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Women die in troubled marriages because we slay singles by Azu Ishiekwene

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A good number of those I have spoken with since the news of her tragic death broke on Friday night said Nigerian gospel artiste, Osinachi Nwachukwu, 42, should not have died. She was such a tremendous gift to millions of people and inspired even millions more through her songs, yet she had not even reached the peak of her potential.
During the COVID-19 lockdown when many struggled with anxiety, boredom and depression, a famous song in which she featured prominently, “Nara Ekele,” was repurposed by Tim Godfrey and Travis Greene and rendered in over 10 local and international languages, from English to Spanish and Mandarin, lifting millions from the edge.
That was not her only major effort; she also produced the hit solo, “Ekwueme.” In a world so used to greed, graft and getting, a song like “Nara Ekele” that celebrates gratitude, resonates in a special way.
“What a waste,” many have said. “How could such an extraordinary talent die in a needless, tragic way?”
That reaction to her death was after it emerged that Osinachi may not have died from throat cancer as was previously thought. She may have died, it is alleged, from circumstances linked to domestic violence. That information, still under investigation, but strongly suggested by friends and close members of her family, sparked outrage and raised the question: why?
Lawyer Deborah Enenche, a member of her church, Dunamis International Gospel Centre, and daughter of the pastor, said on her Facebook page: “The deceased was very isolated from her loved ones. Much of what happened could have been avoided if she hadn’t been marooned from the ones who cared for her most. I believe she not only passed due to the compendium of physical hurt and pain, she died of a broken heart.”
Did Deborah seriously think Osinachi enjoyed being marooned, dying alone day-by-day under the terror of a broken marriage? Or that Stockholm syndrome improved her creativity? That post obviously did not comment on suggestions that, at some point in Osinachi’s troubled marriage, she had confided in her pastor, Deborah’s father, that she had had enough, but was advised to endure.
The pastor has denied saying he only intervened to secure medical help when Osinachi complained of chest and respiratory problems, but her mother insists that unnamed pastors advised her daughter to return and rock her miserable marriage.
In hindsight, it’s easy to say Osinachi should have left. It is easy to blame her for indulging an abusive relationship and slam her for allegedly letting her husband run her life – and her career – as if she lived for him.
Why didn’t she see the writing on the wall much earlier? Why didn’t she speak up or ask for help? What good can come out of a relationship with a controlling spouse, more selfish than a raven, who is not only interested in hijacking your earnings, but also in telling you just how much of it you can spend and on what?
Surely, troubled marriages leave enough telltale signs, enough straw to clutch at just before things fall apart. Why didn’t Osinachi see the signs, seize the straw and escape? That appears to be what most people are now saying: she should have known better than to endure an abusive relationship to the point that it may have potentially led to her death. It was her fault.
The blame is coming thick and fast as truckloads of garbage pile up at the doorstep of the dead mother of four children. But there’s really no need to think long and hard, or to play the ostrich while the truth stares us in the face. How we treat single women, especially those forced to leave troubled marriages, is the reason many spouses, women in particular, will stay in troubled marriages until it kills them.
Single women generally, but particularly those who are divorced or separated, are often treated as plagues. They are ostracised and made the butt of vicious jokes. Sometimes, the attacks are subtle, such as when mothers point at divorcées in the neighbourhood as possibly the worst examples their female children could emulate. At other times, it is scathing and public, such as when the former First Lady of Anambra State, Ebele Obiano, called widow, Bianca Ojukwu, “a bitch,” and “Asewo!” (prostitute), an occupation which often requires talent and experience to spot.
Single women are stereotyped as loose, sex-hungry animals roaming the neighbourhood for men (read other people’s husbands) to devour and other people’s happy marriages to wreck. They are to be tolerated and humoured but essentially avoided at all costs. To put it straight, it’s not a secret that eternal shame is the price a woman must pay for leaving her marriage.
When quarrelling couples are told by parents who have had many years of successful marriage that it is the duty of husband and wife to make the marriage work, the wife is later summoned separately. She is then told, in no uncertain terms, by the same people who had just finished advising the couple, that it is in fact, the woman’s job to make the marriage work!
“What will people say?,” is the world’s largest prison of the unhappily married; the reason the parties won’t walk away even when they know it’s all well and truly over.
Osinachi, obviously a woman from that generation, tried to make her marriage work, and may have died trying. We kill single women with our mouths and then turn around to ask millions like Osinachi, traumatised in troubled marriages, why they didn’t jump off quick enough.
Osinachi patiently built her career and was happy to let her husband be her manager, her director, her accountant and her banker, just so people won’t talk. All she ever wanted, it seemed, was to have an inspiring career and a happy home. And she seems to have given everything to make it work; because as they say around here, if the marriage works, it is the woman that works it.
Men like to think that they’re victims as well, and maybe they are, to a far lesser degree. But until parents begin to raise their boy children differently and faith groups and cultural icons also make it clear that women don’t have to die to save a failing marriage, nothing is going to change.
The Global Gender Gap report 2020 said that 31 per cent of women had suffered from intimate partner physical and/or sexual assault; with Middle East/North Africa, South Asia, North America, and Sub-Saharan Africa topping the abuse league in that order. In the US, a woman is being battered every nine seconds.
According to a UN report published last year, exposure to violence spiked significantly during the pandemic with countries like Kenya reporting up to 80 per cent, Jordan 49 percent, and Nigeria 48 per cent.
In case this sounds like mere statistics, what it means in Nigeria, for example, is that 48 million people, or a country with the population of Uganda, are in danger of physical violence and Osinachi was potentially the latest victim. A report by THISDAY newspapers in 2011, said out of 50 per cent of women being battered by their husbands, the majority were educated women. There could be more unreported cases.
I’m, of course, not suggesting that couples should break up at the least provocation or that troubled marriages are not worth saving. Among other things, financial pressures, poor modelling and poor impulse control, are probably some of the biggest challenges for many of today’s marriages.
These challenges require understanding and patience that have become scarce commodities in the modern world of instant gratification.
True, these problems, especially the financial one, are often easier to manage when the burden is shared. But it is not in every situation that two is better than one. Sometimes, it is better for one to walk alone to save two or more from greater misery. The dead or severely emotionally damaged are not only useless to the children (often cited as the reason to endure at all costs), they are also useless to themselves.
Gender-based groups have done considerable work in highlighting the dangers of domestic violence, creating support groups and encouraging victims to speak up. What Osinachi’s death reminds us of, however, is that we still have a very long way to go before we stop killing women in troubled marriages by insisting that it is better to die married than to live single.

