Ace comedian, Helen Paul, is not your mill-of-the-run personality; not only because she is acclaimed in her chosen profession or extra-ordinary in the application of the gifts and talents God gave unto her but also because she combines brains with brawn. She is brave; she is courageous, and, above all, she is public-spirited.
Her “never-say-die” spirit, which saw her rise from the status of never-do-well to a star and role model should encourage and energise others in her shoes. Her story, told by herself, that she was the product of rape, someone called a “bastard” even by family members and derided as someone who can never make it in life, connects with how Nathaniel spoke condescendingly of Jesus Christ when he asked: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Helen Paul opened up at the point of success – her attainment of Ph.D.
It would have still been okay had she told her story a lot earlier. Her path and mine crossed once or twice – at a book launch, I think, of my brother and comrade, Opeyemi Bamidele, erstwhile Lagos State Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, somewhere at the Business District, Alausa, Ikeja and I had made efforts to invite her to my church for a programme meant to draw the attention of children and youths.
Helen Paul said she made her disclosure as a tribute to her mother who suffered the opprobrium that usually accompanies rape. In saner climes, the rapist is the one who suffers shame and punishment; here, it is usually the other way round. As in Alex La Guma’s “A Walk in the Night”, the rapist vanishes into the night even in broad daylight; but where he is known, he still often goes away scot-free. As in the biblical case of the woman said to have been caught red-handed in adultery, nothing is said of the male accomplice. Male chauvinism is as old as civilization itself; more so in societies that approximate to Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature “where life is brutish, nasty and short”. Helen’s mother weathered the storm; she obviously was a pro-lifer, otherwise she could have aborted her. She also possibly was a bold and courageous woman and Helen must have taken that streak from her. Like Jesus, she bore the shame even though she could not have known beyond blind faith the glory and honour that awaited her. Helen is, thus, a chip off the old bloke. Her boldness serves to encourage others in her shoes. There are so many Helens out there but only a few have come public with their story, choosing instead to live with the physical, emotional, and psychological damage that sears the soul and leaves permanent scars.
Those who have been courageous enough, like Helen and Oprah Winfrey, energise and encourage others. Poetic justice is that the loser in the Helen Paul rape story is not the woman who was raped or the baby that came out of that “association” but the rapist himself. Now, if we can “understand” (note the parenthesis, please) those who rape adults, what of those who rape children and toddlers? Suddenly, rape has become an everyday occurrence. Worse, are the nauseating cases of adults, even grand-fathers, raping children and toddlers; cases of incest are on the rise; with, in many instances, the victims getting murdered during or after the incident. Sexual offences have attained epidemic proportions. Paedophiles are on rampage. As they say, what goes round comes around.
You do not get to know until it gets to you. So, it was a rude shock when I learnt early this year that a four-year old daughter of my niece had fallen victim of rape at Osogbo, Osun State. The adult who raped her was the driver of a school into which her mother had just registered her. It was her second day at school. My niece’s case is that of what the Yoruba call “when a big problem strips you, every minute ones climbs on you”. She finished school, no job. Her husband finished school, no job.
They relocated to Ibadan, no dice. She then decided to return to Osogbo where, as a fashion designer, she had a customer base that put food on the table. She came across an old acquaintance who told her she had just opened a private school at Osogbo and pleaded that she register her girl there. She did. On the very first day, the girl complained to her that she would not follow “Uncle” to school the next day in the “school bus”, which turned out to be the private car of the proprietress and the “School bus driver” her personal driver. Mothers must have to watch it here. We should listen to our children and not shut them up! My niece failed to be inquisitive concerning why the little girl did not want to ride with “Uncle” to school and the girl came back raped that day. The case is in court and is “subjudice”.
I am, however, compelled to bring it to the attention of the public in this manner because it would appear this fouryear- old and her family are not likely to get justice unless public-spirited persons step in quickly to prevent the case from being swept under the carpet. Justice must be done if the impunity of rapists, paedophiles and such other vile criminals are to be curtailed and rolled back in our society. From Day One, the accused and those he worked for had proven to be well connected in the Osogbo power circles.
Told about this, I put a call across to Mr Charles Akinola, then SSA to the Governor but now elevated to Chief of Staff. I later sent him the following text message on Thursday, January 24th: Beloveth brother good day. Am Bola Bolawole, former editor, PUNCH newspapers and columnist with Sunday Tribune and New Telegraph. I was shocked to hear that the four-year-old girl raped in Osogbo last week is daughter to my niece. I am more so scandalised to learn that political pressure is being mounted to sweep the matter under the carpet. I heard His Excellency the Governor and even Vice President Osinbajo’s names are being dropped. I sincerely hope this is false. I have met His Excellency on a couple of times with ex-Gov. Aregbe on invitation to Osogbo. I vouch he cuts the picture of a perfect gentleman who will protect people’s rights. I trust he will get justice for a four-year-old defiled minor and her family.
Never must his name be dropped by anyone trying to pervert the cause of justice, regardless whose ox is gored. I felt I should first bring this to the attention of my professional colleagues before other actions.” Akinola was gracious enough to call me. He vowed the governor would never impede the cause or course of justice.
He asked for the details of the case and took my niece’s number. He said he received my message while he was sitting right across the table with Governor Gboyega Oyetola. He promised “someone” would call me shortly. The person did.
It was those “registered numbers” that speak volumes about the owner: 888888; 44444; 00000 etc. They actually did call my niece. They promised to investigate and feed me back. I am yet to hear from them. In the interval, it appears some powerful forces are working to have the case thrown out of court for lack of diligent prosecution. The file has not returned from the DPP. The case has been heard in chambers away from the prying eyes of reporters. Vicious media and smear campaign has been waged against my hapless niece.
All manner of intimidation, inducements, and threats have been directed at her and known members of her immediate family. Her lawyer has been beaten to a corner and cannot come to court again. To make matters worse, at the last outing, the accused was granted bail with threats by the judge to throw out the case at the next adjourned date of Monday, April 29th if the case file had not returned from the DPP. Scary, very scary, what this country has become. I have mentioned this case to Mr Femi Falana and a number of human rights activists, NGOs, and columnists committed to the defence of human and people’s rights such as Sina Loremikan, Betty Abah of CEEHOPE, among others. I intend to put it on all the platforms that I belong to henceforth.
Yesterday, The PUNCH newspaper on page five carried the story of a welder sentenced to life imprisonment by an Ondo State High Court for raping a 13-year-old. Why, then, should a man who raped a four-year old walk free in Osun State?