I have written more articles on paedophilia, rape and incest than any other topic since I started this column about five years ago. So when the story of the 13-year-old Ochanya Elizabeth Ogbanje broke, my mindset was “the same old story” and decided not write on it. But something inside me kept rumbling. Even though it is 17 days since Ochanya died, I am writing today because I want this case to be on the front burner till we see the end.
For the few, who might not know, this is the story out there. At age five, Ochanya left her village where there were no schools to live with a relative, Felicia Ogbuja and her family, so that she could go to school and live a better life than her peasant farmer-parents. From age eight, the son of the relative, Victor Ogbuja, started abusing her sexually. He was caught and reported to his father, Andrew Ogbuja, who probably feigned anger and scolded his son. But Mr. Ogbuja’s real anger was probably that his son got there before him. He was probably waiting for Ochanya to mature a little before he started sleeping with her.
But once he found out that his son had beaten him to it, he joined the son in the rape and sodomisation of Ochanya. They stuck their filthy d**ks in every openings they saw in Ochanya’s mid-region. The fact that the young Ochanya was a minor and her sex organs were underdeveloped was inconsequential. They drugged and sexually abused Ochanya until she developed vesicovaginal fistula (VVF) and the accompanying complications that eventually took her life on October 17.
Many people have been wondering where Felicia Ogbuja, mother of Victor, wife of Andrew Ogbuja and aunt of Ochanya, was over the years when the abuse took place. She was very much under the same roof, but claimed ignorance. This is a typical of an ever-vigilant African mother. My takes are: One, she did not give a damn about what happened to her young relative. Two, her house (you cannot call it a home) is Sodom and Gomorrah where everything goes. She might also be doing her own thing while her husband also looked the other way. Three, I wanted to suggest that she might be a slave-wife who could not challenge her husband. But then I thought, even if she could not challenge her husband, what about her son, who started the abuse. Oh, she was not aware!
People like the Ogbujas should not be part of humanity; they are sub-humans. A singular abuse could have been explained as a mistake, but repeated abuse over five years is evil and subhuman. Both father and son are very lucky. In some places that I know, they would have been history by now like Ochanya. And to think that Andrew Ogbuja is even well educated and heads a department in a polytechnic makes it even more annoying. We need to pay more attention to details in this part of the world. How can a deviant like this be part of the formation of people’s children? He might be innocent until proven guilty, he should be suspended from the school system until the case is decided.
That is exactly what the Knights of St. Mulumba have done. Last Wednesday, they appropriately took up a full page newspaper advertorial to acknowledge his membership of the order. They also acknowledged his innocence until proven guilty, but suspended him from the order until he proves his innocence. I was shocked when I stumbled on the photo of Andrew Ogbuja and his wife in Knights of St. Mulumba uniform. So Ogbuja is a worthy brother, as the knights refer to themselves, I said to myself. But this act is very unworthy even of a non-soldier of Christ, not to talk of a soldier of Christ, as the knights pride themselves. The knights must take a second look at the criteria for recruiting new members. In those days, the criteria were stringent and they also did due diligence. The knighthood is neither a status symbol nor a place to shore up your respectability. It is a higher calling to service in Christendom and your lifestyle should reflect it.
As I was writing, I read about a 42-year-old man, who allegedly sexually abused a two-year-old daughter of his neighbour. And the idiot was denying, even when he ejaculated into the little girl, the incriminating semen was still there, and she said he is the culprit. People have been asking, why are we hearing of more cases of rapes, incest and paedophilia these days? Is it that they went unreported in the past or we are having more cases? Whatever the true position is, the society, law enforcement agents and the judiciary should do much more. We are simply not doing enough. Suspects who have money and connections still get away with these heinous crimes. In addition, some cases are being swept under the carpet in the guise of family matter. I have asked in the past and I ask again, what is family matter about paedophilia, rape or incest? These are crimes, not civil matters, and it behoves the government and its agencies to bring culprits to book and get convictions for the victims.
Consequently, the financial status of the victims or their families should not be an issue. But it is in Nigeria. Victims from poor families are denied justice, while suspects with money, even little money, go scot free. That was the case with Ochanya until the good people of Benue State brought it to the front burner. All people of good conscience in religious places, within families and in schools must continue to fight against all forms of sex abuse, especially against minors. Incidentally, many of the cases of these heinous sex crimes happen in these same places. Therefore, sex education should be taught at home, in schools and in religious places so that they can act as check and balance against one another. Outside these three places, children scarcely have any other place of refuge. At least one of them should provide the child refuge at any time.
Sex has become so cheap and commonplace that you wonder why people have to commit crime to get it. Even if you strip it of morality, sex must be consensual and restricted to majority (adults). Ochanya and other victims of sex abuse must get justice. That is the minimum expected from a decent society that we claim to be.