24/07/2019

The Busola Dakolo in All of Us

Blog / By Ayọ̀ Adénẹ́

How a pastor accused of sexual abuse reminded me of Aunty Dupe, the boarding house mistress.

Backstory: Busola Dakolo is an alumnus of my secondary school.
That was where she was when she first knew Biodun Fatoyinbo.
At the time, Busola was a school fellowship leader.
Like Busola, I had been a student fellowship leader in the same school. Back in Busola’s home town, Fatoyinbo was a fellowship leader. Nowadays he is the senior pastor of a popular, youth-oriented church, the Commonwealth Of Zion Assembly (COZA).
Busola’s exposure to Fatoyinbo led to a series of sexual violations.
The interview where Busola speaks for the 1st time about her experience, has led to a public debate, including whether she should have spoken up, or whether she can be believed.

***

When I was 12 years old, I didn’t know a lot about sex, except that it was forbidden. I was raised in an environment where it was not okay to say the word penis. That was a bad word. So we used euphemisms instead. Like, kòkòrò (‘small insect’).
Yes, we conflated sexuality with morality.

Then one sunny afternoon, in the Staff School at Ibadan, Mr Boadi broached the subject of puberty to my Primary Six class. As he described the sex organs and their changes, the boys sniggered and the girls blushed. Then one boy at the back of the room, Sola, who was bigger than the rest of us, whipped out his kòkòrò.
When the other boys who sat on his row, saw how big Sola’s kòkòrò was, they burst into excited laughter. Some girls saw it too, and squealed.

When the other boys who sat on his row, saw how big Sola’s kòkòrò was, they burst into excited laughter. Some girls saw it too, and squealed.

That’s how my generation was raised. To be awkward, ashamed & dismissive about sex.

By the time I was 14, I had moved on to the School for Gifted Children, that had just been established in the federal capital territory. The same school Busola Dakolo would later join. Our set was the pioneer class, and many had never been so far from home.
Boys and girls stayed in separate boarding houses, and from the window of my room in the dorm, I could see Aunty Dupe’s home.
A slim, dark young woman, with a scarf over her demure perm, Aunty Dupe was the boarding house mistress, who lived beyond the mechanical water pump, facing the girls hostel.

At the time, I had become the leader of the students’ Christian fellowship. Aunty Dupe was a prominent elder there, among the teachers who regularly participated in the fervent prayer and worship sessions we had twice a week. On Sundays and Wednesdays, Aunty Dupe was a deeply spiritual woman who spoke in tongues and received prophecies direct from heaven.
But, during school hours, she was also my Economics teacher.

Under Aunty Dupe’s tutelage, I would become the star student, who always scored the top grades in Economics tests. So much that whenever Bimbo or Justin overtook my first place, I’d get upset. I felt I knew Adam Smith and Inelasticity of Demand & Supply, like the back of my hand.

At night Aunty Dupe taught me things that were not in textbooks.

At night, Aunty Dupe taught me other things. Things that were not in our textbooks. See in those days, the new school had yet to be connected to electricity. We operated a stand by generator, which was switched off after prep every evening.

After all students had retired to the dormitory, I would get a handwritten note, delivered by anyone of the girls, who lived in the dormitory right next to Aunty Dupe’s house.
That she wanted to see me.
And I went.
I would walk the short distance between my hostel, past the mechanical water pump boys often used for testing their muscles. I would knock on the door to Aunty Dupe’s bungalow.
She would open, and let me in.

Inside, it was dimly lit.
A rechargeable lamp with a bulb that had seen better days, a flickering candle on a table in the corner, and that was all.
At the door, I could make out a dining table, with 2 chairs. And in the distance, a soft sofa. Someone sat there. It was Mark ( real name withheld). Mark and I had grown up in the same university campus as children, but he had gone off to school in Ilorin, and now we were together again in this gifted school. He was friend, confidant and brother all at once. And he sat there, in the sofa, in the dark.

