Verbal assault on Senator Oluremi Tinubu reminds us that Nigerian politics is not a safe space for women

“I will beat you on this floor, rape and impregnate you and nothing will happen”.

It’s totally understandable if you need a break after reading that. We were shocked and shaken, and understand that others may be triggered. That these words were spoken by a Nigerian politician, in the chambers of the Senate, towards a fellow senator just makes things even more disturbing.

This isn’t the first time Senator Dino Melaye has been embroiled in scandals, usually around him being horrible towards women. His first wife, Tokunbo Melaye reported that he had physically assaulted her and posted bloody photos online to back her words. Similarly his second marriage to Alero Melaye was marred by allegations of abuse and was short-lived. And it doesn’t end there, in a bizarre move earlier this year Melaye criticised Governor Adams Oshiomhole for marrying a Cape Verdean woman rather an a Nigerian one.

The situation in the Senate

It’s clear that Melaye is not the greatest fan of women. Knowing his penchant for unruly behaviour, we have to ask how he has maintained his influential position in politics. Given his background, perhaps it’s not surprising that he verbally assaulted and threatened Senator Oluremi Tinubu while she addressed the senate a few days ago. Here’s what senator Tinubu said;

“I think [Melaye] needs to know that every senator here represents their constituencies. And that there is no need to threaten anyone. We are seeking and working towards reconciliation, yet you are busy issuing threats.”

In the Senate, senators usually address their peers, this is standard and is usually accepted calmly. Yet Melaye grew so infuriated with senator Tinubu’s comments that he charged towards her and had to be held back by other senators. To us, it looks like he reacted this way because a woman called him out. Both senators belong to the same political party and work together in the same space yet it’s clear that Melaye has zero respect for his colleague.

The lackluster media reaction

While this story has been shared all over the media, a number of newspapers are calmly overlooking Melaye’s threat of rape thus reducing the sexualised nature of his threats. Not surprisingly, Melaye has denied his comments and has claimed that he was provoked. Then again, the news reports we’ve followed showed that the media are either showing Melaye’s excuses or senator Tinubu’s husband’s words of support. We would like to know senator Tinubu’s side of the story.

We are frequently reminded that Nigerian politics is not a safe space for women. Even outside the halls of power, women politicians are often described as obnoxious or rude by the general public. Some people just aren’t comfortable with women in this field. Clearly, this needs to be remedied but Melaye’s outburst just shows that we still have a long way to go.

Some may be quick to point out the uncouth nature of Nigerian politics when discussing this matter. But what stands out to us is this; no matter how accomplished a woman is, she will still have to deal with blatant sexual harassment. Also pertinent is how nothing concrete is being done to deal with it.

About Rafeeat Aliyu

Rafeeat AliyuRafeeat loves food, learning about pre-colonial African history and watching horror movies. She writes weird and speculative fiction sometimes.

6 thoughts on “Verbal assault on Senator Oluremi Tinubu reminds us that Nigerian politics is not a safe space for women

  1. This story frustrated me-both Senator Melaye’s comments and the comments I read about the incident on social media. So much indifference, and some even blaming Mrs Tinubu for ‘provoking’ him. Every man and woman deserves to be treated with respect in their work environment. We can do better.

  2. If a man regards a woman arguing with a man as ‘provoking’ him, it is clear he does not believe in equality. Does he also believe in racism as well as sexism?

  3. Senator Dino is soo wrong. His choice of words areally totally uncalled for BUT why is no one cautioning senator Remi? Why is it soo normal that she had to insult a full grown man and in a work place? Pls let’s all condemn them both. It’s a bad image for our country Nigeria.

    1. From what I’ve read, I personally don’t see what senator Oluremi said that was insulting. She called him out for making threats in the Senate, that happens all the time in chambers across the world.

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