By Olusegun Adeniyi
It took a young lady to narrate how she was almost raped while on holiday at Warere Beach hotel in Zanzibar in April last year for many Nigerians to begin to share their own experiences within our country. And the picture being painted is rather ugly. From room keys being duplicated by rogue staff so that criminals could gain access, to outright theft and other unwholesome activities, there seems to be little or no standard in the administration of many hotels across Nigeria. Some of the accounts should compel investigation because it bodes ill to learn that unaccompanied female guests are easy targets for predators in our hotels. That is not to say that men are excluded from these shenanigans. Nothing perhaps illustrates the rot within more than last November’s tragedy at the Hilton Royal Hotel, Ile-Ife, Osun State.
Timothy Adegoke, a 37-year-old Master of Business Administration (MBA) student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, had travelled from Abuja to Ile-Ife to write his last examination, and lodged at the hotel owned by Rahmon Adedoyin. The story of how Adegoke ended up in a shallow grave after which the hotel management began to delete all records of his stay is as shocking as it is tragic. Currently in detention, the proprietor is being charged with the offence of illegally disposing of Adegoke’s body, obliterating hotel payment receipt and removing the CCTV cameras to destroy evidence. Six other accused persons who work for Adedoyin are charged with various offences, including murder.
Hotel business is a very strategic subsector of the tourism/hospitality industry that holds much promise for Nigeria. But patronage is also based on trust. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) projection for 2019 to 2023, Nigeria is expected “to be the fastest-growing market” in the hospitality industry in Africa. “With Nigeria’s growing affluence, we expect consumer tourism to become a more important sector,” according to the report which provides an overview of the hotel industry. “Adventure tourism is becoming more popular and the growing interest in experiences is allowing Nigeria to attract visitors interested in the local culture.”
With ritualists and other criminally minded individuals becoming hoteliers, the hospitality industry requires more attention. But we can leave that for today. Having destroyed public education, Nigerians have been forced to send their children to the numerous private schools that mushroom every day. That perhaps then explains the disturbing pattern in which image protection is considered more important than being accountable for the students/pupils to whom they owe a duty of care. Going by the latest trending scandal, during a recent trip to attend the World School Games in Dubai, United Arab Emirate (UAE), a 10-year-old female student and four male students were involved in a sexual act. Although the Lagos State government has stepped in by closing the school and ordering an investigation, such a predictable knee-jerk reaction cannot be a formula for dealing with a serious systemic problem.
From bullying to sexual violence, the education space is becoming increasingly unsafe in Nigeria. The school involved this time is Chrisland which, according to their website, “is the largest privately owned educational institution in Nigeria.”
I have read several reports and comments about this tragedy on social media. It is disturbing that many ‘sex experts’ have been analyzing what they claimed to have watched in the video being circulated online. While there are obvious parental failings (the digital footprints of the ten-year old girl are beyond scandalous), the fact also remains that a school that takes children out of the country cannot leave them to their own devices. Besides, it is on record that when in February 2018 Adegboyega Adenekan, a supervisor at one of Chrisland schools in Lagos, was accused of defiling a two-year-old child put in his care, the management issued a statement not only to defend the culprit, but also to attack the media. “We believe there is a conspiracy against the Chrisland brand, and this is nothing but paid journalism,” Chrisland stated. At the end, Adenekan was tried and convicted. “This defendant is conscienceless, wicked, an animal, and not fit to walk on the streets,” said Justice Sybil Nwaka who sentenced Adenekan to 60 years’ imprisonment.
At that time, it was the molested girl’s mother who spoke to the main issue which Chrisland did not seem to appreciate and still refuses to, on the current scandal. I commend her words to the proprietors of our schools on the responsibility they bear when parents entrust their children to them: “Chrisland is not just any school. The only reason we took our kids there, leaving behind so many other schools, was because we had a lot of trust in the school. We believed they could give our kids the best education, we believed they could keep our children safe. It never crossed my mind that her class teachers would carelessly allow someone to take her out of the class to his office to molest her. We trusted them with our most prized possession. We never imagined this could happen to our daughter. We were not careless with watching and protecting our kids at all. In our wildest dreams, we never thought our daughter could be abused in school, the one place we could not follow her to.”