I said Hey. Mark said Hey.
And Aunty Dupe sat smiling, at the dinner table. In front of her, an open bible. The big, black type, with many appendices and colored bookmarks. Aunty Dupe pulled a chair for me, and I sat with her.
Silence.
Awkward silence.
Feet shuffling. Crickets chirping.
Mark coughed.
I have to go he said.
He got up.
“Ok, Mark. God bless you”, she said.
And my friend was gone.
And the teacher and I, were alone.

Then she told me things.
About the Holy Spirit.
She’d had her eye on me, she said.
She knew I was gifted with the things of The Spirit, she said.
But I need to go farther, you see.
I needed to develop a deeper discernment of The Spirit, you see.

“Pull your chair closer to mine” Aunty Dupe said.
I drew closer.
“No, closer” she said
And I did, until we were face to face.
The candle flickered.
The crickets chirped.
I smelt her fragrant talc, and her misty breath.
She leaned in to my face, and asked: “Do you trust me?”
Why not. In this dark house. In the middle of nowhere. With other students and staff fast asleep in their beds. Yes, I trusted this woman. She was a mother in Israel, and she wanted to help me develop my spiritual gifts.
“Yes, of course” I answered.

“Good”, she said. “Now I’m going to teach you to fully trust the Holy Spirit: “Open your mouth” She gazed into my eyeballs. The flickering lights from the candle became a blur as I accommodated her dimly lit face in my field of view, and blocked out everything else. Obediently, I said “Aahh…” Then she leaned into me, and slowly, began to insert her moist tongue into my opened mouth.
I flinched.
“Don’t,” Aunty Dupe chastised, drawing back.
“I’m sorry” I said.
Then she smiled. “You have to relax, and let the Lord use you”.

Again she repeated, “Do you trust me?”
I nodded.
She leaned in, and inserted her tongue farther, exploring my buccal cavity.
Silence. Crickets. A flickering candle in the corner of my eye.

I closed my eyes, and felt how open I had become to the Holy Spirit. Or Aunty Dupe. Or the Holy Spirit. I wasn’t sure which was which any more.
And my heart beat faster with each gentle flick of the teacher’s tongue inside my open mouth, but I was doing what the Holy Spirit wanted me to do.

Time became a blur, until my teacher withdrew her tongue, leaned back, and smiled. Her big black bible still lay open on the dining table, so she took it and flipped a page or two. She read out some verse I needed to meditate upon, until our next meeting.

She escorted me to the door, and I crossed the road. The crickets no longer chirped, and the stars above had gone to bed. And so I did I.

And on other nights, there were other meetings.

***

If I had wanted to tell a teacher, or my parents, how would I describe what happened?

In those days, difficult discussions would often close with, “now let us commit such-and-such into the hands of the Lord”.
That’s not the kind of culture that helps a child to open up.

Until this year, and until therapy, I hadn’t even known that the action performed on me by a trusted Church leader when I was 14 was not spiritual at all.

Which is why, what Busola Dakolo has done, years after it happened, takes growth.

And, when one person’s outspokenness exposes the unhealed traumas of very many others, there are bound to be those who shout her down, to avoid confronting their own repressed truths.

One person’s honesty can also help others.
When I told my friend Tola (real name withheld), about my nights with the teacher, she shocked me with her own revelation … that the boarding house master who lived across the road from Aunty Dupe’s house, had sexually assaulted her too.

***

I have one picture of me in Aunty Dupe’s house.
Even though the photography is no longer clear, there’s a lot of body language to interpret.
My teacher leaning into me.
Me crossing my hands and legs defensively.
And my face, the innocence, the naïveté.

I didn’t see it clearly when I was 14, until recently, with some help.
Likewise, all the Busolas out there will never open up, without at least one person telling them it's okay to do so.

What makes adults who exploit positions of power over children unstoppable?

Silence.

If you’re reading this, you know that as Nigerians, the way we think about how the world works, and the conversations we have about sexuality, and sexual abuse, need to change.

Ayọ̀ Adénẹ́ is a Public Health expert, writer and regular contributor to our magazine. He has also recently joined the Board of ZAM.