FEATURE ARTICLE

Alphonsus U. NwadikeTuesday, July 14, 2009
fcnwadike@hotmail.com
Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

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AFRICANS, NIGERIANS, NDIGBO ARE NOT BARBARIC

have carefully studied a recent article, published on Nigeriaworld, written by Uche Marian Sikirat and Uche Eugene C, and titled as "African women and intimate partner violence: Deadly but neglected." Without mincing words, that write-up is preposterous in verbiage and content because it is bereft of intuitive sense and critical thinking. When a piece of writing contains a lot of fallacies, its message is bound to be misleading to and lost on the readers. I have no doubt that the authors have read some materials, bordering on the issue of violence against women, but their ability to translate their understanding into a true societal or cultural context leaves nothing to be desired.


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One of the indications in the said article is that violence against women is either more rampant in Africa/Nigeria than in developed nations or it happens on high scale in all societies. Another understanding from the write-up is that in African communities, including Igboland, there is little or no legal framework against anti-women or domestic violence. On the whole, that article purports to portray to the reading public that Africans and their cultures are barbaric and Nigerian men, including ndigbo, are more lawless, violent, and wicked in their behavior towards women than their counterparts in developed countries.

The truth is that the authors of that piece of writing do not seem to have a clear knowledge of the difference between violence against women perse and intimate partner violence, which encompasses aggression in gay or lesbian relationships. Their frequent and servile reliance on extraneous reports and materials (instead of on objective studies and personal convictions) further betrays their verdancy in their subject of discourse. Simply speaking, the article, in my view, was, more or less, written as a term-paper student, not as a scholar who has an interesting idea to offer for public thought and understanding.

Again, there are two legal systems of marriage in Nigeria, namely statutory law and customary law marriage. A woman in Nigeria has a full and unbridled right to choose which type of marriage she wants to live in. Both the statute and custom give each spouse unfettered power to seek dissolution of the marriage if he or she so chooses. The authors do not seem to know the legal realities of marriage in Igboland, let alone Nigeria and other African nations. The authors should note that violence against any woman in Nigeria amounts to an assault, which is punishable under the penal and criminal codes of the land. Therefore, their insinuation or statement in the article that an abused woman in marriage can hardly seek a divorce and ask for alimony or financial support in Nigeria or Igboland is false and fabulous.

Likewise, their indication that violence against women is a normalized or condoned way of life in Nigeria is cruel, speculative, and misleading. If they saw or have seen their fathers molest their mothers, such incidents are isolated cases in Igboland. It is wrong of them to jump into a generalized opinion based on what has specifically happened in their own homes or a few other households in Nigeria. If, according to their Cohen report, nearly 5.3 million incidents of intimate partner violence occur each year among U.S women, aged eighteen and older, and 32 million occur each year among U.S men, what is their statistics/figure for Africa or Nigeria? That statistics should have been their most viable tool to attempt to drive their claim/case against Africa or Nigeria home to their readers. In the absence of any such figure for Africa, their article should have been better addressed principally to American communities, instead of to African or Nigerian populations. Domestic violence is not a leading cause of death for any age bracket in Nigeria. The authors should re-check their facts and read the Nigerian marriage Act, Matrimonial causes Act, and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria for better understanding of women's rights under the Nigerian laws.

The authors ought to have known that, though Nigeria is a developing nation, her socio-cultural values are superior in many respects to what obtains in most of the industrialized countries. They ought to have known that in the USA, for instance, the majority white race and the minority races do not, in practice, have equal protection of the law. Perhaps, they have not known that covert racism, discrimination, sentiment, and political leanings, not facts and principles of law, on many occasions, determine the course of justice in most western nations, including their model country, the USA. Their insinuation that laws in Nigeria or other African countries are not officially published before they become valid and enforceable is, on all fours, mischievous and misleading.

