By Elijah Oladimeji Owrote from New York, USA.
The recent BBC sex for grade documentary, which highlighted inappropriate sexual contacts between some university lecturers and some students in Nigeria and Ghana was bitter-sweet. Sweet because it clearly caught some of the bad guys in action. Bitter because BBC used illegal, under-handed tactics, violated individual rights to privacy, targeted a particular ethnic group while taking subtle digs at Christianity. This article will focus on the Nigerian part of the documentary first, to the sweet part.
The documentary was able to capture in graphic details some lecturers in awkward positions. Allegations of sex for grades on university campuses have been rampant for decades, but there were no clear, easy ways to prove them. It was a type of abuse that happens behind closed doors on campus, in hotels or similar places outside the campuses and in odd hours. The students did not wish to be known, the lecturers did not wish to be known. It was “whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” type of a thing. The documentary in different scenarios in different campuses captured the bad guys in action. There is no way to deny it without appearing complicit. With incontrovertible evidences, the University of Lagos had no choice but to suspend both Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu, a Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts; and Dr. Samuel Oladipo of the Economics department. The University’s prompt action deserves commendation.
Now, to the bitter part. BBC that carried out the investigation is neither an objective nor a fair news reporting organization. Its reports on Africa are usually negative and can be summarized thus: “a dark continent filled with ignorant people”. When the report is not on war, famine, poverty, wild animals, natural disaster or some type of calamity, it is on weak institutions and corrupt officials. The sex for grades documentary follows that stereotype. The University of Lagos has produced several notable medical doctors, engineers, scientists, journalists, lawyers, educationists, famous people in almost every sphere of life.
It is proper to name a few alumni, stating with the current vice president Yemi Oshibajo. The University has produced several governors, including Gbenga Daniel (Ogun State) Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo (Gombe) Gabriel Suswam (Benue) Ikedi Ohakim (Imo) Godwin Obaseki (Edo) Wilie Obiano (Anambra) Akinwumi Ambode (Lagos). It is fitting to add to this list current Speaker of the National Assembly (Femi Gbajabiamila) current minister of Information (Lai Mohammed) World Bank Vice President Oby Esekwezili. It has produced several famous pastors: Pastor Enoch Adeboye RCCG (mathematician) Daniel Olukoya, Mountain of Fire Ministries (scientist) Tunde Bakare, Latter Rain Assembly (Lawyer). The list of famous people produced by the University of Lagos is too numerous to list in this article. The list of amazing things accomplished by the university in the last 50 years are too many to write about in this piece. And the only time BBC will mention this great university is in relation to a sex for grades scandal?
First, BBC violated both institutional and individual rights in the documentary. Unless BBC got explicit permission from the universities, it had no right to audio, video, individuals, offices, departments, institutions without prior, explicit, written consent. Doing it for a good cause, is still not a good reason to violate the law. I am not a lawyer. Privacy laws vary from one country to another and I am not sure as to the specifics of what is legal, but it does appear to me that BBC crossed the line several times in the documentary. The students, staff, lecturers, departments, institutions that were shown in that documentary who did not give prior consent should contact a lawyer to explore the possibility of a lawsuit. The Four Square Gospel church especially should consider filing a lawsuit against BBC.
Bringing a reputable church like that into a global sex scandal is plain wrong. Dr Boniface Igbeneghu was neither representing nor acting on behalf of the church. His work as a lecturer and pastor are two different things. The BBC reporter did not have to video-record him on the pulpit, while showing his face and that of church members. Neither the church nor members of the church deserved to be mentioned in some type of campus sex scandal. BBC did that to humiliate him as a pastor, and humiliate the church. And just in case the church decides to file a lawsuit, they should consider doing it in London or New York, Brussels, some type of European city. The world news to know that BBC uses two different sets of rules. One for the civilized world, another one for Africa. Again, I am not a lawyer, but I can see reasonable grounds for a lawsuit, even multiple lawsuits. Second, BBC targeted the Yoruba ethnic group.
The report was limited to some south-west universities in Nigeria. BBC has to know about central and northern Nigeria. BBC has had correspondents in Kano, Kaduna, Jos for decades. There is actually BBC Hausa service. Same arguments can be made for the South-East and South-South. Extending the investigations to Ahmadu Bello Univeristy, Kano, or Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka campuses would not have required too much efforts. But for some reasons, BBC just pretended that sampling some Universities in and around Lagos is sufficient. Of course BBC knew that Yorubas are the most known, most-researched, most-urbanized, most educated, black African ethnic group and whatever news related to them will travel worldwide quickly. I think it is fair to ask BBC why this report was limited to South-West Nigeria. BBC has to know about a term called “representative sample” in scientific or non-scientific research, and it has to know that sampling a few lecturers and students in and around Lagos is not sufficient to represent Nigeria. I think it is fair to ask BBC why the opinions of female university students in the far North, North Central, South-East and South-South were not considered important.
Third, BBC targeted the church, following the usual patterns of abuse and disrespect of Nigerian churches. BBC did not have to take a video camera to the Four SquareGospel church, where Dr. Boniface Igbenehu of the University of Lagos serves as a pastor. It did that to humiliate him as a pastor and rubbish the church. The BBC has never acknowledged nor written about the sacrifices of several prominent Nigerian pastors that has lifted Christianity to the enviable level where it is today. It has instead focused on scandals or any negative story that can weaken and embarrass the church. The moment the news broke about the alleged rape involving COZA pastor Biodun Fatoyin and Busola Dakolo, I knew BBC was going to carry the news item. And I was right.
To be continued tomorrow