FEATURE ARTICLE

Obeya Francis KizitoSunday, September 21, 2008
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Pennsylvania, USA

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WIFE-KILLINGS IN AMERICA: WHERE WE WENT WRONG

he Nigerian community in the diaspora is really outraged by the wave of wife-killings that has plagued us in recent times. At the last count, not less than five men are going through various stages of the due process of the law for dispatching their better halves to the great beyond. If this was a single isolated incident, perhaps we could have shrugged and attributed it to one lunatic who has lost his mind but this is not the case. In the space of less than half a decade, over five Nigerians have viciously attacked their wives with intent to bring death regardless of whatever consequence will follow.


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This writer is disgusted with the inability of his fellow citizens to properly understand the severity of the situation we face as Nigerians. Not even John McCain, in his ignorance of the American economic situation, comes any closer in poor judgment. So quick are we to condemn and detach ourselves from these so-called murderers that we forget to see how much lessons can be learned from these unfortunate incidents with an aim of preventing a future occurrence. In demonizing the Nigerian male, Jumoke Akin-Taylor has this to say: �The Nigerian Man today has traded his birthright as the head of the family, the one who commands respect, was revered by all for his gentle greatness; and now for almighty dollar, waits for his wife�s paycheck for the roof over their head, worse, he drops off his wife at work and then goes back to sleep.� Or how about the self-righteous tone adopted by Abimbola Lawore when he described these wife-killers as �dregs of society�, �black sheep�, �nut cases� and even �monster�.

This writer�s sadness stems from the fact that we have become rather reactive instead of proactive about this problem that assails the family in the diaspora. Such attitudes will not prevent a reoccurrence but will only harden the resolves of men who have had it up to here with their women but feel boxed in because there are no avenues for them to seek help. Our approach to this matter will only see more women killed if we don�t change tack.

In the African context, we do not speak ill of the dead. As a matter of fact, it is next to impossible to condemn the dead. There is absolutely no room in our culture to speak ill of the dead. There is absolutely no room in our culture to fault the acts of the dead and this explains why a man who kills his wife will find no sympathetic ear to hear his own side of the story. The aim of this piece is not to whip up support for men who have bloodied their hands with wifey�s blood, but to redirect our thought-process to figuring out creative and result-oriented ways of intervention. This will curb the growth of a generation of wife-killers within our ranks.

This is our assessment of the situation thus far: man brings woman to America from Naija. Woman becomes very hardworking and becomes more successful than the man. Man becomes jealous. Man kills woman. Things fall apart. How I wish it was this simple. Although no one can claim to know the state of mind these men were in when they carried out these heinous acts, one can only imagine the chain of events that propelled them to arrive at this decision. No matter how well we tend to sugarcoat it, this writer will have a hard time believing that these women (God rest their souls) are all so saintly, so God-fearing, so righteous and so sugar-won�t-melt-in-her-mouth innocent. Hard and callous as this may sound, such an admission will provide the key to an honest and unbiased analysis of the situation.

Couples in the diaspora need a lot of support systems in order to cope with the tough challenges of living abroad. A woman who makes more money than her husband needs to understand that money is not everything and her success is no success at all if such success does not extend to the rest of the family members. Strange as it may sound, it is not only abroad that a Nigerian woman earns more than her husband but such women have not allowed their good fortunes enter their heads. They continue to hold down the home front, being a bastion for the family and maintaining love and respect for their husbands, encouraging them when they are down and covering their nakedness when hard times come. The Abacha years saw a lot of breadwinners out of jobs and thrown into jails (especially bankers) did the onus of catering for the family not fall on the woman? So what makes the Nigerian woman in the diaspora think she is such a phenomenon? Give me a break! This woman needs to understand that the headship of the family does not belong to the partner with the largest purse and that a man falling on hard times is not enough reason for her to make him a slave.

The female in the American workplace has a greater longevity and success rate than the male (abi you think say bottom power no dey for America?) Hence it is no longer newsworthy to see wives who earn more than their husbands. In fact a generation of stay at home dads have sprouted among other communities. These men have given up their careers to stay and look after the kids so that their better positioned wives can continue with their careers. There has been a lot of savings on child care as a result of this arrangement and the men are not seen as failures by their wives. It is only the twisted macho mentality of the Nigerian society that men who bring home fewer dollars than their wives are seen as the doormat. This attitude has to change.

It is only in the Nigerian community that the man is seen as a eunuch once he cannot earn more than his wife. And what do some of these godless women do when they can pay their own bills? Some begin to take on secret lovers, others not-so-secret lovers; others stash their green in accounts known only to themselves and their home wrecking girlfriends, and others even go to the extent of keeping two homes. To such women, a husband is nothing but a doormat and 911 is the first on the list of contacts on these Jezebels� cell phones. A friend once recounted a story of a lady in Nebraska whose family starves when the husband is unable to bring forth money for the groceries but adequately stocks the pantry of her boyfriend with enough food to feed an army.

There was also a scandalous lady in Ottawa who was so badly beaten by her boyfriend she called her husband to say she is on an emergency assignment to Alaska and will not be returning home for a month. Many of us might have heard of some CNAs and RNs who openly brag about how they can�t wait to obtain their nursing license and �divorce that foolish man�. In spewing forth the qualities of the Nigerian woman she knew, Jumoke Akin-Taylor must not have been aware of a darker sinister side of her sisters since she carefully neglected to mention this in her piece. I should like to delight in the thought that this oversight was not borne out of selective amnesia. I could devote this piece in its entirety to chronicling the acts of these Nigerian viragoes but that is a story for another day.

As earlier stated, Nigerian couples need a lot of support to make marriages work. In most cases there exists little or no support system that addresses conflicts in marriages even though we all know that such conflicts will definitely arise. At home in beloved naija, we have family elders, friends, the church and all sorts of advocates to fall back on when the institution is threatened. Abroad however, the only efforts being made by the churches is in ensuring that tithes are paid and pastors are not doing enough to get involved in conflicts involving married couples (after all this society does not encourage third party intervention and rehabilitation.) The Oyibo approach of �intervening only when invited� is not and has never been our way of life. Men like Kelechi Emeruwa, Theophilus Ojukwu, John Onwuka, are no more guilty than their pastors and friends, of these murders, for failing to detect the warning signs of trouble when it all began.

Other culprits to be blamed are the multiple tribal associations that are sprouting here and there all over America. Each year, Ohanaeze Ndigbo holds its annual convention. Organizations such as these should encourage their local chapters to get more involved in resolution of conflicts and shore up breaking homes. Furthermore, these organizations can encourage the introduction of programs aimed at building relationships between couples and encouraging them to stick together during difficult periods. Certainly there should be more to be gained from these unions than just the paying of union dues and holding of lavish parties naija style.

In conclusion, I�d like to point out that wife-killing is not a Nigerian value. This new evil that has reared its ugly head in our midst is not undefeatable. This is an act borne out of desperation by people who saw no way out of their situations. If we act as true family and friends and be there for these men and women in their hour of need, I believe that murder will look less attractive an option for the partner who is seriously considering going that route. We can defeat this, yes we can.

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