“By doubting we come to question, and by questioning, we perceive the truth.”-(Peter Abelard, 1079-1142)
Perceptor won’t be so hard on our own media as to say that responses to gross abuses of human rights only come when they are shown on foreign television stations, but as with the assault by naval ratings on Ms. Okereke which was shown on CNN’s ‘I Report’ programme, it is surely only the fact that a documentary about how children are being accused of witchcraft in Akwa Ibom State was shown on Britain’s Channel 4 and CNN that has made our elected representatives sit up.
Perceptor notes however, that some of these abuses are taking place in the area covered by the constituency of Senator Eme Ufot Ekaette, MFR, Chair of the Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Social Welfare & Youth Development. It will be recalled that this disaster of an ‘elected representative’, whose sterling qualities seem to have become apparent only when viewed through the prism of the position that her husband occupied as the former Secretary to the Federal Government, devoted (and continues to devote) a great deal of time to trying to enact legislation that will allow policemen to assault women on the streets of Nigeria. This is only one of the aspects of this issue that raises some questions:
1. Why did the Distinguished Senator consider the question of how people choose to dress in a tropical country like Nigeria more important than addressing the nightmare taking place on her own doorstep?
Perceptor recognises that there isn’t really any acceptable answer to this. The problem of the children being abused because of false accusations of witchcraft was actually raised by many who could not understand the Distinguished Senator’s preoccupation with how people dress when there were such terrible crimes against humanity being committed against the young and defenceless. It couldn’t be that the Distinguished Senator didn’t bother herself with those victims because they were too young to vote could it? Perceptor notices that in defending her ridiculous Bill for an Act to Prohibit and Punish Public Nudity, Sexual Intimidation and Other related offences in Nigeria, the Distinguished Senator claimed “our children need this law” and that “generations yet unborn” would thank the Senate if it passed her nonsensical bill. What Perceptor cannot understand is why the Distinguished Senator was allowed to retain her position as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Women Affairs, Social Welfare & Youth Development then, or why she is allowed to retain it now.
2. In view of the premise of the Distinguished Senator’s Public Nudity Bill, that it is the victims of crimes who are to blame, should we be surprised that she didn’t consider that anything needed to be done about the ‘winch’ children?
The premise of the Public Nudity Bill is that the person who gets assaulted or raped is the one at fault because of their mode of dressing. Indeed, in opening the debate on the legislative idiocy, the Distinguished Senator complained:
Some of us who were Lectures know how many times we have been SEXUALLY SEDUCED BY OUR STUDENTS and MADE TO rubbish our hard earned reputations. (Emphasis added by Perceptor).
The Distinguished Senator’s language suggests that in her view, the perpetrator of the crime doesn’t have any choice about committing the crime, that he (or she) is ‘made to’ commit it by the victim. So it isn’t really surprising that the Distinguished Senator wasn’t that bothered about children accused of being witches. It wouldn’t occur to her that the people accusing them of being witches are the ones who need the attention of the criminal law, just as it didn’t occur to her that the ‘sexually seduced’ lecturers needed the attention of the criminal law. It’s the same thinking that allows the Akwa Ibom State Government to think that the problem is addressed by locking up the accused and maltreated children, under guise of ‘protective custody’, while the Witchfinders-General of Akwa Ibom State walk free, and profit mightily from their crimes. Perceptor recommends a closer study of the Distinguished Senator’s introduction of her ridiculous legislation. It is a study in illiteracy and superstition, which justifies all manner of idiocy under the laughable excuse that Nigeria is a nation ‘Under God’.
The Meaning of Words … SHRINE
At the grotesque display of opulence and plenty in the midst of the near collapse of the nation’s infrastructure that took place last week while the Peoples Democratic Party appropriated large quantities of the nation’s patrimony to build itself a national headquarters, President Umaru Yar’Adua declared that the new building would not only dominate the skies of Abuja, but that it would become a “shrine” for democracy in Nigeria. Well, it is true that a shrine might simply be a place that is holy or sacred. But if you build a shrine for something, it’s usually dead. Perceptor dares say that if the PDP erects a monstrosity as a tribute to its own vanity and determination to crush all opposition for the next sixty years, well it may as well indeed be a shrine for democracy. A shrine for something dead.
A Second Chance
The Human Rights community and several commentators are up in arms at the selection by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon of our former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, as his special envoy to make peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They complain that Obasanjo’s record in Nigeria makes him unsuitable for such a position. Perceptor does not agree with this position. Perceptor however, thinks that Obasanjo is exactly the right person for the job. A poacher turned gamekeeper is always better at preserving the pheasants! OBJ’s greatest sin in Nigeria was not that he did not know what was right. It was that he knew what was right, but did exactly the opposite at home. Also, OBJ has the right character for the job. He knows how to joke, bully, puncture false pretences and knock heads together. It is instructive that he went first to Angola, which was about sending troops to the DRC, thereby threatening an escalation and wider regionalisation of the conflict in eastern DRC. No doubt he went to call in some debts from those days in the 1970s, when Nigeria’s military dictators weighed in decisively on the side of the MPLA against UNITA. A major street in Luanda, the Angolan capital, is named after Murtala Mohammed in recognition of this role.
Obasanjo isn’t the only former dictator in demand as a peacemaker. Ibrahim Babangida is the preferred mediator for the contesting parties in Guinea Conakry. And can we forget the rapturous reception late Sanni Abacha received when he went to Freetown Sierra Leone? Remember the jokes about how Nigeria imported what it had plenty of (oil) but exported what it didn’t have (democracy)?
Ban Ki Moon, who has been described as ‘more Secretary than General’, has got the best man for the job. As for Obasanjo, having destroyed his chance of joining prestigious clubs of former heads of state with his ill-advised and ill-fated third term attempt, the DRC offers him a golden opportunity to rehabilitate his reputation.
Perceptor of course, will continue to ask questions because that is Perceptor’s nature. But after a visit to the National Planning Commission in Abuja, Perceptor begins to discern some answers to some of the questions that keep on coming up in this obodo country of ours, Nigeria.
One enters the building and signs in on the ground floor. So far so good. It’s true that the untidy nature of things on the ground floor, people loafing around with no clear sense of purpose doesn’t look very planned, but anyway, one is directed to the lifts. The plan seems to be that only one of them should be working, but it eventually arrives. One enters the lift, presses one’s chosen floor, the doors close, and …!!! Utter darkness! Apparently no plan to buy light bulbs for the lifts of the National Planning Commission. On the 5th floor, one sees that there is a receptionist’s desk, but it is hidden under a group of police orderlies, idling their time away waiting for the big man to appear. It is either that they didn’t plan a place for the Minister’s orderlies to wait in, or they didn’t plan to have an actual receptionist in the reception …
Clearly no floor plan for the haphazard arrangement of desks outside the Minister’s office either! A member of the Commission’s staff explains that they have just moved into the building. But does that explain the rubbish dump directly opposite the entrance to the National Planning Commission’s offices? No plan for garbage collection and disposal?
In any event, if a whole National Planning Commission can move into a new building with apparently no plan about how to occupy, run and maintain it, one can only be very afraid for the prospects of any plan that they might be hatching for the progress of the nation …