However, the social problems that plague our country go beyond the educational sector and they seem to be accumulating every day. Following the recent death of a popular female gospel artiste, Osinachi Nwachukwu, reports emerged that she was a victim of serial abuse by her husband. In explaining his side of the story, Dr Paul Enenche, the Senior Pastor of Dunamis International Gospel Centre (where the deceased and her husband worshipped) has confirmed the allegations that Osinachi was indeed a victim of domestic abuse. With the husband already in detention, I hope the family will give the children all the support they need at this most difficult period in their lives. But her death has also brought to the front burner the prevalence of violence in many Nigeria homes.
From available reports, many people were aware of the violence to which the late Osinachi was subjected by her husband. But apparently because of the patriarchal nature of our society, she had to endure the abuse until she paid the supreme price. With many people putting the blame on churches where forgiveness and reconciliation are often recommended in cases of domestic abuse, the General Overseer of the Omega Fire Ministries International, Apostle Johnson Suleman has prescribed a novel solution. “All those women that their husbands are beating, don’t they have brothers? If they don’t have biological brothers, they have Christian brothers,” Apostle Suleman told his congregation. “If you are in this church and you are beating your wife, stop it. If she reports you to me, we will beat you. I will go to the police station and take permission before I gather brothers in this church to beat you.”
Readers may conclude from the foregoing that there is so much sanity in the political arena that I have decided to devote my column to highlighting social problems. But what choice do I really have? With the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) hawking its presidential, gubernatorial, and legislative tickets for the 2023 general election strictly to moneybags, I recommend George Orwell’s timeless novel, ‘Animal Farm’, for those who seek a better understanding of the situation in Nigeria today. Last Thursday, the Council of State approved the pardon of 159 convicts. Two names stood out: Former Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State who was jailed for stealing N1.16 billion and Jolly Nyame of Taraba convicted of N1.6 billion. While President Goodluck Jonathan similarly pardoned the late DSP Alamieyeseigha to whom he (Jonathan) was once deputy in Bayelsa State, the reprieve came years after Alamieyeseigha had completed the jail term imposed on him by the court. With President Buhari who came in to ‘fight corruption’, the convicts have barely started serving their terms!
In the first in a series on ‘crime and punishment in Nigeria’ published just two months after this administration first came to office in 2015, I argued that the embarrassing inequality that we have in our system is product of a justice administration that places those who ordinarily should be in jail above the rest of society. When you run a system where the bigger the offence (and the offenders), the higher the possibility of escaping justice, it is the larger society that is in danger. I then admonished President Buhari that the place to start would be in ensuring equality before the law. But if I may borrow from the wisdom of ‘Mr Macaroni’, Nigerians can now say ‘the president is doing well’.
I understand that both Dariye and Nyame may soon file their papers to contest for Senate on the platform of APC. Maybe we should beg them to join the presidential race. But to be fair to this government, there were indications that the whole anti-corruption gambit was just a ruse to capture power in 2015. In 2013 when Alemieyesigha was granted the controversial pardon condemned by most Nigerians, the fiercest critic of President Jonathan at that period was Alhaji Lai Mohammed, now the Information and Culture Minister. He was then the spokesman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that was about to merge with other parties to form the APC of which he also became spokesman. Asked for the position of his party on the pardon granted Alamieyeseigha, he said: “It is the decision of my party not to comment on that issue.”
Instructively, that was perhaps the only issue on which Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the opposition party he represented at the time had no negative opinion!
But I am not discussing politics today. In the past few years, many of our banks have devised unconventional methods of debt recovery. One that is very popular is to print some oversized and undersized vests and hand them over to their staff (including pot-bellied men and women with features that only my friend, Reuben Abati can describe) to wear, and dance to the residence or office of debtors, in a name and shame attempt to force them to pay. Well, a bank costumer has turned the table. In a viral video, a depositor with Fidelity Bank hired a live band to play outside their premises, with the musician raining invectives on the bank management for failing to reverse a failed transaction for their sponsor.
As much as such entertainment keeps us sane in Nigeria, I understand that many of my readers would have expected me to write on yesterday’s bomb explosion in Taraba State or the invasion by soldiers of Imo State communities or the fate of the abducted train passengers who remain in captivity. In a way, I have. The connecting thread to those issues and sundry others, including those highlighted above, is the absence of law and order in Nigeria. And until we fix the problem, our country will remain broken. Law and order help to moderate human interactions while ensuring that citizens are not only equal before the law but are also free (and safe) to pursue opportunities in a manner that is beneficial to themselves and the larger society.
• You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com