by Chiagozie F. Nwonwu
Like Babylon and his crew who celebrated their successful rape, we unwittingly grant rapists the space to rub it in.
I encountered rape very early in life. I was perhaps 14 when a random visit to the home of a local ruffian presented me with my first glimpse. A girl, lying on the bed, with only a tiny towel to cover a miniscule part of her honour, stared at me from a threadbare mattress, her eyes pleading yet seemingly resigned to her fate. I had been sent to the room to “take kola”. I remember her clothes were in a bucket by the door, a bucket filled with water. Her story was sad. A visitor from the east, she had only asked for directions to her brother’s house in Angwan Kanawa and was lured to the house of Baba Wani’s aged grandmother, where he and his boys took turns on her. I got to the house on the second day. The monsters were clearly done with her and were offering her as kola to any young man that came to the house. I recall crying as I begged them to let her go, I recall the girl saying nothing, defeated I think. I recall she kept her legs parted, tired of fighting, she existed in a state of ‘cooperation’.
They let her go the next day. Fate however, knows how to mete out poetic justice.
She never said, but her brother, the one in Angwan Kanawa, was a police officer. I still remember the raid, more than twenty boys, some as young as I was then, some younger, were picked up. I remember the girl’s face as the police men brought her to my father’s shop. There was little gratitude in her eyes as she shook her head and said, “This one no follow, he came to beg them to let me go”. I still remember the pain of the cane across my back as my father wiped me mercilessly for being acquainted with Baba Wani and his then notorious gang. My father refused to consider that his shop was located in that house until a few years before and we still had a ‘packing store’ in the compound, next door to the rape room. Baba Wani did not make it out of the police cell alive. He was probably 18 or 19, his story was the story of dozens of the local terrors we had then.
The second time I met rape was also as bad as the first. Again, a group of boys cornered a girl, the girlfriend of one of them, and took turns on her. The guy in whose room it occurred used to run with our group in Government College Kaduna. He stopped following us when the Kaura—gang—life drew him to its bosom. Babylon lived with his sister who worked with a construction company and was hardly at home. He said later that the girl was not his girlfriend, but refused to see it from our point of view that since he ‘toasted her’ and she agreed, she actually was and thus deserving of his protection. I don’t know if fate ever caught up with Babylon and his co-conspirators. I know they denied everything and the girl’s family never reported to the police. I recall the noise died after a week or so and Babylon and his group, who had all ran away in the heat of the moment, returned with exaggerated swaggers to their steps as their street credibility shot through the roof.
The third time I encountered rape was closer to home and very personal. I had gone with my female cousin and her female neighbour to an Mbaka crusade in Enugu. My cousin’s house was walking distance to the then ‘Adoration’ ground inside the technical college beside IMT’s Campus too. It was raining, the place was over crowded, the ground was muddy, we were miserable and regretting the whole ‘adoration’ business. I can’t recall who suggested we go home, but three of us walked under the starry night enduring the slight drizzle. We had just crossed the Trade Fair complex and were about to negotiate the next slope—where my cousin’s house is—when perhaps a dozen guys swooped on us.
There was no weapon to fight them off and before I knew what they were up to, three of them had me pinned to the wall of the Trade Fair complex and the others were bearing my cousin and her neighbour away, in two different directions. I begged, I cried, reminding the smelly urchins that they have sisters at home, but it was to no avail. I felt my heart break into a million pieces and I knew then that I could not live again if they had their way, but no super human strength came to help me throw off my restrainers and save the girls that were then calling out to me. It was a nightmare become real and the fact that more than twenty thousand people were stumping the sandy stoned Enugu earth a few metres away as they called for the heavens to send more showers of blessing made it all the more surreal.
I had given up, promising myself I will struggle the more and perhaps be fortunate enough and the boy with the knife to my throat will lose his patience and take my life. If ever there was a better alternative, dying at that moment was it.
Then the scream, blood curdling, from the depth of a stricken soul, reached my ears. Initially, I thought the worst had began, but as I looked towards my cousin I found she was still standing, struggling with her attackers as scream after scream poured from her. Her neighbour joined in and then I did too. I screamed with all the strength I could muster. I recall falling to the ground as my restrainers let go of me suddenly. I remember how relief flooded my heart with fire so cold I almost passed out from it when my whispered ‘did they…’ was replied with ‘mba’.
We went back to the Adoration ground—they went, hugging themselves tight, I followed behind them, dragging my feet as shame washed over me in torrents. I am the man, I thought, but I couldn’t protect them.
The security men at the gate followed me back but we saw no one. We later concluded that they must have taken refuge in the hundreds of buses packed along the road, buses that ferried worshipers from across the south east to Mbaka’s weekly ‘Adoration Mass’.
It took me months to recover from the trauma and took my cousin longer to start seeing me as a ‘man’ again. It was a close shave, a very close shave, one that still makes me shiver, one that brings home what that young man in India must have gone through.
I read an article where a lady said Nigeria has a rape problem and I picked offense that some responders felt not soiling Nigeria’s already battered image is more important issue she addressed in the article. I gave the examples above to say, yes, we have a rape problem and it is not new. I say let the image of the country be soiled further if that is what will get us to take notice of the ills around us.
I agree with the writer of the article that Nigerians condone a lot of evil and rape is one of them. Aside from the high number of case that go unreported, what do we do to rapists?
Most times than not we try to excuse rapists by blaming the victim:
What was she doing there in the first place?
She must have lured him with her dressing!
How can she tell me one man raped her, haba, how is that possible?
Had she been wearing a very tight jean, the robbers would have had a harder time raping her.
Nne, next time abeg, wear very tight jean to bed.
Unbelievable inanity is our normal response to rape and the victims of it. Like Babylon and his crew who celebrated their successful rape, we unwittingly grant rapists the space to rub it in. Yes, I heard of the girl that was forced to marry the man that got her pregnant after forcing himself on her. This man should be rotting in jail, now we gift him the very person he abused. Talk about absurd, criminal even. In the face of such uncivil behaviour from the society, we can’t blame the women who chose to suffer in silence, who chose to not reveal the wrong that have been done to them.
The Nigerian media also need to come to terms with the way we respond to rape. They are grossly tilted towards glorifying the rapist and making rape seem like fun, or what how else can we interpret headline that go, “Randy man ravages neighbours daughter”?
I still don’t know what pushes men, or women even, to rape, but I say cut off the offending member of the guilty party and I will thank you for it. And no apologies.
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