Sexual relationships that revealed aspects of our Nigerian character

In the past 10 days, there have been three cases of sexual relationships that revealed aspects of our Nigerian character — the tendency to side with the man and punish the woman. First, there was Habiba Inusa, a nursing mother who was recently remanded in prison for adultery. Inusa had participated in the mass wedding programme periodically organised by the Kano State Government and Hisbah (the state’s religious police). Inusa was delivered of a baby the day after the wedding, a scandal that combines sexual impropriety with deceit. Inusa soon learnt that hell hath no fury like a husband-for-a-day because the man threw her out of his home. The mass wedding organisers seized the meagre wedding gifts bestowed on her.

Second was the case of Ekemini Ekerette (aka Kemen), a participant in the Big Brother Naija Reality Show series who was recently disqualified for groping a sleeping woman. Apparently, Kemen missed the memos on the imperative of seeking people’s consent before performing sexual acts on their body. Kemen’s disqualification is an important statement on the ethics of sexual relationships. Since he was kicked out, I have seen people produce one inane reason or the other to insist he did not deserve his punishment.

The most shocking instance of tacit support for Kemen, for me, came from the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, Luke Onofiok, who jumped into the fray on behalf of his kinsman. Onofiok’s social media rant expressed his disappointment that their son lost his celebrity status and fan following in the wake of his disqualification. I do not think it mattered to Onofiok that Kemen overstepped his bounds when he groped a sleeping woman, or that such malfeasance carries a penalty for a reason. He seemed more interested in what Kemen had lost.

Onofiok could not even wait for Kemen himself to apologise for what he did and ask for forgiveness. Instead, the Speaker’s complaint was that those who had previously celebrated Kemen were now in a hurry to crucify him for his “mistakes”! It is rather disingenuous of Onofiok to refer to a sexual misdemeanour as a mistake because Kemen was not a child who inadvertently fell on top of a sleeping woman. He crossed a line and he did so on live TV. Onofiok could have used Kemen’s disqualification as a teachable moment for others who needed to be educated on the basics of sexual consent.

Onofiok’s defence of his kinsman was not just irritating for its seeming amorality, but for the added fact that he did not spare a word for the woman whose body was violated. Onofiok claimed he did not know what Kemen had done wrong, but that simply cannot be true. I am more inclined to believe he simply did not want to acknowledge Kemen’s wrong, so he would not have to condemn it. Instead, he would be able to focus on the more “urgent” task of philosophizing about the self-righteousness of Kemen’s criticisers. Onofiok ended up religionising Kemen’s transgression and his choice of words (such as “mistakes” and “temptations”) says a lot about what one needs to know about Onofiok, his attitude towards sexual assault, and his priorities as a Speaker of his state legislature.

Third in the string of sexual misdeeds is the case of Apostle Johnson Suleman, the founder of Omega Fire Ministries. The man of God is being accused by a certain Stephanie Otobo of impregnating her and using the police to harass her. Now, I am proceeding cautiously with this story because its narratives are still unfolding, but already I am appalled by the commentary of Nigerians who have almost refused to listen to the accuser’s side of her story. Almost everywhere you turn, the woman has been disparaged and called objectionable names by the usual “touch not my anointed” crowd who will defend a pastor against God himself.

I understand that Apostle Suleman currently has a reputation of a hero because of his criticisms of his state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, (whom he once prophesied would die). Both men have tussled on the issue of Southern Kaduna killings and acts of violence by rampaging Fulani herdsmen. A sexual scandal could not have come at a more fortuitous time for the cleric who can now claim to be a victim of some grand conspiracy designed by a vengeful government.

Apostle Suleman can make all the ad hominem attacks on Otobo’s looks, and even claim that it is the state government that wants to ruin him, but he cannot run away from the fact that the images of his naked torso on his accuser’s computer look suspicious. He can argue that the pictures were doctored, but he will need the services of a graphics expert to prove that it is possible for anyone with photoshop that lecherous look on his face in those photographs. His wife’s defence of him is touching, but she is simply not a credible witness of her husband’s virtues. There are many other wives who would do what she did either because they are in denial or they want to protect their self-interest.

While sexual indiscretion by a pastor is ideally a matter between him and his God, it is important that as a society we cultivate an attitude of moral responsibility for our pastors as much as our politicians. We cannot complain about the immorality of Delta State indigenes’ welcoming ex-governor James Ibori from jail while we condone sexual immorality by pastors. Let me also make it clear that while whatever happened between Suleman and Otobo is their private business, it should concern the rest of us whether the allegation that he used the police to harass her was true or not. People should not be in a hurry to vindicate the pastor or treat the woman as a Jezebel spirit that simply wants to bring down a genuine man of God.

If the accusation was true, it would in fact be consistent with the character of Apostle Suleman. I encourage people to listen to the excerpts of the sermon that got Suleman into trouble with the DSS. Much was made of his charge to his congregation to kill (or behead) anyone who looks like a Fulani herdsman. The other part I found troubling was his own confession that he asked five members of his church to beat up a man who was impeding their church building activities, lock him in the boot of a car, and bring the person to him. He said he asked his boys to first report the man to the police before going to beat and abduct the said man so they could make the beating “legal.”

Any man who can make such an admission on the altar of God is a thug and we should not be quick to put it past him that he could impregnate a woman and send the police to harass her!

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