We are Ochanya

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

For some of us, the greatest of our problems consist in choosing which Telecommunications company to maintain our telephone plans with.

Or jumping on the newest fad diet.

But the sad reality is that the most of the world still lives in abject poverty, with some parents unable to provide the basic necessities of life for their children.

In places like Nigeria, where successive government are often more preoccupied with maintaining strongholds of power than floating transparent programmes for genuine poverty alleviation, the masses are left to figure out survival on their own.

This in turn has given rise to a practice of poorer people often sending their children to live with ‘richer’ relatives in big cities/towns, so that their children may have a shot at a semblance of life.

The better life.

While the intent of this practice may generally be argued to be good - being one's brother's keeper - it may however birth its own evil.

To some of these children sent to live with relatives, it is a totally welcome life-changing experience, where things are made better for them, and they are provided opportunities for a future they could have never dreamed they would have.

To others, however, being sent to live with relatives marks the advent of lifelong trauma, occasioned by verbal, psychological, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination of all/some of them.

Ochanya Ogbanje was among the unlucky ones.

Sent by her mother to reside with her mother's sister and the family due to the absence of schools in the village she lived with her mum, Ochanya fell into a fate far worse than that which mere poverty could have meted.

According to Ochanya, her adolescent cousin began molesting her when she was eight, until it came to the knowledge of his father; her uncle (in-law).

Rather than put an end to the madness, this uncle took over from the son and began raping her, until she turned thirteen this year.

She endured this suffering for five years, and it was only discovered after she fell seriously ill earlier this year. Investigations revealed she had developed vesicovaginal fistula (VVF), an ailment of the bladder, which may be resultant from rape especially (like in Ochanya’s case) where the female’s reproductive organs had not been fully matured for sexual activity.

It was then that Ochanya spoke out,narrating her ordeal to her teachers, and subsequently, a news station before she passed.

For one who was too petrified to break silence for five years, particularly for her young age, and against the backdrop of the culture of "the elder is always right", and the practice of shaming victims of abuse rather than focusing on perpetrators, Ochanya was uncannily bold in detailing the nature of suffering her body endured.

Her narration of the heart breaking events is eerily like one who had experienced the worst, and had nothing left to fear in life.

Perhaps, she felt dead already.

And she did die, with her earthly body caving to the pain she had endured for so long. Ochanya passed away this October, from complications arising from the VVF she suffered.

Even in death, Ochanya's voice has continued to spark national outrage, beginning with investigation and prosecution of her uncle and his son, and suddenly paving the way for a trail of other stories of child sexual abuse across the country to be poured out.

She has blown of this lid, which we have pretentiously held shut for so long.

But why do we now act surprised? Bothered even??

We have always heard these "whispers" of abuse by family members and non family adults against minors.

Before now... it had been the norm to turn the other eye. "Mind your business". Cover it up under culture and religion, to "keep shame away from the family", and"forgive and forget", egged on by victim shaming, and the indisputable superiority of patriarchy.

"What was she wearing?"

"Why was she out so late?"

"Could she not scream?"

"How did she look at him?"

"What if she seduced him?"

"Men are visual."

"It' is a family affair"

We have all been complicit in this madness, and the chicken is just coming home to roost.

Is this guilt we now feel?

Maybe it is a good thing that we are finally getting righteously enraged. After all, it is better late than never.

Joining our voices to #JusticeForOchanya will ensure not just that justice is well served while we watch, but as a wake-up call that time is up on taking advantage of helpless minors entrusted in one's care.

Even as the practice of being one's brother's keeper is a welcome gesture in this cold world where people die under the sheer weight of bearing life's burdens alone,it should NEVER be justification for child abuse, of ANY nature.

For you to whom a child is entrusted, and you deem the child to be the sacrifice to satisfy your evil desires, your days have been numbered. There will be no peace and quiet. And you will not walk away from it free.

Stop it. Stop the madness.

For the rest of us who turn a "blind eye" to what is "not our business", posterity will judge us very harshly – and rightly so - if we continue to encourage this culture of silence, and abandon survivors of abuse to suffer in shame.

It is our place to practice that communal living that we love to tout to keep watchful eyes, and raise dust upon indication that another is experiencing abuse, especially our children in the society.

For Ochanya, you will forever be remembered for your strength and boldness in daring to speak the truth of the pains you suffered, thereby paving the way for others to be saved.

And while your earthly body may have succumbed to the pain afflicted, your voice will never die. We will keep speaking your gospel. We share in this pain you suffered, and it will not be in vain.

We are Ochanya.

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  1. Like for real there should be a law where people like Ochanyas uncle and cousin would be castrated for such a nefarious act. And there's a need for people to look out for these kids. There are many other Ochanya in our community.