Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Sexual Harrassment is endemic in Nigerian Educational Institutions – Ireti Bakare-Yusuf

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Not a week goes by in Nigeria that one isn’t left dumbfounded by a trending story or two.

Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous and the mouth –agape- gasping –for- breath, these stories disappear as quickly as they trend.

Any follow-up or final actions are either relegated to the small prints or worst still left to our on-demand active imaginations.

Just the other day, I found myself wondering about the outcome of the alleged serial defilement of a 2 year old toddler and the male Chrisland school supervisor. The story broke in February; the case was adjourned to 21st of March. A quick search online, gave nothing on the outcome of the case.

In these days of fast paced news, the world has no time for details; the headline will do just fine, thank-you very much. Life, after all, must keep moving.

Incidentally I had been invited by a student organisation in LASU (Intelligencia Orb) to deliver a Keynote speech as part of their conference on 21st Century leadership. I was to speak on “Reforming The Mindset of the Female Gender In Leadership”. Invitation accepted, but of course I didn’t get to round to writing my speech till two days before the date. As a feminist and an advocate of gender –equality, this was a topic close to my heart.

My speech was outlined in my head. I would touch on some key points, including how sexual abuse can debilitate its victims, not just the erosion of confidence, but also the total paralysis of self worth; an important attribute for any leader.

I would be addressing a room of 300 students, future leaders of Nigeria. Plus, I also had knowledge of that one of the cavities of sexual abuse in Nigeria, was our universities.

Expected attendees also included professors, HoDs and student union leaders. As I made final edits to my speech that Monday, the ping from my phone was almost serendipitous.

There it was, the voice recording of an OAU professor offering to upgrade the result of one of his students  in exchange for not one, two or three, but like a Vegas roulette dealer, five was the magic number, five rounds of sex!

Richard Akindele, is not just a professor of management and accounting, he is also a Pastor. Much as the contents of the recording was astonishing, it was Professor Akindele’s immoral and unperturbed negotiation that left me astounded.

From the out-set, the rhythm of the teacher-student conversation was most definitely out of the ordinary. As the seconds rolled on, it became apparent that this was not his first time. He had made this offer to her previously, which necessitated the call.

His early utterances further suggest that she had rebuffed his offer, with questions which had both irritated and annoyed him. He had grown impatient; “I gave you an opportunity, and you missed it. Forget about it, you will do it next year. If you don’t trust me, forget it.”

Motivated by depraved desperation, he tried to reinforce his power by informing her that he had turned down another student had who had scored a higher mark than hers. He needed her to know the enormity of the “kindness” he presented to her, she needed to understand that HE had chosen HER, thus making her the favoured one.

Two minutes into their exchange and after numerous lines had already been crossed, he wanted to know if she had had sex with her boyfriend the night before, accusing her of lying about being on her menstrual period.

“Do you have sex with your wife every night?” was her retort.

This bait had been taken, the game was on, and like flies to faeces, “Kinky Professor” was hooked. Her “sweet-baby” tones, gentle but direct questions laced with flirtatious “I wanted to be sure now” he was relaxed, only once expressing caution when she called out his name.

To close the deal, he read out the schedule of when the illicit act would take place. He reminded her that five was the magic number.

“Is it food” she asked? “Are you giving me an A or B?” she wanted to know. He repeated; the deal was 5 times, and he could only give her a pass mark. Calmly, she let him know her disappointment , and gently informed him that she preferred to fail the exam than be subjected to five rounds of enforced sex. She thanked him; “You are welcome” he said. And that was that.

It would be his composed, unruffled arrogance, combined with a debauched sense of power that would eventually betray him. His total oblivion to what was evidently a ruse can only be the result of his deluded, distorted mind.

The hunter had become the hunted and as Rudyard Kipling said “never the twain shall meet”.

Public reactions to the story gave credence to the endemic and systematic nature of abuse in Nigerian educational institutions.

It has become derigueur for a female student attending a Nigerian University.

A girlfriend, on hearing about the outrage, responded; “sh*t ain’t changed in Naija universities. I had my own battles then, paid my way out of mine. Shame we didn’t have phones to record then.”

My girlfriend is in her mid-forties.

The tertiary education landscape is littered with hundreds if not thousands of “Kinky Professors”.

My chat with a former student of Obafemi Awolowo University revealed  that Professor Akindele has a reputation: “he was a known legend in that form” said the former male student.

So, to many, the revelations of that 6.18minutes recording was neither novel nor extraordinary to most. It is as ubiquitous in the educational system as strike actions. Some even suggested that she would have been better off to just “do it, to pass his course”.

The decaying environment for study in Nigeria continues to be decried by many. Not a day or week goes by without its rot slamming us right in the face. Organisations continue to insist on only employing students with 1st degrees or its equivalent, without so much as a CSR investment into these institutions, and despite the high possibility that some of the leaders of the hiring companies may have been served the same dirty dish.

The government chants the importance of education but belies its hallelujah with minimal investment.

A measly 7.4% out of the N8.6 Trillion  2018 budget was allocated to education. Almost half of that is assigned to recurrent spend and the lowest share of 61.73billion rationed for capital expenditure ( Investment).

This lower allocation compared to 2017 budget, is in contrast to the United Nations recommendation that 26% of national budget should be awarded to education. This decrease also contradicts government’s own promise to increase spend in education, reiterated more recently, to end yet another strike by the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU).

