Stephanie vs Suleman: Politics or sex saga?

INITIALLY, I had wanted to tarry a little on the Ms. Stephanie Otobo and Apostle Johnson Suleman’s roiling sex saga because events are unfolding and there are still many gray areas but as is usually the nature of such salacious stories, one is never, ever going to get to the roots of the matter; more so that dirty politics has crept into it. How many of us still remember the sex scandal involving former IMF boss, Dominique Gaston Andre Strauss-Khan and Ms. Nafissatou Diallo? Wikipedia recorded the event like this: “On May 14, 2011, Nafissatou Diallo, 32, maid at Sofitel New York Hotel, alleged that Strauss-Khan had sexually assaulted her after she entered his suite. Strauss-Khan (taken off a plane as he tried to bolt) was formally indicted on 18 May and granted US$1million bail plus US$5million bond the following day. He was ordered confined to a New York apartment under guard. A semen sample was found on the maid’s shirt and on May 24, it was reported that the DNA tests showed a match to a DNA sample submitted by Strauss-Khan. He was arraigned on June 6, 2011 and pleaded not guilty. On June 30, 2011, the New York Times reported that the case was on the verge of collapse because of problems with the credibility of the alleged victim… because she repeatedly lied since making her first statement. According to prosecutors, the lady admitted she lied to a grand jury about the events surrounding the alleged attack. Diallo said the translator misunderstood her words. Strauss-Khan was released from house arrest on 1 July. After completing a lengthy investigation, prosecutors filed a motion to drop all charges against Strauss-Khan, stating that they were not convinced of his culpability beyond a reasonable doubt due to serious issues in the complainant’s credibility and inconclusive physical evidence and, therefore, could not ask a jury to believe in it. The motion was granted by Judge Obus in a hearing on August 23, 2011. In a TV interview in September, Strauss-Khan admitted that his liaison with Diallo was a moral fault and described it as ‘inappropriate’ but that is did not involve violence, constraint or violence. Diallo had lied about the encounter… Strauss-Khan later reached a settlement with Diallo for an undisclosed amount over the civil suit (she later instituted against the Frenchman)…”

I grieved when Strauss-Khan was left off the hook. I believed Diallo was cheated because she was Black and also poor. I picked quarrels with the jury – and, of course, prosecution – which were heavily loaded against her (just as the police team investigating the mayhem at Ife in Osun state has reportedly been heavily stacked against the Yoruba indigenes to favour the Hausa/Fulani settlers). The translator could have deliberately ‘misunderstood’ Diallo’s words. The searchlight on her was excruciating and tormenting. Strauss-Khan had the money, and he used it, to dig into her past and bring out disclosures that indicated she was not the “decent” lady she made herself out to be. Her past betrayed her. So also was her alleged inconsistency (stage fright?) in telling her story; a slight variation in the account of events and she was a goner. The DNA test, Strauss-Khan’s TV interview confession (very much like President Bill Clinton’s in the Monica Lewinsky “inappropriate” sexual relationship saga), and the settlement he later had with Diallo were all evidence that both had sexual engagement; whereas Diallo said it was an assault, Strauss-Khan said it was consensual. The variation in Diallo’s narrative, whether made by her or pinned on her, ruined her case. It is trite that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands and he who alleges must prove; not minding that events before and after Diallo had confirmed Strauss-Khan as a serial, compulsive, and shameless adulterer.

