By Jude Atupulazi
Last Monday, a Federal High Court sitting in Osun State sentenced Mr Richard Akindele to two years imprisonment after being found guilty of sexually harassing a female student of Obafemi Awolowo University, Monica Osagie. Akindele was a lecturer there before he was sacked over same issue.
Akindele’s saga with the said female student had been widely celebrated in Nigeria when the news first evolved. Nigerians heard and read how the lecturer had threatened to fail the female student unless she slept with him. Yet after sleeping with her, the student failed his course. When she came to find out why, he asked her to sleep with him again.
The student agreed and eventually invited the randy lecturer to her apartment in town. Unknown to the lecturer, however, Monica had arranged with some of her fellow students to deal with the lecturer.
Come the day, the lecturer came as planned. The girl played along, only to trap the lecturer when he removed his dress in her room. With the help of her fellow students who were in the know of the deal, they took photographs of the lecturer after making him sign a cheque. The video clips went viral, attracting the attention of the OAU authorities who eventually terminated his appointment.
In delivering her judgement last Monday on the case, the trial judge, Mrs. Maureen Onyekenu, ordered that the lecturer should serve his sentence in Ilesa Prisons owing to the magnitude of his offence, which, she noted, was prevalent in the country.
While rejecting the suspended sentence and plea bargain of the lecturer, the judge said that someone must be used as a scapegoat if the issue of sexual harassment in schools must stop.
The lecturer, prior to his conviction, had changed his not guilty plea to guilty.
Now, I’m sure many Nigerians whose wards have been subjected to the ordeal of the female student in the above saga, must be celebrating the conviction of the randy lecturer. I’m celebrating it too. The reason for this isn’t far-fetched. Our tertiary institutions have been turned into a market place of sex, extortion and bribery. Female students are forced by lecturers to sleep with them or fail their (lecturers’ courses). Male students are forced to pay their way through. Others also bribe to get marks.
The situation on our campuses is such that lecturers brazenly demand money from students for such things as passing exams, marking their papers, endorsing project topics, as well as supervising such projects. The name for this is ”sorting”.
They also force students to buy their textbooks and pay for their comfort. Yes, paying for their comfort. A lecturer was reported to have asked the students to provide a generator for him to be used in his office as it was too hot for him to work.
The rule these days on campuses is that if you play ball, you pass; if you don’t you see hell. Although many institutions make a show of asking victimized students to complain to the authorities, those who obey enter into more trouble as their identities are often made known to those lecturers.
The truth is that these lecturers have formed cartels in their institutions, such that the managements of their schools either are powerless to stop them or are compromised; hence the continued rape of education in our schools.
This phenomenon has diminished education and it is no surprise that today, the average lecturer is concerned only about how to fleece students, while the average student is looking for ways of raising money to bribe lecturers or sleep with them.
Is it any wonder that today, you can hardly see lecturers who can make two sentences without committing grammatical blunders? Gone are the days when university lecturers were respected for their knowledge. When you listened to them in those days, you saw people that knew their onions, you saw people who seemed born to teach. Not anymore today when Vice Chancellors make their cronies professors. Indeed, I’m no more in awe of anyone’s educational qualifications in today’s Nigeria as more often than not, such were obtained falsely or dubiously. What, indeed, can I be taught by such lecturers?
The products that pass through such lecturers are also poor. How can they not be when they know they can bribe their way to degrees?
Mr Akindele may have been found out and punished but it was probably because his employers felt embarrassed by the barrage of criticisms trailing the release of the video. Perhaps if the female student had quietly gone to complain in-house, as the students are encouraged to do, the matter would have been swept under the carpet and the student even punished if she’d taken it further.
There are still legions of Akindeles out there in our tertiary institutions. Akindele’s crime was being caught; the others have not, so they remain where they are and continue to extort and take advantage of students.
The worrying thing is that these things highlighted above happen in every school, except, perhaps, those owned by missions.
It is bad enough to demand and take money from students or to sleep with them for marks. It is even worse to victimize students for failing to gratify lecturers.
It is criminal to deny any student their due simply because they did not sleep with a particular lecturer or buy their textbooks.
It is no secret that lecturers often brag and threaten particular students thus, ”Let me see how you will graduate from this school!” This threat is usually given to students who are reluctant to play ball. Sadly, these lecturers often have their way as such targeted students are frustrated until they finally ”play ball”. By then, the lecturers may the demand double of what they initially ”charged”.
I’ve heard about a bereaved lecturer in a state owned institution here who forced students to pay for the mourning cloth of the said lecturer, even if they won’t wear it. Names of all those who paid were taken and the reason was clear: to know those who did not pay. Those ones would be victimized, of course, in one way or the other.
Indeed, the impunity and brazen manner in which these lecturers do their evil acts show that the authorities of such schools are well aware of what they do. Lecturing these days has indeed become a booming business.
What must we do to stop this? First, the authorities of each school should sincerely decide to fight this anomaly. If they continue paying lip service to it, then it is a waste of time for anyone hoping to see the end of such. The authorities must protect the identities of victims who report such lecturers. This is the only way that victims can be encouraged to come forward to report.
Then, cases reported must be fully and honestly investigated and if any one lecturer is found guilty, such lecturer must be sacked and prosecuted.
Alternatively, where the school is reluctant to stop this, their owners, state of federal government, should set up a committee to look into such incidents when reported to them. If it is discovered that the Vice Chancellor is aware of what is going on and doing nothing, such a VC should be relieved of their position.
These suggestions may appear too harsh but the harm being done to education by condoning such lecturers’ actions is far worse. I shudder to contemplate a future managed by products of such a system. Apart from being half baked, they are likely to replicate what they experienced and thus continue the chain wherever they find themselves.
I’m worried that once the generation of old lecturers that taught in my era is gone, education may finally collapse. Like the government of Buhari is fighting corruption in Nigeria, ”sorting” must also be fought, even more aggressively, as education is the foundation of our tomorrow.
Lecturers involved in this shameful behavior must be exposed, tried and convicted. There should be no half measures. I even encourage students to set good traps for such lecturers so that they will be caught like Mr Akindele and disgraced.
Tertiary institutions should really be citadels of learning, places where our future as a country is positively shaped; not a breeding place for future crooks and whores. This phenomenon must be fought against with all we’ve got. It’s a war everyone should be part of. No sitting on the fence. The fight should be total.