By Betty Abah
Spending time with Ochanya’s mum, Mrs. Rose Abah, sister, Ene and other family members at their Ogene-Amejo Village in Benue State was sobering in reality as it was rejuvenating in our collective quest for justice.
Of all we talked about, as we both sat on her bed in her petite two-room house, one statement of hers stuck: ‘If I had any inkling that my daughter would perish this way, I would never have allowed her to go to school. Patapata, I could have sent her to stay with her elder siblings much later when they are more settled, then she can go to school’.
The village school was and is in a semi-coma with farmer-teachers hardly ever in school as salaries are a rarity, appearing once or twice a year from Makurdi’s rusted coffers.
Though she and Ochanya’s dad are subsistent farmers, majoring in the usual yam and cassava,, they decided to send her to live with the Ogbujas in the nearby Ugbokolo township where Mr. Ogbuja lectures at the Benue State Polytechnic.
What more, Mrs. Abah had absolute trust in her relative, Mrs. Felicia Ogbuja (who is both a maternal and paternal cousin). That was how the chubby and brilliant five-year old came to live with the Ogbuja’s household of father, mother and six children, to access quality education. Ochanya’s parents pulled funds together so the girl could attend same school with the Ogbuja kids and occasionally sent food stuff. Mama Ochanya also worked in their village farm from time to time all in a bid to ensure her child was comfortable.
But alas, father and son namely Felicia’s lecturer husband, Andrew and their son, Victor aka Junior, turned the girl into a sex slave (both anal and vagina) when she was barely eight and the violation went on for more than four years with them sometimes drugging her not to know or to forget, and at other times threatening her into silence. Her young body, unable to cope with the serial violation, broke down early 2018 at Federal Govt Girls College, Gboko, also in Benue where she was a Junior Secondary School student. Diagnosis: Vagina Vesico Fistula (VVF). And, after a series of medical interventions, the girl died last October at a hospital in Otukpo town, and the rest is now an ongoing history in the quest for justice albeit Ochanya becoming a spirited symbol of mass mobilization and resistance against the current epidemic of child sexual violence in Nigeria.
Yet, it’s not moi-moi, as we say, when you are poor and up in arms against the forces of rich and vicious persons. And a lingering culture of silence and crude victim blaming.
But they have Nigerians on their side. But they have goodwill on their side. But they have posterity on their side. But most of all, they have GOD on their side.