“I tell you, if you need a girl who hasn’t yet been corrupted by the ‘runs girl’ mentality, you will have to keep an eye on senior secondary school girls. Once the girl you like finishes WASSCE and NECO exams, propose to her. These young ones are very loyal and naive.” – Immanuel Ifediata
Sometimes I think our politicians and leaders are the major problems we have in this country. Other times, I see what the citizens and masses say and do, and I wonder if the problem is not from us. Whatever the case, this post will try to address some of the issues arising from this week’s controversy.
INFORMED CONSENT AND ADULTHOOD
The age of consent is an arbitrary line. This means that more often than not, the age of consent in any given geographical area is usually not based on any objective measurement on the average age it requires for the given population to be sufficiently informed and responsible enough to give consent to sexual and other adult related matters.
For example, in the US, you can drive at 17, vote at 18, but you can only drink alcohol at 21. Apparently, their lawmakers think 18 is good enough to choose your leaders but not good enough to drink alcohol.
In matters of sexual consent, most countries choose 18, while in a few others, it is 16. In some other countries however, a woman has no right at any age to give or withhold consent. She is the property of either her father if unmarried, or her husband. The concept of sexual consent, especially for the female, is absent in these countries.
Personally, if I can, I would recommend that the age of consent, as regards sexual matters should be well above 18 – maybe 20 or 21. This is because at this time, the individual is already well beyond the stage of raging sexual hormones. We are emotional beings and more often than not, we make decisions based on our current emotions. I think that in the middle of a surge of sexual hormones, an individual is incapable of making well informed decisions regarding their sexual behaviour.
Granted, a lot of 16-year-olds can be taught and are well aware of sexual responsibility, but there’s a difference between knowing what to do and being able to do it. At 16, our sexual hormones are still raging and despite our knowledge and best intentions, we can – and do – make bad decisions about our sexual activity.
Adulthood means being knowledgeable and ABLE to take responsibility for our decisions and the consequences that arise therefrom. Yes, a lot of 16-year-olds are more adult than some 24-year-olds but if this arbitrary line has to be drawn, then I would recommend the line be drawn at the point where our hormones are well under control for much of the population in question.
UNPROFESSIONALISM AND THE CULTURE OF MEDIOCRITY
Much of the arguments I have read concerning this Ifediata issue has revealed to me a deep culture of tolerance of mediocrity and unprofessionalism disguised as empathy.
In professional relationships involving a superior and a subordinate (E.g. Doctor-Patient, Teacher-Student, Employer-Employee, etc.), a sexual relationship is usually discouraged despite the fact that both parties may be adults. This is because on matters involving the issue of consent, it is important that the party on whom much of the consent is required does not feel pressured or obligated to respond in a certain manner for fear of any negative reaction from the other party. In other words, you shouldn’t be making sexual advances towards someone who feels that if they refuse your advances, something bad may happen to them. This is where the concept of coercion and sexual harassment suits comes from.
Now, if we discourage certain adult relationships for good reason, why then do we make excuses for cases where there is a teacher-student situation in which virtually all the students are minors?
A teacher of secondary schools is in a doubly unique situation where he is a superior and therefore has influence over his students and ALSO is an adult over children, most of who are in their adolescent years. It falls on the teacher to be responsible, professional and mature in handling such situations. It is scandalous therefore that instead of educating his students on proper sexual behaviour, he is encouraging other adults to come take advantage of the naiveté of the wards in his care. This is predatory behaviour.
You don’t tell a wolf to watch over a herd of sheep. If an individual reveals his proclivity for sexual predatoriness over naive minors, the rational thing to do is to remove such an individual from situations where he will have the opportunity to carry out his intentions.
When people say things like “Why are you being wicked and denying him his means of livelihood” or “He may have a family to feed,” what I hear is: “We are a mediocre society. Let’s manage him like that. Who being professional epp?”
We couch our tolerance for mediocrity under an umbrella of false empathy.
The measure of a civilised society is in how well they protect the vulnerable of their population. Children are the most vulnerable in any given society and a society that makes excuses for the rapist uncle, the predatory teacher, the thieving politician etc is a society bent on living in mediocrity forever.
One time, a lady working for a media company was going to South Africa from the US for the first time. She posted on twitter a ‘joke’ about Africans and HIV. By the time she landed in SA, she had been fired from her job. This is a society that doesn’t tolerate unprofessionalism and mediocrity. In such a society, pedophiles are usually registered in the sex offenders registers for life and kept away from minors. Nobody makes excuses for them or guilt people about their unemployment or family responsibilities.
I don’t buy your fake empathy. What I think is that you have become so used to tolerating bad behaviour to the extent that you believe that when it gets to your turn one day, you expect to be forgiven for your own bad behaviour. Here, we prefer to do things anyhow and beg for forgiveness when things go wrong, rather than take the time to do the right thing every time.
THE POLITICS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVISM
I have seen charges of hypocrisy leveled against the agitators and those who pushed for the demotion of Ifediata from his position as a secondary school educator. Some say Ifediata is a small fish and “why don’t these activists go after the big senators and politicians like Yerima?”
First of all, the argument is both false and fallacious.
A lot of people agitated against Senator Yerima and other paedophiles in the Senate. A lot of people also agitated when Ese was kidnapped from Bayelsa by a Northerner. A lot of people, mostly Southerners, have written against the paedophilic behaviour of the northern elites. But an important fact is usually overlooked.
One, Senator Yerima is an elected senator from a northern state. You can protest all you want, but if his constituents do not find anything wrong with his behavior, there is not much social media activism can achieve.
Despite our pretensions of One Nigeria, the North and the South are a vastly different culture. A lot of paedophilia is practiced in the North, and until the population is sufficiently aware of its immorality, nothing much can be done about. To compare the cultures of these two places in a bid to throw the tag of hypocrisy around is to be mischievous at best, and a supporter of paedophilia at worst.
Politicians are usually dishonest people who will only do what they think will keep them in power. The only reason the Zamfara State governor can confidently blame the meningitis outbreak on sexual immorality is because he knows he will get away with blaming his incompetence on supernatural intervention. Imagine if such a statement was made by a governor in a state sufficiently populated by non-religious and knowledgeable citizens…
For those who want to call the activists hypocrites, I ask you, what do you recommend should be done to Ifediata?
The way we want our society to be run is entirely up to us. We can choose to be mediocre and excuse every bad behaviour, or we can take responsibility and drive our society towards sanity. At the end of it all, posterity will judge each generation based on how they treated the vulnerable in their midst.
Written by Akorita Isaiah