Friday 25 July 2008

Apes Obey! Instinct rather than moral virtue

Another scandal breaks
This could have easily been one of the feature stories in the Lagos Weekend [Source – The Daily Times of Nigeria – Lagos Weekend] which is said to be a light entertainment newspaper only the things I read in those papers then as a kid were well beyond my recommended reading matter.
Scandal and sex, most like titillating pornography in the hands of an 11 year old, what was one supposed to do?
In another of my Apes Obey! Series, I explore the issue of authority, how that is exercised without moral virtue and the tendency for animal instinct to get the better judgement of those in authority that see no abuse in sexual harassment.
Letters of intent and contempt
This does not get that far, but there is a case of sexual harassment in a Federal High Court in Abuja where a lowly nurse has tendered evidence of being harassed by the Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital in Abuja for what might be sexual favours. [Source – Nigerian Tribune - National Hospital sex scandal: CMD’s love letter tendered in court]
She also tendered another letter where one of her bosses, a female, tried to persuade her to yield to the advances of the chief to save her job.
I am not for one moment interested in the sensational aspects of this case and since it is still sub judice I cannot ascertain to any extent the quality and provenance of the evidence presented, however, there are other matters for analysis in this case.
The nurse has brought this case for harassment which would normally be dealt with by a tribunal in the West to save her job and career which was in danger of stagnating or termination if she did not succumb to the “sexual” advances of the Chief Medical Officer.
The abuse of authority
She no doubt took a serious risk of not compromising her principles to take on the might of authority in this quest. Typically, those in positions of authority assume themselves to be sources of patronage; potentates of whom all draw their breath and reason for existence.
They demand and expect their commands and desires to be met, though it is one thing to exercise professional authority within the bounds of ethically sound conduct and another which is taking the opportunity through rank and position to satisfy ones desires.
The issue here is how to deal with the endemic case of men in authority, who feel that all women in their sphere of influence are available to satisfy their sexual proclivities.
Those in power think that their positions were intrinsically virtuous without the need to have any moral virtues, integrity or principles thereby allowing animal instinct to rise to the fore as they roam and rove as rulers of the jungle – subduing and domineering with untrammelled remit over the lives of others.
Some women have under this relentless domination, persuasion, duress and threat to their well-being and livelihood succumbed; losing every sense of self-esteem and dignity in the process as the “men”, or rather, animals take their pleasures and move on to the next female on the block.
Made vulnerable for other needs
Ideally, women as supposed to be secure in their lives and jobs which they should have attained by genuine market competition, competence and merit, but people in power who are supposed to be mentors, coaches,  teachers or helpers take liberties and take advantage, painting alternative scenarios that leave the women too vulnerable to resist the abuse.
This is a hard enough situation to be in, it does not have to be complicated by some middle manager that she should have been able to confide in, whose inability to exercise good judgement allows for the abuse to be perpetuated without end.
Sadly, this kind of action is unfortunate, as it cheapens the worth of a substantial number of the talent pool in Nigeria for sexual pleasure; I would not be surprised if before she received the letter from the Matron others had told her that it was just only sex, go in, get it and get out and all your life is settled and sorted – what is the big deal? Compromise for gain or principle for loss.
In the words of the doctor, “I will provide you your heart desire”, he had the power to make or break her career and it appears the nurse is after nothing but to retain her job and probably obtain a safe haven for her life and well-being.
This is where we need men and women of courage who can help ensure that those in authority know their responsibilities and the fact that they cannot abuse their staff with impunity and gain exemption from legal scrutiny.
The menace of legal instruments
Interestingly, both the Chief Medical Director and the Matron are named as respondents, they have not denied or repudiated any of the claims, rather they believe that the weight of legal menace that they can exercise on the lowly nurse gives them the right to try and exclude the nurse from legal redress because she may not have the means to pay for damages if she lost her case.
Herein, in another issue that needs attention, the need for a robust legal aid system that allows the little man to seek the counsel of competent legal expertise and exercise their full rights to justice in our legal system.
This legal aid system should also include a properly managed and effective pro bono representation system where learned and eminent barristers and advocates offer their services to protect the rights of the vulnerable.
Enshrine the CEDAW Conventions
When one seeks the right not be harassed, oppressed, abused or denigrated for refusing to succumb to the desires of another in authority, they should not have to suffer the intimidation of authority, means, power and influence that allows for impunity to thrive without adequate redress.
Whatever way the case gets resolved, this is an ever-present gauntlet the professional Nigerian woman has to run – it is time for our legislators to have laws in place that protect the rights of women and it is time to have the CEDAW Conventions enshrined in our national laws.
As Lord Lugard did say again, there are many in authority, that have “the courage of the fighting animal [to get whatever they want], an instinct [harass for personal desire] rather than a moral virtue [of self-restraint and understanding their position of authority, trust and leadership]”. We’ll see how this pans out.

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