The past week was an unusually bad one for Naija wives. Tufiakwa! In Ogun State, 45-year-old Segun Omotosho Ebenezer was arrested for beating his 42-year-old wife, Omotosho Olubukola, to death over a disagreement. And in Nguru, Yobe State, a certain Sadiya was locked up and starved for months in their home by her husband, feedind her only kunu (pap) and roasted wild pidgeon. Soon after she was rescued and taken to a hospital in Kano State by her moither, she died.
When they say that marriage is “till death do us part”, this isn’t what is meant. Marriage is good ooo! But a bad marriage, a marriage to an evil person, that one is not marriage but sufferhead. What manner of sadistic human locks up his wife for however long and watches her die? I have read reports that the late Sadiya’s husband, Ibrahim Yunusa Bature, locked her up because he was convinced that people were trying to poison her, which begs the question of his sanity. What sane person thinks he can keep someone alive/safe on just kunu for an extended period?
Regardless of whether Bature’s act was intentionally malicious or not, regardless of whether or not Ebenezer meant to kill his wife, the point remains that both their wives are dead, and in Sadiya’s case, her four children are now motherless. Nothing, no amount of remorse, will bring the dead women back. And that is why we have to do whatever it takes to make sure that such things don’t happen in the first place.
We are always saying that Nigerians are nosey and community-minded and all of that, so why do we fail women in dangerous situations? Why did it take so long, for instance, for anyone to notice that there was something wrong in the Bature household? How does a whole human being disappear from public view for not one day but for months and no one thought law enforcement agencies ought to get involved? No one asked the children questions? We must encourage citizens to really, really look out for one another. Early intervention would have saved Sadiya’s life.
Furthermore, we have to destigmatise divorce/separation. Olubukola Omotosho might have been alive today had she left the husband who was capable of hitting her on the head with a padlock. How often are women in toxic relationships told to “stay and bear it”? How often do young girls hear that the best thing, the highest thing they can aspire to is marriage? When any marriage is said to be better than no marriage, how do we expect women in marriages where even their very lives might be in danger to walk out? The narrative has got to change.
In addition to that, we must prioritise mental health education. I am convinced that there are many mental health cases walking around, marrying and carrying on without ever being diagnosed. A big part of mental health awareness is removing the stigma surrounding mental health. There is nothing shameful about mental illness, and as long as we treat it as if it were a shameful secret, folks needing help would be discouraged from getting help. I’ve said several times in the past how much I admire my students here in the US who feel no embarrassment about writing about their mental health issues in essays shared in class, or talking about seeing specialists for their mental health. Who knows, perhaps Sadiya wouldn’t have been locked up by a man who believed he was keeping her safe if he’d been encouraged to see a specialist. In saving him, she would have been saved too.
Finally, my Naija sisters, you haven’t failed because your marriage hasn’t worked out. Nobody cooks “sorry” and eats it. And no amount of sorry can perform a Lazarus on you if your husband’s ego/madness/cruelty kills you. There is nothing wrong with saving your life. And please, folks, let’s really look out for one another. When you see something, say something. It’s not busybodying to ask your neighbour why you haven’t seen his wife in years. It’s not amebo to escalate matters if you believe someone may be in trouble. Better to err on the side of caution and apologise for your zealousness than to keep quiet while another woman dies in the hands of someone that could have been stopped.