Guest ColumnistInside Nigeria

The Tragedy of The Nigerian Woman, By Comfort Obi

You will, please, excuse me if the title above does no justice to the subject matter here.  Getting a title was difficult for me. And that is because I am, at once, overwhelmed and dumbfounded by the subject.

I am not addicted to the social media, which explains why one is not likely to find me on most platforms. In my house, they call me old school. And my standard, if weak, response is: How did we survive before this “mad” era? Being old school can be comfortable in some circumstances.  Yet, there are times too, I had caught myself asking no one in particular: What could we have done or known without the social media?

The story which triggered this write-up is thanks to the social media. Accompanied by an outrageous video image, and, forwarded to me by an angry female High Court Judge, it is one the most nauseating images I have watched in all my adult life.

You know, some of these WhatsApp messages, even when they had been read before, have a way of resurfacing, to grab the headline. So, I will not be surprised if this absolutely revolting story and video had been seen by many much earlier than now.

Meaning, you may have seen it. But I just read the story a few days ago, and watched the nauseating video.  So, even if you had seen it, for the purpose of this write-up, a brief re-cap is necessary.

Entitled ‘To be forewarned is to be forearmed’, it has an ominous rider, ‘Sad But True’.

The hair-raising story and video came in form of an advisory from a travel agency, *Azariah Travel and Tours* which gave its WhatsApp/call number as *0705 508 3708.* It was meant to warn, especially, girls and young women of the dangers inherent in travelling to some countries. It listed the questions they should ask themselves before embarking on such trips. Such questions include, but not limited to:

“Why do I want to travel to Dubai or Abu Dhabi? How much is my flight ticket? What am I buying to sell? Shoes and clothes? What’s the profit margin? Where will I lodge? How much do I have?”

Nigerians returning from Libya, among them 11 pregnant women

The advisory calculated that it would cost such travellers between the sum of three thousand and five thousand US Dollars, each,  for such a trip. And the verdict: If you don’t have it, and cannot answer those questions appropriately, don’t dare. Why?

The Agency says your life might be in great danger. For, you may be heading to be a prostitute. But, that is even the mild aspect of it. You may be slept with in a most brutal manner. Still mild.  Here is the worse: You may be turned into a pit toilet, and your tongue, the equivalent of a toilet roll/tissue paper.

Why?

Some of the men there, very rich, very weird, hearts sold to the devil, are no longer satisfied with sleeping with the helpless/koboless girls and young women. They now derive joy in emptying their bowels, through the anus, by force, into the mouths of such girls and young women.  Thereafter,  they use their tongues as toilet roll to clean the men up. That was the story I read. And that was the video I watched.

In doubt? Azariah Travel and Tours felt we might be doubting Thomases. So, it backed the story up with the video of a young woman going through the ordeal. As I watched, I prayed to be woken up from the nightmare.

Feel like throwing up? Why not? My stomach churned, and I threw up after watching it. Bad for your appetite? Sure. For hours, I couldn’t even drink water. My tongue felt like it got stuck to the floor of my mouth.

Shocked? Sure. I was too, to the point of numbness.

Angry? Definitely. I was.  So much so it boiled to high heavens.  I was  suffocating in rage, almost. I was angry with my country, Nigeria. I was angry at a system which has made us loose our self esteem that our girls, future mothers and leaders, have been this debased, and reduced to this level of depravity.

It is the shame of a country. It is the tragic story of a country so debased it stinks.

I belong to one WhatsApp group created by one of the most responsible and serious-minded First Ladies any  Nigerian state could be blessed with.  She is on top of the game when it concerns women issues – health, personal hygiene, self esteem, education, ICT, financial independence, the girl-child education, and more. So, I posted the advisory and the haunting video to the platform. It triggered a storm.

Reactions came like claps of thunder. A number of those on the forum hit the roof. They were upset with me, for daring to post it, not with the tragedy that has become our lives. They dismissed the posting as disgusting and unfit for the platform. One said such materials should have no place on the platform. I disagree.

What better forum is there, than that,   for such posts which concern, deeply, the lives of girls and young women? One said  I had so spoilt her day that she might not be able to eat that day.  For just that day? Big deal. If not eating for one day would help save our daughters, and keep their self-esteem and dignity, why not?

I know I should not have, but in my utter surprise at their reaction,  I apologised to them for spoiling their day. For making them uncomfortable. But know what? They were in self-denial. Like an ostrich, they were hiding, while their torso was stuck-up for public view.  My conclusion:

They may not have understood, fully, the power of the forum they belong to. Or the seriousness of the post. Or, what damage the story, and the act have done to us as women, as mothers.  It stole our dignity.  It stole our self-esteem. It diminished us as women and, as human beings. And it stole our pride as a country.

