Justice is many times such a paradox of redemption for the offender and relief for the victim.
Laws seem designed many times, to punish, maybe sometimes even rehabilitate the offender. The victim is usually left alone, lonely, in fact expected to go home and live happily ever after, satisfied that the law has given them ‘justice’.
Not many times do you find a deeply considered and profound consideration of the victim. Where there is, it is essentially tokenish, barely scratching the surface of the deep injury. The physically injured may be awarded just enough to help reduce the cost of healing. Where they are permanently injured, we must ask if they are also permanently taken care of. A few measly millions that will last only a little part of their psychological beating down, paid to a man or woman in their prime for a permanent physical injury, in my view, can hardly be called justice for an individual that is left to deal with the harvest of pain-physical, psychological, emotional, even when the offender has been punished.
Surely, that cannot be justice. The remedy can only be that anyone in a position to cause any kind of injury to another must be bound by the most stringent laws to take extra caution not to ever give expression to such powers, allow that power to run amok or maliciously deploy them and the most comprehensive compensation becomes the minimum, understanding that incarceration alone or financial awards will not ever recover fully to them, their dignity,
It is in this light that we must interrogate the sex-for-marks events that seem to have quickly developed into a brash culture in our educational institutions where authority has become equal to impunity. They are events because they arrest our attention. But they are not new. From secondary schools to doctoral levels. The difference is just that now, we have social media and where the children had been afraid, social media and the support that usually accompany them have given more of them courage to speak up, even if the totally unaffected and insulated few judge them.
We read with rapt attention, the story of the young lady in the Department of Theater and Media Arts of the Federal University, Oye Ekiti, who was taken advantage of by her lecturer, an Associate Professor in the Department who, from what I gather, having pestered the girl for sex many times, schemed to have assessment of her final project transferred to him just so he could have a stronger hold on her.
Of course, he promptly threatened her with failure if she did not accede to his demands. Nothing the poor girl did to dissuade or evade him worked.
Now, I must say something about the girl here. My investigation revealed that her parents are separated and she lives with her very poor mother who can just barely manage to support her in school. They are so poor that her younger brother has had to stay at home, waiting for her to finish so he too can enter school while she would start work to support them. To give her mother relief, she would usually travel to Ado-Ekiti to work, sometimes as a street dancer and hawker for brands. She used that sustain herself, her brother and relieve her poor mother.
She could not wait to leave school, serve the mandatory NYSC and start work to give better life to her mother and her family.
So what does the Associate Professor who had charge to teach, mentor and protect the young lady do to get his way with her?
He deliberately delayed her, approving only the first three chapters of her final project, refusing to approve the fourth and fifth chapters of her long essay. This deliberate and devious foot-dragging by the lecturer went on till the External Examiner came. Her mates defended theirs and were appropriately graded. She could not be graded because her lecturer had, with ill-intent, delayed hers and made sure she did not get past the first three chapters.
By university rules, this meant an automatic extra year through no fault of hers. She went to see him and under duress, agreed to sleep with him, if it meant that she would be able to graduate.
It was only then, after sleeping with her at least twice, even as the poor girl cried, that he approved the two remaining chapters of her long essay, knowing it was already too late to have any effect and then told her to go and pay her fees and register for the new session!
He failed the girl in the perverted aspiration that he would be able to further abuse the girl. He wanted her at his mercy for all of another year.
That whole year had been wasted just because she would not give in to his advances for sex.
Under interrogation, I hear, the Associate Professor first insisted that he did not ever have sex with her but the second time he appeared before the investigation panel, a particular witness reminded him that he boasted that he did sleep with the girl but she was not even ‘sweet’ and that he even saw a scar on her thigh that was some sort of turn-off. The same witness, also a student, asserted that he was made to pay for the hotel room on one or more occasions when he slept with the girl against her will. The lecturer however,changed his story, arguing that he did not force her and that they had a long-standing affair, so, he assumed that the sex would be a normal part of their affair. Of course, the girl denied it. They never had any relationship of a free will. Under the weight of evidence, the man wept and begged for forgiveness.
It may still not be too late to rescue him from the most severe punishment if the efforts that his friends are making yield the fruits they hope for.
But it may be too late for the girl. Now, she will have to repeat her final year. She is totally distraught, she is damaged, mentally, emotionally. Her self-esteem destroyed because she has now suddenly become the object of school-wide conversation and public discussion, victim of the ruthless rumor mill.
Of course, when the matter started to hit the press, the Vice Chancellor, a man of action and little tolerance for anything that would dent the school’s image, I am told, swung into action.
They investigated, confirmed the truth and the Associate Professor has been suspended, I suppose as University rules prescribe pending confirmation of his sack, if the school so recommends to the Council.
I honestly hope it is the minimum that is recommended.
So here is a recap of the basic details of the temporary resolution – The school has suspended the lecturer, the girl is re-sitting her entire final year, one year behind her mates, paying a price for something she should be compensated for and no one is certain what the final fate of the lecturer will be, considering that there are frenetic moves and alignment of forces within the university and outside to find a soft landing for him.
Meanwhile, her brother will have to wait yet another year and her mother will have to endure just another twelve months of waiting for the first fruits of her labor on her child to mature.
Whatever they do to the Associate Professor at this point, I think the focus should shift to the young lady and we should ask certain questions:
Having found this man guilty, a feat, considering his immense power and connection, will the university take responsibility and reassign the lady’s papers to a fairer, neutral lecturer for assessment?
If found to be up to par and should have been so graded if the lecturer had not frustrated it, will the university be willing to graduate the lady in extraordinary circumstances seeing that it is responsible for its own staff who by extension has responsibility for the students and any infraction by the staff is assumed to be an infraction by the school?
Will justice be seen to have been truly served and the victim sufficiently compensated if this man is punished to the fullest extent? For how much longer will the young lady live with the raw social, mental, emotional, psychological injury inflicted by the lecturer and the school that dropped its vigilance?
I understand that FIDA in Ekiti State is keeping an eye on the case, but even if the case gets to court and the man is jailed or punished in any other way, would it make the lady feel better and heal her wounds?
Will this man be allowed to sneak his career into another university, public or private, in his state or at the Federal level, if his punishment recommends a sack?
The educational and legal systems need to work more closely together. There should be more practical support structures that not only focus on helping victims but need to relocate into those places where they are most needed, actively working to engage students and staff in a preventative manner, setting up deterrents that dissuade abuse and quickly arrests them if they occur.
They are usually irreparable damages if they are allowed to happen. Even justice, our kind of justice, cannot heal the injury they leave behind.
Bimbo Manuel, June 6, 2021