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Pauline Ikoni, 22, lives in a onebedroom apartment outside her university campus in Port Harcourt. She is a 200 level student of Languages. With her apartment furnished with a refrigerator, a plasma television set, home-theatre musical equipment, air conditioning unit and a luxury bed, Pauline also boasts of a fat bank account and a wardrobe rich in the latest fashion trends.

For her male colleagues, Pauline belongs to the rich and mighty in the society and, as such, they cannot come close to her or ask her for a date. But Pauline is not alone in her opulent lifestyle as a student because there are many out there socialising with the male aristocrats in the society.

These are rich and old males who prefer the ``good things'' of life in the company of ladies who are young enough to be their granddaughters. There is yet another class of girls who submit to any `customer' who can pay for their services. These are campus girls who are listed in a catalogue or photo album for men to choose from for the purpose of having a one or two-night outing. Usually the peddlers of the albums are fellow male students who serve as pimps, and make an income from the girls' earnings.

These girls have either poor, middle class or moderately rich family background, and they engage in what many regard as campus prostitution for various reasons raging from pleasure to insatiate appetite for cash. Some even do so due to peer influence, while others are involved as a means of funding their schooling. When female undergraduates discuss ``aristo'', it appears like an ordinary topic to the ears of parents, guardians and the ignorant, but to the initiated, ``aristo'' or ``aristocrat'' is the new name for ``sugar daddy''. Dating an aristo is the latest barometer among campus girls for assessing wealth and position. ``The name `sugar daddy' is best applied outside the campus for old men who date young girls. But on the campus, it is much more dignifying to call them `aristo','' says Aisha Haruna, an undergraduate.

``The act is fashionable and the girls do it with relish and pride as they flaunt their earnings by way of accessories and newclothing.'' A corps member, Emmanuel Akpan, says that ``for the girls, it is `thank God it is Friday' as they pack their big aristo handbags and move out of their hostels to spend weekends with their male friends who are old enough to be either their grandfathers or fathers''. Many undergraduates say it is a common sight to find luxury cars on campuses waiting to take girls out for weekend fun. They also say that it is a usual sight in the evenings to find cars and buses parked at the female hostels to pick girls for distribution to visiting dignitaries in town.

``This usually occurs during major political party activities in cities and towns across the country,'' says Emeka Nwachukwu, an undergraduate. But what makes young girls date older men? Janet Osifo, an undergraduate, says she prefers to date older men because they are more decent in the sense that they take the girls to quiet places where too many eyes will not see them. ``Older men are good in bed because they are more experienced. The older the man the better he is. Besides, I need the money to survive,'' she says. ``An aristo will never raise his hand to hit you because he appreciates that you are doing him a favour not minding the fact that he is paying most of your bills.''

A graduate, Buki Ajibola, says she dated older men for the money she could make from them. ``I lived off-campus while I was in the university. I made money from my aristo to pay my rent, buy new dresses and shoes as well as have enough to give out to my siblings,'' she recalls. Buki, who is an Abuja-based corps member, says dating an aristo may be bad, it could be useful as one does not have to run home often for parental assistance. ``My mother manages to send me some money for my upkeep; the rest I get from my aristo,'' she adds. But another corps member, Blessing Ajuks, holds a different view as she says that dating older men is unhealthy for a young lady. ``It is not the best; it is not good in the sight of God. It is like stealing someone else's husband.

``It undermines the dignity of a woman, which is supposed to be priceless,'' she says, adding that most of the men have their families and are rich, but are close to the grave. For many female students, the fear of being used for rituals is the reason to avoid an aristo. This was the experience of a female student in Benue who went out with an old male friend to a hotel for an allnight outing. ``The girl insisted that the man should use a condom, which he refused. She finally succumbed when the man offered her a mouth-watering sum of N500,000,'' says Grace Eneh. According to Grace, the girl confessed later that she experienced a strange movement in her lower abdomen, which medical doctors could not diagnose.

``She had to seek divine intervention that revealed she had been used for ritual purposes,'' Grace says. Observers attribute some of the reported cases of ritual murders involving ladies to aristo outings. Chidinma Eke, a corps member, blames poor parental upbringing for such immoral acts by ladies. ``If a young girl is properly groomed by her parents I do not see why she will fancy an aristo. If an elderly man tries asking her out, she should reflect on her own father trying to date her,'' she says.

For Chidinma, poverty, peer pressure, frustration, financial insecurity and greed are some of the reasons for girls dating old men. A mother, Mrs Adora Okon, agrees that peer pressure and the lack of good parental upbringing make girls date old men. ``Some girls, when they get to the university, decide to forget all the training they received from their parents. ``They behave like good girls when they return home, but when they return to school they turn to something else. ``When you date someone's husband, somebody will definitely do the same to you. Remember what God has joined together let no man put asunder,'' she admonishes.

But Okechukwu Nwoko, a student at the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, expresses dismay over the effect of aristo dating female students on their male counterparts. ``It is affecting us the guys adversely. Girls have become scarce because the available ones prefer dating rich old men in the society.'' A cleric, Rev. Fr. Solomon Bulus, of the Missionary of St. Paul, Gwagwalada, FCT, says that a relationship between a married man and a young lady is strange and should not be encouraged. ``I do not feel very comfortable with it. It is exploitative,'' he says, adding that God will never approve of men dating girls young enough to be their daughters.

``It is against the natural order of creation,'' he says, referring to mankind's first parents, Adam and Eve, according to the Bible. Bulus urges young ladies to reflect on their lives and focus more on their education while in school. ``There is no hurry in life because life is in different stages. ``Value what you have as a woman because if there is anything you treasure most, it should be your body. Never give anybody the opportunity to abuse it,'' he adds. Morality, they say, begins at home; and for female students and their aristo male friends, it behoves them to toe the path of godliness. This way, Nigeria will be free of moral decadence and depravity, moralists say.

Stella Enenche
(Copyright © 2008 Niger Delta Standard)

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