Its been nearly 15 years since Nigerian rapper Eedris Abdulkareem released his now iconic second single ‘Mr. Lecturer’. The song was controversial for its time, telling for the first time, the stories of young Nigerian female students enduring sexual harassment from lecturers, professors and adhoc university staff. It was even more revolutionary because Eedris instead of hogging the spotlight, told this story purely from the perspective of the student, giving voice to a previously unheard demographic. The song did what it was supposed to, it stirred up important conversations around the politics of transactional sex in universities and how sexual favours instead of merit seemed to be currency in which university academic staff traded grades.
Yesterday, news leaked on the internet (complete with a five minute audio recording) of a professor from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Mr. Richard Akindele pressuring a female student to exchange sexual favours for better grades. The audio is pretty damning itself, and Richard Akindele admits that the student in the audio recording isn’t the only one who he has pressured for sex. He mentions his wife and admits to have regular sex with her, even as he actively seeks to cheat on her with an unwilling student. It would hilarious if it wasn’t so disheartening.
Female students in all universities in Nigeria lead a very different life from their male counterparts. They are forced to walk a tightrope of being polite and warm to lecturers so as to not be labelled as rude or standoffish and punished for it with failure, and also being distant and standoffish to discourage lecturers and other students from misinterpreting their warmness for attraction. Not that any of this works, the majority of female students end up having to endure sexual harassment of some kind during their stay in University.
Mr. Richard Akindele might have been exposed to his school’s authority in an unconventional way, but he is n’t the first lecturer to be exposed for sexual impropiety. Two months ago, the Chrisland teacher accused of sexual assault on a minor was heavily supported on social media and his victims were castigated. The only publicized case of a lecturer getting what he deserves for sexual harassment only came after his victim outed him on social media and his Canadian university chose to suspend him while investigations are undertaken. The UI academic board has announced it is investigating the claims made against Adeniyi, but we just have to wait and see.
Perhaps sexual harassment would be easier to spot if we spent more time listening to the women in our lives instead of suggesting they should be amused by unwanted and unsolicited harassment from lecturers. Perhaps we should try that for a change.