By Constance Meju
The year 2020 was a trauma for Nigerian women. It was bloody, deadly and filled with reports of unimaginable violence breaking out globally against women and children and these fitted squarely with happenings on our own soil.
Husbands took out their frustrations on their wives and a few wives who had endured domestic abuses for too long found the serial lockdowns too discomfiting to accept continued violations from their spouses. The result was that reports began to emerge of wives tabbing their husbands to death and even girlfriends killing their unfaithful lovers with knives, etc., while women became on the general scene, targets for ritual killings. We have never been so vulnerable in our lives and it looks like no one is taking stock of our woes!
From the north, Katsina, Kaduna, Taraba states, reports on wives and girls being abducted, raped, dehumanized by bandits or terrorists while down south, Fulani herdsmen and cultists kept women away from their families as abduction and raping have become the order of the day even with our security operatives nearby.
A medical doctor told this publication that in Ogoniland, women and girls faced sexual abuses-women including, wives of prominent chiefs in the communities were being raped and their girls abducted for forceful sex with nothing being done to apprehend the violators. Societal stigma condemns victims to suffer in silence while offenders parade the streets and communities bloated in arrogance. People are afraid of the supposed might of the bad boys and possible attack speaking out can unleash. In the face of such dilemma what happens? The violators walk tall and unchallenged licensed to keep perpetuating evil, endangering more women and girls.
While fishing and farming are the main occupation of women in rural communities, the current state of insecurity in the country makes these occupations a danger and women constitute 70 per cent of the agricultural workforce in the country according to the United Nations, UN. Viewed against the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG Goal 2, End Hunger by2030, this translates into a very serious problem for Nigeria. Boko Haram beheaded over 90 farmers in Borno State late last year and all the explanation the federal government could offer was to blame the farmers for not obtaining permission to enter their farms. That, from a government sworn in to defend the Nigerian territory, the citizens and their properties! We were told later that the unfortunate men were spies against the interest of the insurgents.
And to national outcries as insecurity spreads, threatening the fabrics of our existence as a nation, all the Defense Headquarter could tell worried Nigerians is that only God can defeat Boko Haram and that the insurgents who demand millions from North East farmers to allow them access to harvest their produce, were paying to Boko Haram occupiers as far back as 2015. And President Buhari came on the wing of a promise to wipe out insurgency, and Nigerians believed him.
This presupposes that the Buhari government has no ideas or plans on how to mitigate the raging insecurity even though trillions of naira have been budgeted and expended to fight the scourge. Calls to disband his stale service chiefs to allow for people with fresh ideas to step in by the National Assembly and concerned Nigerians who should know, were for long, not listened to. As it is, Nigeria are now at the mercy of unlicensed gunbearers who snoop on citizens unannounced and have so far snuffed off thousands of lives.
Only recently a man beheaded a 17 years old girls in Bauchi state and another slit the throat of a 13 year-old girl for ritual purpose. A final year undergraduate of a university in Port Harcourt was in hospital battling for life after being shot by hoodlums who had robbed her but not satisfied, wanted to rape her. For struggling against being defiled after harassment, they put the gun on her. This happened two weekends ago. Another young woman of 30 narrated how she was accosted by two men who alighted from a motor bike and came straight to a spot of Ada George, Port Harcourt still, where she was taking shelter from the sudden rainfall that visited the city one Monday last January Acting fast on instinct, she dashed into the rain before they could perform their evil plan. However, another not so lucky woman was robbed and shot that same day, just a few hours later. It is obvious that more than ever before, w omen have become more vulnerable as violence lurks now not just within the homes, offices but also in the farm lands, waterways and even market places.
I was at an Etche market a few months ago about 4pm and anxiety was written all over the faces of the market women. On enquiry, I was told they were in a hurry to close shop as the ‘bad boys’, come around every evening to harass them; this is after collecting the early morning revenue/matching ground, call it whatever you please, levies. On the Bonny, Andoni, Opobo, Ibu Okpon, Oron, waterwap , the story is one, piracy, kidnapping, rapping.
Infact in one of the communities in Ibeno in AkwaIbom, a mother of three who went in search of food early in the morning during the COVID-19 lockdown was reported raped to death by alleged ‘uniformed men’. She was pregnant.
Imagine the anguish and the trauma for her mother who is left to now mourn the death of her daughter and fend from nothing, for the poor three children she has been forced, by a society that allowed violence to thrive, to look after even in old age.
Bonny youth and women were on the streets recently to demonstrate against the continuous and unchallenged killings by bandits even though we have military police and naval officers charged with the responsibility of keeping our waterways safe. The quit order to Fulani herdsmen from the Southwest has brought to the fore the magnitude of the security challenge in the country. The President has now been forced by unfolding circumstances to let go his service chiefs and admit before the new chiefs that all is not well. He told them the security situation is in a state of emergency.
Prof Ole Soyinka in a recent BBC interview called upon the president to openly condemn the activities of the rampaging herdsmen and take serious measures to restore sanity noting that inaction may lead to multifaceted crisis which might even lead to civil war.
The times are indeed sad but we can make things at least better for ourselves by deciding to act collectively. Women all over the country, in the states, communities should begin to raise their voices to tell and retell these stories of horrors and demand from our representatives at the local government level, state legislatives and executives offices, national legislatures and executive offices especially through the women ministers and state commissioners as well as law makers, demand positive action from government. Mental ill-health is already reported high in the country and this can only get worse as we keep quiet and face more abuse and violence. Let’s say ‘No’, name evil perpetrators and demand that the dictates of the Violence Against Peoples Prohibition Act (VAPP) be put to test to save women and the future wombs of this country, the girls.
Happy New Year, may your year produce positive and peace yielding results.