As we continue to navigate the return to normalcy post-COVID-19, our collective chests have had to deal with the weight of insensitivity that pervades the world. From the racist underbelly of America being exposed to Nigeria’s culture of rape rearing its ugly head, I am reminded of Yeats’ proclaiming “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. Truer words have not been spoken. Vera Uwa Omozuwa, a 100 level student of the University of Benin was raped and killed on the premises of a Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) parish in Benin.
According to BBC, Uwa a first-year microbiology student at the University of Benin had gone to study at the church near her house on Wednesday, the day she was attacked and assaulted. She was found with her skirt torn and covered in blood by a security guard who had just started his shift, shortly after 6 p.m. Three days later, she passed on at a hospital. According to a police spokesperson in Edo State who spoke to BBC, Uwa died following an altercation at the church, and the incident is being treated as a murder case.
This episode is the latest in a long history which captures the dangers of the existence of the Nigerian woman. A world where their issues are trivialized, sexual rights are constantly trampled upon and their very existence is threatened by factors beyond their control. It is clear that their security cannot be guaranteed and that is reflective of the failure of the larger Nigerian society.
This case and the fact that it took place on church premises could also be viewed as raising cause to question the role of religion in the perpetration of these crimes. Religion should ideally serve as a balm to the weak and oppressed but has been conscripted as a tool by the oppressors. Last year, we saw the attempts to hold Abuja based “Pastor” Biodun Fatoyinbo to account fail to result in his prosecution as a result of these weakened institutions and their lack of bite. To move forward, the Nigerian religious class needs to embark on a round of self-reflection by noting the manner in which it has failed its faithful and create a regulatory mechanism to enable it to regain an element of public trust.
The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki has issued a statement indicating the matter will be investigated but that should not be the first part of his response. It is imperative he takes it upon himself to make clear what his findings are to the public and ensure the Edo State Ministry of Justice is able to prosecute those who need prosecution. As a publically elected official, this is one layer of his covenant to his people.