It recently came to public awareness that Baba Ijesha, a popular Yoruba actor whose real name is Mr Olarenwaju James Omiyinka, molested a fourteen year old girl. Though it ended quite unsettled but here is how I feel about the whole situation.
Apparently it started seven years ago. Na help Baba go beg for o and of all the things he could have done while at it, he decided that the best thing to do was sexually molest a seven-year-old girl there. According to what Damilola Adekoya, aka Princess, a Nigerian actor and comedian, recounted Baba Ijesha had been seeking help from her for years. He needed help with his studies and admission into Unilag among other things. Well-known among the residents of the house as a family friend, he used to hang out there often. Princess had been having child-bearing issues during her marriage and sympathisers believing in the yoruba saying ‘Ori omo lo n pomo waye’ (meaning when you have children hanging around you, it would somehow rub off on you and make you conceive a child) gave her one or more of their children to be living with her. Although it is rather fascinating that six parents were so willing to let go of their child so as to provide Princess with three boys and three girls to cater for as her foster children, but well, who knows ? Perhaps it is just testimony of how nice a person she is.
Of course, as a child it is only normal to have some ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’ coming around regularly. And with our culture and tradition, a child is raised to respect and obey elders. Unfortunately not all children are given proper sex education or are warned enough to guard against sexual molestation. And to be honest, despite all the education and warnings, it is still to be expected that some children might still make mistakes or make wrong decisions.
So imagine this seven year old girl, innocent, trusting (especially as it is a well-known family friend), & maybe even admirative of the popular well-known actor. Perfect manipulation material. Maybe she should have said something to her foster mother Princess or to her parents when the sexual molestation started. Maybe she should have fought back, ran out or screamed. Maybe she didn’t know any better, had no clue about what was happening, was confused and scared, felt that after all this was Baba Ijesha that she knew so well, surely he couldn’t be doing anything wrong. We don’t know all the details of what happened and why it was only seven years later that she had the courage to speak up and share her experiences with her close ones. But on the other hand, let us keep in mind that she is just a child.
But is Baba Ijesha also a child ? At 48 years old, would he claim he did not know that what he did is utterly wicked and damaging to the child ?
The little girl was said to have been behaving strangely around him ever since he sexually abused her but was not brave enough to speak up as to her reasons why when asked. Seven years later, the girl gathered her courage in her hands and revealed that she had been raped by the man and traumatised by the event ever since. Princess claimed to be devastated on hearing the news. You’d have to be heartless and cruel not to be.
She sought for a way to get justice against the pedophile. But knowing the law and the way people are, she knew that no one would just take the little girl’s word for it. It’s a popular actor we are talking about here. So we’d act as if pedophilia is not pretty common in Nigeria and all around the world for that matter. We’d act as if, if such a thing comes up, it definitely has to be a set-up by Princess to enact revenge from a man that from all appearances she had no grudge with. She knew she needed evidence to come out with such grave ‘allegations’.
She came up with a plan to catch the man in the act. She had a hidden camera set up, found excuses for everyone else to vacate the house and monitored what was going on from her phone. The girl obviously knew that the plan was to gather enough evidence to make her sexual predator pay for his actions, so of course, she cooperated. She made sure she sat in front of the camera so we can see for ourselves.
Now, hold on for a second. This little girl claims that this man is a pedophile. That he makes sexual advances on her as he did when he took advantage of her seven years ago.
OK. Come back to what the video footage showed us. It showed us a forty-eight year old man trying to have sex with a fourteen-year-old girl. What other proof do you need ?
His attempts at seduction included kissing her arms, caressing her arms and legs, french-kissing her, giving her multiple close-contact hugs and even giving a languorous ‘blowjob’ to her left thumb. At some point he even pleaded with her to allow him to have his way with her. It was so obvious that he would have eagerly had sex with the fourteen-year-old girl right then and there if she had let him. So why are some people acting blind ?
The camera footage says it all. It shows a pervert trying to manipulate a young girl in order to selfishly use her for his own sexual pleasure. If this is not proof of pedophilia then nothing else can be. It is very easy for some people to ask for proof of rape or sexual perversion but we all know it’s never so easy to produce and sometimes it’s even impossible. Those asking for more proof, please enlighten us on what exactly the victims could have done. Can you reasonably ask for this little girl to video herself being raped ? The point here is not whether the video shows him sleeping with her or not. The point is that a forty-eight year old man shouldn’t have been touching a fourteen-year-old girl in that manner. And definitely shouldn’t have been begging her or trying to manipulate her in any way to have sex with him.
Some people say it’s just two friends ‘playing with each other’ because she didn’t scream or fight him off. But of course she cooperated just enough to show that the man was trying to sleep with her. That is not consent. That does not mean she was happy that he was doing what he was doing. She is fourteen years old! And seven years ago, she was seven. How can a child give sexual consent ? She’s just a child! No matter what on earth happened, the adult should have known better and acted more responsibly. Even if that girl had been the one smilingly touching him, he should have been the one to put a stop to it. She obviously wouldn’t understand the full consequences of what she was doing. He should have been the one to admonish her. So two friends playing ? No, she is simply too young to be playing that kind of play.
The point is not whether Princess had a prior quarrel with Baba Ijesha and is trying to have revenge on him now while using the young girl as a front. The point is that Baba Ijesha did what he was accused of doing. We have a video of him trying to sexually molest a fourteen-year-old girl. We know that most Nigerians don’t just set up hidden cameras in their house for no reason. This particular one was set up because this same little girl had confessed to having been a victim of this same middle-aged man when she was seven years old, little, trusting and innocent.
The point is a seven year old girl should never have been manipulated and sexually molested by a trusted family friend or anyone else for that matter. And that if it so happens that she is molested, she should be able to eventually confide in someone and have justice meted out for her.
Now, many people are talking about Baba Ijesha’s human rights. Sure, he does still have some. But why and how are you turning a blind eye to what he put a seven-year-old child through and what he was trying to do to that same girl years later, this time at the age of fourteen. Still a young girl whose innocence should have been preserved (in the best possible way). Of all mature, willing and perhaps even eager women out there, why an underage girl?
Would we act like we don’t know that this has been happening for ages? 99.9% of women have been receiving sexual advances since they were just little innocent girls. ‘Uncles’ who try to play with their genitals in secluded parts of the house, traders who lure them with sweets and biscuits, shop owners who manipulate them to come to the back of the shop… But instead of admonishing these abominable acts, instead of punishing and stopping these men, we turn to the innocent little girls and say it is their fault for allowing it and for not knowing any better. We teach little girls that they are prey and this is the way the world is. But the world doesn’t have to be this way. We can do our part to stop this.
Please, please and please, allow justice to be meted out.
La Franglophone, is a French Teacher, Feminist and a blunt content analyst from Nigeria.