REPORTS of the recent rape and murder of IniubongUmoren allegedly by one Uduak Frank Akpan who lured her through a deceptive offer of job/employment have brought into reckoning once again the perennial issue of sexual assault and violence against girls and women and what could be done to stem the trend. The tragic death of Iniubong Umoren was so unfortunate because she took necessary precautions and did not just expose herself without safeguards to what turned out to be the evil machinations of Uduak Frank Akpan. Umoren had announced on her twitter handle that she needed a job and that she was based at Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State capital. One of the responses to her tweet wanted her to come with her credentials to an address in Uyo if she could work as Secretary at a Construction Company. It must have been in response to the positive tweet that she told her friend about the job prospect and that she was going to meet the person concerned, leaving the location address and the phone number of the person with her friend. She also informed her Sister about her venturing out for the job and left a location trail on her phone after getting to the place. In the end, the whole job offer was a fraud as the last communication with her friend was her scream before her phone went dead and she with it.
The frantic cry online of her not returning from the venture for the job by her friend and the vociferous interest of many Nigerians in the case with the leads supplied by the safeguards she left eventually led to the arrest of Uduak Frank Akpan by the police for the rape and murder of Iniubong Umoren, with the police reporting that Akpan had confessed to the crime. This tragic case follows the usual pattern of boys and men presuming that they are entitled to the bodies of girls and women just because they are boys and men, and therefore, in a position to wield power and enforce their position and entitlement on girls and women. Akpan did not see the genuine plea of Umoren for employment in the tweet she made about looking for a job, but saw a weird chance to lure her into raping her. It was simply a continuation of the entitlement mentality for him – the desire to exploit her desire for a job to force himself on her. It has to be said that Akpan would not likely respond in the same manner to a plea for a job by a male, signifying the operation of that sense of power and entitlement by boys and men over girls and women’s bodies.
As Lyn Yonack has argued: ‘Despite its name, sexual abuse is more about power than it is about sex. Although the touch may be sexual, the words seductive or intimidating, and the violation physical, when someone rapes, assaults, or harasses, the motivation stems from the perpetrator’s need for dominance and control.’ And Vera Baird agrees, insisting that “the key to abuse is power – of the abuser over the abused. … (with the abuser becoming) especially prey to a sense of entitlement.” Which is why it has been canvassed that the society has a big task of changing the orientation of boys and men, to wean them away from this ugly sense of entitlement and to make them see girls and women as equals deserving of independence and sovereignty of action. Unfortunately, Akpan did not benefit from this kind of training and was yet to get the required re-orientation that would have made him to not respond with the entitlement of sex to the plea for a job by Umoren. The implication of this position is for the society to take the issue of re-orientation of boys and men more seriously. We must endeavour as a society to perhaps start this reeducation right from the cradle such that boys grow up with the knowledge to see girls as equals and those they are permitted to relate to only on the basis of their consent. We need to seek a society that would jettison the existing entitlement notion of men under patriarchy in order to stem the ugly trend of bestial sexual assaults by boys and men.
Another important observation to make about the current tragic case is that Akpan could not have proceeded with his devilish plan, in spite of his notion of entitlement and power mentality, if not for the likely understanding that he would be able to successfully exploit and assault Umoren without bearing the consequences of such assault. He must have been emboldened by the numerous cases of rape and sexual assault of girls and women that the police would simply toss under the table rather than properly investigate and prosecute in order to bring the perpetrators to justice to dissuade others from wanting to follow the same pattern. Mercifully, the police and perpetrators of sexual assault now have to contend with the heightened consciousness of Nigerians, particularly those on the social media, against sexual abuse. This enhanced consciousness is further helped by the instrumentation of internet and computer technology which makes it easier to have records of sexual assault as well as the possibilities of disseminating such records as widely as possible.
Evidently, Akpan did not reckon with the fact that Umoren would tell her friends and family about the venture to his place and that there would be digital footprints that would lead the world to him if needed. In the end, it was a futile adventure and scheme on his part, not minding his quickly burying Umoren after causing her death and bolting from Uyo to Cross River State. There was no running away from the consequences of his action as he was picked up from Cross River State and is awaiting trial to face the full weight of the law for his evil act. The lesson here is that certainty of apprehension could possibly have dissuaded Akpan from the dastardly act in the first place, making it important for the society to accentuate the renewed vigour with which it is fighting sexual abuse now. With this new vigour, it is almost impossible for any perpetrator to cover the act or go scot-free through police manipulation, thus making it possible for the society to proclaim the certainty of apprehending all perpetrators and ensuring that they all face the full wrath of the law. With Akpan eventually in jail for his evil act, it should be possible for the society to use this case as testimonial for the needed re-orientation of boys and men against the culture and mentality of entitlement and for teaching them about the certainty of not getting away with any sexual assault. This way, we would be ensuring that Iniubong Umoren has not died in vain as we could build on her memory to take the steps that would help stem the trend of sexual assault and rape and violence and death in the land.
- Yakubu is of the Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.
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