Samuel Bello, Abuja
The Book Presentation and Launch of Ifedimma Onwugbufor, may have come and gone, but the activities and takeaways would for long remain indelible in the minds of people in Abuja.
The event was centered on sexual molestation, the savagery and cruelty. It also had an elegant setting with offerings of delicious meals that equally provided the antidote to beat the burden everyone came with as they were all seated in numbers.
Highlights of the events were book readings, citations, unveiling of books and stage play, which held up attention that didn’t drift the interests of the audience.
Six books were presented namely, Homeless gods, A book of Three Plays, Requiem, The King and his Lifeless Maidens, Nestled in Wings of Tomorrow, Requiem (another edition).
Onwugbufor, who wrote her first novel at the age of 12 and hails from Ogidi, Idemili North Local Government, Anambra state, said she has always had the drive to fight for the girl-child.
She also urged the federal government to include most of her books in the school curriculums, in order to reorientate middle aged children on the challenges that comes with sexual molestation.
“What is peculiar about my books are that they address the societal menace that we experience in Nigeria. It talks about sexual molestation for men and women, boys and girls. It also talks about the notion of our traditional customs as Africans; you know, new religion and foreign principles.
“I would wish that Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), federal and state governments and private concerns like rotary, pick them up and give them to children. Put them in cities and villages so that they know what is going on around them.
“Then they know how to handle their issues, because some of the things I highlighted are issues that actually live with us, and I’m not talking about them, because they just started happening, they have always been with us and in those times, many people have been victims, because they don’t see it coming.
“When they talk about sexual molestation, you find out that most of the time, the children are molested by either relatives or people who they hold in high regard and they have respect and a lot of trust in.
“So if you look at ‘Requiem’, it is talking about a female pastor and her husband and son, who is also a reverend father in the making, abusing a middle-aged girl. On a good day, a 14 years old girl, like Membe, my protagonist, will never imagine in her young mind that a female pastor will abuse her.
“Her husband, who is like her grandfather and a reverend father in the making, who should be her senior brother or elder brother as the case may be would do that to her?. So it keeps our children alert. The actual reason for these books are to keep our children alert for them to know that you don’t have to trust anyone.
“Sexual molestation happens to men and women at the same time, but why the girl child is more pathetic is because they lose a lot. It is not easy to rape a man, you just have to wake him up and he immediately gets in the mood. For a lady, you can’t, because women don’t see sex as sport, they add their emotions to it.
“So when they are ravaged like that by one or more men consistently, many times, a part of them is torn or destroyed in the process. Sometimes, just to cover up their crime, the perpetrators end up killing these victims like my protagonist.
“So I’m talking about the situation where a father is not supposed to bath his daughter. It gets to an age, likewise the woman, it gets to an age where she doesn’t have to bath the son. The role of government is sensitisations and adding it to the school curriculum. Then make sure that students don’t buy it directly because we know things are hard. The students in the cities may afford it, but the ones in the village may not. If the government can purchase probably 50 copies of this, and place it in the library, students can always go in there and understand,” she said.
When asked if the constant debate on the dwindling reading culture in Nigeria deterred her ambitions as an author, she said “No it didn’t and that’s why I chose to write on issues that are very related to what we are going through in Nigeria. When you talk about things that are happening in Paris, nobody might want to read it, because it has no business with Paris, but when you talk about things that are happening to us, you might want to know and learn one or two things.”
President Association of Nigerian Authors, Abdullahi, said Onwugbufor is a passionate defender of the rights of the girl-child and major part of her work deals with highlighting the problem of being a female in a highly patriarchal society.
“I have interacted with her on other levels and I know she’s inclined towards looking at stories and issues that has to do with women. I think in our society, women are still struggling against so many odds economically, sociologically and even psychologically.
“Women are normally seen as second class citizens. Everywhere you find them, particularly in this kind of our society where we have patriarchy in control. So in all aspect, women has to struggle to become known. They have to do more than the man to be reckoned with.
“Women are gradually overcoming it. They are gradually breaking the signals, getting known and making their impact in the society. The girl child should go against the norm and be forward looking and act independently. Women will always be women, they are to complement the men, but the way the society is now, you can become what you want to become.
“Even a girl-child might be at a disadvantage, but that should not make her not to aspire to whatever she wants to become. So it’s left for women to reorient themselves and see themselves as independent and able to achieve anything they want to do and when they have that mindset, nothing will hold them back. Even the patriarchy will not hold them back eventually. No matter how the society is configured, it will get to a point that they would be seen as equal with men.
“In our society, the way a woman presents herself is how she will be taken. If she presents herself as serious and not out there to use their sexuality to achieve things, the men will take her like that. So, much of the work that has to be done to change the perception of women in the society, lies with the women themselves. Men will definitely not give them that chance, they will try to hold them back, but once they get that orientation, every other thing that has to do with women rights will fall in place.