Before I begin my thought today, let me sound a caveat that neither the title of today’s piece nor the views I am going to express subsequently should be construed as an indictment of the University of Lagos lecturer at the centre of an alleged rape case. I strongly believe that accused persons are innocent before the law until found guilty by a competent law court having gone through due legal process. It is against this backdrop that I have always condemned the practice of parading alleged criminals and suspects accused of robbery and other crimes by the police.
I have always thought that it is an infringement of the fundamental human rights of suspects to fair hearing when the police parade them and cement the perception of them as criminals or guilty in the eyes of the public before they are brought to trial. I hope the police authorities will put an end to this practice. I have digressed this long to provide a backdrop into why the alleged UNILAG rapist-lecturer, in spite of overwhelming evidence, must be considered innocent until the court decides otherwise.
Having said that, I believe the latest rape case is high profile enough to reignite the debate about a scourge that has become endemic in our society. The involvement of a lecturer from a prestigious higher institution has reinforced the belief that rape transcends social divides. It is being perpetrated by everybody from the lowly to the elite class in the society.
I am also optimistic that pursuing this case to a logical conclusion will serve as a reference for future rape cases and a deterrent to would-be closet rapists who prey on vulnerable girls and women in our society. For those who have not been following the story, a part-time lecturer in the department of accounting in UNILAG, Dr. Akin Baruwa, is currently in the midst of a rape case involving an 18-year-old admission seeker who is also the daughter of his friend and neighbour. If the story proves to be true, it will be a classic example of betrayal of trust, abuse of office and desecration of the position of an intellectual.
The story is as pathetic as it is shocking. The father of the victim wanted a better future for his daughter. But the quest for a university education had turned awry as the girl is now, according to reports, experiencing a medical condition symptomatic of forced entry. Her dream of a university education is fast becoming a nightmare. I have read the account of what transpired from the time the father handed her over to Baruwa. While there was no discrepancy in both accounts as narrated by the father and the lecturer, what happened thereafter has become a subject of controversy and denials.
But the timeline leading to the alleged crime seems irrefutable. According to a news report, the father had approached the lecturer to help get his daughter to sit for the post-UTME examination into UNILAG. The girl did not make the cut off mark, but the lecturer had promised to use his influence as a lecturer in UNILAG to get her to write the examination. On a certain day, the father handed over his daughter to the lecturer who conveyed her in his vehicle to the school to begin the “admission process.” On getting to the lecturer’s office on campus very early in the morning, events took a different turn. The girl ended up being allegedly raped by the lecturer. Baruwa, who has been detained in Kirikiri Prison on the order of a Lagos court, has denied the allegation of rape. He had claimed the encounter with the girl was consensual. He described the girl as “chatty”. He claimed it was the girl who wanted it. The lady on the other hand insisted it was rape. She said Baruwa forced himself on her in the lonely office.
I have examined the accounts of the lecturer and the girl. Some things do not just add up particularly in the account of Baruwa. First, let me establish two premises arising from the whole episode. The first is that the father of the victim is his friend. He handed over his daughter to the lecturer on trust. Baruwa claimed that the girl asked for it. In other words, that the girl seduced him. Baruwa’s defence fits into the stereotype about rape. Rapists often claim that their victim asked for it. But the admission of seduction was indicting on the part of Baruwa.
The girl at 18 years is old enough to be Baruwa’s daughter. My take is: Let’s for once believe the seduction angle; must he take advantage to violate her in his office? Why didn’t he reprimand her? Or ignore her antics knowing the father is a friend and neighbour? You see why I think Baruwa’s story did not just add up? On their way to UNILAG, Baruwa did not deny that he had tried to caress her of which the girl rebuffed. Then, he had tried to impress her. He drove her to Yaba College of Technology to show her the school. Why make a detour to YABATECH that early morning when the destination was UNILAG?
Why go through all that trouble to impress an 18- year-old? In his office, Baruwa claimed the intercourse was consensual. There are some questions begging for answers. What was the lecturer doing with a condom in his office? Was the encounter with the girl his first or did he buy the condom on his way? When you keep contraceptives in your office, does it not signify that you expect to use them when the situation arises-an opportunity that presented itself when the girl showed up? Having examined the situation critically, I cannot help but think that the lecturer had a habit of making out with girls in his office.
Let’s look at it this way. Assuming the sex was consensual, did having carnal knowledge of the girl in his office not show how perverted the lecturer was? What is clear is that Baruwa took advantage of a girl in need of his help to secure admission. I believe he took her round to impress and make her feel overwhelmed by the new environment. The girl probably felt intimidated by the “Almighty lecturer who could help her get admission”. What is clear is that the lecturer betrayed the trust of ensuring the girl was safe in his custody. Now, if he truly raped her, an allegation the courts will decide, then it will be very unfortunate.
It is gladdening to know that the case has been taken up by the Lagos State Office of Public Defender under the state Ministry of Justice. I also find it curious that the University of Lagos is denying that Baruwa is an employee of the school when the circumstantial evidence proves otherwise. Why the denial? How did the man gain access into an office on the university’s premises to allegedly commit the crime?
The rape case should be viewed in the context of the widespread rise in rape crime in the country today. Women and young girls have become endangered species. Yet, we must know that a society that cannot protect its women and children cannot be a civilised society.