It is hard to find a young person more resolute, dedicated and passionate than Priscilla Ubaifo. Priscilla is an amazing young woman who spends every moment she is awake advocating tirelessly for the rights of women and girls. She is the executive director of Braveheart Initiative for Youth and Women (BHI) based in Igarra, Edo State. I have known Priscilla for many years and she never ceases to amaze me with the intensity of her passion and commitment. She never takes no for an answer and, thanks to her, many young women have found a voice, received justice and can believe in themselves due to the many ways in which Priscilla has touched their lives.
Priscilla and her organisation are working in a very difficult environment with extremely limited resources. BHI handles many cases of rape and sexual abuse, and they spend their time and resources looking after survivors as well trying to wade through the criminal justice system on their behalf. Most times, Priscilla puts up information on her latest project on Facebook, calling on her friends to support her work. While she does get some donor support for her work, she is not a recipient of vast sums of money in donor grants that go to the larger NGOs in the big cities, yet she manages to create a significant impact with whatever she has.
Recently, Priscilla and her organisation took on the case of Gift Alonge from the Ososo community in Akoko Edo. Gift’s father, Jacob Alonge, was accused of raping his daughter on a consistent basis. Jacob allegedly impregnated his daughter in 2017 and administered a concoction on her to induce an abortion. Not done with that, he continued to molest her till she got pregnant again in 2018. By this time, the community was aware of the abominable relationship Jacob had with his daughter, and the matter was taken to the traditional ruler. Jacob confessed his crime to the people in the community and he was promptly handed over to the police. BHI got involved in the case on December 18, 2018, by this time, Gift Alonge was 21 weeks pregnant. The organisation arranged for counselling and ante-natal care. At the Ososo Police Ptation, Jacob made a statement confessing to the crime of incest and the case was transferred to the family unit of the State CID in Benin City. He was arraigned before the court and he pled guilty to the charges. Judgement was fixed for January 16, 2019. During this period, Gift was offered shelter by her maternal uncle, Mr. Ukere Adagbogu, who took a keen interest in his niece’s case and was also determined to get justice for her. BHI assigned two young women to accompany Gift to court for the final ruling, the women were Rhoda Braimoh and Promise Ezekiel.
On January 16, Gift Alonge, her Uncle Ukere Adagbogu, Rhoda Braimoh, Promise Ezekiel and the driver of their vehicle, all perished in a terrible car accident on their way from Igarra to the court sitting in Benin City. Priscilla was of course absolutely shattered. Rhoda Braimoh did not die on the spot like all the others, so people kept sending in prayers and good wishes for her survival. Sadly, she passed away too. The case was adjourned till January 23, 2019. When he got to court, the accused person who was supposed to be in court for sentencing after pleading guilty, changed his guilty plea to not guilty. All the witnesses were dead. The dead do not testify, bear witness or argue.
There is talk in the Ososo community that Jacob Alonge is a powerful native doctor who might have engineered the death of his daughter, her unborn baby, her uncle, the brave young women who were trying to help, as well as the poor driver who was simply doing his job. According to BHI, they do not believe in this, since it might have all have been a coincidence. I agree with them, even though it is hard to believe otherwise since the deaths were so convenient for the person on trial. Jacob Alonge has a case to answer. I hope the courts will insist on justice for Gift Alonge. She is no longer here to speak for herself but the law can speak on her behalf. Even if Jacob manages to escape judgement from the courts, he most certainly will not escape the judgement of God.
I salute the community members in Ososo and their traditional ruler who took action on behalf of Gift and tried to get justice for her. May the soul of poor Gift’s uncle rest in perfect peace for being there when his niece needed a champion in the family. I appreciate all the brave women of Braveheart Initiative for standing up for women and girls in their community. As they mourn their colleagues and clients, may they be comforted in every way. Since the tragic events of January 16, I have been thinking a lot about Priscilla and what she does. There are so many young people like her toiling away night and day, uninterested in a lot of pursuits other people of their generation occupy themselves with. I hope we can all try and do more for young people like that whenever we can.
For more details on how you can support BHI, they can be reached at [email protected], @BHInigeria, +2347061910869 or 07033733538. Please, reach out to them and offer whatever support you can.
For Priscilla, I leave these words:
Cry little sister, cry if you want
Then wipe your tears
Yell at the universe, you have earned the right to be angry
Then be resolute and firm
Be afraid or unsure
Then be brave and sure
It is okay to feel the darkness right now
Trust that the light will come
Don’t listen to the voices of regret or blame
Listen to your heart and hear what it tells you
I hope you hear faith
I hope you hear courage
I hope you hear pride in giving joy to others
Cry little sister
Then wipe your tears
Your heart is saying many more need you.
• Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a gender specialist, social entrepreneur and writer. She is the founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is currently the First Lady of Ekiti State. She can be reached at [email protected]