_Between February 1692 and May 1693, a series of court trials that came to be known as “the Salem witch trials” were to prosecute against people accused of witchcraft in the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex in colonial Massachusetts. Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned; 29 people were convicted of the capital felony of witchcraft. 19 of the accused, 14 women and 5 men, were executed by hanging. One man was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to enter a plea. At least 5 of the accused died in prison…
_ It is the year 2011. Most Nigerians who use the popular social networking site, Facebook, will have by now seen the YouTube video that depicts a certain Nigerian “Bishop” David Oyedepo slapping a young woman across the face, because the woman stated that she is “not a witch … [but] … a witch for Jesus”.
A legal definition is in order:
Battery: A criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact; the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact.
David Oyedepo battered a woman.
Criminal battery is a common occurrence across Nigeria—one that, like myriad other frequently occurring crimes, generally goes unprosecuted. Nevertheless, neither the frequency with which a crime is committed nor the fact that the crime is unprosecuted causes it to cease being a crime nor its perpetrator a criminal. Yet, there is a particularly surreal quality to a crime that is committed in broad daylight, witnessed by a congregation in the tens of thousands, and, subsequently by over 60,000 (as of this writing) viewers of a YouTube video that captures the crime. Equally surreal is the arrogance demonstrated by the perpetrator of the battery, who banished his victim to hell in literal terms (see Exhibit B: Transcript, below), as well as the unsettling euphoria with which the church congregation cheers him as he exacts physical, verbal, and psychological assault on his hapless victim.
David Oyedepo, like the typical Nigerian mega-pastor, is a man vested with an astounding amount of power—primarily by virtue of the sheer size of his congregational following. But, to whom much is given, must is expected. It is one thing—though no less excusable—for a military megalomaniac to abuse the citizenry; it is quite another for a pastor whom the majority of his congregation calls “daddy” to do so. Any right-thinking citizen should be disturbed by the ongoing abuse of the citizenry by almost all of society’s institution: from government (the three arms of which are currently in cahoots to systemically impoverish the populace) to the media (which is rendered comatose to the degree that it has adopted, in the place of incisive journalism and insightful exposition, a policy of praise-singing of the regime of thievery and incompetence) to, now, our religious institutions—which ought to be society’s last refuge for moral fortitude, but which, instead, have now become the very altar at which acts of criminal battery—and who knows what else?—are committed.
It is important to speak up, without equivocation, against David Oyedepo’s behavior, not because we intend to moralize—after all, we ourselves are human and each have our own foibles—but because it was David Oyedepo’s job to moralize, and that being the case, it was his job to admonish other people who commit battery. For committing battery himself, David Oyedepo has lost the standing to rebuke other batterers. Indeed, upon committing the acts of abuse captured on the video, David Oyedepo lost all moral justification to speak to anyone about Jesus or love or compassion—for Jesus would certainly not have slapped that woman. (There are, of course, redemption stories; if David Oyedepo were to redeem himself, somehow, that would be an entirely separate story from this one).
The author of this Report intends to instigate the State to investigate and, as necessary, prosecute David Oyedepo, because:
1. Under the rule of law, no one is above the law.
2. The Nigerian Constitution, as well as other federal, state, and municipal laws, statutes, and ordinances explicitly protect Nigerians from battery and other “inhumane treatment” (See: Chapter IV 34. (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for example).
3. David Oyedepo contravened the Nigerian Constituent and violated the rights of his victim, when he slapped the woman across the face.
4. Under the rule of law, violators of the law are made to face appropriate prosecution and sanctions.
5. David Oyedepo should be made to face appropriate prosecution and sanctions for his violations of the Nigerian constitution and other applicable laws, statutes, and ordinances, in slapping the young woman.
A Report on an Assault Perpetrated by David Oyedepo against a Nigerian Citizen and a Petition for the State to Prosecute David Oyedepo
To the Attorney-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, or the Chief Legal Officer of the State in which the act of criminal battery was committed, or any legal officer authorized to act in their stead:
This report and petition states are follows:
1. That there now is in circulation on the Internet web site popularly called YouTube.com, a video that depicts a Nigerian “pastor” or “bishop” David Oyedepo slapping a young woman across the face.
2. That this video is currently available on YouTube.com, at the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uidhk7ioYO0; that the video was available on, and retrieved from, YouTube.com as of December 18, 2011.
3. That, in slapping the young woman, David Oyedepo contravened Chapter IV 34. (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which provides that, “no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.”
4. That, in slapping the young woman, David Oyedepo contravened Chapter IV 38. (1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which provides that, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”
5. That, in slapping the young woman, David Oyedepo contravened all other applicable federal, state, and local laws, statutes, and ordinances that protect individual against battery.
6. That it is in the interest of justice for an investigation into this incident be initiated, with a view towards bringing the appropriate legal charges against the perpetrator, David Oyedepo.
7. That further in the interest of justice, such investigative and prosecutorial action should be taken immediately and without undue delay.
Exhibit A: Citations from the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Chapter IV (on Fundamental Rights) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states, inter alia, as follows:
34. (1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly -
(a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;
38. (1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
Exhibit B: Transcript of Video:
[Video clip begins. David Oyedepo is standing at the front of what is evidently a large church auditorium. A number of other men are standing behind him. Kneeling on the steps of an expansive stage, facing Oyedepo are about 18 or 20 young men and women.]
Oyedepo: [Evidently ending a prayer] ... broken, in the name of Jesus.
Oyedepo: [Speaking to a woman kneeling] You've been there for how long?
Woman 1: I'm not a witch; I'm a witch for Jesus.
Oyedepo: [Incredulously] You are what?
Woman 1: My own witch is for Jesus.
Oyedepo: [Microphone in left hand, right hand on woman's right shoulder] You are a foul devil. [Transferring his microphone from his right hand to his left hand] Do you know who you're talking to? Foul devil! [Slaps woman across the face, and paces away and back. The congregation cheers in palpable euphoria].
Oyedepo: [Returns to woman] Where are you from?
Woman 1: [Arms akimbo, now visibly defiant] I am from Imo State.
Oyedepo: Where did you get witchcraft?
Woman 1: I'm not a witch --
Oyedepo: [Interrupting] Who are you?
Woman 1: -- but I'm witch for Jesus.
Oyedepo: [Visibly exasperated] Jesus has no witches. You are a devil.
Woman 1: I'm not a devil, I only ... [Rest inaudible as woman is speaking while Oyedepo has raised the microphone to his own mouth].
Oyedepo: You are not set for deliverance, and you are free to go to hell.
[Oyedepo walks towards another woman]
Oyedepo: When did you get in there?
Woman 2: I'm not a witch, but I used to dream that I was with them.
Oyedepo: Everyone of you that is on this front that speaks a lie, you are cut down.
Congregation: Amen! [More cheering and euphoria from congregation…]
Oyedepo: Cut down!
Congregation: [Continued cheering and euphoria…]
[Oyedepo walks towards a young boy]
Oyedepo: Where are you from?
Boy: I'm from Jos.
Oyedepo: Where did you begin?
Boy: I used to always think about sexual things.
Oyedepo: [Looking around, incredulously, and then] Father in the name of Jesus...
[End of video clip.]