When Injustice Becomes A Norm, Resistance Gets Difficult- Shokem Supermarket As A Case Study

On the bright, lovely afternoon of the 9th of June, 2021, cars were speeding away, transactions between customers and sellers were at their peak, and the Agbowo branch of the Shokem Supermarket wasn’t left out. Customers swarmed in and out of the supermarket, and of these were three peculiar 400-L students of the department of Statistics, University of Ibadan–Aminah Raji, Amotu-Basit Aramide and Temitayo Alamu

Due to Shokem’s reputation among students as the one-stop store for gift items and groceries, these three ladies were there to get a gift for a classmate. They swayed in chatting cheerfully with cheeks radiating good vibes. They met a store attendant who directed them to their choice of gift items and helped them confirm the prices of the items; after which they proceeded to the payment desk. 

All seemed seamlessly sweet until the trio were accosted by three members of staff at the point of exit, and were directed to a secluded room. However, the trio refused and inquired the reason for the awkward situation. The staff replied that their CCTV camera caught them stealing unknown goods and needed to search them. The ladies were then subjected to thorough searching, and harassment as they were asked to remove their veils by the staff–a supposed order from the manager. Everyone knows Muslim women cover their heads and are not to open to anyone except some select few. 

The irony was that the search if the bags and bodies of the trio produced and proved nothing except that these ladies were just demeaned and traumatised. Realising their uttermost wrongdoing, instead of an instant sincere apology, all the manager drooled was a lazy “Sorry, we’ve been going through a lot of theft cases these days; you guys don’t know how we are feeling”. Such a half-hearted apology!

The trio, and obvious victims of these poor human customer relations, deemed it fit not to let time sweep the matter under the carpet.  They informed the appropriate student authorities–the Students Union President, Akeju Oluwasegun, and the MSSNUI bodies inclusive. And the matter was swiftly attended to. The Authorities, the trio and others agreed to go back the second day, the 10th of June, 2021, was agreed.

 Around 2 pm on the 10th of June, the SU president and some executive members of the MSSNUI body alongside the siblings and students of the University showed solidarity, and stormed the store to get to the root of the matter. They requested the CCTV footage which Shokem couldn’t produce. On arrival to the store, a request was made to see the manager but a lady, posing as the assistant manager, cunningly drove the agitated students to a room that wasn’t the manager’s. Furious, the SU president had to reiterate the fact that they weren’t there to joke or throw tantrums. 

The reality of the gravity of the situation dawned on her and she directed them all to the manager’s office. The manager was spoken to and the need to select representatives amongst the agitated population arises as the office of the manager was very small in space and size so the SU president, 2 of the MSSNUI executives, the victims, and the manager were allowed in the room. At the start of their conversation, the staff that searched them, a security man, and the lady who is the manager’s assistant were involved in the harassment were asked to join them.

Shokem was accused of harassment of which led to them forcing the girls into a cubicle to search them, labeling, going against the right to religion, and going against human rights. The staffs were adamant and denied at first cooking up a list of lies to cover up their misdeeds. They kept lying until the SU President threatened to lock up their store, go on protest against them, and order students to boycott them totally. At these, they started owning their misdeed, and sincerely apologized.

 After so much back and forth of explaining the consequences of their actions which started with their inability to produce the CCTV footage to effect their claims, the victims then requested an apology letter stating how deeply and sincerely sorry they are to have shown their un-professionalism in a demeaning way. The letter was expected to be submitted on Friday, 11th June 2021, however the last time this correspondent got a call from them, they claimed to have appeared in school on Friday but did not meet the SU President on seat, hence an unavoidable breach in their promise.

In all, it is clear that an attempt to let go of an injustice observed or experienced might lead to a continuous act of such injustice. Then standing up for a resistance to it becomes difficult and strange. It festers. 

By: Hikmah Opeyemi Tiamiyu

hikmahtiamiyu@gmail.com

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