The lauded violence that herald military intervention in Nigerian politics and remained the cachet of military rule glamorized violence and brutalized the Nigerian psyche; Nigerians became very violent.
This societal violence continues to play out in different forms, including rape. In response to the increasing incidence of rape, the Lagos State government recently advocated life imprisonment for convicted rapists and pedophiles. And the National Conference – that gathering of the cream of the Nigerian society – polymaths, thinkers and others that have distinguished themselves across the entire spectrum of the Nigerian social life – wants the death penalty for rapists. Death penalty for convicted rapists will be novel and extremely controversial because the generality of Nigerians do not consider rape a crime heinous enough to deserve the death sentence. The only country, I know, where rape is punished by death (that is, if that law is still in effect) is the Philippines.
Even in Western countries, like the United States of America, where the laws are so much in favor of women, convicted rapists are not punished by death. While some Nigerians, especially, women and women groups will be thrilled by the proposed law, many, mostly, men will be appalled by it. It is important to note that apart from the act of a man having sexual intercourse with a woman against her will, the dictionary definition of rape, includes to plunder (a city, nation or people), and gross violation. Therefore, all those who plunder the country’s natural resources, loot the public treasury and grossly violate the public trust reposed in their offices are rapists. So, there are rapists among the “big men” whose siren blaring motorcades unnerve and intimidate us and get us scampering off the road in fear of being harassed, and possibly, beaten up by their security details. And there are rapists within the ranks of the members of the same National Conference seeking death penalty for rapists.
Both the upper and lower houses of the national assembly are citadels of rapists because what goes on in there is piratical depredation of the national wealth. With a veneer of legitimacy, they rape the country by clinging to remunerations and perks of office that makes them the highest paid legislators in the world. The income per capita in the United States of America is about 20 times that of Nigeria. It is therefore conscienceless despoliation of public funds for Nigerian legislators to earn 10 times as much as the American legislators.
Nigeria is a country with the social indexes of the poorest countries of the world and where an estimated 2,740 infants die daily from malnutrition. Consequently, it is nauseating that Nigerian legislators, individually, earn more than the president of the wealthiest country in the world, United States of America. That woman that had no compunction in splurging public funds to the tune of N10bn for her personal air travels and that is, in her shamelessness, remorselessness and lawlessness, evading the probe into that her impudent extravagance is a rapist. The Nigerian political class is teeming with rapists and the presidency and the National Executive Council are studded with rapists. Illegal oil bunkers and their accomplices and protectors at the presidency and the highest echelon of the armed forces are rapists. The Nigerian president has demonstrated a penchant for dallying with rapists. He hobnobs with them and pardons them. Among others, he pardoned a rapist - former governor of Bayelsa State convicted of plundering the state coffers and gross violation of the oath of his office. He also absolved from prosecution an alleged rapist – an aspiring governor of Kano State for his suspected theft of about N446bn of the people’s money.
The proposed law will be quite draconic but may not be grossly unfair, if all rapists are subject to the same severe punishment.Death sentence for rapists, especially elitist rapists, will be splendid, as it will decimate the ranks of the evil oligarchy that run this country and loosen their stranglehold on the country. It is refreshing to imagine the sanitizing effects it will have on the Nigeria political class and political process. It will be magnificent for accountability in Nigeria public life because it will force elected and appointed public officials to rise to the responsibilities of their office and stop their relentless rape of the people. But, as has been the case, the power elite, for selfish reasons will continue to narrow the definition of rape and target only sexual related rapes for punishment. As such, the prospective death sentence for rapists will be visited mostly on the poor whose social environment – poverty, unemployment, idleness, overcrowding and ignorance – fester rape, the violation of women. It will punish by death a rapist that violated a woman but pardon the one that violated an entire state, country or people. In that case, the new law will just be an addition an already crooked legal system that jails a petty thief for stealing a television and then exculpates an elite thief that stole billions of naira.
The object of the national conference is to make recommendations that will transform Nigeria from a moribund, dysfunctional and retrograde entity to a functional and progressive democracy. Inherent in this responsibility should be to recommend reforms that will make Nigerian law truly the law. The symbol of justice is a blind woman with a sword and a scale. The law must be blind, that is, indifferent to position, class, income, pedigree, etc, and thus, absolutely impartial. As presently constituted, the Nigerian law is not blind. It is discriminatory; sensitive to wealth, family connections, power, influence, etc. In the very strict sense, it is not the law but an unjust system that is, in many ways, oppressive to the poor and weak.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria. Contact him at [email protected], 0803 529 2908.