Some stories are best told straight. True or not, the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio by Ms. Joi Gbene Nunieh, former acting managing director of the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is most embarrassing to Akpabio’s image as a cabinet minister, the Federal Executive Council as an institution and the entire country. In a series of naming and shaming interviews granted by Ms. Nunieh amid the ongoing public slanging match with Akpabio, she repeatedly insisted that she slapped Akpabio to fend off his uninvited sexual advances at his guesthouse in Apo, Abuja. The incident is more than a personal embarrassment for the lecherous Akpabio; it is now a public affair because Akpabio abused his official position as supervisory minister of NDDC to solicit sexual favors from his victim. This blight on the toga of Akpabio is indeed lamentable, signposting as it does; the moral bankruptcy and a certain lack of character by Nigerian public officials; a challenge all Nigerians must confront. It is just as well that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a speedy and coordinated investigation of corruption and sundry allegations in NDDC. But for any such probe to be credible, Akpabio must recuse himself or be removed; to prevent any undue interference with the investigation. Such is the essence of due process and the rule of law; you cannot be judge and jury in your own case!
The details of the alleged sexual harassment incident – both Nunieh’s version, and the rambling denial of Akpabio and his handlers - are in the public domain and need no re-telling, not the least; for the simple reason that the whole episode, including the slapping of the sexual predator is so unedifying. The man has denied the accusation of course as expected, claiming his innocence. Akpabio in a belated and tepid statement by his media aide, Anietie Ekong, said his attention had been drawn “to a cornucopia of false, malicious, and libelous press interviews granted by Ms. Gbene Joi Nunieh, the erstwhile acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) in some news and social media platforms and a series of concerted vicious campaigns of calumny deviously orchestrated by her against his person ranging from the allegation of corruption, sexual and workplace harassments, pipelines bombings, secret cult activities, abuse of office, amongst other lies peddled by her.” Akpabio said his initial response was to allow his lawyers and the judicial system vindicate him of the false allegations, “but was compelled to react to some of the wayward allegations levied against his person by Ms. Nunieh, especially the one bordering on sexual harassment.”
Ms. Nunieh has also threatened legal action against Akpabio for libel and defamation. So, pending the outcome of what promises to be a protracted legal fracas, the jury is still out on where the truth lies. But however it turns out; this is indeed a sordid affair.
Either way, this depravity presents yet another embarrassing score-card for a nation enmeshed in the thralldom of deficient public morality. The tragedy of Akpabio signals the tragedy of leadership at all levels in Nigeria. Because no one can give what he does not have, only good leaders make good examples; only good leadership can produce good governance. Alas, in Nigeria today, most persons who run for, or are leveraged by godfathers into, or who simply muscle their way into public offices are comprehensively unfit. The nation has lost its moral compass with dishonorable people in power. All these add up to a national tragedy in which hapless Nigerians are victims and by which Nigeria has largely stood still, since the return to democracy in 1999.
Fundamentally, it is another pointer to the much vilified but unaddressed corruption in the country; and it is unfortunate that Nigerian public officials keep featuring in the news for all the wrong reasons. Honestly, there’s something about the allure of power combined with the full blush of public office that breeds what is notorious about the libido of Nigerian leaders: their marked propensity for going big and bad while blowing it in totally spectacular fashion. How else to explain why a minister would be holding official meetings in his private guest house and hotel rooms if not to create the propitious scenario for such self-indulgent eccentricities? In a deprecatory self-righteous indignation, Akpabio is miffed why Ms. Nunieh did not report the sexual harassment to the police when it occurred; if the allegations were true.
Such a ridiculous and lame defence is self-serving and laughable and should attract no further comment. Akpabio, like most Nigerians know better than suggesting that victims of sexual assault report to the police. The inconvenient truth is that Nigerian politicians are amongst the most perverted sex predators in the world. They have little or no respect for women, whom they objectify as just “another skirt” and an acquisition challenge. Men in high public office are renowned for making passes at their female staffers including married women. These men with small minds have value-systems that go no further than the circumference of their genitals. They use the number of wives and mistresses; some young enough to be their grand-daughters as a cacophonous barometer to showcase their sexual prowess. In desperation, some women anchor their careers on their ability to seduce and sleep with the high and the mighty within the corridors of power, while others, usually married women succumb to the sex predators since refusal sounds a career-ending death knell. In civilized countries, this is called sexual harassment which is a criminal offence. However, the peculiar Nigerian name for this phenomenon is “bottom power.” This is insane and should compel pity!
The he-goat former Akwa Ibom governor took his phallocentric antiques to the NDDC because it is standard acceptable conduct in Nigeria, where acts of marital infidelity are condoned even at the highest level of government. From the president, right down to governors, few, if any top Nigerian official travels outside his station or abroad without a mistress, euphemistically called “hand luggage.” The obnoxious practice is so endemic as to have attracted a special budgetary appropriation called “man-no-be-wood” to cater to mistresses, prostitutes and female companions during such trips. Little surprise Nigerian delegations to any international event are often bloated. It is sad then that Nigerian public officials are renowned for something so demeaning as sexual misconduct. What is unclear is why. Is sex so fundamentally important to Nigerian leaders that they see it as exerting their influence? Have sexual escapades by politicians and people in authority positions become an equal opportunity perk of office - men do this because they can?
Given the way our empty-headed politicians brag and drop names indiscriminately about the number of women they have slept with, it is obvious that Akpabio just wanted to add Ms. Nunieh’s name to his long “sexual CV” if only to boast to his friends and colleagues that she is one of his victims. Akpabio’s claim that: “I love my wife and daughters, and I have been a champion of women and children” rings hollow in the face of the public embarrassment from the unfolding scandal. And here is the point: a public official at any level must possess the integrity and self-restraint appropriate to leadership including, the capacity to responsibly manage his or her sexual cravings. In this #MeToo era where men of privilege and power have been exposed and brought down in disgrace for abusing their power and influence to harass women, Nigeria obviously cannot continue business as usual; because it must frankly be stated that Akpabio is accused of doing what many others do all the time.
Despite his vociferous proclamation of his innocence, Akpabio has not directly addressed the allegation that he was slapped by Ms. Nunieh; and so he must take responsibility for digging and falling into his own grave with his uncontrollable libido. His conduct was disgraceful and devoid of any perfunctory exaggeration. His is an embarrassment to the cabinet and a disgrace to Nigeria. He should resign or be sacked. As a role model, Akpabio has impugned his integrity and brought opprobrium upon the nation. Needless reassuring the international community that all Nigerian public officials are not all like the he-goat Senator Godswill Akpabio.
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