by Abimbola Adelakun
When reports of the alleged rape by popular Fuji musician, Abass Akande Obesere, broke, I was interested in collating comments from news sites for an essay I planned to write. My aim was to gauge how the public processes rape. To my embarrassment, many commentators did not think that in an act of rape, the fault is primarily that of the rapist and not the victim. It seems a majority of the population thinks that the larger responsibility lies on the weaker party to protect herself from the stronger one. In any rape instance, it does not matter what the victim was wearing, where it took place, or at what time of the day it did. What matters is that one person took advantage of the other person, usually the vulnerable one. A forewarning: Obesere is innocent, presumably, unless the courts stipulate otherwise. I have nothing against Obesere and I cannot say this enough. I can say he is one Nigerian artist I can encourage students to write dissertation on because of his transgressive acts. However, reaction to the rape allegation says a lot about us as a people and how we treat vulnerable people who find themselves in sticky situations.
More importantly, there is a correlation between what we say to women who have been raped and how we see, treat and rationalise ourselves when we are raped by dictators and leaders in jackboots and Agbada; both are psychosocial attitudes. The case of Sani Abacha, his children and the ruckus they caused over the centennial award is a narrative of a rapist and his victim. I have no problem juxtaposing the Obesere rape allegation with the jabberwocky of Sadiq Abacha in his letter to Professor Wole Soyinka. Both narratives operate in the realm of power.
Sadiq, serves as a proxy for his father, a brutal dictator who would probably be echoing his son if he were alive. In fact, Sadiq probably sees himself as his father because in his letter, he indicated he was highlighting “the advances we made” (in government). Does the “we” part of the sentence confirm that Abacha’s government was a family thing? The shame of the whole affair is that if Abacha had been alive today to do that ranting, he could probably have been applauded by some Nigerians as the best leader they ever had. Yes, talk about a woman craving her own abuser.
But then, can they be blamed for their nostalgia, and blurred memory? If an abused woman keeps finding herself in a bad marriage, there is a tendency to begin to vindicate certain past abusers. To look back at Abacha years with any form of nostalgia, one even worthy of something as significant as a centennial award, is perhaps a testimony to the continued bleakness of the Nigerian existence. It is hard to blame those who keep looking back at the military era with nostalgia. It means when they look ahead, they see no hope.
I do not have much against Sadiq Abacha. If his argument rests on his father’s character as not “pitch perfect” as he glibly puts it, then his head is probably stuck deep in a mountain of stolen loot that he wouldn’t even know 100 kobo makes a naira. Let me also state that Abacha was not the only Nigerian leader that failed both as a leader and as a human being but to rationalise aspects of their government, point to certain “achievements” they made at whatever going rate of the price of oil per barrel is to seek the best of all abusive relationships. Only a traumatised and demented mind, lodged in an abuse-ridden body reasons that way. But then, we owe Sadiq a lot of thanks for showing us that the mechanism of the mind of a country’s rapist is no different from that of a lady’s rapist. It is the same power dynamics at work.
A man is accused of pouncing on a woman and raping her, he claims the sex was consensual; that he saw her bleeding and asked her to take herself to the hospital and was surprised to hear her talk of rape. Then the narratives begin to change: I have known her for two weeks, no years actually…she is my lover….she just wants to blackmail me…I am a ladies’ man, many women desiring my body…my enemies are at work…I am a child of God and no weapon fashioned against me shall prosper etc. You can compare the self-justification of rapists with that of Sadiq’s we created Bayelsa and Zamfara states…we have a lot of economic achievements on only $8 per barrel etc…and you will not fail to find a similarity. There is always that sense of exculpation and utter selfishness in their attitude. You don’t hear in Sadiq’s voice, any sort of compassion for the victims of his father’s mindless looting which saw Abacha crowned the biggest thief ever, beating grand looters like even Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire in the process. In other places of the world, children whose parents were involved in the Holocaust dedicate their lives to charity and swear, never again! But Sadiq? No.
Rather than a word of compassion towards victims, he attempts to differentiate between the date MKO Abiola died physically and the day his journey to death began. In all that ignoble babble, he could not even mention Kudirat and the circumstances in which she died. He is truly his father’s son. But why blame Sadiq and his sister, Gumsu? Is it not President Goodluck Jonathan that emptied a pail of feces on our national heads when he decided to give awards to the man and other past leaders whose names should not even be mentioned in decent conversations? The image of Jonathan, standing with other ex-leaders while they paraded their certificates made me wonder where Jonathan was all the time these people were running Nigeria like a rudderless ship. Was he affected at all? Does he have any memories of those years? Did he suffer any losses –human or material – during the June 12 riots? Did Abacha’s soldiers take out any one of his family members? Perhaps that explains why he was not struck by the irony of it all.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Abimbola Adelakun/Punch