I recently watched MO Abudu’s new film Olotore said to be inspired by the work of an undercover reporter Tobore Ovuorie who in 2014 published a report titled “Inside Nigeria’s ruthless human trafficking mafia.” The film comes highly recommended, it has a compelling story line, top notch acting, vivid and graphic imagery and excellent directing. There were one or two scenes that I felt could be rewritten but all in all it was a job very well done. However, I found it very very disturbing because it’s a depiction of our society, an expose into the grime and depravity that is the foundation for some of our beautiful edifices of wealth and respectability.
I will not spoil the film for those who haven’t watched it but the general theme is about human/sex trafficking and the part we all, yes everyone of us play in it.
Sex trafficking has been with us for a while and it’s a malaise that affects all countries and continents of the world. It certainly is not the first time I had heard about how ladies were trafficked abroad to be sex slaves and I am sure it wouldn’t be the last. I knew vaguely about the existence of The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) established in 2003 which is the Federal Governments response to tackling the issue of human trafficking through the efforts of Eki Igbinedion wife of Lucky Igbinedion, the then Governor of Edo State who was very active in the battle against sex trafficking, especially since most of the victims were from Edo state.
However, seeing a film that was so realistic and graphic compelled me to take off my rose tinted glasses and look really look at the factors that have contributed to this malaise.
The first factor I identified is the breakdown of the family structure. On one hand you have parents who are not equipped, willing or caring enough to nurture their children, mainly because they didn’t receive such nurture themselves and can’t be bothered or because they themselves are grappling with life and it’s many issues. On the other hand, you have parents who have an entitlement mentality and believe that the main reason they have children is for the children to take care of them.
In both scenarios you have children who are left to fend for themselves early in life, who lack the essential nurturing and grooming of a home, who whilst struggling to survive are burdened with the need to take care of their siblings and impress their parents.
Closely related to the breakdown of the family structure is the loss of values. The truth is that today, anything goes; the end justifies the means no matter how hideous the means are. Our society applauds the seemingly smart person who gets what he wants through underhanded and illegal means that we hitherto would have ostracized and vilified them for.
Sometime, last year I happened upon an advert in the newspapers where a family stated that they were publicly disowning their daughter because she was a lesbian and sought to apply to be married to her female partner. I saw through the advert and knew immediately that it was for “refugee tins.” No real lesbian in Nigeria will go to the marriage registry and ask to be married when it’s against the law and alien to our culture but we all know that it was a vital part to her filing for asylum and so far the desired objective was achieved, her family’s seeming stance in disowning her was in fact a stamp of approval of the method she had chosen to apply for asylum.
Closely related to this story is one I read where family members, knowing that their son became openly gay not because he was so inclined but for the sole purpose of evading deportation back into the country when his initial story of nearly being assassinated because he refused to carry out a cultural rite was investigated and found to be a lie. They connived with their son to post death threats under a sex video he did with his lover which he leaked on the internet. It was this video that he showed to the authorities and which earned him his asylum status.
In a tight race with the loss of moral values is corruption, it is corruption that makes law enforcement officers tip the traffickers of pending arrests; turn the other way when they see young girls being ferried across the border in huge numbers and by people who are clearly not related to them; that makes priests and medicine men agree to make these girls undergo the gruesome initiation rites tying them psychologically to their pimps.
I am sure you will agree with me that the government officers/ agencies are complicit though they will deny but I assure you that by our silence, by our unwillingness to come to the aid of one another, our refusal to stand up for the weak in the society, our inability to demand for better living standards for the poor amongst us, our veneration of wealth even though we know it is ill gotten makes us all complicit.
Also, I cannot but find complicit the victims themselves especially those who knowingly choose this path to fulfill their dreams. It is a well known fact that a lot of the pimps and major sex traffickers were once sex slaves and victims themselves, they did their time, fulfilled their contracts, bought their freedom and then took over from their former madams and masters to enslave others, claiming that what did not kill them will not kill others.
Most of them knew what was expected of them and had an inkling of what awaited them nevertheless, they did everything to raise the money which runs into hundreds of Naira to be sold into slavery.
I have struggled to understand the desperation, despair, hopelessness that drives people to a journey that is so fraught with danger especially when they pay from their pockets for the journey. I wonder why people would commit so much just to go abroad to work as sex workers, why they would go through the Sahara, suffer great hardship, cross the sea in dingy boats, knowing full well it could capsize and they may not reach their destination, tell the most hideous lies to ensure that they are granted asylum in another country, opt to stay as illegals, always running from law enforcement in the western world?
I don’t have the answers to these questions and I know I may never understand what drives people to such lengths because of my privileged background, I do acknowledge however, that we all have a duty to do all we can in our own little way to educate, inspire and help everyone to see the ills of human trafficking and to that end, I must commend the actions of the Oba of Benin Oba Ewuare II who on March 9 2018, summoned all Benin Chiefs, priests and native doctors to his palace and made them renounced all the curses placed on his subjects and in turn placed a curse on all human traffickers and priests who continued to engage in the practice of or aiding and abetting sex trafficking.