The Courage Of Monica Osagie And Why Others Must Speak Out -By Margaret Aloba

Filed under: Forgotten Dairies |

I just read a piece, “Reflections On a Fallen Hero” by a Professor Steve Egbo on the travails of Professor Richard Akindele, disgraced former lecturer of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, who was recently charged to court by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and convicted for corruptly demanding for sexual benefits from a student, Ms. Monica Osagie, in order to change her grades from ‘fail’ to ‘pass’ with jaw-dropping wonder and disappointment.

Judging by the profile of the writer, I had hoped for a seminal discussion on the issue of sexual harassment in our academic communities and what lessons we all can learn going forward as a nation. What was offered instead was a masochistic trip down the memory lane in which the writer catalogued various tales of woe of men who “fell in the hands and bosom of women”. From the writer’s jaundiced point of view, at every turn in life, wily daughters of Eve signposted the downfall of unwary men and reduced presidents and other great men to nothingness.

Drawing from a long list of Jezebels and Delilahs who used guile to ruin the careers of great men, the writer sought to pin a label of infamy on the doorpost of the victim, instead of the antagonist. This makes me ask: “How are the mighty fallen indeed?” if the only justification a supposed professor, teacher, mentor, moulder and guage of public ethics can find for the disastrous consequences of the disreputable actions of his “esteemed colleague” is the conclusion that “there are randy lecturers and there are amorous students” and that the difference between Professor Akindele and other supposedly randy lecturers is that “he has been found out by reason of a combination of greed, stupidity, libido, impunity and above all, carelessness!”.

Monica Osagie

What Professor Egbo is so unabashedly saying is that “carelessness” got Akindele into trouble and that other randy lecturers could as well carry on as usual, albeit more carefully, to avoid the fate that befell Akindele. As far as the writer is concerned, libidinous relationships between lecturers and students “will continue to exist in our universities and institutions of learning!” What a shameful admission!

In my humble view, any academic with the slightest modicum of integrity, conscious of the trust reposed in him and his colleagues in the Ivory Tower to impact positively on the young minds placed in their care, and by extension, society at large, would not justify such reprehensible behaviour with the dismissive claim that “in a society where morality does not count, where hardwork does not determine the height you attain, where impunity and lawlessness are acceptable ways of life, in a society that has no plans for the upbringing of the young, such things are bound to happen”.

The writer himself offers an excellent insight into his own character when he wrote, “as I have always maintained, I am neither a Reformist nor a Crusader. Perhaps I do not have what it takes to do either.” For someone who self-admittedly has spent more than 30 years in the university system, to say this of his contribution to society within that period, gives a huge indication of why our institutions of higher learning are what and where they are today. If we multiply the likes of this writer in the system, the enormity of the challenge we have in the country becomes apparent.

His admission of the lack of an inspirational impact on the system shows that the writer is comfortable with the status quo. He wasn’t concerned about parents, university authorities, innocent victims and other stakeholders. His “esteemed” status as a professor requires that he couldn’t, wouldn’t and shouldn’t be bothered by such inanities. How truly are the mighty fallen?!

One wonders if Monica Osagie had been his daughter or ward, would he have berated her for not succumbing to the randy professor or would he have gone for the professor’s jugular, ‘esteemed colleague’ or not? This however is in the realm of speculation. We would never really know.

No doubt, the writer chose his audience carefully – a community of ‘randy professors and administrators’ who can easily and readily claim to fall prey to the advances of “amorous” female students. This has been the official position of the Academic Staff Union of Universities in opposing the move by the National Assembly to pass a bill criminalising sexual harassment by lecturers.

The writer failed to focus on the dark, inner desires that compel a supposed educationist, family man, clergy and father with biological children – qualities that were assessed by the university authority before placing him as loco parentis over other people’s children and wards – to stoop so low as to manipulate a student’s result in order to prey on her vulnerability. These are individual failings on the part of lecturers and should not be passed off readily or excused by dubious claims of “amorous advances” of supposedly conniving or consenting female students. The writer did not do himself or Professor Akindele any credit by failing to point out any of these factors. Rather, and in consonance with the prevailing culture of silence and acquiescence by university administrators that allow such ignominious carnalities to thrive, went ahead to portray the victim of Professor Akindele s indiscretion as an agent provocateur.

