parents. You don’t expect dads and mums who themselves are found wanting to give what they do not have.