By Eneh Achadu
It has been a day of heavy protestations across Nigeria for Ochanya Ogbanje who died last Thursday in Benue State, central Nigeria from rape related complications. Protests exploded on the premises of Benue Polytechnic, Ugbokolo where Mr Andy Ogbuja, the alleged rapist teaches Catering and Hotel Management, lasting over three hours between 1 and 3 pm Thursday. In nearby Otukpo, it was the same case of protests as anger keeps rising on the nightmare that won’t magically go away. A street, Intervention was told, has been named after her in Otukpo. Although this could n ot be confirmed immediately but it would not be surprising because the Caregiver who gave her succour till her demise lives at Otukpo where a few other members of the leading force behind current mobilisation live- the Federation of Women lawyers.
In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, the protests started as early as 7 a.m. Several Non-Governmental Organisations, particularly members of the Old Girls Association of Federal Government Girls College, Gboko where Ochanya was a student as well as FIDA marched from one state institution to another to put their foot down on justice for Ochanya. These included the Federal Ministry of Justice, the National Human Rights Commission, (NHRC), and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, (NATIP). While the take-off point was the Unity Fountain at the Central Business District in the capital city, the battle cry is for justice to be done and be seen to be done without delay.
Numbering over one hundred protesters, all decked in black T-Shirt, they marched with cardboard signs, banners and posters in black T-shirts with the philosophically dense inscription “Justice4Ochanya”, sending unmistakable message to anyone in doubt that anything less than justice would be acceptable, justice in this context meaning punishment for the principal and all other subsidiary suspects in a story that is still unfolding in its complexity.
According to a statement by the old Girls’ Association of the Federal government Girls’ College, Gboko where Ochanya was a JSS 1 student reads thus: From age 8 till 13, Ochanya had been serially abused in both nether regions by her aunt’s husband and son; namely Andrew Ogbuja and Victor Ogbuja respectively”. Mr Ogbuja who was earlier today reminded in custody had pleaded with the court to grant him bail and allow him return home to “resolve the matter amicably” but Justice S.D Kwen, the presiding judge, rejected the plea and remanded him in prison.
This was all basically what transpired at Benue Polytechnic, Ugbokolo where the hot sun could not hinder the protesters from adding their voice to the demand for justice for Ochanya. Although Mr Usman David Kuti, the Rector of the Polytechnic was not there to speak to them, an official said they were yet to receive an official report but that they considered the matter baffling. There is no knowing when the pressure will ebb.
While the premise of Benue Polytechnic was coping with protesters, a more solemn process was going on at Ogene-Amejo, Ochanya’s village where students of Federal Government College, Gboko were paying a condolence on the parents.
The sudden death of Ochanya on October 17th, 2018 has caught everyone off guard. It went contrary to the consensus of opinion of doctors that were consulted on the rescue plan on her. The medical voice from Jos where she was being officially treated, Ibadan where an expert was informally consulted and Jigawa State where the young Doctor who had done extensive work on VVF crisis gave elaborate insights on the plausible scenarios all said her experience would not lead to her death. Almost 100 % assured of her survival, every other things were pended till that was achieved.
The death has scattered all such plans, sending everyone to the drawing board on how to cope with a crisis that has simply ruptured all goodness, leaving a terribly sour kindred and communal tastes.
The paradox is mind boggling. Ochanya has lived up to the billing as far as her name which means ‘women leader’ in Idoma language is concerned. She is now a global icon from the backwaters of Ogene-Amejo where thousands are submerged in poverty and general lack typical of such spaces across Nigeria. The depressing paradox is that she is not here to savour the stardom. How great it would have been if she were here to savour the stardom in defeating her circumstance of birth by becoming an icon at 13!
As a man of God has been heard saying, may the Angels open their arms to take her into the presence of God Almighty and for her to plead for her traducers because it seems only God can heal the deep wounds the matter is for so many.
Meanwhile, there is no burial date for Ochanya yet as the autopsy is either not yet concluded or just so.