Our Nigerian #MeToo: Finally Breaking the damn on pain and silence

Tuesday, July 02, 2019


I was going to write a cute post.

I was going to make this something intellectual, yet abstract. Something along the lines of using privilege for good… bla bla.

Something we could all easily clap to.  And move on to the next thing.

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To provide some context to my non-Nigerian readers: this past weekend, pandora’s table in Nigeria got scattered to pieces.

Busola Dakolo – Celebrity Photographer, Christian, mother to three children and wife to one of Nigeria`s biggest gospel and contemporary music artists – gave a tell all 25-minute video interview, where she revealed how she was raped serially while still a minor, by celebrity Pentecostal preacher – Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo.

No one contemplated the nationwide outrage this would spark, culminating to staged protests at the Lagos and Abuja branches of his church. While there are other pressing issues disturbing the Nigerian nation – such as the attempt by the Federal Government to compulsorily allocate state land to cattle rearers - this issue bubbled to the top, past them all, and engulfed our hearts, our eyes and our phones.

Why?

You`ll understand, soon.

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I was going to write on this, and about the strength in unity. Or the beauty of a support structure. I was even going to tag it “understanding the dynamics of the perfect victim

But this matter is beyond anything ‘cute’ There is nothing cute about pain.

From the streets of Twitter to the pages of Facebook, it was as if this was the final twist needed for the cap to be broken open.

Nigerian women, for the first time in generations, are breaking their silence, screaming about assaults, abuse, rape they have endured since childhood.

It is as if they (forgive me) we have for the first time been tapped on the lips, and ordered: Speak!

Maybe it helped that the person who started this whole saga was what you could describe as the “perfect victim”.

Church going. God loving. Well mannered. Perfect husband and children. Perfect family.

Which in its own is a problem, and speaks volumes. Of how our society places the burden of 'believability' on a victim. A victim would have to prove total blamelessness for the crimes of the perpetrator.

They would have to be impeccable. Of a particular echelon in society, which would easily dispute quick rebuttals of false blackmail and extortion.

Which is why we could waive aside earlier allegations by Ese Walter, who was the first to speak out against this same alleged perpetrator, citing how he took advantage of her vulnerability and her respect for him as a person in authority.

But how should we believe her?”, we asked. “She was over 18. How do we know it was not a consensual love affair gone wrong? A lone shot at cheap fame?”

What was she wearing? Why did she not speak out soon?”

This was what we visited Ese Walter with, and other victims of sexual abuse or predatory-ship who dare to speak out. This in turn ensures others keep silent.

The vicious cycle continues, in one unending circle.

Back to the question: why did Busola’s issue then take precedence over all other national issues, sparking nationwide outrage, particularly women?

Call it God. Call it Fate. Call it the Universe… or if you believe in nothing, call it Time.

For some reason, this was the final straw that broke the chains of silence from Nigerian women, and all weekend, both the stories and the tears have not stopped flowing.

Let me spell it out for you:

We have cultivated and hidden for so long a RAPE CULTURE over the years, where from a very young age, Nigerian women are made to realise that the most of your life will be spent either fighting and fending off assaulters, or giving in to their demands. Either way, if your encounter came to light, you'd be branded.

Loose. Shameful. Ashewo. Raped.

Damned if you spoke. Damned if you didn't.

As if you were to be punished for a culture where men are raised to “get whatever they want”. And that “no makes it sweeter. Push harder”.

As a Nigerian woman, I grew up learning (the hard way) to not be left alone in the same room with males other than my blood siblings or my father. Any other male, I stayed up all night. Wide-eyed. Ready to kick and scream, even unto the death.

We all had these experiences, you know.

That revered choirmaster.

That trusted schoolmate.

That cocky lecturer.

That perverted uncle.

That “generous” godfather.

Even that drunk (or sober) father.

Our stories all rung the same. And for the first time, this weekend, we broke free of the labels and fear of shame to yell in unison “Me TOO!!!!”

For the first time in our lives, this past weekend, Nigerian women damned shame and labels in unison in recounting their stories of horror, and their anger that this monster has been allowed to breathe for so long.

