By Douglas Anele
About three years ago, if I am not mistaken, former President Goodluck Jonathan announced the intention of his government to change the name of the great University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University as a mark of honour for late Chief M.K.O. Abiola. Although some diehard supporters of the late politician welcomed Jonathan’s announcement as a posthumous official recognition well deserved by Abiola, most staff, students and alumni of the university condemned the decision.
I was one of those who protested against the proposed name change for several reasons. My fundamental argument was that the University of Lagos (or Unilag) is an established brand both in Nigeria and beyond. Therefore, the change of name proposed by the former President would be detrimental to the brand value of the institution that has been built over the decades, which makes it the primus inter pares among Nigerian universities. Consistent brand loyalty matters a lot: it encapsulates the uniqueness and best selling points of that which an established brand like Unilag represents.
The negative response of stakeholders to the proposed change was so overwhelming that the federal government had to drop the idea – and all the controversy it generated eventually dissipated. Since then, despite some occasional hiccups due largely to the inclement environment in which the university operates, the institution’s management team, led by the urbane hard working Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rahamon A. Bello, has been unrelenting in its efforts to improve teaching, learning, and facilities throughout the campus. The welfare of staff and students, in addition to the maintenance of peace and security within the university community, is also receiving attention from the university authorities.
The relative calm and tranquillity of the university was recently disrupted by certain events which have been deliberately exaggerated and distorted by a section of the media, especially the ubiquitous and often irritating social media. The incidents include protests by disgruntled parents and candidates seeking admission into undergraduate programmes of the university triggered by rumours about high cut-off marks, disruptions by non-academic unions over Earned Allowances that the university management had purportedly refused to pay to their members, alleged rape of an eighteen year old female admission seeker by a certain Mr. Afeez Akinfolarin Baruwa, the accidental electrocution of an Accounting undergraduate, Miss Oluchi Anekwe, and protests by students living in the hostels because of bedbugs in their mattresses. We can conveniently ignore the protests concerning cut-off marks and Earned Allowances because they were based on misinformation and desperation. The others raise serious issues that must be examined critically by all stakeholders in the university, especially students, lecturers, the management, parents, guardians and the federal government.
The first incident we shall discuss is the reported rape of a female admission seeker by Mr. Baruwa on July 23, 2015 in Faculty of Business Administration (Annex) Room 8. Unfortunately, the matter was blown out of proportion by the media because oftentimes journalists sensationalise events to boost patronage of the media outfits they are working for. Indeed, the wild hyperbolic stories in the social media could have done serious damage to the reputation of my great alma mater were it not for the fact that that reputation was built on solid foundation. For example, it was alleged that Mr. Baruwa is a lecturer in the Department of Accounting and that sexual harassment of female students is rampant in the university. Of course, for those who derive neurotic satisfaction in sensationalism, it is unnecessary to wait for the outcome of thorough investigation that would separate facts from fiction before reaching negative conclusions.
But instead of making hasty statements on the Baruwa case that might eventually prove to be inaccurate, as some impatient journalists would have wanted, the university, as an institution that values its reputation and the need for justice to all, instituted a three-member panel comprising the Dean of Student Affairs and two Associate Professors (a female and male) to look into the matter. The panel established that Mr. Baruwa never lectured in the Accounting department or in any other department in the Faculty of Business Administration. Rather, he was a student of the Distance Learning Institute (DLI), Unilag, where he got his first degree; he later earned an M.Sc in Marketing. Subsequently, he was engaged by the DLI as a project supervisor and invigilator for its residential programme in the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 academic sessions.
Mr. Baruwa, according to those who have met him personally, looks cool and calm, someone who cannot hurt a fly, not to talk of raping someone – if, indeed, he actually committed the crime. Of course, appearance can be deceptive; a wolf sometimes camouflages its true colour with sheep’s clothing. Interestingly, Baruwa is not a stranger to the family of the girl he allegedly raped: in fact, there is information that he brought her to campus that day from Iyana Ipaja.
I know the university does not tolerate sexual harassment in any form at all. That is why the management has put measures in place to curb the menace. These include educative and informative programmes to sensitise students on issues relating to sexual harassment, love, life and sex; a proactive Counselling Unit which relates with students on issues of serious concern to them; widespread opportunities and avenues for students to drop their complaints without necessarily revealing their identities; and stiff penalties for anyone found guilty of sexual misconduct. Because of the university’s zero-tolerance for sexual harassment or sexual violence in whatever form, some members of staff found guilty of these offences have been dismissed from the university.
On the specific case of Mr. Baruwa, the university’s legal team is following up on the case to ensure that justice is meted out appropriately, while management will commence disciplinary action against Dr. Oluwatunji Dakare, the lecturer in whose office the alleged rape took place. The Vice-Chancellor and his team must be commended for their proactive unrelenting efforts to rid the university of sexual predators and monsters. From what I know, University of Lagos has one of the lowest rates of sexual misconduct among universities in Nigeria, despite its sizeable demography and cosmopolitan location that makes it the cynosure of all eyes, including the good, the bad, and the downright despicable.
Rape and other forms of sexual misbehaviour and violence are global phenomena that must be confronted head-on by civilised human beings everywhere. Unfortunately, in religion-intoxicated societies like Nigeria, the problem is usually looked at principally from an unscientific religious point of view. To really understand and effectively tackle sexual aberration of any kind, it is futile to consult The Bible, The Koran or any other religious text because the scriptures contain superstitious unscientific worldviews and prescriptions of ancient peoples that engender pseudo or phantom solutions to human existential problems. Moreover, the psychological taproot of rape and other warped expressions of human sexuality are largely traceable to the antiquated, unhealthy, silly, love-destroying ideas about, and attitudes towards, human sexuality fostered by religion. Mystification and sacramentalisation of sex, together with taboo morality and artificial ignorance regarding sexuality in its various manifestations encouraged by parents and self-styled “guardians of morals,” tend to produce in children grotesque and indecent attitude towards sex. I pity Baruwa and especially the girl he allegedly violated sexually because both of them are, in different ways, victims of bad psychology and epistemology of sex which dominate the entire social structure of our society.
To be continued…