In Summary
  • It is not realistic to expect a person more than 20 years younger than you even to begin understanding, let alone cultivating such attachments to you in your twilight years.

  • Even if she stays around for one reason or another, her responses to the relationship and the whole environment are likely to be growing irritation and even impatience at your eccentricities.

Do you remember the history teacher who breaks classroom furniture when enacting the battles of Alexander the Great? He is in Nikolai Gogol’s satirical play The Government Inspector, which we also read in Kiswahili as Mkaguzi Mkuu wa Serikali. That teacher is a headache to the mayor of his city, as he, indeed, would be to any mayor or governor of a city, like Nairobi.

WOMAN'S BODY PARTS

But out of Russia here comes another history teacher. This one is a don, a professor of military history at St Petersburg State University. Prof Oleg Sokolov, who liked dramatising episodes from the Napoleonic wars, was recently fished, drunk, out of the River Moika in the famous city. He was carrying a bag containing a gun and the severed body parts of a woman!

It turned out that the body parts in the professor’s bag were those of his “girlfriend” Anastasia Yeshchenko. Horror enough, and not out of a movie but simple, plain reality!

We need not delve further into the gory details. The story has been on several news channels during the week. The professor has confessed to Anastasia’s murder, and he was trying to commit suicide after disposing of her remains.

Three things particularly brought the story home to me. Apart from the main character being a professor, I noted that he is aged 63, while his “girlfriend” was 24.

Equally significantly, the slain woman was a student of Prof Sokolov. Do you see how the story leapt out of wintry Petersburg and landed with shattering relevance on to our campuses, and to my attention and that of my academic colleagues?

CAUGHT RED-HANDED

Let me strengthen the link with a reference to the recent “sex for grades” investigative journalistic operation in West African universities that led to the interdiction of professors and other eminent academics at the University of Ghana and the University of Lagos.

The affected dons were allegedly caught red-handed, complete with video evidence, soliciting favours from female journalists posing as students.

The West African saga also followed close on a comprehensive report on sexual harassment at Makerere University earlier this year. I remember mentioning to you Prof Barnabas Nawangwe’s passionate concern about the matter, even before he became vice-chancellor at Makerere. You can thus see that the Sokolov-Yushchenko “affaire” (to use a Napoleonic turn of phrase), extreme and gruesome as it is, is not that remote from us, and we would all do well to pause and think.

The reflection arising out of the St Petersburg tragedy is threefold, as we said. As the #MeToo activists alerted us to the realities of sexual exploitation, the predators use an array of tactics to coerce their victims into undesired, undesirable and unsustainable relationships. These include gender, age and status. As you can see in the Russian case, all the cards were stacked in the professor’s favour. To speak of the murdered Anastasia as a “girlfriend” of Prof Sokolov may be plausible in some social sense, since she apparently lived with him, performed with him in his historical enactments and had even “published” works with him. The law might even speak of a “consensual” liaison.

SENSELESSLY KILLED

But what real choices did that girl have in the relationship? In age, she was nearly 40 years younger than her “lover” was. (In fact, she had been only 19 when Sokolov pounced on her). In status, she was a student of the man who had propositioned her.

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