As promises go, education is the “humpty-dumpty “ which no one seems able to put “together again”. This nonchalant betrayal of our educational system is part of the recipe for disaster which has enriched the breeding ground for degeneracy and depravity by its stakeholders.

OAU, named after the Nigerian icon of free and quality education for all, with a motto “For Learning and Culture” released a statement:
“First and foremost, I want to state it loud and clear that the university is in the know of the audio that has gone viral. We have set up a committee to critically investigate the authenticity of the audio to ascertain the characters involved in order to ascertain the veracity of the allegation and also to ascertain if the characters are of the Obafemi Awolowo University because throughout the recording, there was no mention of OAU. Yes, the lecturer’s voice heard in the audio was clearly demanding for sex from the student and OAU has zero tolerance for sexual harassment, intimidation or coercion under whatever guise. Since it came to our notice, the university has begun the process of identifying the characters in this breach of regulation because OAU has a code of conduct for staff and students. We frown at anybody whose conduct or utterances might breach the code of conduct of the anti-sexual harassment policy and to this end, any member of the university who goes beyond the laws of the university will be sanctioned.”

One certainly cannot fault the institution for their quick response and efforts to limit the damage to the reputation of one of the premier Universities in Nigeria. They had to silence the noise and calm the public.

The statement served its purpose. It also prepared us for their get-out clause as and when required “… and also to ascertain if the characters are of the Obafemi Awolowo University because throughout the recording, there was no mention of OAU”

What will happen after the investigation? Additional statements by the university, imply that the outcome/report is expected within a week, but in the meantime, Professor Akindele has been given a query.

It’s safe to presume that at least one or more of those on the investigating committee will be colleagues, if not friends of the professor.

The student in question remains anonymous. The university claimed to have called her many times, but are yet to get hold of her. Rumoured reports allege that the student had apparently told friends; “she does not want the professor to lose his job.”

Perhaps the most comforting thing in this whole mess is her continued anonymity. She may not be known to us, but recent research states that 52% (source: Pan African Journal 2016) of victims are known to their abusers.

Professor Richard Akindele knew who he was speaking with. In addition, unless there’s been a sudden fire in the university admin department, it surely can’t be difficult to locate the admission documents of a year one student, containing her address and references.

On the other hand, If what she is purported to have said is true, then one can only imagine the bombardment of pressures that may have been visited on her after the story went viral. Her loss of voice would not be uncommon to victims of sexual abuse or harassment.

Those who dare to speak up against their predator, those who take a stand to say #NoMore to this heinous trend in our society, those armed with the determination to make their assailant pay; are often not met with support or encouragement.

Members of Reverend Akindele’s Anglican Diocese of Ife, as well as his wife have been quick to condemn the allegations as false and perhaps not surprisingly; the work of the devil. This is despite confirming that the voice heard in the recording is that of their minister Professor Reverend Richard Akindele. “There is no need for any computer to test the voice. The voice in the leaked audio is exactly that of Reverend Richard Akindele. However, the man is too gentle for such act. The lady purposely set him up.”

Another member of the church’ pastoral team told one of the national dailies “Although, the voice I heard is that of Reverend Akindele, I doubt he can do that. I’m not in the best position to speak. But what I can say for free is that I know him to be a man of God, generous and easy going.”

While Mrs Akindele is said to have told church members who went to sympathise with her; “… the devil is at work to soil he name of my husband”

Since the story broke, there has been no sign of the devil’s most recent recruit.

Professor Akindele has not been seen at his office, home or church. One hopes he’s been advised to seek legal counsel.

The “Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Education Institution Prohibition Bill, 2016”, which was only passed into law last year, prescribes 5 years imprisonment and 5Million naira fine for lectures and educators convicted of sexual harassment of their male or female student. The bill, in an effort to prevent false accusations by students, also recommends expulsion or suspension of any student found guilty of making false claims.

While we hope and pray that OAU will make public the outcome of their findings, many in Reverend Akindele’s flock will no doubt be praying for the devil to desist from the life of their “easy going” father in-the Lord.

Millions of students who either in the past, or are presently being subjected to the “ Akindele” method of exam success in their respective universities, will be cheering the student for her bravery and sophistication.

Whatever is unearthed by the inquiry, we can be sure of three things.

One; It will take many months, if not years for the professor to erase this embarrassment from the minds of those in his immediate community, close circle and family.

Two; this expose will send a loud warning to other lecherous Professors.

Three; in line with their statements, the church and the prodigal clergy will soon be reunited, much will be made of his redemption, leading to celestial deliverance, followed by an hallelujah moment; another soul has been won back from the devil.

The battle between good over evil continues in earnest.

(Ireti Bakare-Yusuf is the Principal Partner of NottingHill Media, a Marketing, Public Relations and Media company. 
She is a radio personality on the popular radio News show – Freshly Pressed on Smooth FM. She is also the writer, co-director and producer of the award nominated documentary; Buhari & the Burden of Expectations – AFRIFF (African International Film Festival) Best Documentary Nominee 2015. She is the founder of Nigeria’s #NoMore movement encouraging victims of sexual abuse to speak up against their abusers. 
Follow me @sisiogelagos on Twitter & @sisiogelagos on Instagram)


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