In Nigeria, sexual misconduct by public office holders are at best discussed in hushed voices. When it relates to the high and mighty like lawmakers, they are sometimes celebrated. Sex in high places has indeed brought down men in their political prime. Dominique Strauss-Khan, the former IMF chief and then leading contender for the Socialist Party’s presidential ticket in France lost his good place in French history to his involvement with a hotel maid in the US. Silvio Berlusconi, the once untouchable Italian Prime Minister, was found guilty of paying for sex with an underage prostitute in 2013. US Senator, John Ensign resigned his position in 2011 after acknowledging an affair with a former campaign staff following a Senate ethics probe.
Nigerians were, therefore, last week jolted by the ‘news’ that three members of the House of Representatives are now subjects of investigation in the United States, having been accused of sexual misconduct and attempted rape while on a visitors’ programme in the US.
The allegation was made public by the US’ highest representative in Nigeria, its ambassador, James Entwistle, in a letter to the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara. A formal report from an ambassador to a host country underscores the veracity and seriousness of the matter in question. The three lawmakers, Samuel Ikon, Muhammed Garba Gololo and Mark Gbillah were on a US International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP) in Cleveland, Ohio, when the incident was said to have occurred in April, this year.
The IVLP is a programme of the US Department of State that brings “current and emerging leaders from across the world to the US to meet with professionals and their counterparts. Their itinerary typically starts from Washington to three cities within the country that highlight the ‘tremendous diversity’ of the American society… International visitors also share their culture and offer insight into the best practices and perspectives with their hosts in the US”.
The core essence of cultural exchange, to me, is what our members of the House betrayed in their excesses or sexual escapades in the US, if the allegations are proven to be true. Without meaning to profile the lawmakers or prejudge them before the outcome of the House investigation, what they did amounted to exporting the worst side of our social interaction among the opposite sex, and, in the process, reveals that they were not good ambassadors of the country. The IVLP is a cherished programme for privileged participants. Distinguished Alumni of the IVLP such as Tony Blair, Hamid Karzai, Anwar Sadat, Dilma Rouseff, John Kuffour, etc., all became leaders of their countries due, in part, to the impact of the programme. Many Nigerians from all disciplines: academia, government, civil societies, media etc. have, at one time or the other, participated with impressive records. It is disheartening that the supposed honourable lawmakers, held in high esteem, are the ones that have brought the country into disrepute. The scandal is so serious it deserves thorough and exhaustive investigations. This is the least we can do as a nation to redeem our image, and much better if the lawmakers can prove their innocence.
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