Yes, you heard me right, beware of uncles. This is an issue that I am very passionate about to the point of forming a ‘one woman riot squad’. Just like almost everything in Naija, the use of the word uncle has been bastardized so much that the only people not referred to as ‘uncle’ are those of the feminine gender.
See the following lists of people referred to as uncle
‘ Lesson teacher’
Neighborhood electricians , plumbers, carpenters etc.
All male relatives apart from one’s father
All males older than the person addressing them.
All male friends of the child’s parents.
All male Nigerians that the person addressing them is not sure of their age.
I have also heard some Nigerian children address a white male flight attendant as ‘uncle’ on a particular flight I was on.
This no doubt would have emanated from the Yoruba people of Southern Nigeria. They have a culture of too much courtesy and respect, with two different sets of pronoun, one for your mates and the other for those older than you, so the word uncle has really come in handy in situations where you are not sure of a person’s age and you would not want to be found to be disrespectful.
To allay your confusion, the purpose of this post is to examine the evil uncles ‘do’ in the life of your child if given the chance. Lets look at things from the parental point of view, one of the God-given role and an established societal duty of a parent is to protect the child from all types of harm including abuse by sexual predators. There is a lot of sexual abuse going on in Nigeria because of parents’ carelessness and negligence that it is amazing, I wonder how most parents can be so blind and daft to the detriment of their child ( please pardon the strong language).
A good parent should be able to close all gaps that a potential sexual predator might use to gain access to their child. The red flags are very visible and so red that it is surprising that some parents still do not pay any heed to them. Without wasting more time, how can we safeguard our children from uncles and when I say children, I mean both male and female.
1. The term uncle should be strictly used to address your father’s and mother’s brothers only , all other males should be addressed as MR whatever their name is, or Chief, Doctor, Engineer, Eze, etc, whatever title the addressee prefers but not uncle.The term uncle makes an innocent child have a feeling of allegiance to the addressee and might make them feel that they owe it to the person to do as they are told by him.
3. Avoid as much as possible the sharing of the same room by your children if they are of different gender .
4. Do not form a habit of allowing an older male sibling change diaper of a female child or to spend unnecessarily long time alone with her.
2. The less domestic staff you surround yourself with, the better for you and your children , if you must do domestic staff, let them be of same gender as your child and note that this does not prevent the risk, it only reduces it, there are reported cases of same-sex abuse. Most importantly do not abandon your child completely into their care.
3. If you use drivers, your child should always sit in the rear, the driver must be addressed by their name with MR prefixed and not uncle. Their primary role should be to drive your vehicle, not to help you mind your child, do not give room for any rapport between them and your child , always endeavour to be with your child or to have somebody with them in the car and out of the car at all times
Came across the above uncle at a clinic, the mum not pictured was busy on the phone, the uncle brought in the girl in a bear hug and the poor girl promptly used uncles lap as a pillow as it would appear she usually does. I could not bear it, I had to corner the mum for a little talk about the ‘red flag’ that I could see, and she thanked me and quickly made some adjustment, she sent the uncle home to go get the female house-help although the girl was not disabled in any way and she could actually walk, I wonder why she needed to be carried or assisted.
4. On any visit to the clinic, hospital or anywhere insist on being in the consulting/examination or whatever room with your child, cases have been reported of children being abused whilst their parents are just in the next room waiting.
5. Take serious offense against any person that gives your child a pet or a special name, like ‘iyawo mi’ ( my wife) ‘my little princess’ or my ‘ big princess’, whatever size of princess, insist that they put an immediate stop to it and that they should please call your child by the name you gave them. Then you take the next step of putting them under close surveillance henceforth.
6. If you must be friends with your neighbours, let it be a cautious friendship, it is better to be seen as being standoffish than to be sorry. Do not allow incessant unchaperoned visits especially when the child is underage. And do not turn your neighbours into your child minder. There was a reported case of a female neighbour, (reported by the victim herself when she came of age), herself a mum who abused a female child till she entered the age of puberty, and then the son took over because she spent all her growing up years at the neighbour’s.
7. Those of us that do extended family, it is time to reconsider it, ask yourself this question, is it worth it? no sacrifice is too much for your child. After all you can love your extended family from afar by providing cash, scholarship, helping them to secure accommodation, setting them up in business etc. Experience has also shown that such extended family people prefer one-off windfalls to having to reside with you. Most of us use the extended family members as cheap labour, that’s why we keep them anyway.
8. Do not turn your home into a stop over motel or a ‘bed and breakfast’, pay for accommodation for your friends coming to town, after visiting, they can go to their hotel to pass the night.
9. If your child is of primary or secondary school age, do not drop them too early in the morning in school, this will prevent them from being exposed to abuse by school security guards and male teachers that come early for that purpose.
10. On school runs, do not let any uncle be the one to be picking your child from school especially a child of the opposite sex, it is the height of stupidity to do this and to give the uncle transport fare for one person. It means the uncle would ‘lap’ the child, that is like given tacit approval for sexual abuse, I have had to slap one uncle on a bus when he sat in a corner in the rear with a female child firmly in his lap, a faraway look in his eyes and some up and down grinding movement going, the slap was so hot that he landed straight back to reality, the faraway look replaced with that of guilt ( I could not have been more than eighteen then). In fact any time I come across such and the parent is in the vicinity, I quickly corner them for a little talk on the apparent potential danger and I have had to do this on more than three occasions.
11. Fathers please do not request that your male friends run any errand for you concerning your child like dropping stuff for your child in their school or given your female child rides out of town etc even if it’s on their way, the result can be disastrous. A friend of mine started according to her ‘befriending’ their trusted family friend since her secondary school years till even after she got married. The parents were under the erroneous illusion that the friend, a childhood friend of the father’s was the only one who could ‘talk sense’ into her.
12. Let your female child and male child too, know that under no circumstances must they sit in any man’s lap even if it’s your Pastor and that they should report any inappropriate touching as simple as the ‘pulling’of their ears for no reason. I stopped going to a relative’s house with my children when one of my children reported their son to me that he said he wanted to see the colour of their underpants
12. Discourage long unchaperoned visits from friends that have children of a different gender to your child especially if you have all girls or all boys.
13. Pay serious and immediate attention if a child becomes too close to a particular adult or is distressed at the sight of any particular adult, encourage him/her to talk to you about it.
14. Most importantly be friends with your child, so that they will develop that feeling that you can be confided in and ‘talk the talk’ so that they will be already aware and be able to identify sexual abuse when they see it coming.
15. Spread the word, join my ‘one woman riot squad’ by doing your bit in your own tiny little part of the world.