- Tijani: How I was raped in secondary school and gang-raped in University
- She withdraws from Unilag because of shame
From LAYI OLANREWAJU, Ilorin.
Who knows what goes on in the mind of a rape victim? Who knows the pains she bears? Who knows the fears she nurses following the betrayal of trust and her loss of innocence in an evil world such as ours? These are the questions you find yourself asking as you come in contact with Hakeemah Tijani, the 22-year-old rape victim whose emotional scars are yet to heal long after the incidents. In her own case, she has been raped twice within her lifetime.
As you approach her, she avoids eye contact with you, signifying, obviously, the sense of shame going on in her callow mind. Rather than look at you, she looks down. You mentioned her name to be sure she is the one you’ve come to see and she nods her head, in confirmation, without uttering a word, but yet looking down. You try to chat her up, to engage her in conversation. But she is not responding. Yet this is the girl everybody say used to be bold and outspoken, in fact, an extrovert before her recent traumatic experience.
Tijani, the third child in a family of four children – two boys, two girls – was born September 10, 1995 into the family of Alhaji Giwa Tijani and wife, Mrs. Ruka Tijani. Though from Kwara State, they live in Lekki Phase 2, Lagos. The lady who attended Mushin Public schools in Lagos for her primary education and Odiolowo High School, Lagos, is currently seeking admission into the University of Ilorin after withdrawing from University of Lagos in 2014 on account of the indignities she suffered after being raped.
Nothing may be able to vitiate her ordeal either now or in the foreseeable future, giving the fact that memories of the experience are as vivid in her as on the day the rapes took place. “My first experience of rape was when I was in secondary school, in SSS 3,” she said still looking down. “It was on July 10, 2013. I went for a dancing competition with my group. After the whole competition, we were cheated: we got the second position instead of first. At about 9:15 pm, I left the venue to take a walk around the school in order to calm my nerves. Somewhere within the premises, some set of guys called out to me but I ignored them and continued to walk on. They ran after me, caught up with me grabbed me and dragged me into a corner, in spite of my spirited struggling. They gagged me so that passersby won’t be able to hear my screams, pushed me down and mounted me. That was the last thing I could remember as I literally passed out while they gang-raped me.
“Members of my dance group told me that I was dumped by the walkway after being sexually abused. According to them, they found me in the midst of some people. I was taken to the hospital and discharged the third day and taken home by my mum. They made me feel like it never happened. But I couldn’t forgive myself. I was having suicidal thoughts every time I remembered the incident.
“I had serious temper issues and snapped at people at every opportunity. The psychological trauma was unbearable. Though people around me were caring and very understanding, but I was further emotionally wounded when the only girl who used to be my friend left me because she was ashamed of being seen in my company. She stylishly mocked me and made references to it any time she had the opportunity. I sat for JAMB in 2014 and passed with a total score of 267. I was offered admission the same year with a total score of 267 to study English Language at the University of Lagos. This kept the experience off me for some time until my second nasty experience.”
Although this second one resembled the first experience but it was in a university setting. By this time she had gained admission into the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and was already an undergraduate. She recalled what happened. “On my first day on campus, which was on October 5, 2014, I had dropped my bags off in the hostel and was looking for where to buy food around 5pm. I saw a guy standing somewhere and asked him since I was a JJC (JohnNy Just Come). He pointed to what appears to me to be a food ‘joint’ (restaurant). Following his direction, I approached the place with a plain mind not knowing I was walking into a trap. On getting there, I met five guys. I thought they were the ones selling food so I told them I wanted to buy some. Rather than answer me, they reached out and grabbed me and covered my mouth so I won’t be able to shout. Thoroughly frightened by what I suspect they were about to do to me, I started struggling with them but at the end of the day, they overpowered me and had their way. I was left unconscious and later woke up in the clinic. After I was discharged I couldn’t stand the embarrassment. This second incidence forced me to leave the university. I had to leave because people were always pointing fingers at me and I felt like killing myself. Withdrawing from the university made me feel a lot better.
