Once upon a time, news from my family in Nigeria centered on the dead or dying. Tired of all the negative news, I sent out a fatwa: give me news of deaths and risk instant death! My folks knew I didn’t mean literal death. They also knew the sharpness of my tongue. A family member once said (unfairly, I might add) that if I were goat meat, he would eat everything except my mouth! I didn’t mind that ‘yabis’ because the avalanche of negative family news ceased.
I remembered a family member recently and realised I hadn’t heard about her in ages. When I asked my mother, she said the woman had since passed away. “Why wasn’t I told?” I asked with mild indignation. My mother retorted: “I thought you didn’t want to hear news about death.” Touche! I can’t eat my cake and have it, can I?
Despite that, I continue to discourage news about deaths because they often extract a high (emotional and financial) price. Even the happy events such as weddings and births (not always in that order) have their own price tags. For example, a younger cousin called one Thursday to inform me that on that Sunday, she would dedicate her baby (of whose existence I had been blissfully ignorant). She invited me to the event (holding in three days!). I asked if she knew the distance between Arizona and Akwa Ibom. Needless to say, she was only interested in my presents rather than my presence.
On the political arena, I also carefully filter the information that I consume from Nigeria. I read the major headlines on Nigerian news sites and studiously ignore photos of naked young black women that have become regular pop-ups on these sites. I also avoid the often deceptive headlines about Nollywood stars and their love interests, unless the stories are about my favorite leading man, Ramsey Nouah. Thankfully, he’s not one of those crazy ones who run around with unbridled libido, at least not that I know of. And after the stuff that I ‘accidentally’ read this week, I would hesitate if asked to “drink mbiam” (as my Annang folks would say) affirming his morality.
I am still traumatised by the story of an alleged affair between Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and a woman who may or may not be a CBN employee. If the story is true, then I need intense therapy to recover from the shock that my ‘fiscal idol’ has a serious case of clay-footedness. Okay, I exaggerate … but it would be profoundly disappointing.
I first ‘encountered’ Sanusi last year on an Africa Magic broadcast. That same week he made the headlines with his comment about how the Nigerian civil service needed a trim. I teased him for desiring to create a civil service that was as austere as his physical appearance. The research that I did about him for the column showed a man with utmost personal discipline. He also struck me as someone who dogmatically pursues excellence. These characteristics are incongruous with the image that has emerged in the recent stories of the alleged sex scandal.
No one outside the newspaper that broke the story can confirm this story. That hasn’t stopped it from generating discussion on Blogosphere. Many folks who have weighed in on it don’t see anything wrong if a supervisor has an affair with an employee over whom he has influence (on hiring or promotion). Specifically, the general comments can be classified in three categories. The first set features folks who suggest that the story is a malicious attempt to smear a man whose policies at the CBN have created discomfort for economic deviants. In other words, enemies and political detractors are trying to “shoot down” a good man.
The second group of comments argues that it shouldn’t matter what a CBN governor does behind closed doors as long as he’s doing his job. Sanusi’s numerous awards, including the most recent (Best African CBN governor), confirm that he knows his onions. Needless to interject that private troubles and acts of indiscipline often translate to policies!
Then there is the third category: if it happened, it must have been consensual and therefore no crime was committed. The sub-text in this group includes comments that reference the woman’s ‘shame’ and ‘disgrace’. It is framed in a narrative of ‘man no be wood’ but a woman should be made of steel, and therefore strong enough to resist the lecherous advances of a boss.
Some of the details of this case (if true) are certainly different from the typical workplace sexual harassment. The individuals, as confirmed by Sanusi himself, had prior knowledge of each other before the woman was hired at a CBN affiliate agency. In a classic scenario, the harassment would occur on the job. The victim’s response (to comply, resist or report) is often influenced by many factors. One of these is the ‘need factor’, as the victim weighs the promised job or promotion against the outcome of creating waves, and risking unemployment. The morality factor may be insignificant in these calculations.
There’s also a ‘fear factor’ that hinders many victims of workplace sexual harassment from reporting (even here in the United States with its sophisticated advocacy mechanisms). The silence is obviously more common in Nigeria because of the fear by the victim (mostly a woman) that she’ll be blamed, derided, disbelieved and dismissed (for trying to create problems for an Oga-at-the-top).
In the Sanusi case, commentators are already arguing that the woman participated actively (such as flying out to hotel rendezvous) because of what she stood to gain from the relationship. Thus, they ignore the factors that often create an unwilling but consensual participant out of a victim of workplace sexual harassment. Unfortunately, regardless of the truth or falsity of this alleged ‘sex scandal’, the woman’s reputation has taken a serious hit.
Still, I hope fervently that this scandal is indeed the work of Sanusi’s ‘enemies’ and ‘political detractors’. Nevertheless, if it is true, I don’t want to know. Let me hold on to my austere, ascetic, albeit not sterile, image of Mallam CBN Governor/. The fatwa on bringers of bad news is still in force, remember?