The beast in the beauty

Ray Ekpu
Ray Ekpu

DURING the past week or so, the media, social and mainstream, have been awash with the story of the ugly beauty, a female cadet military officer who pounded a man into pulp because the man told her that she is beautiful. Many girls, if told that, whether in earnest or in flattery, would have broken into a song and dance, but not this beauty in uniform. It sounds totally incredulous but from the video clip of the incident it seems to be an unbelievably true story.

The female cadet military officer was with four other cadet officers – all male – and one of them was video-recording the slapping session while the lady, is that what she is, was having her fun, a marathon slapping session. The video clip shows that the man was given more than 50 slaps during the show of shame. The video went viral through a third party who thought it was a good idea to make the happening the property of the public.

Here is what transpired: “Am I beautiful? Idiot,” the female officer barked at the hapless civilian, followed up the insult with a slap. She kept on screaming “describe me, how beautiful am I? Am I not like Beyonce?” Speaking to another cadet she said: “He said I am beautiful, am I Angelina Jolie? Bastard” Angered that the man was not responding to her questions she said: “This bastard is not responding.”

The cadet officer recording the scene said: “He thinks you are playing with him. See this idiot, squat down. You are telling oga sir ‘she is beautiful’. Watch the MTV and see the beauty in her,” the one recording said. Continuing the questioning accompanied with more slaps she asked: “Are you a bastard? You are dodging my slaps. Come on, honey.” She adjusted his jaw for a rain of slaps, then questions. “Are you touching it? Look at me, am I beautiful? What is beautiful about me? Show me something,” she adjusted the man’s neck and another cadet officer slapped him. “I said ‘bend down, open your neck, is that clear?’ ” When the man groaned from the slap, the cameraman said: “Gentleman, you are shouting.” The man replied, “I work here, please.” On hearing that, she sneered: “He said he is working here.”

But I am told that the military, the Nigerian military, is taught to think in a linear fashion and to believe that power is indivisible

She dragged him by his shirt to a corner and ordered him to pull his shirt and use it to clean his bloody mouth (bloody mouth in more senses than one). “Pull off your shirt, bastard, clear that blood,” she thundered. “We have used our blood, is that clear? Your blood is nothing, is that clear? Your blood is nothing, is that clear? Because of training I broke my leg, is that clear?” ‘Oga sir, tell him you are living for him today. Don’t you know you are living because of them? You think your blood is useful,’ the cameraman said. “Use that shirt to clean that blood, is that clear? You think you can bleed. If I bleed you bleed, is that clear? Squat down, you bastard,” she roared and then gave him a hard kick.

This is not the first time that military men have brutalised bloody civilians but this is the first time a (military) woman has manhandled a man. That itself is not entirely strange because a woman had slapped a man in the National Assembly a few years ago. In that same National Assembly a man had also spanked a woman. It is not that these exhibitions of bestiality are acceptable just because the dramatis personae are civilians. No, they are not and the public condemnation of these incidents at the time confirmed the public’s disapproval.

However, in this case, the assailants are military people trained to fight only armed people who are enemies of the country. The victim is an unarmed civilian, someone they should actually protect and who even told them that he works in the army. None of these issues made any impression on them.

We have had many cases of military brutality against civilians in the past. There was the case between Moshood Abiola’s convoy and some Air Force personnel. A very senior Air Force officer said that when military people are provoked they can behave like mad dogs. How did this civilian provoke this mad dog of a woman? We shall come to it shortly.

There was also the case of Miss Uzoma Okere, a 28-year-old lady who was beaten up by some naval ratings in the convoy of a Rear Admiral, Henry Arogundade in Lagos. The young lady’s father was a military man working in the National Assembly. The Lagos State Government teamed up with the girl to take the matter to court. The Navy and the culprits were fined N100 million for their beastly disposition.

There is also the historic case of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the irreverent musician whose Kalakuta Republic was burnt down by “unknown soldiers.” I raised this case at a lecture on military-civilian relationship and a retired Air Force Officer said to me: “why should anybody have a republic within a Republic?” I said to him “why don’t you go and burn down Chicken Republic? That too, is a republic.” He kept silent. I said to myself that the military thought that Fela’s one storey-building constituted a republic. This seemed to be the height of inanity. If they wanted to deal with Fela because he was a thorn in their flesh, couldn’t they think of a less stupid reason than “a republic within a republic.”

But I am told that the military, the Nigerian military, is taught to think in a linear fashion and to believe that power is indivisible. It is all or nothing. But during Nigeria’s long military interregnum this theory was proved wrong again and again by the people’s stiff resistance to military rule and its despotism. Yet they do not yield. They still believe that might is mightiest. They also believe in the exclusivity of power.

Some years ago I went to see a retired senior military officer at the Aso Villa to book an appointment to see President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN) whose President I was at the time wanted to meet the President to discuss newsprint tariff. As I tried to introduce myself the officer said, “but I know you.” I said, “I am here not as the Chief Executive Officer of Newswatch but as the President of the NPAN.”

He said sharply “President with a small p.” I retorted, “I didn’t say I am the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but the President of the NPAN.” I was shocked he would make an issue of the size of the P, when various clubs in Nigeria, even palm wine drinkers’ clubs have presidents. In America its Chief Executive is called President while the heads of universities are also called Presidents. The American President does not burn down their universities.

What could have offended the female military officer in the attack video for her to show such brutality. Brutality is an animal instinct that is triggered off by anger. Anger can bring out the beast in anyone who cannot control himself. So what exactly could have made her so angry? Did she think the compliment was uncalled for especially from a bloody civilian? So, why couldn’t she simply tell him to shut up his “bloody mouth” instead of actually “bloodying” (my coinage) his mouth?

Maybe she is ugly and therefore thought he was mocking her. That is why she mentioned two beautiful women, Beyonce and Angelina Jolie, who she may have thought were more deserving of the compliment. Why couldn’t she simply say tongue-in-cheek, thank you Mr. Flatterer and wriggle her waist and walk away?

Did she think he was “toasting” her? Most women are being toasted everyday in offices, at airports, at supermarkets, at sports grounds and conference venues. They all take it in their stride, smile and walk away or do the needful: exchange phone numbers. If what he said was the man’s introductory gambit to the chasing game, he did it normally, decently. What would be offensive would be his description of her body parts especially her boobs and buttocks. That didn’t happen. She could just have told him to shut up if she was one who has been rude from birth or just sigh sharply and wriggle her waist and walk away.

Or did she simply want to exercise her newly acquired power of brutality that the training offered her, with her well-starched uniform as evidence. Maybe, maybe not.

Or, was she drunk? Maybe, but she spoke sensibly. Well, a drunkard can still speak sensibly if he is not far gone. There is a character in one of Shakespeare’s plays. He was called Iago and when he was accused of being drunk, he replied: “This is my right hand and this is my left. I am not drunk.” Was she drunk but sane?

Or, was she simply trying to deepen the military mystique which as young people we all admired. In our younger days when we saw the young soldiers of the January 15, 1966 coup led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu with a white muffler on his neck we were awed despite the killings. We thought they all were indestructible. Was she trying to inflate the mystique?

Or, is she and her gang simply wicked? The question is relevant because we see nothing, absolutely nothing, that the civilian did wrong to deserve such sadism. Maybe because as Joseph Conrad says: “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.

“And women too as the “beautiful beast” has proven.
Or, is sadism her own form of masturbation? I wouldn’t know but these blood thirsty fellows are not worthy of the uniforms on their backs.

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