This platform, to which I am proud to belong, is a movement to guide our young people. It should be, and it is, their moral compass. It is not for frivolous talks. It is not for show, or shaku-shaku. And, surely, a post that exposed the dehumanization  and the humiliation of our girls, and young women, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, cannot be dismissed as: no use. A post that seeks to educate our young ones on the dangers of some trips abroad  cannot be dismissed as not important. We should face our shame, and pull back. We should face it, headlong, and get back our dignity.

The good thing: the First Lady on whose behest the platform was set up, and a couple of others, hit the right cord. Their anger was not how their meals had been spoilt. It was what to do about a morally broken society. They were not in self denial. They accepted the ugly story and the disgusting video as the reality of a debased world and a deranged people. And, they put their thinking caps on.

Their concerns: What can we, as women, do to save our daughters and sisters? What can we do to enlighten them of the wickedness and dangers that lie ahead in such not very thought-out trips. What can Nigeria do, as a country, to stem this  shame that is fast engulfing our young girls and women? What can we do so they can keep their self-esteem and dignity?  What can we do to let them know that their future may well lie in their country, difficult as things are, and not in such countries? What can we do to give them hope? What can we do to create jobs for thousands of our youths who have lost hope in our country, and so, endanger their lives in foreign lands?

Azariah Travel and Tours revealed that some unscrupulous Travel and Tours Agencies are in connivance with cartels in those countries to debase our women and their counterparts  from a couple of African countries. Just for 250 US Dollars, the Agency reveals, they get them visas and promise them jobs and accommodation, and more. Not true. They give  them out for prostitution and other weird activities.

Relevant Nigerian authorities cannot feign ignorance of the offending video. It went viral. Question is: What steps have been taken to nab and investigate such Travel agencies? Azariah Travel and Tours, which blew the whistle, put its  phone number there. Which government official has called Azariah for more information and debriefing?

So what can be done?  We need a complete re-orientation programme for our girls and young women. A rebirth.  Incidentally, we have a National Orientation Agency which seems to exist only in name. There is no relevant and/or serious enlightenment of our youths that come from them. There is no engagement. Just nothing. And, do we still have a Ministry of Women Affairs? What’s The name of the Minister?

I know there is freedom of movement. But how come nobody is checking the movement of our girls and young women trooping to these countries?  What are the Immigration Service and other such relevant agencies doing? Who checks who at our airports and other borders?

In Kigali, Rwanda, young women are continuously profiled at the country’s international airport, and those of them with no satisfactory reason to travel out are stopped from their trips. Here is why:

The authorities allege that they embark on such trips for prostitution, you better believe this, to countries such as  Nigeria. One may accuse them of discrimination, by asking, what about the boys? Yes, but they are, at least, doing something to save their country’s image.

Here in Nigeria, we pursue rats while our house is on fire. Isn’t that why we are obsessed with embarrassingly  going after alleged prostitutes in Abuja,  while our girls pass through our noses to be debased outside our country? Isn’t that why we cannot differentiate between clubbing and prostitution? Isn’t it why we  are deliberately shutting down night clubs, just like the Kano state government, and its Hisbah (Sharia Police) are deliberately destroying people’s businesses by destroying thousands of beer bottles? Yet, Kano  shares in the VAT from that industry every month. Now, this same Kano state government says it will arrest anybody seen eating outside during the Ramadan fast. Does this include non-moslems too? What is our country descending to?

Meanwhile, those that are arresting the alleged prostitutes are doing so in an annoyingly,  discriminatory manner. They derive joy in parading the women. But, where are the men who patronise them? It takes two to tango. Those men are  prostitutes as well. Why arrest  women only?

For the records, those who arrest them, and rape them thereafter, are not only plying same trade, they are in addition,  rapists,  and should be treated as such. Rape is a crime like no other. It is a criminal violation of women.

From all angles, and everywhere, young Nigerians are under siege. In South Africa, they kill them while South Africans thrive here. In India, Libya, Malaysia, China and other such countries, they enslave them, and harvest their organs. Yet, their people thrive here. Indeed, in our own country, most Chinese and Indian companies treat Nigerians like slaves. They even boast about it. And our government and security agencies feign ignorance. They even do so in the presence of our security details attached to them, at ttimes, illegally.

But back to our girls and young women that are being debased in most horrifyingly manner in Dubai and other such countries. The time for action is now. It should start from our homes. Mothers should take the front seat. Ask your daughters questions. Talk to them. Yes, money matters, it is good. But let’s tell them that their dignity, self esteem, and lives are more important than money. They are a priority.  They don’t need to be reduced to pit toilets and toilet rolls for those who have sold their souls to the devil.

The government and all its relevant agencies should be at alert. They should embark on massive enlightenment programmes. Create jobs for our youths. Teach them that there is dignity in labour.

And, most important: Invite Azariah Travel and Tours to a session. De-brief them. You will learn more, especially, about the cartel involved in this hair-raising business.

Give us our pride back. Give us back our self esteem. Give us a sense of belonging.  And tell us that we matter. We deserve no less. Our girls and young women are our future. The would-be mothers of a new Nigeria. And should be protected.


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