In Nigeria, There Are Pedophiles In Every Neighbourhood Robbing Children of Their Innocence; But We Are Arguing About Who Will Make The Jollof Rice (We Already Know Whose Jollof Is The Best)
Forgive the dramatic header. I am angry. Or no, don’t forgive it. You should be angry too. In an age where we are perpetually angry at ‘Nothing Burgers’, this Burger deserves your outrage. If you’re not too tired with being angry at nonsense, that is. I’ll start with this: our children are being raped and robbed of their innocence and we are not screaming to the rafters about it.
I will tell you three stories.
8 years old. Gangly. My mother forbade my brother and I, from playing football outside. But what fun is there in playing football with your 4 year old brother, when you can hear the screams of your mates, just over the wall. “Pass! Pass!” “Goal!!” Those sounds can drive you mad, even if you can’t play ball to save your life. My mother had gone to the market. It was early afternoon. By now, I was aware enough to know that she would be gone till the shadows were long, but not long enough that it would get dark. Besides, we would see her car from the beginning of the street and run back inside the house, just in time. I opened the gate and slipped out. “I’m entering set!”, I shouted. Someone must have groaned. Even though, I probably ended up as a keeper in the next set, I was excited to play, to be here where the fun was. Fast forward. I finally had the ball between my feet, the screams were insistent “Jibola! Pass! Pass!”. I did just that, only the ball didn’t co-operate. Up, up, up and up it went. Into the sky, and it never came back. I kid. It went over some random neighbor’s fence and I had to go get it, seeing as I was the one who ballooned it. I knocked, no reply. I slipped my little hands through the speakeasy and let myself in. I looked for the ball, and there it was at the backyard. Maybe I was destined for American Football. I jogged, scared. Knowing that I would just point at the ball and mutter unintelligibly if anyone challenged me. Sounds. I kept jogging. More sounds. A struggle. A rustling of clothes, the sound of a zip. Two people were at the back of the house — the driver and a maid no more than 3 years older than me. The driver scowled and started to talk. I didn’t stop my jog, pointing at the ball. I was back outside in no time. Nothing registered.
Fast-forward. 22. Tufts hair are starting to flower on my chin. It’s a beer parlour somewhere in Iwaya. 6 men bound by the same alma mater, on their second round of Lagers and Stouts, and the conversation randomly drifts to sex (No, that’s not all we talk about. We talk about football too). Someone is being teased about always sleeping with housemaids at his parent’s home. This is beyond belief. I joined the teasing, I mean it had to be a joke, right? A jab comes my way from the one being flamed, “Why are you razzing me so hard, as if your first wasn’t with a housegirl too”. I laughed, of course not. “Stop lying jo” came the retort in its different hues around the table. My face straightens. “For real” I say, I mention her name — my girlfriend in my second year. They are gobsmacked. A poll goes round. I am alone in my predicament at the table. All of them before JSS3. 6 men, two were initiated by a housemaid, three by some Aunty living in the next flat, then me.
And this was a gathering of men; in a conversation about first times. How differently would the stats be, if it were a table of women? What about inappropriate contact? What about the “come and sit on my laps?”
Leave your statistical tools at home. It’s a random sample, from a story. Now, think back. One or both of the stories will resonate with you. This is a problem. A very big problem. Even if only one child in a billion is being molested, that is one child too many. Now are we screaming about it through the rafters?
I said three stories.
Here’s this for a third story.
It’s your story.
You are a hardworker. You’re out of the house by 5.30am because you have to beat rush-hour traffic, so you won’t get to work late. You’re in the car with your husband, and you talk, half-asleep about so-and-so’s wedding this weekend and how the tailor is delaying delivery of your clothes. Your child, your only child is at home. She’ll be up at 6. Your cousin will take her to school by 7. And by 2, she’ll bring her home, serve her lunch and help her with her homework. The lesson teacher will arrive by 4, and teach her arithmetic and English till 7. Your beautiful daughter will have dinner and sleep shortly after. You will arrive home around 7.30pm, maybe 8. You will go to her room and kiss her forehead. Your baby. Your innocent little baby. You sigh, grateful for the life you have. You will probably go into the kitchen and serve up dinner and wait for your husband to return home.
What you don’t know is that at some point during the day, somebody — you don’t know who — has told your daughter to sit in his lap (or her lap). Somebody has given your innocent little baby a task to do that will change the course of her life, forever. Someone has touched your child in ways no child should ever be touched. “I’ll give you sweet”, the person probably said. “If you tell anybody, I will kill your mommy and your daddy.” The person probably said after, and your baby acquiesced, not wanting her mommy or daddy to be killed.
Are you scared yet? Are you angry?
Then why tf are we not screaming to the rafters about it?