The attempt to draw parallels between the character and moniker of Monica Lewinsky and Monica Osagie is a most treacherous and unpardonable sleight of hand designed to cast the victim of Professor Akindele’s gross and irresponsible abuse of power and privilege as villain. A most unsettling and worrisome oversight indeed!

It is perhaps inextricable that for now and for the foreseeable future, whenever the name of Professor Richard Akindele is mentioned in the media, the name of Monica Osagie will inevitably pop up. However, when the full story of Professor Akindele is told, it should be clear that Monica Osagie is not the villain; in this one instance, the garb of villainy simply will not fit!

In FRN v Professor Richard Akindele, the proof of evidence filed before the court shows that contrary to speculations on social media, Ms. Monica Osagie did not fail Professor Akindele’s course, 635: Research Methods, and could therefore not have offered him sex for marks. The leaked audio conversation shows clearly that he was the one soliciting for ‘five rounds of sex’ and she was very explicit in rejecting his offer of sex for grades. It is clear that she is not ‘an amorous student’ and ought not to have been targeted by a randy professor. She had earlier graduated with a degree in Philosophy from the same university in 2013, successfully concluded her national youth service in 2014 and was found worthy of admission into a post-graduate course of Masters in Business Administration in 2015. In a class of over fifty students, Professor Akindele found her intelligent enough to appoint her as “editor” of a manuscript which he intended to publish as a textbook on management. Or perhaps, it was his dubious predatory instinct that was deployed to single her out of the herd so he could zero in for the kill! When she resisted his sexual overtures, he had ominously warned her not to ask for his “assistance” in the event she failed in his course. Records show that she passed every other course in her post-graduate programme, except the two in which Professor Akindele was involved as co-lecturer with others. This was what prompted Monica to record their conversation and report to the Sexual Harassment Committee of the Obafemi Awolowo University. Monica Osagie did not seek the downfall of any lecturer. All she desired was a fair and dignified opportunity to pursue her dreams and attain her educational potentials in peace.

When confronted with the compelling evidence that Professor Akindele was the instigator and beneficiary of his own unrestrained libidinous urge, he had no choice but to admit his guilt and opt for a plea bargain. He didn’t blame his victim. In a sense, he found some honour and comfort in his spirit. His family would bear the shame for a season no doubt but they need take solace. He manned up to his perfidy and accepted his fate with whatever was left of his dignity. He found his balls in court!

Monica Osagie should be praised for her courage in speaking out so that other students suffering silently can find their voices and help to counter the narrative that the woman or victim is always to blame. It is such narratives and attendant stigma that has shamed many students into silence. The members of the Gender Unit and Sexual Harassment Committee of Obafemi Awolowo University, investigators, lawyers and journalists who helped ensure that her voice was not stifled deserve recognition and support.

These should be the concern of university authorities, scholars and eminently placed professors and not the lame excuse about predisposed lecturers and randy professors “falling into the hot laps of amorous students”. If truly the writer is an academic and a professor with any integrity, and he belongs in any Ivory Tower or professional association worth its salt, he ought to be asked to resign his appointment and membership immediately!

The message for everyone interested in returning sanity to and restoring the glory of our academic institutions is that lecturers ought to develop a stronger moral fibre and immunity to, as well as the confidence to report and sanction any amorous advances from their students if they desire to keep their jobs and stay out of jail. Authorities of universities should also develop and create credible frameworks for the enforcement of sexual harassment policies. ASUU should play a more active role in creating awareness around this sort of issue and in the discipline of its members instead of engaging in collective bargaining for higher wages from government with one hand and sexual favours from students with the other hand. Students should be continually educated on what constitutes sexual harassment and provided with secure and confidential avenues for grievance redressal.

Those we have entrusted with the education, character development and well-being of our children cannot continue to profer rationalisations for, and seek to corruptly benefit from any supposed amorous advances from their students without consequences. Our universities should stop awarding degrees in whoredom. ICPC and other law enforcement agencies have wisened up to their game and the courts are ready to make more scapegoats of these randymen masquerading as professors.

Margaret Aloba wrote from Abuja.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.