By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
A man sat beside a lady in a public bus and performed lewd sexual acts. When the lady raised the alarm, the man, eyes bulging, claimed he was only fiddling with his body. “What’s your problem with my body?” he asked the offended woman. Our society is degenerating. The scaffolds of taboos are crumbling. Self has become the new deity.
The scene was caught on tape. To further intimidate his victim, the sexually incontinent man with bulging eyes claimed he was a policeman. When the woman and her camera phone didn’t yield, the man attacked her. Nobody in that bus raised a strong voice against the man, against the abomination. In the face of evil, we have all become too passive, too timid.
That objectionable scene happens everywhere in Nigeria every day. In this episode, the sex offender rationalized his act, claimed the right to his body. As is often the case, he didn’t bother to understand the relationship between his rights, the lady’s rights, and society’s rights. Society can’t let lewd sexual be thrown into people’s faces. Women can’t be made to apprehend sexual violence by men sitting beside them in public spaces.
The reactions to that scene on social media told another story. Some good-spirited folks placed a reward to motivate people to identify the sex offender. That’s the responsible citizenry. Hours after, the man was identified. Other women came out to say that the same man had engaged in masturbation while sitting beside them in other buses along the same route. They should have come out earlier.
But there were other commentators. They said they didn’t understand how the man’s hand on his groin harmed the woman or anyone else. They didn’t think far. All they needed to understand the heinousness of the crime was to insert their wives, mothers, or sisters in the picture. And imagine that scruffy man, his hand in his groin, his thighs swinging, twisting his face at their mortified female relatives. It would sink in and instigate the moral outrage they had not possessed.
We must fix our broken taboos.
Others said the man could be mentally deranged. I would concede he might have psychological problems. Yes, he would need a mental health check. But he had an apparent insight. He took recourse to ‘Ogboju’. He cannot be relieved of the moral and criminal culpability for his actions if he has insight. By the lucidity of his gross arguments, he seemed at the time fully aware of the implications of his actions.
Nobody in that bus raised a strong voice against the man, against the abomination
The point is, if we all spared a thought about our actions and put ourselves in the positions of others who might be affected by them, we would behave better.
The man’s story is sadly not strange.
Some years ago, a lady worked in African Petroleum PLC as a manager. She was married with children. The potbellied General Manager, her immediate boss, developed a crush on her. His sexual appetite was indiscriminate. The woman did all she could to rebuff the man and his silent sexual advances. Sometimes he invited her to his office to discuss official matters, but made her linger and listen to rotten gibberish gushing from his mouth. Once or twice, he touched her inappropriately in public and masked his lust with jokes.
One day, the randy General Manager stormed into the office the woman shared with other managers and, with a frown on his face, summoned her to his office. Her colleagues were startled. They feared she must have committed a grave infraction. Once in his expansive office, the man pressed the button to lock the door firmly. Then he asked her to sit. She sat with trepidation. He switched on the television.
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A steamy scene of a sex movie jumped into the room. The man chuckled and said it was good to mix work with play. The woman ran to the door. The man shrugged, unzipped his trousers, began fiddling with his groin and moaning. She couldn’t shout and couldn’t bang on the door. She just trembled and sweated. She said she would have screamed if the man had stood, left his seat.
The man stayed in his seat, his eyes switching between the cringing woman and the television set. By the time he gasped and began cleaning himself, she had started praying aloud. He handed her some files and pressed the button. The woman ran into the restroom to take deep breaths, gather her spirits and fix her frozen face.
She didn’t report the case. She didn’t want a stain on her family. She swallowed it. The General Manager was unperturbed. He carried on casually. Perhaps he felt entitled to the women that worked with him. He remained celebrated General Manager for many, many years and retired with glory.
There are many such stories. On escalators, in the houses of family friends, in the vestries of cathedrals. They abound in those giant buildings that house our sanctimonious banks. There are great men in our society who championed the molestation and sexual abuse of women in their institutions. Their stories are well known. Yet, they are amongst those who come to the screen every day to teach us ethics. That’s “Ogboju” of an order higher than impersonating a policeman with bulging eyes.
The lady on the bus who stood her ground and exposed a sexual offender whom others had let pass deserves an award. Many other silent victims must speak out. Society must be ready to listen and dish sanctions.