On Sugabelly and Nigeria
To be frank with you, I belong to Lotanna’s generation of private school millennial kids from the early 2000s. We were just exposed to the internet, living on vast expanses of land being Nigerian boarding schools along with hundreds of other kids from middle to high-class Nigerian families.
What makes all the difference here is exposure, and there was enough of it to cause a ruckus. Going from sexually suggestive books to porn and ideologies that were very foreign to the moral framework out of which Nigeria’s society operated. Not only were they foreign to our society, we were too young to process all the information we were getting in a responsible way, also, Nigeria’s very patriarchal society had not evolved fast enough for us to understand all this information in the context of the law. Rule of law is still sufficiently elusive to us Nigerians anyway. My understanding, I felt I could get anything I wanted from a girl and get away with it. I deserved it and I was entitled to it. That’s how patriarchy looked like to me. From little stories like parents trying endlessly to make male children, to how men would divorce or cheat on their wives who didn’t have male children for them. I was the golden ticket. A male child. Guys like me wouldn’t even let a girl insult us in class the way a fellow guy would without making her pay for it. I digress. That’s how things worked in my mind, and frankly, most of our minds — young Nigerian guys — at the time.
A very good example of the exposure I speak about, the first time I saw porn was in 2003, and it was from a VCD one of my classmates brought with him from home after the holidays. We watched it in our school’s computer room, and it had bondage sex. My mind was exposed to sexuality in a way it had never been, and I craved to see more interesting things in the same light. The people who I respected enough to give me guidance at the time were too self-righteous to talk about sex. They dismissed it as something sacred not to be talked about or engaged in especially for the stage I was in life. But why? I’m a Y2K kid with all this exposure around me. You need to tell me WHY in order to help me form an opinion. Stories, regardless of how graphic — hell, I probably just saw something more graphic on a VCD than my parents had ever seen or dared to try — that tell me about the cause and effect of certain types of sexual adventures at that stage of my life. You know why the Bible is so pervasive and effective at shaping behavior en masse? It tells stories that help to explain WHY. You know why the Bible is not sufficient in this context? Our world has evolved significantly since the stories in the Bible were written, but the stories in the Bible have not changed. An experienced teacher could help bring those stories into a modern context, but those teachers are scarce, and woe betide you if you expect a 16-year-old to manufacture new context for stories that were recorded centuries ago without any help.
My reason for speaking about these things? We will continue to run around in circles if we try to dissect this particular story. Both were accomplices to a certain extent, and Lotanna was forced against her better will for where she was in life at the time. The crux of the issue is similar to the picture I painted above of a young man being too exposed to process the stimuli around him responsibly. She likely craved a strong and ‘questionably’ macho figure to bring some of the fantasies from her exposure to life. If not that — she, a 17-year-old, young and intelligent graduate from one of the nation’s most prestigious private high schools, starting to seek meaning, asking herself who she was going to be and what the future would hold for her… found him, a recent seemingly successful university graduate who was starting up his company while completing NYSC — perfect accomplice in a Bonnie and Clyde type heist for a lifetime. Perfect candidate for a teenage crush. She was hooked and would do anything. Keep any secret. Or maybe not?
Mustapha Audu to the rescue. He knew better than to take advantage of her, and a lot of young Nigerian men know better. All indications from their messages are that it was a case where he lighted a fire and after a while, could not contain it anymore. He still cannot contain it. A few years later, with a gift of hindsight and consistent bruise of her ego by his lack of attention, her better judgment interprets the happenings then as rape. Rightfully so. I will intimate you with an archaic definition of Rape and its synonyms:
to seize and take away by force
to assault, to force, to outrage, to ravish, to violate, to plunder
Many more stories like this will come out to the open given the right platform that guarantees safety for the people that speak up. Some will be lies, some will not. We will let the social contract run its course on those that are lies. The onus is on you and me to create that platform, both practically and in our behavior when things like this come to light. Staying neutral or taking the side of the adult who should have known better here is similar to you seeing your neighbor’s home being robbed and deciding not to speak about it. See, when we don’t speak about these things or protect the vulnerable, it is akin to us choosing not to discuss or to tell our kids real cause and effect stories about sex and sexuality. It rots the very fabric of our society.
In the case of the 24 (or 25) year old Mustapha Audu, who took advantage of a young and vulnerable 17-year-old high school graduate, having sexual relations with her, and being deceitful about his feelings for her, we find Mustapha Audu guilty in the court of humanity. Let this serve as a lesson to all the older Nigerian men who prey on younger girls in the guise of love, marriage, comfort or reasons in that vein when they do not really mean it. Call it what it is, the hunter vs. the preyed all over again. In modern society, it is akin to slavery, war, and reeks of decision making that comes from a perception of inequality. You know what differentiates humans from monkeys? Not only are we more intelligent to sustain our survival as a species, but we have a superior ability to unite as a society to build things, to look out for each other and to make better decisions in the best interest of our fellow human beings and the society we share. This is why Mustapha Audu should not look towards a fellow human, albeit young and vulnerable, and eat a piece of her flesh because he is in a place of advantage or authority. A little more gravity? Yes. But that is exactly what he did, in a modern context.
I stand with Lotanna (Sugabelly), not because I want to vilify Mustapha Audu — though we’ve established that he could have acted as a more responsible adult, given the experience he had in life and the role he could have played to help shape a careless crush into an opportunity to be a mentor or guide — but because I acknowledge that we need to tell our kids better stories. Our world has changed significantly, but the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are not good enough reasons for our kids to abstain from being sexually adventurous. Not standing with Lotanna (Sugabelly) here means that I am okay with the same thing happening to me, my mother, my sisters and my female friends who I love and deeply care about. It means that I am perfectly alright with men walking around the world and feeling like they can plunder women by capitalizing on the occasional situations where they are vulnerable. I need to trust you — yes, you — with the safety and innocence of the females in my life even when they are in a vulnerable place. This is why I stand with her.
Given the exposure our kids have today and the constant barrage of science and technology challenging their belief in the stories that were told from the Bible, we don’t have enough teachers that are sufficiently experienced or charismatic to put those old stories in new contexts. Do it because I told you is not good enough anymore. In the world of the millennial, you absolutely need to answer WHY. And guess what? Your explanation is hardly going to be good enough. We need to be better storytellers. We as a humanity relate better with stories than we do lectures, again, this is why Jesus told parables, so did every other spiritual teacher or messenger.
This is why we have memes, folktales, myths and the likes that help carry our culture and preferred human behavior across generations. We need to come up with better stories that help shape behavior and enable sanity in our modern society. In this context, stories that neutralize our current patriarchal culture and prepare our kids for the challenges and decisions they will have to face in this world where Google informs their opinion. Stories that help our male kids understand the importance of consent and humanity above being hunters and gatherers. This cannot be overlooked, hence we risk building a nation of fools.