Richard Akinnola, journalist, lawyer, and activist’s comments on the Stephanie-Suleiman saga are instructive: “The fact that the lady changed her initial claim that there was a marriage introduction between her and Suleiman in her family home, after her father had denied that such introduction took place and that Suleman had never been to his house… she now said the so-called introduction was done in the Apostle’s office. That is highly preposterous. How can you have a marriage in the suitor’s office?” That also kept me wondering: Could she have forgotten where the introduction took place? How long ago; just 2015? What kind of a woman forgets that? I have not heard Stephanie fault her father’s denial of the said introduction as well as his narrative about her upbringing and personality. Her dressing and comportment since this scandal broke also speak volumes. Is this a woman fighting the battle of moral rectitude? Diallo’s faux pas was nowhere near Stephanie’s. Richard cited two other important instances; one was Ikomi’s and the other, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye’s encounters with female stalkers: “In the mid-80s, we witnessed how Justice Donald Ikomi was set up in the then Bendel state. He was a very strict, no-nonsense judge as the Chairman of the Bendel State Armed Robbery Tribunal, who was a thorn in the flesh of robbers. He also didn’t have a good relationship with the police. He was therefore set up. The policeman guarding his house, Corporal Uanle, was murdered in the judge’s house, his tongue and private part cut off. The judge was arrested; witnesses were lined up against him and he was charged with murder. Before the trial started, he had been retired. I covered the case. At the end of the day, the judge was discharged and acquitted for want of evidence but not after he had been humiliated and shown the way out of the Bench by his traducers”.

I remember that case quite vividly. As a Lagos-based Senior Reporter with the Ibadan-based Sketch Newspapers (now defunct), my phone rang one sunny afternoon and the voice on the Ibadan end was my editor’s, Mr. Ademola Idowu. “Se Bolawole ni yen?” (Is that Bolawole?) I answered in the affirmative and he said “Yes, Justice Ikomi just left the court in Benin and is heading for Lagos. Go and look for him and file the story” I said “Yes, sir but what of the address he is coming to in Lagos?” My editor thundered: “Bolawole, wa man yen lo, k’o de f’iroyin ranse, meaning, Look for the man and file the story” I nearly ran mad. Everyone in the Banuso House, Broad Street, Lagos office of the Sketch was sorry for me. The Advert guy, Laide Kwashima, then suggested we check the Vanguard Yellow Pages; when we did, there was an uncountable number of Ikomi’s there. Which of these will know anything about the Ikomi coming from Benin to Lagos? We started making random phone calls. As fate would have it, one man responded and said, “Yes, we are expecting him. Are you sure he is on his way?” I said “yes” and that, I too, was expecting him. Maybe out of excitement or out of confusion; they gave me the house address. It was a street behind the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos. I flew there with a photographer and we waited for hours. Finally, a gray 404 Station Wagon appeared and stopped in front of the house at about 5pm. Before they could open the gate, the photographer had rained a million shots. Ikomi alighted; looking dishevelled, harassed, and worn out. Obviously, he was shocked to see journalists. He sauntered into the house while relatives who had run out to receive him pleaded with us, “You can see; he needs some rest!”

As a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, I have heard from the horse’s mouth, as it were, stories of stalkers of our beloved Daddy G.O.; and they account for some of the precautions Daddy said he began to take and which he had also instructed his pastors to adopt. As much as is possible, pastors’ should travel with their spouse. Do not counsel the opposite sex behind closed doors but let there be others in the room or close by. Ushers should not leave the church when the pastor is still around; they must serve as his/her bodyguard and security. Ushers must closely scrutinise worshippers; there are those who dress properly when entering the church but who go straight to the front seats and “open up” for pastors on the altar to behold! Ushers are to be strategically stationed in the church, at least two of them around the altar area; one facing the altar and the other facing the congregation. Ushers must walk closely behind pastors at all times and have eagle eyes. Despite all the precautions – and while emphasising that pastors have bounding duty to bend over backwards always to be above board – it is only God, in the end, who still saves pastors from stalkers.

Finally, African Traditional Philosophy (Phil. 102?) goes a step beyond the basic rule of a good news story of “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how” by adding a fourth “W”; which is “why” Why is the Stephanie/Suleman saga breaking now and not in 2015 when it purportedly happened; why after Suleman’s tango with powerful political forces, especially in his home state of Kaduna; why after he had spoken out against the brazen killing of Christians in southern Kaduna and his brush with the DSS? As the Yoruba would say: The witch cried yesterday and the child died today; who does not know that it is the witch that cried yesterday that killed the child that died today” Put differently, “ejo l’owo nnu” Oh yes, “dem snake get am for legs for stomach”. It is open secret that none of those stoking this fire for Suleiman can themselves stand one-tenth of the same scrutiny.