Femi AwodeleFriday, September 19, 2008



here is a mass e-mail making the rounds among Africans in America, a smart person (I wish I know the person so he/she could be acknowledged), put all the homicide cases together with pictures. As one read through (and see the ugly pictures) a whole bunch of similarities immediately jump out to the reader - here is what I think.

I have devoted the last 7 years of my life to educating primarily African Marriages in western cultures (as you read this, I'm in Manchester, England for the same cause) with what I believe to be sound biblical principles regardless of location. I have written a book and many articles on how Africans view marriage based on prevalent religion and culture and how these views might work at home (in Africa) but would never work in a western country. The solutions I've suggested are strictly based on biblical principles and not a regions culture or religious believes (meaning western culture or believes).

In many articles (and in my book: Peculiar Conflicts) on this website, we've discussed the roles of the man and woman as seen by the African culture, we've discussed how an African man is taught to lead his home, we've discussed the transition for immigrants Africans - seem easy for women and tough for the man, we've discussed the better option - marrying an African woman abroad versus marrying a woman from Africa and finally, we've discussed the issue of finance, joint account and the tough subject of when the woman earn more.

Some Highlights (African Marriages)

  • Marital relationship between the man and woman is not a leader among equal but a superior to an inferior.
  • The payment of bride price suggests purchase in Africa, hence women are seen as a property, to be seen and not heard.
  • The role of the man is to only bring home the bacon (money), while the woman's role is to take care of the home, from the children to domestic issues.
  • An African man is taught to lead his home using his financial dominance and to keep her in place through physical or verbal abuse.
  • There is a perceived notion that African women abroad are loose and feisty, while women fresh from Africa are submissive and know how to treat a man.
  • Unscientific but abundance evidence show that African women, transition better in western countries than men.
  • Western countries laws, inadvertently strip the African man of what he has been taught, are his leadership tools. Finance dominance and physical beating (called domestic abuse in a Western country - #6 reason for female death in America).

Now let's see some of the common themes among the 9 men that murdered their wives

  • Kelechi 41 and Chidiebere 36 RN - Ereduwa (Washington DC)
  • Tennessee Man and RN wife
  • Theophilus 46 and Melvina 36 RN - Ojukwu (Garland, TX)
  • Benjamin and Rosaline 34 RN - Unachukwu RN (Marrietta, GA)
  • Ebenezer and Moni Akeredolu (Grand Praire, TX)
  • Johnny 45 and Isatu 35 RN - Omorogieva (Euless TX)
  • Tulsa OK man and RN wife
  • John 49 and Gloria 42 RN - Onwuka (Hampton VA)
  • Michael 50 and Antonia 28 RN - Iheme (Hennepin MN) Source: Mass E-mail

Comparing the above information with our beliefs of what a marriage is as Africans, we start to see what is going and mostly importantly, we can figure how to stop the trend and hopefully help many African couples going through a similar marriage situation at this time.

The money factor

The last two generation of men in Africa only know two ways of maintaining their leadership of the home, leadership is perceived to be between a superior and an inferior.

The above breakdown show men who choose to go back to Nigeria for a wife (much younger than them, so way inferior) and it just so happen that almost all the women are in the nursing profession (one of the most lucrative, little training profession in America). Depending on the region of America, a RN can make between $23-30/hour. This calls the motives of the men going to Africa to marry a nurse (or forcing a woman of another profession to do nursing) into question.

The next problems are these men's mentality or attitude, seeing a wife from income standpoint and not from love or compatibility view. This attitude comes out in how she is treated "just for the money"; unfortunately the money is spent on materialistic things such as a big house, cars, owambe parties and show off in Africa. It might take a while, but the woman soon kick against the man's lack of emotional empathy and aggressive treatment (physical abuse - normal back home) and start to take charge, not only of her life but her finances.

As the woman earn more money, most men don't know how to deal with a wife who earns more (it is seen as a challenge to their leadership), things become even more complicated when she flaunts her financial edge. The man then starts to treat her with contempt just to boost his leadership. The reaction of some women is also interesting, many of these RNs now start to say words that undermine the man, take shifts so they can earn more money and often get advice from "turkeys" who are up to no good (some even suggest adultery). We now have a cycle, until one of them snaps - either the marriage end in divorce or physical abuse leading to murder.

The abuse factor

I once spoke to a young man (younger than me) who physically abused his wife, and when we were sharing, his response bothered me because I thought anyone younger than me would not be caught in the culture of physically abusing one's wife as a form of authority.

Our conversation brought up an interesting issue - what is the definition of physical abuse? In Africa, slapping your wife is not considered an abuse, it is only when you beat her with a belt or whip, and even in such situations, the society ask the woman what she has done or did to deserve such a treatment? This is possible because she is seen as a property that was paid for at a big ceremony where her parents handed her over (some parents are now refusing bride price).

Another common trend in this group of men is that 8 of 9 are Ibo, while the last man is a Yoruba. In both the Igbo and Yoruba cultures, bride price payment is very important and it is especially steep in the Igbo traditions. An average Igbo man expends a lot of money to get married, between the bride price payment and the wedding ceremony, his life savings is gone. Hence, women are priced possessions.

I don't have a statistics on domestic abuse resulting in death in Nigeria or any country in Africa, but homicide based on domestic abuse happens on a daily basis, but there is no law to protect the abused (man or woman) and even if a law exist, it is not enforced. It will be interesting to know how many of you who read my articles, physically abuse your wives. I beg of you please STOP - there are other ways to earn her respect, just like Christ earned yours without abusing you.

