BETWEEN AN ‘AGBERO’ AND A YOUNG GIRL: A STORY OF HARASSMENT. By: Olaniyi Aderuku.

It was another Friday morning in Lagos, and the usual bustling in the city of Lagos was gaining momentum. Commercial buses were jostling passengers and Lagosians were pacing to their various places of work. The situation was not any different in Ikeja, the capital city of Lagos, where a horde of street urchins, popularly known as ‘Area Boys’, had taken positions under the bridge at Medical Road, staring at passers-by and having their daily routine of doing almost nothing.

Among the passers-by was a young lady – slim, light-skinned and of average height – who was walking past the bus stop that morning. Sauntering with effortless grace, she had crochet hair on her but (quite sadly) it got her the admiration of one of the louts loitering at the bus stop and he chose to fondle with the hair as she walked past him. What audacity?!

She fumed: “Why did you touch me? Are you mad?” Then she started scanning through the area for any officer. None. She vowed to report him to anyone who’ll discipline him. This looked like a deep mess for the ‘agbero’ and so the apologies started but the lady wouldn’t listen. (She didn’t make that hair for the pleasure of a street urchin. No!) The rage continued. Apologies followed. More rage. More apologies. His cohorts looked on. Mustering her anger, “Are you mad? What right do you have to touch me? Are you mad?”. The apologies wouldn’t placate her. She wanted punishment. She sought the attention of people around.

Then a woman intervened in defence of the girl. She was obviously a mother who wouldn’t tolerate any form of harassment on young girls. “Why did you touch her?” he wouldn’t answer and she didn’t care. She launched a well-positioned slap onto his face. It wasn’t hot but I saw his lips jiggle. He didn’t stop apologising, but they wouldn’t listen and his colleagues, who were just at arm’s length, wouldn’t interfere. Some moments after, the tension doused.

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Both madam and the young girl started walking away but the stream of abuses didn’t stop flowing from the girl’s mouth. She was visibly offended but I think it was time for her to let go. In Yoruba, they say “Aseju l’Olorun o fe” (Meaning: Don’t overdo; God doesn’t like it or better put: moderation is key). With the girl at a distance, another agbero shouted back: “Are you special? Has he not said sorry?” She heard him and turned back. She was ready for another round of invective. “What did you say?” she demanded. This was a more confident ‘area boy’ with good education. He stepped down from the railing where he sat and retorted, staring right into her eyes, “What else do you want? He has apologised but you don’t want to let go. Do your worst. Go and call the Police, we are here! Are you special? It’s not like you are that beautiful. What’s in your hair?” That was all he needed to quell the girl’s steam. “Ehn..Don’t you know he was harassing me? If it were your sister…bla bla bla.” She lost her energy and the battle ended right there.

Harassment of ladies is a phenomenon that has continued to rear its ugly head. Recently, ladies stormed the Yaba market in protest of molestation and groping by the traders at the market. It has been a trend that has been on for too long where male traders, under the guise of seeking patronage, take advantage of female shoppers, touching them offensively.

In the heat of the protest, the traders staged a counter-protest saying that they wouldn’t stop the lecherous act. They went ahead to pelt the protesting ladies with sachet water. That was the height of presumptuousness! The drama sparked a wide reaction on the social media with many people condemning the traders but it appears that was how far it went. The concerned authorities didn’t wade in. Reports say that there was a loud silence from social media-savvy Ayobami Shogunle, an Assistant Commissioner of Police and head of the Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit (PCRRU), over the incident.

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We are in a society that has been infiltrated with a lot of men who demonstrate utter disregard for ladies and sadly, it might remain so. Even the innocence of children are taken advantage of by paedophiles. The surge in the reported cases of child molestation is particularly worrisome. The women are the victims of these notorious predators but nobody is listening.

It has now come to a time when this madness must come to its final end. The government must pay attention to this menace and enforce stringent regulations that would punish offenders. If these predators are left to frolic among sane humans, the cases of rape and violence against women would not stop and it may take a dramatic shape that could portend even more danger for our women.

Written by: Olaniyi Aderuku.

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