Disgust. Anger. Irritation. Indignation. These are only a few of the emotions that have greeted the BBC Eye expose on randy lecturers in Nigeria and Ghana universities. The demand for sex in exchange is a phenomenon that has become synonymous with our higher institutions of learning for decades; so much so that hip hop artiste, Eedris Abdulkareem shed light on it via a track that went on to become a hit 17 years ago. “Mr Lecturer” condemned the shenanigans of sexual predators cum lecturers in universities and polytechnics. Today, the story is not different, in fact, if feelers from undergraduates are anything to go by, then the situation has worsened considerably.
That an associate professor in his fifties would deem it appropriate to proposition a 17-year old who sought assistance from him— one whom could easily be his daughter—is depressing. Yet, for those who have been through this system, it is no news. Many girls have been frustrated to the point of abandoning their education as a result of this scourge. What’s even more disheartening is the conspiracy of silence that greets this issue whenever a student summons the courage to report to the school authorities.
Everywhere the girl child turns, she finds herself alone even among people who are supposed to be her guide and guard, therefore, the #SexForGrades inquiry is long overdue. It’s a tad comforting to learn that the institutions involved are taking steps to address the situation. However, there’s a lot more to be done.
The question of power and how it is wielded should be a source of concern for everyone. Why do lecturers hold so much power in the first place? And if they must, why are the checks and balances put in place so lax? Does the university Senate only bite when a student runs foul of the school laws?
The acquisition or attainment of power holds an allure for most people. We often imagine how we would do things differently if we were president or some top shot executive. We are critical of our leaders because we are confident we will do better if we had the privilege to hold power in trust for the people. But over and over again, the scenarios that play out in our society point to the contrary.
Nigerians do not do well with power.
This is evident when one takes a look into all the rungs of the societal ladder. One comes across personalities who are giddy with the minuscule semblance of authority they are given. The gate man turns you back because he is miffed by the way you said your good morning. Public servants delay to forward your proposal because they have a relative who’s bidding for the same contract, and bosses make life unbearable for subordinates just to exercise their might.
The headiness that power induces is the reason our public office holders despise us as soon as we elect them to serve us. The once amiable and accessible fellow mutates into an endangered specie within days. The power high is pervasive across all strata and spectra of humans and institutions.
Lecturers are aware that they should act as role models to students, yet they do otherwise. The same intellectuals who deploy sophisticated grammar to lampoon government for abusing power fall short when they are simply asked to be accountable custodians of academic integrity.
Truth is, the archetypal Nigeria has a propensity to veer off course when saddled with the responsibility—and yes—power is responsibility. Shoulders rise higher and egos balloon at the mere thought of being in a position where others have to rely on them to achieve a goal.
Even our households are spared of the disturbing plague.
When you pronounce that your child cannot survive without you, you are high on power. When you victimise that employee who refuses to address your wife as “Mummy” or snitch on co-workers, you are suffering from a power high syndrome. When we favour relatives who are unqualified for a job over numerous contenders who possess the requirements stated in a pre-qualification bid notice, then we are in no position to criticise government.
The sex for grades matter is not just a problem of amorous university teachers, it is a deeper problem of power intoxication. The knowledge of the fact that nothing will happen if they choose to make sexual advances toward undergraduates is what fuels this behaviour in our colleges.
These lecherous men ignore the institution’s code of conduct in the confident belief that their preys cannot dare to make a report to the right quarters. Lecturers are gods, period. And unless there’s a marked shift in the method of handling cases of sexual harassment in the ivory towers of academia, the epidemic will continue to thrive uninhibited.
The power holder never willingly relinquishes power, neither does he loosen his grip on its handle unless he is compelled to do so.
On the other hand, as individuals, we can determine to do better when we find ourselves wielding some form of authority over others. That is the time to remember that power is fleeting—that short-lived period is an opportunity to show empathy and kindness rather than cruelty.