*Drama that played out during his trial
*What his colleagues, Princess said about his conviction
By BENJAMIN NJOKU
It was a case of bittersweet experience Thursday,when the embattled Yoruba comic actor Olarenwaju James popularly known as Baba Ijesha was finally sentenced to 16 years imprisonment for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old step daughter of his colleague, actress cum comedienne, Damilola Adekoya a.k.a Princess.
The judgment, which was delivered by Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo is a sad commentary on the showbiz industry. It has also earned Baba Ijesha a regrettable place in the annals of history as the foremost actor in Nigeria to be convicted for sexual assault.
His conviction wasn’t a surprise to many, as there had been overwhelming evidence against him
While the trial lasted, the actor was unsuspicious of what the following day held for him until Thursday when the special offences court sitting in Ikeja found him guilty of indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault, and attempted sexual assault in a two-hour judgment.
How the drama started
Baba Ijesha’s ordeal began in April, 2021 after Princess accused him of sleeping with the victim since she was seven years old. She consequently reported the matter at Sabo Police Station where the actor was arrested before the case was transferred to the Gender Unit of the State CID, Panti, Yaba, Lagos for proper investigation.
Days later, Baba Ijesha was arraigned before Justice Taiwo, facing a six-count charge of child defilement bordering on allegations of indecent treatment of a child, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault by penetration and sexual assault by penetration.
Baba Ijesha was also captured by a CCTV camera in the house of the complainant, Princess.
Expectedly, Baba Ijesha’s rape saga sparked mixed reactions among his colleagues in the movie industry .Leading the pack were Iyabo Ojo and Nkechi Blessing- Sunday who publicly called for the actor’s arrest and conviction while the likes of actor Yomi Fabiyi and Kehinde Adams, popularly called Lege tried to support him.
The social media war started after Yomi Fabiyi made a video questioning the circumstances surrounding the rape allegation against Baba Ijesha while calling for the release of the actor.
Reacting to the video, Iyabo Ojo equally made a couple of videos insulting and dragging Yomi Fabiyi on social media. For days their tirades trended on the internet. While that was happening, Lege Miami in a live video with Yomi Fabiyi, accused Nkechi Blessing of disrespecting him when he shared his own opinion on the matter.
In return, the controversial Nkechi Blessing, went on Instagram to drag Lege Miami, calling him unprintable names.
The situation, however, degenerated to the point that the Theatre Arts and Motion Pictures Practitioners Association of Nigeria,TAMPAN, the umbrella body of the Yoruba actors slammed suspension on Iyabo Ojo and Nkechi Blessing for what the association termed as their ‘unprofessional conduct.”
But the decision to suspend the actresses were later reversed after they tendered apologes to the elders of the industry.
Meanwhile , after a year and three months of standing trial, Baba Ijesha has finally been convicted. It is hoped that this will serve as a deterrent to other culpable operators in the entertainment industry .
Reactions from colleagues
The actor’s conviction has been generating a lot of reactions especially from the major actors.
Reacting shortly after the judgment was delivered, in an Instagram post was comedian Princess who described rape as ‘evil’, adding ‘God cannot be mocked.” In another post, she wrote “God is not man.”
The actress also shared a video, where she was seen dancing while singing a thanksgiving song.
Reacting in the same veil, Iyabo Ojo celebrated with Princess, calling her “Queen Mother.”
“To all the girl child and boy child being abused never be afraid to speak up and speak out…This victory is for you. #saynotorape,” she wrote on IG.
On his own, Yomi Fabiyi, said he hopes that Baba Ijesha would learn his lessons and turn a new leaf after completing his jail term.
In an Instagram post, Fabiyi said “the convicted actor was not found guilty of the defilement (rape) with car key as charged (1&6) for lack of evidence, which he still denied ever committing the offence. But had been found guilty of other charges bothering on sexual assault assault(as seen in the video 2,3,4,5). “
According to the actor, any indecent act against children is unacceptable to him.
” I have never and will never support such. Children are meant to be protected. And I will insist that parental negligence is equally punishable under section 30(3) Child Rights Act. It is an imprisonment for ten years,” he said.
Continuing, he added ” if the accused insists that he is innocent of the other charges, it is within his rights if he chooses to appeal. And if he exhausts all options and the judgement stands, he should serve his term and I hope he will learn his lessons and turn a new leaf.”
“I am still committed to the frontiers of Hum Rights and that all accused are innocent until proven guilty.”