Yesterday a Nigerian medical doctor was motivated by Oprah Winfrey’s speech at Golden Globes award ceremony, to call out a lecturer who sexually harassed her and failed her twice for not yielding to his advances. In the same manner, a lady by the name Aigbeme Okonkwo has shared her own experience as an undergraduate in the University of Lagos. This signals that more Nigerian women are beginning to speak up about sexual harassments they have faced in the past.
“In 2006, my final year in UNILAG, I went to see my course adviser regarding something about my course work. I entered his office, greeted, and sat across from him.
We spoke for a while in a manner that appeared civil at first but no more than a few minutes into our conversation he got up and came to my side of the table. I was still seated at this point but I remember thinking ‘why is this man standing up?’
He then leaned on the table, he was right by my side and said to me, ‘I didn’t know you were so beautiful’. As he said this, he put his wretched hand on my thigh. I immediately sprang out of my seat, petrified that this pitiful soul would touch me again.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked stupidly.
‘What do you mean what am I doing?’ He said trying to reach out to me as I cautiously stepped away from him ‘are you not a big girl?’
‘Sir, if we are done discussing my course, I would be leaving now’ I turned my back to him and proceeded toward the door. It was a small office so the door was just a few steps away.
‘But why are you going? You know you will come back and beg me’ he quickly wrapped his arm around me from the back in an attempt to stop my exit and I felt his lust-filled breath on my neck.
I was determined to get out of there so I yanked open the door and he let go. I felt like someone had thrown a bucket of slimy insects all over me. My skin was crawling.
All this happened in just a few minutes. I doubt the sorry excuse of a man would even remember the encounter.
I ran straight to the Faculty of Arts where my Dad was the Dean at the time.
I entered my father’s office in tears and told him what had happened and my Dad went ballistic. He asked his driver to take me home and summoned the lecturer. My father took up the matter and was pursuing the issue till he passed away just a few months after. Rest In Peace Daddy.
After my dad died, this lecturer tried to get back at me for having the audacity to speak up. Luckily the goodwill my father had built while at the university saw me through and I graduated with no issues.
That Lecturer’s name is Dr.Louis Egwari. He taught in the Dept of Microbiology, University of Lagos. A google search shows he now teaches at Covenant University. I can only hope he has changed his ways.
If you’ve read up to this point, I’m sure you are wondering why I just shared this story…
Last night, Hollywood celebrities all wore black to the Golden Globes as a protest against sexual harassment and abuse. It occurred to me that the culture of silence persists in this part of the world. Women are ashamed to speak up when they are sexually harassed. And most times you can’t blame them, because when they do speak up, they are asked incredibly stupid questions like ‘what were you wearing?’, ‘why did you go there?’, ‘why were you alone with him?’… like any of these things are a substitute for consent.
Across the world, there are a lot of entitled men in privileged positions who believe that they can take whatever they want and damn anyone who stands in their way. IT HAS TO STOP!
Everyday women are victimized at school or at the work place all because they said NO.
This issue transcends the gender debate. Both men and women have to speak up to stop this pervasive form of violence against women.”
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