Stopping the madness

Most of the men in the above story, miscalculated or misjudged women, thinking getting a woman from Africa is better than a woman that has lived in a western country (geography does not define a woman's character, her heart does). The rationale behind such thinking is that a fresh face from Africa will still love a man the way it is done in Africa, cook, clean, bear children, say yes sir and submit her check every week. When abused she does not say anything but accepts her lot. Unfortunately, they forget that the same woman will exist under western laws and interact with western people when she comes abroad, and it's a matter of time before she figure out that what is normal back home is called abuse abroad.

There is also a lesson here for women still in Africa, who are in nursing schools (or whatever school) and are receiving proposal from a guy who has been in America for years and cannot mention one major achievement or whose story about his life abroad is sounding to good to be true. Parents need to not get carried away with letting their daughters go abroad, that they don't check the man's background (education, job, church etc). Once she is married, your role changes, but you can voice your opinion strongly before she gets married.

The biggest change that needs to happen is in our mindset, a change of paradigm from what we believe, to what is the truth about our marriage, not western culture but biblical truth. Truth that leadership of the man is not in question, but it is also that of a servant leader as Christ demonstrated. A leader serves the follower and earns their respect not force it through financial and physical intimidation. Truth that geography, culture or who makes the most income do not determine who heads the family unit - that was already determined by God, who started the marriage institution. Nigerian men need to get rid of the traditions of men they've adopted at the detriment of biblical principles. Taking care of our home, bathing the children, washing the dishes is not helping your wife, but leading by example. African women need to appreciate men who do this (way out of norm for him) and not take advantage of them, boasting about it in derogative ways to their friends.

It is unfortunate that a lot of these women fresh from Nigeria take advantage of the men as well. I have counseled with many, who choose to listen to wrong advises from other owambe women, filing for abused partner visa (making up evidence), beating down a husband when he is down emotionally and many taking advantage of the man's good heart. I believe a lot of Nigerian (and other African) men are dealing with depression, because of what they believe to be a move backward career wise and perceived loss of authority or leadership at home, and none of them is seeking professional help to deal with the depression (counseling is contrary to the cultural mode of dealing with issues - depression is often considered solely a spiritual issue rather than medical).

To stop this madness, every one of us has a little part. The Nigerian (and other African) churches need to address the issue in their churches, either directly or by inviting people who know what they are saying on the subject. Medical professionals in churches need to help their pastors recognize symptoms of depression, so an individual can be referred to a therapist while the church intercedes in prayer for the person. Leaders in communities with large African population such as Dallas TX, Houston TX, Chicago IL etc, have an obligation as well, I was blessed to contribute to such discussion (among pastors) when I visited Melbourne, Australia where Sudanese refugees are causing havoc. In Omaha - Lutheran Family Services, a large Lutheran Church and I are talking on how to deal with the abuse issue among the Burundi, Somali, and Sudanese refugees.

We (African immigrants) need to have an open mind to change, not change to western culture as many African men fear, but change to truth of the bible. I cringe and hate it, when the argument to stop beating one's wife or to review our prevalent African culture is centered on "we are in America" or "this is 21st century" rather than to "nourish and cherish your wife" - Apostle Paul, "you have not dealt well with the wife of your youth" - Prophet Malachi, or "treat her as a weaker (delicate) vessel" - Apostle Peter.

I know some men are getting ready to write me that I'm bias to women, before you do, realize that to whom much is given, much is also expected. Your being called the head of your home comes with serious responsibilities. Also, realize that changing from the leadership style we were taught to the leadership style of Christ - the first servant leader, takes a lot of surrender (Galatians 2: 20) and gut, not excuses. I'm writing not as a theorist but as an African man whose wife makes more money than him, a man who continue to learn obedience as God desires, not as culture require and by the grace of God the head (spiritually, emotionally, financially etc) of his home (thanks to a godly woman, who chose to be obedient rather than reason as a liberated intellect or culturally). The best gift I can give my boys is how I treat their Mom as the head of our home.

Finally, the husband or wife needs to know their emotions. Anger is a good emotion, it becomes dangerous when we ignore it by not reconciling with our offender, while we implode or explode. Aggressive people have the tendency to explode, and if not dealt with, explosive anger could result in fits of rage (which is a time that the person is no longer in charge), scientist would say the hormone epinephrine or nor-epinephrine has taken over at this time, while religious folks would call this state "demonic oppression or possession" depending on the denomination. Passive people would usually get to the fits of rage state, after many unresolved issues build up within them, and they one day explode doing a lot of damage. I believe with all of my heart that each of the men above where over-taking with fits of rage, whether pre-meditated or spur of the moment.

Please do not keep what's bothering you to you, seek help and don't be shy about visiting a professional therapist. The Lord that brought you from your high position in Nigeria, Sudan, Botswana or whatever your country is, has not forgotten you - take your frustration to Him. Celebrate your wife's achievement rather than look for silly ways to prove "you are still the man". If she is flaunting her money in your face, do what the Bible say, "repay evil with good, so God can avenge you - Romans 12" and keep praying for her.

Remain Blessed

William Femi Awodele is the Executive Director of Christian Couples Fellowship International, Inc., Omaha, NE, USA