•Nigerians express concern, as experts, clerics, others proffer solutions
By Tessy Igomu
Like an endless soap opera with horrible plots, reports of spousal deaths have continued to dominate the Nigerian space lately.
In the wake of these occurrences, many have not stopped pondering what could be driving spouses to the point of killing their partners, men or women with whom they vowed to share a lifetime.
Lately, the media has been awash with horrid tales of brutal killings by spouses. Initially, husbands were more in the news for killing their wives, but lately it appears the scale has tilted. Women are gradually taking the lead by snuffing life out of their husbands. This disturbing trend has left most men jittery, even as it has raised questions about the marriage institution.
The reality about spousal murders is that hearts are broken, children are left shattered and disoriented, and the society gradually faces an uncertain future as its sacred bedrock continues to disintegrate.
On February 2, 2016, a female lawyer, Yewande Oyediran, was accused of killing her husband, Oyelowo, with a knife at their 30, Adeniyi Layout residence in Ibadan, Oyo State, following a misunderstanding bordering on infidelity. She was on November 27, 2017, convicted and handed a seven-year jail sentence.
Another woman whose anger recently got the best of her was Maryam Sanda. She was accused of stabbing her husband, Bilyamin Bello, to death with a broken bottle at their Abuja residence on November 19. Bello was reportedly stabbed several times in his chest and neck by Sanda following allegations of infidelity after the woman had reportedly seen a text message sent to her husband’s phone. Before now, the couple was always been at daggers’ drawn, according to reports.
Not long ago, tears flowed uncontrollably at the Atan Cemetary, Yaba, Lagos, as the remains of 36-year-old Ronke Shonde, allegedly killed by her husband, Lekan, were laid to rest.
According to police report, Lekan, on May 5, 2016, killed his wife at their 3, Tiemo Street, Egbeda, Lagos, residence. He has since been remanded in the Ikoyi Prison.
Earlier in the year, 39-year-old Mrs. Omotayo Salawudeen had narrated how she had sexual intercourse with her husband, Alhaji Salawudeen, before killing him. She carried out the act in connivance with 24-year-old Dolapo. Before his murder, the deceased had been married to his wife for 17 years and they were blessed with three children aged 17, 15 and 12.
On July 21, 2012, Mathias Eze, a former commissioner with the Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission, gunned down his wife, Patricia Ossai, allegedly over her failure to prepare rice for dinner. They were married for 16 years and had six children.
One of the most celebrated spousal killings in Nigeria took place on June 24, 2011. It was the brutal murder of Titilayo Arowolo, a banker, by her husband, Akolade. Autopsy report revealed that she was stabbed 76 times. Her husband was later sentenced to death in 2014.
These are just a few cases in the saga of spousal murders. These spontaneous killings, which used to be rampant abroad, seem to have found an abode in Nigeria.
Spousal murder is among the many cases of domestic violence that is now assuming epidemic proportions in Nigeria. It cuts across social and economic backgrounds.
Behavioural scientists posit that domestic violence is the failure of partners to exercise discretion, tolerance, patience and care for one another. According to Wikipedia, domestic violence is a pattern of behaviour, which involves violence or other abuse by one person against another in a domestic setting such as in marriage or cohabitation. It is also a pattern of abusive behaviour in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.
It could be physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of acts that influence another person. This also includes any behaviour that intimidates, manipulates, humiliates, isolates, frightens, terrorises, coerces, threatens, blames or inflicts injuries and, ultimately, causes death.
According to psychologists, domestic violence affects not just the victim but, indirectly, all those who are privy to the violence: children, family, relatives and witnesses to the physical abuse and violence. They noted that it predisposes the children to trauma and other psychological problems throughout their lives and they may learn to become abusers later on in life. Hence, the cycle continues.
The experts have also noted that domestic violence often starts subtly with victims not recognising from the onset that they are being abused and abusers not accepting the gravity of their actions until they degenerate to life-threatening levels.
Statistics on domestic violence in Nigeria are shocking, according to the National Population Commission report of 2009. It noted that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Africa, with as much as two-thirds of Nigerian women believed to have experienced physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of their husbands. A small-scale study also conducted in Oyo and Lagos states indicated that 65 per cent of educated women are abused and 56 per cent of blue-collar or market women experience similar attacks.
A CLEEN Foundation report disclosed recently that one in every three respondents admitted to being a victim of domestic violence. Also, the foundation’s 2012 National Crime and Safety Survey demonstrated that 31 per cent of the national sample confessed to being victims of domestic violence.
Amnesty International, in one of its 2007 reports, described Nigeria’s rate of domestic violence as shocking and called on the authorities to do something to stem the violence.
“On a daily basis, Nigerian women are beaten, raped and even murdered by members of their family for supposed transgressions, which can range from not having meals ready on time to visiting family members without their husband’s express permission,” the Amnesty report said.