This weekend, we broke that "damn" that chained us for so long, and burnt even the ashes of the keys our lips were sealed with.

So you see those protests against Mr. Fatoyinbo? It was not (necessarily) just about him. It was not even about the church, or clergy.

It was about every predator, who preyed on our innocence, our childhood, our youth, and/our fear.

It was about all of us who died a million uncountable times, from the first No, to the forced penetration, through the repeated abuse, to the tears we shed when our husbands came near us, without understanding why they made us cry when they touched us.

It was for all the pain that made us to vow silently Never Again, while filling us with inexplicable bitterness.

It was for Ochanya, and others like her, whom even as we speak, are still being raped, abused and preyed on.

As I write this post, I cry hot tears of pain and anger. Broken and in pain.

From the stories I have been reading and personal messages I have been receiving from sisters all over Nigeria, opening up for the first time on their pain.

From memories of my own anger.

So stop telling women what to do or not do, how “this protest is not the best way to get past the pain”. Pray tell… what do you know about a pain that you have not experienced? For the brothers, how do you get off mansplaining a woman’s pain?? And for the few 'pickme' sisters (lucky, weren't you?), how do you get off 'othersplaining' a pain that is not yours?

Understand this: the stories shared this weekend revealed that a huge majority (maybe 90%?) of women who lived or grew up in Nigeria experienced sexual assault at some point in their childhood through adulthood, particularly from persons in authority and/or persons close to them. Some of these ended as assault. Others unfortunately, led to rape.

These include your mothers, sisters, aunties, wives, daughters.

Let that sink in.

Go back and read the second preceding line.

LET THAT SINK IN.

That pain? There is nothing abstract about it at all. It is much closer to home.

It is under your nose. Your very eyes. Busola’s was just the tip of the iceberg. The last straw.

What to do?

Call your wives. Call your sisters. Call your daughters. Call your mothers.  Your brothers even. Get ready to cry with them. Whatever it takes for them to heal, do it with them. Hold their hand through it.

If you can, confront the abusers. Bring them to book. But many will be long dead, or already been dealt with by fate.

Karma is a never-ending mood.

Whatever you do, PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN. Stay vigilant, and do not cover any predatory behaviour under “family matters” or “church business”.

Let every predator be made to dance to the full music of the law. As I always say, the arms of the justice may swing slowly… but they surely swing.

Sending love, light, peace, and loads of warm e-hugs to every person who had to relive this weekend, pain long “forgotten”.

Love,

Meg.




Photo Credit: www.instagram.com/busoladakolo

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2 comments

  1. Great write up!

    Just a quick clarification though...

    Context: "How do you get off mansplaining a woman's pain?"

    Observation: I understand mansplaining to mean 'the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing'. From the quote stated above (drawn from your write up), it suggests that your target audience is the male folk.

    Question: How then, do you address women (who are part of the majority, the 90%?) that equally rationalize this same ideology of the rape culture? What word will you suitably use to categorize their perceptively skewed rape-apologist opinion on the subject of rape? Will you equally fit them in the bill of mansplaining or is your write up a targeted response to the male folk?

    Just my thoughts as a member of your audience who is male.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I'd use 'othersplaining'.

      If in the first place, such woman was lucky enough to be in the 'lucky' 10% who never experienced sexual assault, she definitely has no business directing how the other 90% should go about their healing. And even if she is a part of the 'unlucky' 90%, she still does not get to determine how the others process their pain, and receive healing.

      You see, irrespective of how 'similar' Sister A's pain may be to Sister B's pain, Sister A's pain is still NOT Sister B's pain, and vice-versa. (As we say in Nigeria, you cannot cry my cry for me, how you want). To Sister B's body, that Sister A is still an 'other' person.

      Thus, it's 'othersplaining' for Sister A to dismissively assume she knows what Sister B's body feels, and thus, may rightfully determine how Sister B processes her pain, and heals herself.

      That is 'othersplaining', and this has been reflected above.

      Thank you again for engaging. :)

      Delete