Furthermore, it does not appear to me that the authors of the said write-up are conversant with the peculiar nature of Africa and Nigeria in particular. I seem to understand that the authors still believe, in this age of national self-determinism and identity, that anything done in Africa, which is culturally different from what obtains in the developed nations, is barbaric and socially unacceptable. The truth is that African societies, especially Igboland, are culturally conservative and intrinsically spiritual. In Igbo christian and traditional culture, every family, however small, has a head who is always accountable for the general well-being of that social unit. The person who occupies this position in the family is the man (husband) while his wife assists him. There must be mutual love, unity of purpose, and respect between the man and his wife for the common good of the entire family.

The man is the front-runner in providing materially for the family while the wife is in the fore-front of home care and management. In this Igbo family setting, children develop positive filial pieties and attachment and are brought up in love and strict moral principles while misunderstandings/disputes are resolved amicably, at first instance, through bilateral family arbitrations. According to the authors, this pristine Igbo socio-family set-up should give way to western nations' socio-cultural life-styles in which the vagaries of gender equality, cut-throat spousal competition, distrust, variance, impatience, culture of violence, culture of bizarre sexual orientations, insubordination, false affection, regimental police action, futile and negative judicial protectionism, and non-reconciliatory goal of conflict resolution have almost completely destroyed family values.

According to the authors, African government leaders should invest state resources in building shelters, so that materially and prostitution-oriented women who desert their matrimonial homes on the pretext of domestic violence, as it is usually the case where they exist, should find where to hide. The questions for them to answer, at this juncture, are: is the existence of shelters an effective way of reducing the ever-growig rate of domestic violence and its casualties in developed societies? If their answer is in the affirmative, why does domestic violence still remain a leading cause of death in the USA today?

It is agreeable that domestic violence is a global phenomenon, but intimate partner violence with regard to gay/lesbian relationship is not a known event in African/Nigerian communities. It is indisputable that domestic violence is a leading cause of death in the USA and many other developed nations, but it is not so in Nigeria and most other African countries. The high rate of intimate partner violence in western societies is an off-shoot of the widespread culture of violence that characterizes their day-to-day national life and psyche. In Nigeria, unlike in many of the developed nations, people naturally love to live in married family settings, and every element of each family unit endeavours to protect and enhance its survival and prosperity. Because every man or woman has a vested interest in the good welfare of his/her family, peace, understanding, mutual respect, patience, tolerance, and perseverance usually gain ascendancy over unhealthy rivalry, conflict, and violence in most Nigerian homes.

I do not, therefore, agree with the authors in their insinuation in the said article that Nigerian/Igbo married women live in enslavement to their husbands. The true position is that a typical Nigerian/Igbo married woman naturally loves to live a life of meaning and fulfilment in a family set-up, with her children and husband under one roof. Unlike women in most western cultures, a typical Nigerian/Igbo woman does not like leaving the care and upbringing of her children to commercial baby-sitters in preference for inordinate, uncanny, selfish material and career pursuits. Right from time immemorial, married Nigerian/Igbo women have been instrumental in the socio-economic growth and well-being of their families and the society at large, and there has never been a time when they have been relegated to the position of dormant house-wives by dint of any custom or tradition. It was, therefore, misleading for the authors to indicate to their readers that Nigerian/Igbo women are culturally shackled as dormant housewives, who are denied of their right to free speech and expression.

Understandably, intimate partner violence or domestic violence is an evil wind that blows no society any good. Efforts geared towards its eradication, especially in those countries where it has assumed alarming proportions, should principally incorporate effective ethical re-orientation. Ethical re-orientation programs must be aimed at enthroning the virtues of true spousal love, understanding, patience, mutual respect, tolerance, mutual support, co-existence, interdependence, and reconciliation in the homes. Cosmetic programs, such as shelter provision, lopsided and non-reconciliatory judicial interventions have not been effective in curbing this social malady in developed societies. Stemming widespread culture of general violence and unethical sexual orientations should also be made part and parcel of the redeeming ethical re-orientation programs. Civilization and modernisation are akin to nothing if family values are thrown to the dogs in any human society.

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