Lately, a study by Men’s Rights Campaign Parity Group revealed that at least two in five victims of domestic violence or intimate partner abuse are men.
According to Nkem Okeke, a marriage counsellor, domestic violence keeps rising because, most times, perpetrators claim to be acting in accordance with tradition, while current penalties have not been able to serve as deterrent.
She further noted that the societal context of domestic violence, especially against women, is based on the traditional patriarchal structure that defines gender. Such brash acts are often seen as a tool to coerce submission and deference towards men.
Why it is on the rise
According to Jude Nkwocha, a lawyer, though such acts are usually premeditated, they are mostly crimes of passion that happen spontaneously.
Behavioural psychologist, Akingbade Femi, noted that before such acts could happen, some behavioural patterns or motives must be dominant, including anger expressed in a pattern of escalating rage, abuse and violence.
The next, he said, is fear of abandonment and loss, which usually occurs after one partner has threatened or attempted to leave, adding that such threats can be particularly dangerous for women who find their spouses controlling and abusive.
Another, he said, is sexual jealousy. This includes everything from becoming upset that a partner flirted with someone to the knowledge of an actual affair. The fourth is being suicidal, he said.
Alhaji Mohammed Ibrahim, an Islamic cleric in Ajao Estate, Lagos, said, of late, marriages have gone to the dogs because many married couples don’t follow the teachings of the Quran or the Bible.
He added that simple teachings like the instruction for wives to be submissive to their husbands, and men to act like the heads of the home and provide for their families have been relegated to the background. He maintained that no matter how people see these teachings, they remain the basic principles on which marriages are built.
His words: “What we have now are women working like men. They work from morning till night and the men don’t think it is their duty to provide; they want to sit at home and wait for the woman to do everything. How then do you expect a woman to be submissive to a man who can’t provide?
“How will she feel she has a covering over her head when she practically provides for herself and the children just like a spinster or a widow would? What happens is that anger starts building up over time; anger that cannot be expressed. The next thing is that these thoughts and anger will one day find expression through violence. I think it is time to accept and take responsibility for our homes.”
An Igbo leader in Lagos and Eze Ndigbo of Mushin, Chief John Nwosu, said the problem was societal and not cultural. He noted that the success of a marriage depended in the submissiveness of both parties, but that it should be more on the part of the woman. He stressed that poor courtship that locks unfamiliar partners together in doomed matrimony and the stress and frustrations of marital life also contribute to marital crises. Lack of communication, he added, has become the bane of most marriages.
“Most couples prefer to keep quiet over issues. That’s why you see an argument going out of control because of pent up anger. Upbringing also counts. Parents should avoid fighting in front of their children. Many married people are so frustrated in their marriages but can’t leave because of children or fear of social stigma. One day, they will reach breaking point, pick a knife or any other dangerous object and kill the spouse. The quiet ones, who appear non-violent, are mostly the type that will resort to deadly violence when they reach breaking point.
“Even some spouses have gone to the point of subtle poisoning because of an alleged offence. I think it is time we made God the centre of marriage,” he said.
For Helen Akpan, the initiator of Spousal Rights, a non-governmental otganisation that seeks to protect abused women, more deaths might be recorded because of stigmatisation. She lamented that the Nigerian society does not respect a woman who leaves her husband even if it was to save her life and that of her children.
Akpan noted that most women keep quiet about their predicament because they believe there is more prestige in marriage, no matter how violent, than fleeing. The fear of the unknown, she said, remains another factor that has made women to remain with their abusive partners.
According to a marriage counsellor with the Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area who declined to be named, marriage is not a walk in the park. But one should know when to take a bow out of a bad marriage or a relationship. She noted that one major sign of abuse is the fear of one’s partner.
“So, recognising abuse in a relationship is the first step to ending it and staying alive. Abuse is a choice and victims should not accept responsibility for the actions of the abusers. Turning a blind eye to it will not make it go away either. When any party in a union feels threatened, the easy way is to walk out. Life is precious, there are always other options out of that marriage, and murder is not one.
“Violence against any gender, though inevitable, is not excusable. It is high time the government took up the issue of domestic violence very seriously, to treat it as a mental health problem,” she said.
The counsellor also declared that it was time families started tackling the menace from the root, adding that laying the right foundation matters.
“We have spent more time training the girls and have allowed our boys to transform into untamed monsters,” she said. “Emphasis should be laid on teaching our men and boys to respect the female gender. We should also teach our girls to exercise patience and speak out in the face of mounting provocation.”
Concerned Nigerians believe that the federal government, through its law enforcement agencies and the judiciary, should protect life by making sure there is improved access to justice and that perpetrators of domestic violence are promptly brought to book.
Traditional leaders, religious leaders and elders in the family, they averred, can also help to curb the trend as they act as the most revered influencers of lifestyle and public opinion.