Why I Stand With Busola Dakolo
First Things First
This table I am about to shake, I am on it. I grew up in the church. I have been fed in almost every way you can imagine by the church. While I do not believe the church is the only place to find God, I have found God time and time again there. I have found God in American Presbyterian churches that helped my parents pay their light bills, and put food on their table, when food stamps and menial jobs weren’t enough. I have found God in Nigerian Pentecostal churches where we adorn geles and high heels to worship God in majesty, to worship God’s majesty. I have found God in Episcopalian churches with stained glass windows high in the sky, and fragrant incense thick in the air. I have found God in churches hosted in night clubs with Pastors that wear skinny jeans, sport tattoos and infuse hashtags into their snappy sermons while congregants sip coffee. And more often than my mother would like, I have found God in E-services streamed on my laptop or downloaded via the podcast app on my cell-phone. Whether digitally or with four-walls, I love the church. I love the church in its permutations and denominations. I love the church with its cliquey lingo and weird ritual. I love the church despite its many many flaws. The church is not something I can just stand outside of and criticize. With Christ in me, I am the Church.
And it is precisely because I love the church that following Busola Dakolo’s revelations this weekend, I cannot be silent.
“Touch Not My Anointed Ones, Do My Prophets No Harm”
I get offended every time I see this scripture misused—which is the case more often than not. Where this scripture shows up in the Bible (1 Chronicles 16:22, Psalm 105: 15) it is praise song: a stanza celebrating God’s protection of the nation of Israel through their 40-year sojourn from Egypt to the Promise Land:
“they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm” (1 Chronicles 16: 20-22/Psalms 105:13-15).
This verse is doxology—not carte blanche for Pastors to do as they please without accountability.
In a day and age when anyone, can call his (or her) self the called with little to no regulation, we must be careful about who we label anointed or call prophets. The Bible already warned us long ago:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them…” (Matthew 7: 15-16).
By their fruit, we will know them.
I am a women’s rights and gender equality advocate. But I do not automatically believe a woman simply because she speaks out about sexual assault. My training as a lawyer and my experience as a black woman in America cannot allow me too.
I can never forget the cases I studied in law school, of the white women who falsely accused black men for various reasons including convenience, carelessness and revenge. Cases like the Central Park 5 one Ava Duvernay has brought to mass consciousness with When They See Us. Despite the stains of patriarchy and racism across legal history, I believe in substantiated evidence and due process.
But the fact is: women lie very infrequently about sexual assault and for the most part have very little incentive too. When women speak out, I place the heavier burden of proof on the accused man/men. The statistics allow me too.
I Believe Busola
I believe Busola, unequivocally and unapolegically. I believe her beyond reasonable doubt. Why?
Because context. Unlike America where #MeToo is zeitgeist and feminism is mainstream, in Nigeria—speaking out about sexual assault of any kind is still taboo. Sure, there have been pockets of movements (#ArewaMeToo, Yaba Market March, #JusticeForOchanya, etc) but this awakening is still by and large at the fringes—the domain of “I-just-got-backs,” foreign- funded NGOs, and the educated elite. In a country where culture dictates we hide dirty laundry and exonerate erring men, in a country where women are sexually harassed by law authority without consequence in the capital city, Busola has everything to lose by telling her story.
Because cost. The cost of taking on the man she accuses and the church she has named-- greatly outweighs the gain of any clout gained from lying. Besides, Busola doesn’t need this story for clout: as the wife of one of Nigeria’s most well-known musicians, and as a budding photographer in her own right—Busola already has that.
Because consistency. Busola’s story is not the only one I have heard, and I heard it one-on-one long before her husband, Timi Dakolo, began his social media campaign. Because many of us read the Ese Walter story years ago and began to sense something in the water wasn’t clean.
Because: “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (1 Corinthians 13: 1).
Call A Thing, A Thing
I do not always agree with the doctrine and actions of the Pastors I respect (including my Mother). I do believe there are some situations involving men and women of God that should be settled in private, or left alone. We can argue amongst ourselves about things like tithes, first fruit offerings, skirt lengths, keeping hats on during prayer and bringing iPads to church. We can ignore such things and do what works for us based on our convictions.
But there are some situations in which silence is participation; in which we must call a thing, a thing. In this instance: every blind eye, every closed lip and every turned neck has created a system that has hurt and is hurting women and children. To continue to protect, is to be complicit in crime. As Desmond Tutu once said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
I believe in the Jesus that blessed the meek and the peacemakers on the mountaintop. I also believe in the Jesus who turned tables in the temple. There are no inconsistencies here.
For everything there is a season: “a time for every purpose under heaven… a time to tear, and a time to sew, a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 7).
This is a time to tear, a time to speak.
God’s spirit is sweeping through the church and calling us to awaken to the sound: a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living (Amos 5:22). Or like my cousin, Melody Nuhu, aptly put it: “God is in this! The blood of his daughters are crying out to him. And he is stirring things up.”
There can be no reconciliation without reckoning or repentance; no healing or freedom without truth. The pendulum is swinging, the clock is ticking: #TimesUp in the #ChurchToo.
And to Busola: Eschet Chayil.
Busola Dakolo has a platform and a rolodex with celebrity friends. She has a supportive husband with the right mix of madness and fearlessness ready to go to bat for her. Not every survivor has the same. And these survivors are watching, to see how Busola is treated. Despite Busola’s privilege—perhaps even, because of it—Busola’s voice is courageous.
And so, here is my support. Here is my praise song.
Busola: I cover that little girl in you with love. I cover this brave woman we see in grace. I cover the woman you are becoming in prayer. Proverbs 31 in the Bible is a tribute to a “a woman of valor.” In Hebrew, a woman of valor is known and praised: “Eshet Chayil.”
And so, to you Busola, I say: Eshet Chayil.