A gale force wind is sweeping through the world of entertainment, sports and politics and it seems no one is immune to the force; except of course, you are a Nigerian male with money and political position. All over the world, women are stepping forward to look the demon of sexual harassment in the eye and to say, time up: we are speaking out. Being the former powerful President of FIFA and having the name Sepp Blatter does not help you (he was accused by Hope Solo),neither did Danny Jordan spared, he was accused of rape by the singer Jennifer Ferguson,Political immunity does not even cut it; neither does the charm offensive of being a well-known Hollywood celebrity makes you exempt. From my last count, I think that it actually put you right under the radar of scrutiny.
With the storm that greeted the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against perhaps one of the most powerful men in Hollywood Harvey Weinstein gaining strength, other women are also coming out to call out those they alleged have abused them in the past. Hollywood sweetheart, James Franco, waltzed to the stage to receive his Golden Globe award for best actor in black, a sign of solidarity with the women who have come forward to speak up about their abuse. 24 Hours later, he was also accused and from the bright smiley baby face on stage 24 hours prior, we saw a sleep deprived and somber Franco struggling to plead his case of innocence. Ultimately, it would cost him his place on the Oscar podium as, for the first time in awards history, the winner of the Golden Globes did not even get an Oscar nomination. Such is the power of the campaign to rid the world of celebrities of sexual pests and predators.
In politics, the allegations continue to fly against the current occupant of the white house and his cronies. However, the storm this week happened in my neck of the woods in Ontario. The Leader of the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario (PC), a shoe in candidate to become Premier of the province (equivalent of our State Governors) in the election in June was accused by two women of violent sexual misconduct. He tried holding on to his position, but his party recognized how bad a market he has become and he was forced to resign at midnight on Thursday. It is just another example of how women are beginning to take back their voice that a male oriented society seem to have denied them for a long time.
Issues with the trend
However, I have two issues with the current trend and I think a few people share them but are afraid to be the one going in a different direction when the whole world is saying “time up” to sexual harassment. The first one is the issue of relevance and the accused right to fair hearing. It seems that the force of ‘time up” has also consumed the age old mantra of “innocent until proven guilty.” All it takes for a career in sports, politics or entertainment to go down the drain is a simple allegation. It seems no one is even willing to hear the accused person’s side of the story. The danger is that we open the arena to all sorts of allegations and some of them may just be unfounded. Caution is needed here to be able to separate the true victims from attention seekers. Take for example the case of reality television wannabe, Brandi Glanville and actor Gerard Butler. In what is apparently a consensual copulation after a party that the actor cannot even recall, Glanville used the hash tag “time up’ for her ridiculous post. That to me smirks of nothing but attention seeking from a woman whose relevance is at rock bottom. How is something that you willingly participated in harassment? Seriously, she should be reprimanded by the victims for belittling their course with her ridiculous allegations and distracting from the more serious issues. That is why we must be willing as journalist to get the other side of the story and publish the accusations and the defense simultaneously. That way, the court of public opinion can have a say in the judgement to be passed. If it is time up for sexual harassment, then it also has to be time up for false allegations. I am not here supporting sexual harassment. Far from it. With 3 sisters, a daughter and obviously born of a woman, I will be a beast to even entertain the thought of condoning harassment of any kind. But still, I am also a firm believer in allowing justice to take its full course.
My second concern lies with my country. I was hoping that now would be a good time to bring up again some of the issues of sexual allegations that we have swept under the carpet in Nigeria. It seems Nigeria’s politicians and those in the entertainment world are saints and as such are not concerned with the global movement of #metoo and #timeup. However, that will be far from the case. In entertainment, there was that case of actress Domitilla Oleka and one of the biggest movie producers in the land. She practically accused him of rape and sexual harassment while she worked for his company and yet nothing came out of it beyond counter accusations. Many even blamed the actress for seducing a married man. Maybe if other women come and speak of their experience, then we can actually begin a movement in Nigeria. Then, how can we forget the one that shook the literary world. 3 female budding poets came out to accuse Chijoke Amu Nnadi of sexually harassing them during poetry festivals. He simply deleted all of his social media accounts and said nothing in defense. A women’s rights charity took up the case of the female poets and the trail went cold. In politics, there have been accusations of battery and sexual violence against Senator Dino Melaye by no other person than his ex-wife. It was the wailing of a woman scorned and so should not be heard. And then who can forget the infamous video of Yobe politician, Buka Abba Ibrahim. While that in itself is not an example of harassment as they were all in it for the money, the lady who posted it said that her colleagues had disappeared after “hooking up” with the Senator, but we all just were interested in the sleaze and not the substance. Her concerns are yet to be addressed.
To conclude, I just want to put out a call to Nigerian women out there; you don’t have to suffer in silence. Speak up now and speak out against sexual harassment. The whole world is with you as you join other women from around the world in showing the red card to sexual violence.
WRITES IN FROM PETERSBOROUGH CANADA