Strictly Personal

Queen Nanny: Ghanaian woman who led liberation army in Jamaica by Owei Lakemfa

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Nanny, a young Akan woman from present-day Ghana, born about 1686 was captured with her four brothers and sold into slavery. They were taken on ‘The Journey of No Return’ across the Atlantic Ocean, becoming part of the 12.5 million Africans forced on this journey by Europeans and Americans who wanted free labour to exploit for profit.

Unlike the 1.8 million others who perished during this journey and had their bodies fed to the roaring ocean waves, Nanny, who was to become known as “Nanny of the Maroons,” and her brothers, survived the ordeal and arrived in Jamaica.

They later escaped from the slave plantations and fled into the mountains and jungles of Jamaica to become Maroons. This was the name for escaped slaves who banded together and fought for freedom, initially for themselves and eventually for various Latin American and  Caribbean countries, including Jamaica.

The names of slaves, in almost all cases, were lost. This was part of the depersonalization and dehumanisation of the slave, who was forced to forget the past and live entirely at the pleasure of the slave owner, who exercised the power of life or death on his “property. So it is not unlikely that her original name was not Nanny. This was most likely a corruption of the name Maame, which means mother in Twi. This would have been preferred to the names given to her by the slave masters.

By the mid-1550s, there were already escaped slaves in the Caribbean, who, with no way of finding their way back home to their loved ones, banded together to fight the slave owners and establish their own communities. In Jamaica, as in some other countries, these freedom fighters were called Maroons.

The word, “maroon” was derived from the Spanish word “Cimarron,” which was originally used for runaway cattle. Since African slaves were valued and treated no better than cattle, it came to be used for escaped African slaves. Maroon communities were typically located among mountains and swamps, making slave owners and European countries’ raids difficult.

They also provided safe bases for the Maroons to conduct raids on white plantations and organise guerrilla armies. They linked up with local Native Americans to defend the terrain. Today, Maroon communities still exist in various North and South America countries like Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Ecuador, and the United States especially in the Carolina’s, Alabama, Florida, and New Orleans areas. They also exist on islands in the Indian Ocean.

After escaping from the plantations, Nanny and her brothers joined the Maroons. She later founded a Maroon village with one of her brothers, Quao, in the Blue Mountains in eastern Jamaica in 1720.  British Captain Stoddart said Nanny Town, was “situated on one of the highest mountains on the island” and found the only path leading to it, to be: “steep, rocky, and difficult, and not wide enough to admit the passage of two persons abreast.”

This forced the invading army into a single file and an easy target for the Nanny fighters. This part of Jamaica was described as “Windward” and the inhabitants were known as “Windward Maroons.” The village became known as Nanny Town. The Maroons evolved their own traditional religious practices with West African influences.