“My parents had to relocate me to our village in Omi Aro in Ifelodun Local government Area of Kwara State. In the village, I ‘excommunicated’ myself from people, stayed indoors despite my grandparents’ insistence that I should mix up with my age mates in the village. It was one of my uncles that work with the Ministry of Works that brought me to Ilorin. I stayed with him. He enrolled me in extra-mural class where I had to re-sit for JAMB three times now. The highest mark I scored was 140. I find it difficult to concentrate on my studies and I see everybody around me as an enemy. I always thought they had heard my story and they are looking at me with disdain. “
“I hate boys or men around me,” she added. Now, it became clear why she could not bear to look at you straight in the face. “As at now, I know deep down I I am not myself and could hardly trust any human being. The two incidents have shattered my hope and aspirations. Though several people and organization are trying to encourage me to forget the past, occasionally, each time I remembered the incidents I feel guilty and unsafe in any environment I find myself. I prefer to be alone. I am not ready for any relationship. Though I still feel I need education but for now I am confused as to what to do for a living so that I won’t experience similar thing.”
Founder of SAAB – a non-governmental organization, Saadat Bibire whose organisation is championing the cause of abuse of women said: “The effect of rape on victims is unimaginable and immeasurable. They pass through pains that they didn’t bring upon themselves and are left to deal with it alone. Some effects last forever. Victims who speak get help via counseling and overcome the trauma but those who don’t tend to suffer it alone which is unfair to them.
“We give victims who speak up and approach us counseling, love and care to help them overcome the trauma and to empower those who need to be, when they have something doing they’ll barely have time to remember. It’ll make it easier for them to move on.”
Asked what she thinks government can do to reduce the incidents of rape in our society, she answered: “I think the government should take rape cases more seriously. Rape equals murder, you can’t see them granting a murder bail but you’ll hear and find them granting bail to even pedophile who are meant to be castrated or killed immediately. When there’s a stringent law and it’s being enforced accordingly rape and the likes will drastically reduce if not eradicated.
“The society is not being fair to victims, they need our unending love, care, and every form of support we can give to them. It’s not their fault they’re victims no one wants to be, so let’s show them love and affection.”
As the rape ‘epidemic’ spreads, more minors fall victims
Thirteen-year-old Sadia Usman a primary five pupil of a private school in Ilorin, Kwara State, was able to tell her story, in tears. Residents were shocked as a middle- aged man was caught defiling her at about 7am on that fateful day, October 12, 2014.
It was an ugly incident that has since turned her life upside down and left residents in the neighbourhood reeling in shock. She said it was not the first time the man raped her, adding that she had before this time allowed him to have his way because he gave her money to meet her urgent need, which is food. But being caught in the act, booed and sniggered at by a curious crowd of residents, was a “shame too much” for her to bear.
Narrating how it all started, young Sadia said: “Brother Wasiu Abdulrauf always sent me to buy things for him and he would leave the change with me. One day, he asked me if I had started seeing my red flag and I asked him what is the meaning of red flag, but he said I should not mind.
“After about five days, he called and asked me to help him clean his room. As I entered the room, he came in, pushed me on the bed and held my mouth. I was scared but he was pleading with me not to shout that he wants me to start seeing my ‘red flag’. As he was trying to rape me, I bit him and he left me alone. Because he locked the door, I could not go out, so he started begging me not to tell anyone and he gave me N500. I did not tell anyone because I was afraid and I was scared of telling my stepmother because she would beat me.
“After many weeks, he asked me to buy a bottle of soft drink for him. When I went in to give him the drink, he poured it inside a cup for me. After drinking it, I started feeling tired and had to lie on the floor. I did not know what happened thereafter, but when I woke up, he said I should go before my stepmother would start looking for me. I was feeling pains and did not know anything but I could not tell any one.”
