She got out of her 1994 Nissan Sentra, hobbling. Some visible, though vanishing bruises around her left eye couldn’t be concealed even with the heavy make-up she had on. She moaned and grimaced a bit as she shook my hands.
“What happened, girl?” I asked her curiously. “Nothing, Fola, nothing”, she said, forcing a smile.
“What do you mean by ‘nothing’? You are shuffling and hobbling, and you want me to believe that there is nothing?”
She continued to force a lame smile that revealed a dying spirit and esteem inside of her. She was in pain; more of emotional discomfort than physical. What happened to my friend, I kept asking myself? Was she involved in an automobile accident or in a skiing mishap?
I quit trying to probe her; I felt she needed the privacy.
Four hours went by on that evening shift before she mustered the courage to open up to me.
“It’s my husband, he hit me; he said he was going to kill me. I fought back, but you know him. He is stronger. I am tired, Fola. I am tired of this constant beating…but….”; she shook her head.
“But what”? I asked
“I love him, Fola. I love Andy. Yes, she beats me; but I love him.”
It was in 1996. Nancy and Andy (not their true names) lived in a United States East Coast city. Andy had lived in the US for 10 years and worked in a Group Home for the elderly as a Rehab Assistant. Nancy, a Registered Nurse, joined her husband four years later. They got married in Nigeria during one of Andy’s many visits home combing towns and villages for the “ideal” woman he could call a wife. He insisted that his choice must either be a doctor or a nurse. Why? I don’t know. Maybe, it was just a matter of choice. I have always believed that when you marry, you do so for love. In this dispensation, things have changed, my friends. People get married for different reasons.
According to Nancy, heated arguments began at home a few months after she passed her Nursing Board Examination. Suddenly, the young woman who had no income jumped to making $30 an hour; Andy, who made $7 per hour, controlled family finances for about four years. If Nancy had to purchase even sanitary pads, she had to get a clearance from her husband despite the fact that she brought in more money into the family coffers. When Nancy decided that she had had enough, that was when trouble and heavy physical and emotional abuse began at home from a husband that the wife still insisted she loved.
There are tons of similar stories in the Nigerian community here in the US. In a few cases, some women had been murdered by their abusive husbands. When Babajide Okeowo of Dallas Texas divorced his wife, Funke, the aftermath of the split was too harrowing for Babajide to deal with. The court ordered that Babajide should surrender the home they had bought together to Funke; and the man had to start from the beginning. One day, Babajide took the law into his hands, drove all the way to Dallas and pumped some hot lead into his ex-wife killing her instantly. He believed he was protesting a silent emotional abuse from his wife who was bringing home more money than he did. He is in jail now.
The prelude to untimely spousal death is physical or emotional abuse. What is deemed an abusive relationship in some societies is ideal in others. In some cultures, the wife is a tool that can be used or abused as situations demand; and men are said to have the rights to beat their wives in certain circumstances ranging from refusing sexual intimacy to not adequately completing domestic chores. When these men now find themselves living abroad, they continue with the domineering and controlling lifestyle of gross abuse.
This epidemic is also in the church of the Living God; and it’s not just in the pew, but behind the pulpit also. Dayo and Dupe (not their real names) met in a Christian campus fellowship in a South-West city in Nigeria. During their courtship, Dayo was able to conceal his abusive tendencies from young and vulnerably innocent Dupe. Older people close to the young woman had suspected something strange about Dayo; and some of them attempted to discourage their proposed marriage from taking place. Even Dayo’s mother with wisdom had warned Dupe to think about this important step before jumping in. Don’t mothers know best? And fathers too! But when our children claim they are in love, what can the parents do more than praying for them? Love is blind; but marriage is an alarm clock that will wake a hard-headed child up into reality of life.
Dayo became a pastor, and both eventually got married. He came to the US and later on brought his amiable wife to join him. It was here that the spate of abuses started. Even while pregnant, Pastor Dayo would hit his wife sometimes punching her in the belly. Dupe kept the abuse to herself, but for some of us who have eyes to see, we knew something was amiss. Eventually, the situation boiled over, the US law enforcement got involved, and the two have gone their separate ways today.
All manner of abuses are horrendous, but the most traumatic in my own opinion, is emotional abuse. With this sort of abuse, a lot is bottled up until there is an explosion. Men and women who have exploded in anger that led to disastrous responses had to hold in a lot of traumatising experiences over a long period of time.
What happens to the emotion of a man who, for 20 years built all of his life around a woman who now chose to run around with other men in town? How many men want to see their wives turn into a dumping ground for all manner of men late in the game of life? It is a hurtful experience when a man pays his wife’s way through university and the wife now turns around believing there’s got to be someone out there better than the husband who invested all of his life in her. To the husband, physical abuse is not the answer; just walk away.
If a husband physically abuses his wife, or the wife constantly physically or emotionally traumatises her husband, it is time for both of them to have an emergency family meeting and honestly and sincerely reevaluate the relationship. If not, some day, one of them will be lying lifeless in the morgue and the other one hopeless behind bars. If they have children, the innocent kids will be raised by those who did not christen them and who didn’t know how they came into this world. Somebody had asked me what steps I would advise a woman to take in an abusive relationship. If she were my daughter, I will ask her to immediately leave the lunatic husband; because I did not sign up with God that I will bury my daughter murdered by a mad-dog husband.
What happened to Nancy and Andy? Nancy went back to school and got her Nurse Practitioner degree. Andy was not enthusiastic about academics and said he wanted to “do business”. In any manner of business, is money not required? Nancy took control of her finances, Andy decided to return to Nigeria after serving term in jail for assault and battery. But Nancy remains a one-eyed woman; she lost her left eye during one of their violent fist fights.
Credits– Mr Fola Ojo, a columnist with The Punch Newspaper has given his permission to publish this piece on this blog.
This article first appeared in The punch newspaper of Friday June 19 2015