My Heart Breaks for Cynthia

I was browsing the internet on my iPad, searching for the news of the day, when my eyes caught her fancy. At first, I was blind to what the headlines said about her unfortunate and heart rending fate. Frankly, I did not see them. It was her beauty—gorgeous, elegant and splendid—that enthralled and mesmerized me. It just popped up like one of the cookies in my computer. I’m talking of Cynthia Osokogu.

Her story, which was all over our media recently, is like a home video made in Nollywood, crafted in the bowers of hell.  Oh, how I wish it was not true! How I wish it was just—like Shakespeare said—a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing!  Just 24, Cynthia had all the trappings of over-running the world.  A postgraduate student of Nasarawa State University, Cynthia was already a business executive owning a thriving boutique in her suburb. Boisterous and bubbling with life, she was pumped up, she was ready to fly and redefine the world in her image.

Cynthia was a hardworking lady who set her face like flint to have a bite of the good things of life. She envisioned what she wanted to make out of it. She worked for this and hoped, like you and I, to have the best life could offer. She was a gazelle, running faster than her legs. And she thought, as Al Williams would put it, “that life was a bowl of cherries wrapped in Christmas package”. But she was wrong; totally wrong. Life has no roses but thorns.

She, like millions of our youth, was an addict of the social media. She met some guys—Echezona  Nwabufor and Ezekiel Olisaeloka—on Facebook who pretended to be friends and she fell headlong in love,  head over heels. Passionately, but like the sword of Damocles, it was the same people she took as friends that serially drugged her, raped  her, robbed her,  tied her mouth and legs and hanged her on the same bed they enjoyed her carnality.  Life dealt her a bad hand!

Echezona, who told the police he is a third year accountancy student of the University of Lagos, bought her a flight ticket and invited her over to Lagos, supposedly, for a business deal—and in the way of new lovers—to consummate their amorous dalliance. She must have unsuspectingly trusted her new found lover; and oblivious of any danger, she boarded the next available flight and landed in Lagos where she was checked into a hotel room in FESTAC.  Echezona, in his “generosity” handed her three packs of Ribenna juice which had been infused with a very deadly substance called Rohypnol. She drank it, and like Socrates, it was her hemlock. She became unconscious and the boys did their thing and left her dead.

When Mark Zuckerberg  sat in his room at Harvad University in 2004 to create Facebook   as a social platform to keep in touch with his friends, it didn’t occur to him that his creation would have such a phenomenal impact on people’s lives. It didn’t get to his senses he was crafting Cynthia’s death eight years after, thousands of miles away. It didn’t occur to him that people like Echezona and his cousin Ezekiel were just lurking in the corner to ensnare the Cynthias of our world. Zuckerberg planted a good seed, and while men slept, Echezona and company went to sow tares!

It’s all history now, there is no need recounting a very sordid and horrendous incident. My heart breaks for Cynthia—the pains, the abuse.  My heart breaks for her parents who so much loved and adored her—she was the only daughter. But Cynthia played into their hands. If she were here with us I would have asked her some questions: If she had a business engagement with these blood suckers, why did she agree to go to a hotel with total strangers instead of their business premises? Why should she so easily believe all the lies they told her? But that is fate; in matters like this we can do nothing.

But what lessons can we learn from Cynthia’s fate? What does this incident tell of our society? I may be wrong to say she was living in the fast lane. I will avoid the temptation of jumping to that conclusion, it will be unfair. She was of good parentage, given the fact that her father—Frank Osokogu—is a retired Major General. And she must have had everything going for her. But she was a bit carefree and trusted so easily. I recollect my own experience here. By November last year I saw an invitation posted to my email box inviting me for a conference in the United States, and it looked so real that I fell for it.  The first leg of the conference was to hold in US while the last leg was scheduled to hold later in Senegal and it was compulsory for participants to attend both. The organizers promised to pay for my visa, ticket and accommodation in US while I took care of that of Senegal. I saw this as a done deal; I started preparing for the journey and went to the immigration department to get the new e-passport and send the number to the organizers to process my visa. What made me smell a rat was when the organizers insisted I must pay for my lodging and accommodation for the second part of the conference in Senegal to a particular hotel in Senegal and send evidence of payment before they could send my name to US embassy for my visa. I told them I knew Senegal fairly well and should be allowed to choose any of the hotels to lodge, but they refused. It was at this point that I discovered it was a scam; some group of bad boys had set me up to fleece me.

And just recently,  I got a phone call from somebody I have never met inviting me to Awka to secure a contract to print 3,600,000 exercise books for the Anambra state government. The caller assured me the job was set aside specially for me and that I would have it without hassles. The figure itself set me thinking why me of all people.  I reasoned, why come all the way from Awka, leaving Onitsha and Enugu where materials could be got cheaper, to come to Abakaliki of all places to print exercise book that runs in millions.

Our society is bad, and the advent of social media including MySpace, Xanga, Facebook, LinkedIn, ping, email , GSM etc. have made it even worse. Technology which its founders created to positively transform us , redefine our humanity and make our stay on this planet a better one has been turned by evil men among us into an instrument for evil including stealing, cheating, killing, and so on. The internet has made the world a global village, there are no more barriers either physical or otherwise; the distance from my remote village Ozizza to America is only as far as clicking the mouse.

Addiction is bad. Many of our youths are addicted to social media especially our students.  Ownership of smartphones especially BlackBerry is the fad among our girls on campuses, and with the BlackBerry Messenger service, our girls are on a roller coaster linking up with saints and sinners that promise them everything from marriage to a mansions in the sea. Now because of peer pressure to look chic and psychedelic, many girls from poor families engage in “runs” to acquire one.

This is where parents should come in. We must keep tabs on our children, the friends they keep, and what they watch online. There is an increasing incidence of cyber-bullying and predators posting inappropriate comments and pictures online. Parents must use parental locks which is available in their computers to monitor the websites their children visit, especially the girls. Also, to stay safe on the internet, we must make our online accounts private and never give out personal information to strangers. We must as much as possible, avoid replying unsolicited emails or granting unsolicited friend requests on social networks such as Facebook (this is the platform where they got Cynthia) and promptly report any sexual harassment or request for sexual relationship to administrators of social networks, including possibly, the police and other security agencies.

I deeply sympathize with the Osokogu family and pray that God will give them the grace to get over this painful phase in their life.

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