Last week, Nigerian twitter was taken over by a tale so scandalous, I was rendered open mouthed and speechless for nearly 3 hours. A woman called Ahunna claimed that a man called Izien was a truly deplorable character. She alleged that he was a bedroom fiend in the habit of blackmailing girls for sex with their nude pictures. She said, “Over the last couple of weeks I have been gathering accounts from different women who have complained about Izien. In the last couple of years, there has been more than one occassion of him threatening to leak nudes because he wasn’t offered sex.” She went on to share screenshots of conversations with Izien’s alleged victims where they told their stories. At first the girls were blamed for being so foolish as to send nudes, but the conversation changed rapidly and focused on Izien. New accounts of his atrocious behaviour came up despite his attempts to threaten Ahunna to silence. He released a statement denying most of the allegations, then he published a poorly constructed cease and desist letter from his lawyers.
There is a thing only the abused understand. That they will bear the burdens of the crimes of another as long as they live. They may never speak of it, but the wound will lurk there all the same. It may be fine for months at a time, and life may go on as if the incident never happened, but there’ll be a moment. It will come back to you with more clarity than you believed yourself capable of remembering. It may be something as slight as seeing his face on television in an episode of Shuga, as someone claims is the case in this story. The girl that saw him had to leave the room, to relive her torment in silence. Time won’t heal that wound. It may stitch it shut, but stitches only last so long. This is the problem with abusers. They get to walk away unscathed sparing no thought for what they’ve done. If only the abused could be so lucky.
It is why Izien, after being faced with allegations of rape, blackmail and emotional abuse feels the need to deny rape and blackmail, but apologise for emotional abuse. In a statement published on his twitter account he said, “in the past, while in a relationship, I lied to women that I was single, I lied to them that I had more than I had. I agree to being petty and even throwing tantrums during quarrels.” Even more damning is his phrase of choice. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” The perpetrators of wrongs should not have the power to declare what is petty and what isn’t. One man’s petty is another woman’s destruction.
One of the lightest allegations by a victim of his sexual predation says, “He threatened me. Not with nude pictures because I didn’t send any. He said I was a ho and that he was trying to help my life by even sleeping with me.” By his own admission he said, “I know I have hurt women and used abusive words on them when I was angry. I even called some mad, stupid, prostitute. I am sorry.” Those who are loose with their words do not have the right to decide who should be offended, how they should be offended, and how long they should be offended for. Forgiveness is a gift. It is not an obligation. It is not unreasonable that some apologies fall on deaf ears.
Without this understanding, I find that it is difficult to believe him. When he says that he didn’t rape, blackmail or pressure anyone into sex, I wonder if he knows what he is talking about. Our definitions of these things are likely not the same. Izien would like us to take some of his tweets from 2010 to 2015 as examples of youthful folly but how can we, when they read like this.
“Do you think saying stop it actually changes anything? Laughing my ass off.”
“Some girls do deserve to be raped you know?”
“Fuck shit up when you get a no though.”
“If you want to fuck, don’t say it. These girls prefer being lied to.”
“Would like to watch a real life rape scene… a one on one case though… certain questions I can’t get out of my head. I really wonder if a one on one is possible.”
They do not read like the unfiltered musings of someone too young to know better. They read like the fire to the smoke. They speak to his character. It is the same problem many have with Donald Trump. A man who says, “I just start kissing them. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” Men such as they cannot expect to be given the privilege of innocence when allegations of sexual impropriety arise. What means do we have of judging a man if not his past?
Usually it is wise to believe someone innocent till they are proven guilty, but in all things it is important to consider the where. Women in Nigeria frequently do not speak out against abuse sexual or otherwise because they bear the brunt of the blame. They have very little to gain. There is little or no justice to be had. One of Izien’s alleged victims said she took him to the police station after the nude pictures she’d sent to him appeared on social media. They asked her to apologise to him. It is a story that anyone with any knowledge of the Nigerian Police Force would find plausible. When Nigerian women speak about assault, abuse or rape, we must take extra care to listen to them. They pay too high a price for their honesty for us to insist that they are making it up. If she talks at all, it is more likely than not that it is true. In situations like these some people tend to think that there’s a financial incentive, but that isn’t the case here. Izien is yet to make his fortune and he has not been so fortunate as to have had fortune thrust upon him by birth.
As for what Ahunna has achieved, she’s sounded as loud a warning as she can. Not many women will approach him for anything more than a hello. And now, he says he’s sorry, but that isn’t enough. He’ll have to cry them rivers. They cried rivers over him.
The tweets and quotes were edited for the sake of decent grammar. Their meaning was preserved.