By Tayo Ogunbiyi
WATCHING or listening to comedy is one of my most exhilarating hobbies. I love movies that are spiced with comedy. Comedy makes me have good laughs. Of course, laughter is medicine to the soul and body. That is why I love comedians.
In a society where having good laughs is becoming rare, our comedians should be commended for being merchants of humour. They truly deserve every fortune they earn via the trade. Making people laugh isn’t a tea party, especially in a stressful society like ours.
I have quite a few favourite comedians, both local and foreign, particularly the ones with irresistible and compelling vibes. However, I admire every comedian and could make do with anyone. In as much as the end result-laughter- is achieved.
In my romance with comedy, one local actor-cum-comedian that I have come to appreciate, over the years, is Olanrewaju James Omiyinka aka Baba Ijesha. His jocular mastery of my native language, Ijesha, in his comical act, usually thrills me. Watching him doing his stuff is always a delight.
These are, however, no laughing times for Baba Ijesha as it seems he has taken his comedy too far for once. Suddenly, the one who used to make people laugh has become a butt of cruel jokes across the land. As much as he tries, it appears Baba Ijesha can no longer make his fans laugh. His jokes have precipitously become wary and ludicrous.
What exactly could be the matter? How did the joker abruptly become the joke? Well, the story is long. But the meat of it is that Baba Ijesha has been accused of sexually defiling a minor. Ironically, his accuser is popular comedian, Damilola Adekoya, aka Princess. Certainly, these are trying times in the nation’s house of comedy.
According to Princess, the immoral act was purportedly committed right in her house when Baba Ijesha came to her for help. Painfully, the gangling actor ostensibly committed the shameful act against his benefactor’s foster daughter.
Unverified sources alleged that Baba Ijesha besmirched the little girl, more than once, using his car key. He reportedly warned her not to tell anyone. Really? Could this actually be true of the Baba Ijesha that brought so much laughter into many homes via his comic act? How did such a respected comedian transit so rapidly into a menacing monster?
These are puzzles that only the law could unravel. They are beyond the capacity of unlearned folks. Yes, only our learned compatriots could either nail or absolve Baba Ijesha. The allegation appears mind-boggling. But his accusers claimed they have quite convincing evidence against him and they are aiming for the jugular.
Quite understandably so, Baba Ijesha has been under immense criticism since April 22, 2021, when the Lagos State Police Command arrested him for sexual assault. According to the State Police Command, “the suspect confessed to the crime and was also captured by a CCTV camera in the house of the complainant”. An unconfirmed source equally added that “the CCTV footage revealed that the accused kissed and fondled sensitive parts of the body of the girl”.
As I put down this piece, over 7,500 people have signed a petition to prevent the release of the actor. The petition, which was initiated by the Aunt Landa’s Bethel Foundation, on behalf of Princess, was titled: ‘Olanrewaju James Omiyinka must not be released in Nigeria for defiling a 7 years old girl’.
Though a global phenomenon, the appalling side of rape in our clime has to do with recklessness of the perpetrators, lackluster response of justice administrators and absence of institutional supportive system to help the victims.
More worrying is that a good number of suspected rapists move freely on the streets after committing the heinous act. Also worrisome is the fact that not much is being done in respect of strengthening our weak law to incisively deal with perpetrators of rape.
Rape victims suffer a sense of abuse that goes beyond physical injury. They may become skeptical of men and experience feelings of embarrassment and disgrace. Victims who suffer rape trauma syndrome experience physical symptoms such as headaches, sleep disturbances, and fatigue.
They may also develop psychological disturbances related to the circumstances of the rape, such as intense fears. Fear of being raped has social as well as personal consequences. For example, it may prevent women from socialising or traveling as they wish while worried and un-enlightened parents can use it as an excuse for limiting educational progress of their girl-child.
Rape takes away from the victim human rights such as right to life (as it led to death in some instances), right to dignity of human person, right to personal liberty and security of person and right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It is a crime against basic human rights and it also violates the victim’s most cherished of the fundamental rights – the right to life.
Sadly, occurrences of rape call to question not only our sense of justice, but our civilization as a people. Now, let’s attempt to examine why some men engage in the heinous crime of rape.
According to experts, rape mostly occurs as result of a violent craving to control the victim, rather than an attempt to achieve sexual fulfillment. Hence, rape is considered as an act of violence, rather than sexual gratification.
No doubt, rape underscores the sorry state of mind of the perpetrator. The blatant way rape is committed shows that perpetrator operate in a distorted mindset of women being assets to be used and dispensed.
Many Nigerians believe that women/girls invite trouble on themselves by being careless. Mothers often chide daughters for wearing provocative clothing, in most cases a sleeveless garment or a pair of hip-hugging jeans. Though one isn’t an advocate of indecent dressing, but it could not be a justification for raping. Come to think of it: is indecent dressing a ‘rapeable’ offence?
The weak stance of the law towards rape needs to be seriously addressed. Women and girls who are raped in Nigeria have little hope of obtaining justice and reparation. Victims are sometimes pressured into withdrawing the case or parents of victims prefer financial settlement out of court to a criminal prosecution.
Where cases are brought to court, prosecution sometimes fails because police refer cases to a court lacking appropriate jurisdiction and progress is then obstructed by the slow administration of the judicial system. Sadly, the onus of proof lies only with the victims.
Perhaps, more sickening is the possibility of giving an option of fine that can easily be afforded by the culprit and his family/friends. Of what use is the fine compared to damage caused the rape victim?
The Baba Ijesha’s incident should be seen to its logical conclusion. The law must be made to take its course. No one, no matter how highly placed, must be allowed to circumvent the course of the law. If his guilt is eventually proven, Baba Ijesha must be made to pay for this cruel joke.
*Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos