As we sail with fear and anxiety into 2021, we still have many other existential issues that are demanding our attention whether we like it or not. There will be many cases that will require thorough and robust interrogations especially in Nigeria where everything goes. We must recapture a bit of moral sanity from the total banalisation of the social, political and cultural space called Nigeria. Moral discourse has become rather like playing football. Those who are courageous enough to hold offenders to account are bowdlerized into silence through intimidation and inducement.
My first neurosis in the year 2021 is the alleged sexual harassment involving the Ogun State Commissioner for the Environment, Abiodun Abdul-Balogun. It was alleged that this man, through his aides, persuaded, cajoled and literally kidnapped a 16-year-old Barakat Mayowa Melojuekun into his house for a sexual encounter. The demon in Mr. Abdul-Balogun likes lusting after minor.
He likes oppressing younger, powerless and vulnerable kids in and around his sphere of influence of Abeokuta. This man cares no hoot for retribution. He knows how to wriggle out of any scandal. Barakat was a target and he relentlessly pursued this minor until submission.
Barakat is a secondary school girl in SS3. Innocent, vivacious, bright and IT-literate. On 29 December, 2020, she was waiting at Idi-Ade Motorcycle Park in Ogun Waterside Local Government area when Commissioner Abiodun Abdul-Balogun honed on her from his car. She was on her way to do the NIN registration. Predators are always stubborn and surreptitious. What followed was a campaign of relentless pressures through aides and Barakat’s uncle to get the poor girl unto a futon or four poster bed for an illicit and criminal union with a minor.
It was reported: “Mr Abdul-Balogun stopped and offered her a lift but she rejected the offer. It was also alleged that she turned down his request for her phone number. “I didn’t know that he was commissioner. He said he knew me but I said I hadn’t met him before.”
Miss Melojuekun said after she left, Mr Abdul-Balogun got her telephone number from her friend who had been with her.
“My friend whom he pressured after I left the park sent my number to him. While at the NIMC registration centre, somebody called me and introduced himself as an aide to the commissioner. He said his boss wanted to see me but I told him I was busy trying to register for the NIN.” Further, she said that an aide called her again at night and told her the commissioner would love to host her in his residence the following day, December 30, 2020 but she declined the invitation.
This subtle, manipulative and outright utilization of power on the powerless is a poster image of our rascally and immoral public office holders. Human rabbits with insatiable sexual appetites are the currency of the time in our corridors of power and air-conditioned board rooms across Nigeria. Bosses with power, prestige, influence and money deploy intimidation, harassment, pressure and outright manipulation to effect felonious offence while we all look away.
This unfolding intrigue has a family member called Lasisi in the web of this tale of sexual immorality. Mr. Lasisi is an uncle to Barakat. He is popular, a fixer and a starry eyed admirer of the pervert in question. Fixers are known to be blind to morality. They could sell their family for money and influence. Mr. Lasisi, Barakat’s uncle who is meant to protect and shield her away from prying perverted eyes, was the bridge builder who delivered poor Barakat to the silly and fantasist commissioner dying to bed a minor.
“By the time I got inside, I saw someone who claimed to be the aide of the commissioner who had been calling me. He said I should follow him to where the computer was and I did.” She said he instead took her to Mr Abdul-Balogun’s bedroom. “Immediately the commissioner came into the room, his aide left and he locked the door and kept the key in his pocket. He asked for my school and class and I told him I am in SS3. The commissioner then asked if I was interested in any business and I said no. He asked if I have New Year clothes and I said yes. He kept asking me what I needed and I told him nothing. He asked if I would collect a cash gift from him and I said I would. He then started pushing me onto the bed and pressing my breasts while chanting incantations. So I started shouting on top of my voice.”
She said the commissioner became afraid that the people downstairs in his house for a political meeting would hear her scream, so he left her. “He jumped off me and brought out the key from his pocket. He offered me N2, 000 but I rejected it. He locked the door again and threatened not to let me go until I collected the money. I collected it and he pushed me out of the room.”
In our society, we have thrown so much omerta (silence) around sexual abuse especially when the perpetrators are politicians, privileged, powerful, prominent, and persecutory. With our acquiescent, we have seen so many lost adolescent virginities in the hands of these perverts that could bring tears to the eyes. Therefore, Barakat’s pedestrian case should serve as a moralising metaphor for the reawakening of public appetite for more civic engagement with sexual harassment and its traumatic experiences on the victims, either male or female.
Abdul-Balogun like all predators, saw a vulnerability he could exploit. So, in the depthless shallowness of his dirty mind, he began to feed his lustful imagination with the splayed naked body of a child on a four poster bed. Like Ms Joi Nunieh, in Godswill Akpabio’s sexual harassment saga, Barakat too seemed to have borrowed that famous line. “You don’t mess with a waterside girl.” Barakat Melojuekun had to resort to the social media to name and shame a libidinous pervert let loose around Ogun waterside. The viral video caused so much anger and moral revulsion from the ranks of illiterates to the learned.
The Governor, Dapo Abiodun, swung into action and suspended Mr Abdul-Balogun. Police also swung into action and promised to open a case file. While we all slept, enemies of justice and public morality also swung into action. As I observed elsewhere, I have to restate here that discourse around sexual harassment is often enacted as firewall for the status quo, no matter the evidence, in our society. Sexual harassment is rampant in our society, in both intersecting and contradictory ways and it creates anger, tension and fear. It is a public health crisis in Nigeria. However, in Nigeria, nothing safeguards an elitist sexual offender from persecution than proximity to power.
That power play was evident when on January 4, 2021, Mr. Adesola Melojuekun, the father of Barakat, posted a grovelling video asking that the case be banished and buried away citing few “misconceptions” and “misunderstanding” between the commissioner and her daughter. “As a father to Barakat Melojuekun, I am using this opportunity as well to appeal to Nigerians and the international community and the media too that I don’t have interest in this matter.” Ditto for the victim, Ms Barakat Melojuekun, who posted a recantation video pleading for the case to be axed?
What is unravelling is a pure criminal case of perjury. Intimidation and monetary inducement are at work in this case. I have no time for a father like Mr Adesola Melojuekun who publicly exhibited moral obloquy in exchange for financial settlement and other unknown promises. The case must go on and whatever were sown in the lives of father and daughter by Mr Abiodun Abdul-Balogun must be unearth for the world to see.
In the immortal and assuring words of Mr Abimbola Oyeyemi, the Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer: “We are still investigating the sexual harassment allegation against the Ogun State Commissioner for Environment and the case has been transferred to the state Criminal Investigation Department. Whether the girl and her father are interested in the case or not is not our own business. It is not their own prerogative to say they are not interested. The father has no right to withdraw the case because he is not the direct victim. The victim herself is not capable of withdrawing the case. Either they are interested or not, the police must get to the root of the matter.”
With such flowing rivulet of viral social media of the incident from Barakat, this sexual harassment incident must not die to intimidation, inducement and proximity to power.
Happy New Year!!!