- In the fight against this social ill, the warriors have to be made to understand that real change can only be achieved by taking up the cudgels and staying the course until the narrative is changed.
In recent months, the Yoruba film industry has been in the news following acrimonious relations, recriminations and counter-recriminations involving some of its major players.
Olarenwaju Omiyinka James, popularly known as Baba Ijesha plunged from fame to sudden infamy after the 48-year-old Thespian was accused of s_xually molesting a 14-year old foster daughter of popular comedienne, Princess. It was also alleged that Baba Ijesha had been molesting the minor ever since she was seven years old.
As characteristic of the Nigerian social media space, several individuals thronged to various platforms to condemn Baba Ijesha’s reprehensible act, urging the system to ensure that justice is served in favour of the poor victim.
During this mass tirade, two notable names in the Yoruba film industry, Iyabo Ojo and Yomi Fabiyi, earned everyone’s attention due to the extreme length they had gone to air their standpoints. The duo had been involved in a tempestuous duel over who should be considered the victim in this whole imbroglio.
Unconvinced of the facts being presented to the general public, Yomi Fabiyi went on a personal crusade, insisting that his friend and colleague had been wrongly demonized and that Princess & Iyabo Ojo were merely launching a personal vendetta against Baba Ijesha. Fabiyi, however, failed to disclose the ground from which this vendetta sprang forth.
After two court appearances, Baba was ultimately granted bail, while the court asked the general audience to refrain from engaging in any verbal or physical activity that could be deemed as trying to influence the emotions of the court.
However, early this week, Yomi Fabiyi, who had decided to produce a film from the story, released his film entitled “Oko Iyabo.” Reports have it that Mr. Fabiyi distorted the true account of events and projected Baba Ijesha as the victim.
Once again, Nigerians took to various platforms to excoriate the actor for insensitively looking to score cheap points from a poor girl’s misery. Worst of all, he did it while presenting the innocent victim in a bad light.
However one chooses to parse the allegations levelled against Baba Ijesha, the sad reality is that there is no shred of justification for such an act, particularly given the fact that he had been doing it for an extended period of time without a single qualm. In the interest of having a society where vice is punished and virtue is duly extolled, the hope is that unvarnished justice is served when the curtain comes down on this intriguingly beguiling drama.
But then, in calling out Yomi Fabiyi for “clout-chasing,” a vast majority of social media commentators have committed the same crime themselves. Standing up for the poor victim in itself is an act of nobility. However, this victim is merely a spoke in the wheel of s_xual-related crimes, a vice which had established a firm grip of our national life.
In 2019, Nigeria’s Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, according to a report, said that two (2) million Nigerians are raped every year. This startling statistic implies that roughly 5,555 people find themselves on the wrong end of s_xual-related crimes in Nigeria everyday.
In 2015, UNICEF reported that one in four girls and one in ten boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. According to findings, most times, these acts of betrayal of trust are perpetrated mostly by close neighbours, uncles, pastors, imams, teachers, fathers, etc. In extreme cases, the victims – especially those who resist, lose their lives or are maimed for life.
It is needless, to say the least, that this societal menace, which has been on an upward surge in recent years requires collective efforts through mass campaigns to reduce its frequency to the barest minimum. What is counter-productive however, is a mere commentary for public approval.
Startlingly, most Nigerians who have since championed the cause for justice to be served in the Baba Ijesha case, if an award could be crafted for indecent public showing, would win it with theatrical and balletic grace. Some of them have children who have become Instagram sensations for promoting idiosyncrasies that offends the conscience. They are the ones leading the charge against rape. Define paradox!!
Sadly, most self-acclaimed change agents have slinked into an illusion of fighting for a cause by making “cameo” appearances and taking snapshots for public applause. This was the case during the #EndSARS protests last year where some individuals draped up to potentially volatile atmosphere such as a protest with designer outfits to make guest appearances and vanish into thin air.
In the fight against this social ill, the warriors have to be made to understand that real change can only be achieved by taking up the cudgels and staying the course until the narrative is changed. There can be no room for “cameo” appearances. There has to be a distinctively fine line between fighting for a cause and preening before the silvery lights of the camera.
If anyone is still in doubt as to the logical rectitude of this assertion, let us perhaps recall a piece of useful history.
On February 19, 2018 at 5:30 pm, 110 schoolgirls aged 11–19 years old were kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist group from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi, located in Bulabulin, Yunusari Local Government area of Yobe State.
Five schoolgirls died on the same day of their kidnapping, all others were released in March 2018 except the lone Christian girl Leah Sharibu who refused to abandon her faith and convert to Islam.
Following the refusal of the terrorists to release this brave little girl, the hashtag #FreeLeahSharibu rented the airwaves as Nigerians vociferously called for the unconditional release of the teenager.
The insurgents never budged, and Leah remained in captivity. Nevertheless, the dissenting voices had slowly retracted to business as usual, or perhaps moved on to chant the next trend. Sometime early this year, reports filtered in that Leah, who had been forced to marry one of the ring-leaders of the Islamist group, had given birth to a second baby in captivity. Suddenly, #FreeLeahSharibu movement was ressurrected, and the airwaves once again buzzed for her release.
Since murderous extremists do not exactly take instruction from a group of clamourers on social media, Leah Sharibu was not released this time either, but the buzz died anyway, the way trends do. Of course, if the media manages to pick up a thread on Leah’s agony at the hands of these mindless non-state actors, you expect that the #FreeLeahSharibu will suddenly come alive.
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But how about we trend #FreeLeahSharibu and breathe down the necks of those responsible for her safe release until Leah Sharibu regains freedom? Afterall, these individuals had sworn before God and man to protect her from the faceless monsters who robbed her of freedom. If they could muster the know-how to smoke out a secessionist leader on the run five thousand miles from home, freeing Leah Sharibu should be a walk in the park. How about we take up a cause conscentiously in the interest of mending the shreded fabric of our society?
Real change will begin when our fundamental essence abhors the vice we seek to stamp out of our society, not when we implicitly promote it. Today social media is awash with disquieting and frightening images of people, young and old, promoting such indecencies that contributes to the menace that has saturated our society. You don’t birth a monster, feed and norture it and then wake up to ask that same monster – who gave you your audacity?
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