The ordeal of Peace Goewam

A couple, Mrs Amaka Ortolehi and her husband, Mr. Nkemakolam Ortolehi, have been arrested by operatives of the Enugu State police command for maltreating their maid, Peace Goewam, in a fashion that exemplified utter cruelty and heartlessness. The arrest was sequel to a video that had gone viral wherein Mrs Ortolehi was seen slamming and thrusting the poor maid on the ground as if she was a lower animal that had been condemned to death. The Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Ahmad Abdulrahman, who gave the order for the manhunt that led to the arrest of the suspects, described the viral video as an eyesore. One Jonathan Goewam, Peace’s uncle who reportedly brought her from Jos, Plateau State, and handed her over to the Ortolehis, has also been arrested.  The trio are currently in the police net for the abuse of the hapless minor.

These things go on all the time: most are unreported. The saving grace in the instant case is that a good citizen had the presence of mind to record the abuse.  It should be stressed that it was the viral video that provided the initial information upon which the police predicated the launch of its inquiry and arrest of the suspects. This underscores the importance of social media in spite of its occasional abuse. Perhaps because of cases like this, the proposed official regulation of the social media should be executed with moderation so that it does not lead to strangulation and the concomitant loss of information or news.

It is rather sad that this manner of vicious and barbaric treatment of a fellow human being as captured in the disturbing video happened in 21st century Nigeria.  Amaka’s criminal and morally reprehensible conduct typifies the story in many  homes in the country and even abroad. Perhaps it should be noted that quite a few Nigerian couples have been apprehended and severely sanctioned in Europe and America for ill-treating their house helps.  This is a very sad commentary because it speaks to the proclivity of some affluent and middle-class Nigerians for oppressive treatment of the poor, which reflects very poorly on their humanity. It is equally a clear demonstration of selfishness and wickedness because members of this class of well-off people hardly treat their own children in the same way.

In a sense, it would appear as if the ethos is that “if he/she does not belong to me, he/she can be treated anyhow.” This is a destructive tendency that has permeated all spheres of life in the country, including governance where careers of otherwise brilliant civil/public servants are sometimes cut short based on criteria other than performance while, at the same time, most official appointments have imprints of nepotism. And because dire consequences seldom attend such criminal and anti-social conducts in this clime, there is a sense of impunity that tends to incentivise and bolster the confidence of the perpetrators.  It has therefore become imperative for some Nigerians to re-calibrate their mindset and sense of values to, among others, reflect the need to be their brothers’ keepers.

To be sure, there are enough grounds to call Amaka to account as her conduct amounted to quintessential child abuse, child labour, torture and inhuman treatment, all of which are at variance with the extant laws in the country.  It is hoped that the law enforcement agencies will ensure that those involved in one way or the other in Peace Goewam’s ordeal are diligently prosecuted and appropriately sanctioned even if they have filial relationship with her. This is very important in order to deter those, including parents, who are surreptitiously involved in modern-day slave trade. Some parents are guilty of sending their children into servitude for pecuniary considerations. While they might not have bargained for or approved of the ill-treatment often meted out to the children and wards by their ‘slave masters,’ they are in breach of the law because they have no right to send their children into apparent slavery in the first place. On this score, it is gladdening that the Enugu Commissioner of Police has promised to protect the rescued victim and hand her over to a government agency that would take care of her until her parents are traced to explain why and how the girl child was separated from them.

As is customary with common felons who are caught red handed in their criminal and morally reprehensible acts, Amaka Ortolehi ascribed her evil and shameful conduct to ‘the work of the devil’, claiming that that was the first time the untoward incident had happened in the two years the poor girl had lived with her. This is a familiar refrain by criminals and should not be taken to heart. The lousy devil permitted Amaka to brutalise Peace but not her own daughter. If the incident had not been recorded and placed on the internet, would she have admitted that it ever happened? The bitter truth is that the dexterity displayed by Amaka in the viral video where she sadistically smashed and dragged the poor child on the ground did not give the impression of a first timer in the ignoble act of brutality, child abuse and domestic violence. We, therefore, urge the police to obtain the necessary evidence that will facilitate diligent prosecution and severe punishment of all the perpetrators of this wicked show of shame to serve as a deterrent to would-be perpetrators.

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