Sadia continued: “About five days later, he called me, put me on his leg and started touching my body. He asked me if I told anyone that I slept in his house, I said no. Though I was scared, I could not tell anyone because immediately he finished, he gave me N500 and said I should go home and have my bath. Since I did not eat, I used the money and bought food by the roadside.”
But the randy man ran out of luck on October 12, 2014 when he called the girl at about 6.30am not knowing that the stepmother was yet to leave the house and suspicious neighbours took note when the girl entered his apartment. While the stepmother was looking for the girl, a neighbour knocked at the man’s door, opened it and caught him in the act. She drew the attention of others but before the culprit could be apprehended, he escaped through the backdoor and the poor girl had to face the shame of neighbours openly reprimanding her. Ever since the incident, she has been keeping to herself. She plays with no one and endures the trauma of daily scolding from her stepmother. She confessed that she felt like dying as she knows people are yet to forget the incident and are talking behind her back.
On September 13, 2016, in Ilorin South Local Government Area, another minor, eight-years-old Ajike Isa, a primary two pupil was defiled by a teenager at Maya. On the same day, 10-year-old-girl, in Akata Tanke, was raped by a married man who has two children. At Olokonla in Moro Local Government area of Kwara State, a nine-year-old was raped on September 22, 2015 by a 38-year-old father of four.
Speaking with Saturday Sun, Ayisat Isa, the mother of the eight-year-old victim, Ajike, confessed that she is yet to overcome the trauma of having her daughter defiled in that manner. She added she never imagined that her neighbour could be so wicked as to do such a thing to her baby.
“He always came around here to play with my children,” she recalled. “One day, he took this girl to one uncompleted building in our area and started sleeping with her. I did not see my daughter around so I thought she was playing in the neighbourhood, but she came home, limping and crying. When I asked what happened, she told me what Aminu Dogo did to her. When we got to his house and he confirmed he did it, we got him arrested. The Police had charged him to court. No matter the result of the judgement, I will still be unhappy that this happened to me and I feel guilty that I did not do enough to keep my child from harm’s way.”
Places of worship are not excluded from the rape scourge. One example is 31-year-old Pastor Olabode Sunday, who allegedly raped a job seeker, at the church altar during vigil, only to tell her that by the act, her prayers had been answered by God.
The incident which happened in Ilorin, Kwara State, shocked residents of Tanke area, where the church is located. The victim, Funke Ojo, 25, who had just concluded her National Youth Service went to the pastor for prayers for her to get a job, but midway into the vigil, the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) pastor allegedly forced himself on the hapless girl and raped her.
Sunday, who was remorseful afterwards, blamed the devil for his action. His outraged church members said the incident was unfortunate, saying by choosing the altar of all places to perpetrate his satanic act, he had dented the image of the church. He is, at present, in police custody.
Speaking on the rampant cases of rape, especially of minors, the Police Public Relations Officer, Ajayi Okasanmi, DSP, roundly condemned the act while calling for a psychiatric examination of the perpetrators. “I wonder what will entice an adult in an eight-year-old girl.” According to him those who perpetrate this act must have their mental state examined, adding that if they feel hard pressed there other avenues like hotels and brothels where they can go to relieve themselves. He warned that once a rapist is arrested the police will not relent in dealing with them according to the law of the land.
The Kwara Commissioner for Women Affairs, Hajia Ayinke Saka also decried the trend. According to her, about 1,000 cases are reported annually. She lamented that cases of septuagenarians allegedly raping minors dominate the statistics.
The commissioner commended NGOs on the vanguard of championing the cause of female abuses not to relent in their efforts. She called on the campaign tagged, “Say no to rape,” organised by SAAB Foundation to be held on major streets in the town.
“It is more rampant among men of 70 years and above. Only God knows reasons they are in the habit of defiling girls as young as eight years old and even below.” She praised the Founder of the foundation, Miss Sa’adat Bibire for complementing the efforts of government.