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Mothers, tell your boys

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It seems Nigeria is finally catching up with the #metoo movement which kicked off in the United States in late 2017 in response to accusations of sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry.

Photographer Busola Dakolo, the wife of a popular Nigerian singer, lit the fire last week when she said in an interview that pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo, the head of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) in Abuja, had raped her when she was a teenager.

The story caught the public attention and people responded with outrage on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtags #MeToo, #ChurchToo and #SayNoToRape – in what could potentially be Nigeria’s first social movement against rape. Then came the story of Senator Elisha Abbo, representing Adamawa North Senatorial District, who in the presence of the Nigerian police, assaulted a saleswoman and ordered his security detail to beat her up over.

All the while, a man identified as Idris Ebiloma, who allegedly raped a 4-year-old girl in Abuja three years ago, was due to walk free on Friday. While I feel for the victims of these abuses, I am also hopeful that perhaps finally things are changing in Nigeria. And while women are still too scared to speak up about their experiences of abuse or rape, as people, we have much more courage to call out unacceptable behaviour against women, whether it is sexual assault or violence.

And while it is encouraging that the #metoo and #timesup movements have finally reached Nigerian shores, there’s still a long, steep journey ahead. In an interview with The Guardian in October 2018, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie slammed the tendency not to believe victims of such assaults thus:

“We seem to live in a world where many people believe large numbers of women can simply wake up one day and make up stories about having been assaulted. I know many women who want to be famous. I don’t know one single woman who wants to be famous for having been assaulted.”

Sad to see the attitude Adichie criticised just months ago rear its ugly head on social media since last week, especially perpetrated by women in defence of Pastor Fatoyinbo. As many social media posts I’ve seen commending Busola Dakolo on her bravery, I’ve seen those who also call her a liar who wants to tarnish the name of a ‘man of God’ – many shared by women.

Such women and those men they enable, alongside men who stand by and cover up for them, who deserve to be in the lowest circle of hell, are the very reason Nigeria has a long, steep road ahead. And it begins with women. It always begins with women, and then men who uphold, cherish, honour and respect them. For it’s women who carry and born our boys, feed them, nurture them, raise them into men – or monsters…

We focus so much on how to raise our daughters in an ever-dangerous world that’s ready to pounce and prey on their youth, naiveté and femininity that we forget we need to raise our boys with just as much care, if not more. It is in our power whether they grow up into loving, respectful men or bestial brutes.

It’s our job as parents, especially mothers, to teach our sons…
A woman is somebody, not just any body to be taken.
To earn the respect and love of a woman, not to demand or forcefully take it.
To understand that no means no.
That violence does not make a man.
To never even dream of raising a hand to a woman.

That the extra pound of flesh dangling between their legs does not make them superior in physique or intelligence to women. That no amount of money, or number of luxury cars or super yachts or status in church or politics can entitle them to vile behaviour.

To think of their mother, sister, daughter first before they entertain forcing themselves on a woman.That being a real man is more about the brain than the brawn.

That a woman needs to be lifted, honoured, cherished; not used, abused and discarded as trash. That sex is most satisfying – unless they are mentally sick – between two consenting adults in throes of passion, not when they rub one out on a helpless victim who’s pinned down against her will.

That enabling bad behaviour in another man is becoming an accomplice to that behaviour. That calling out bad behaviour where it is due is their duty to women and their fellow upstanding peers.And if there comes a time when they are called to speak out against such, that they will find all the courage in themselves to stand up to masculine entitlement and speak the truth, for they were raised right.


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