It was called Obeah. Nanny was a priestess, leader, and commander-in-chief of the rebel army who trained her soldiers in guerrilla warfare. She was so fierce in a battle that the Europeans tried to pass her off as a myth created to rally the forces of the Maroons. But despite strenuous efforts, the Europeans could not force her off the history books.

This is primarily because a ghost could not have been recorded by European writers; could not have been declared wanted with a bounty on her by the colonialists, nor could a myth have physically established two separate towns. Also, she organised and supervised the escape of about 1,000 slaves over a three-decade period and resettled them.

The Queen Nanny rebels fought the British military for six years from 1728 until the latter, led by Commander Stoddard seized and destroyed Nanny Town in 1734. In fact, the British claimed that one of its mercenaries, Captain William Cuffee alias Captain Sambo, leading the “Black Shots,” killed Nanny in 1733 during the battle for the town.

However, a year later, the same British reported that she was leading the Windward Maroons in a retreat westward. Eventually, she was reported to have led her troops to take refuge near the Rio Grande, one of the largest rivers in the country. The Maroons were making slavery costly and unsustainable and creating insecurity for the Europeans.

These, coupled with the European powers’ inability to defeat them after 84 years of insurgency, led the British settlers in 1738 to call for a truce. The first peace treaty was signed with the Leeward or Western Maroons, led by Captain Cudjoe (Kojo), another Maroon of Ghanaian origin, in 1739.

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Strictly Personal

Why now is the right time to invest in Zambia by Choolwe Chibomba

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Zambia sits on a fountain of untapped potential. Home to over 376,000 square kilometers of arable land, as well as some of the highest-grade copper deposits in the world, the country is a treasure trove of natural resources. Added to this, 54% of Zambia’s population is of working age (15 – 64), while businesses have access to a market of some 406 million inhabitants via the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

Tragically, and in a pattern seen all too often across Africa, successive governments have failed to tap into this potential. Instead, they saddled Zambia with unsustainable levels of debt while allowing a culture of corruption and venality to proliferate throughout its society.

The election of President Hichilema and the UPND government is therefore rightly heralded as a ‘new dawn’ for Zambia; allowing people and businesses to finally realise Zambia’s abundant potential.

Since this New Dawn government was elected, Zambia’s credit rating has been upgraded to a CCC+ (up from CCC-) by the S&P rating agency, with GDP growth expected to accelerate to 3.7% in 2023. Having negotiated a $1.3 billion extended credit facility from the IMF, as well as a $275 million loan from the World Bank, the government is now tantalisingly close to agreeing a debt renegotiation plan with its external creditors, freeing up vital funding from interest payments to be invested into infrastructure, healthcare, and education.

Businesses are already waking up to the opportunities that this proactive, forward-thinking government is unlocking for them and for the Zambian people. In May, the CEO of Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold, Mark Bristow, described President Hakainde Hichilema as a “breath of fresh air” at the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town. The company has credited the New Dawn government’s pro-business attitude and progressive tax reforms – including an end to the double tax trap on mining royalties – with plans to potentially extend the life of the company’s Lumwana mine until 2060.

This kind of continued investment would not only sustain jobs at the Lumwana mine but also create opportunities throughout the value chain as the company contracts Zambian firms to provide machinery, equipment, and services to the mine. Furthermore, it would result in significant upskilling for Zambian workers as the mine invests in training and educating its employees.

It is not just mining companies that are taking note. In July Zambian Breweries, which is owned by Belgian drinks company AB InBev, announced it would be investing $80 million into expanding its Lusaka factory, creating 5,000 new jobs in the process. The brewery again cited the “pro-business and pro-investment climate” that President Hichilema’s government has cultivated since coming into office.

These developments represent just the tip of the iceberg, as the government has promised to use its 2023 budget to make Zambia the most attractive investment destination on the continent. This will in turn provide Zambians with the access to capital and financing they need to set up and grow their own businesses.

In manufacturing, the government is promising a 50% suspension on excise duty for clear beer, as well as concessions geared towards stimulating investments in corn starch production. Meanwhile, telecom companies will benefit from the abolishment of the two-tier tax system in favour of a single corporate income rate of 35%, and betting shops will see their presumptive tax reduced by 10%.

These plans to drive investment also include measures to waive visa requirements for visitors from the EU, United Kingdom, United States, and China. This will not only help foster increased tourism but also allow potential investors from wealthy countries to visit Zambia more easily and witness its potential firsthand.

To help promote the breadth of Zambia’s investment potential, the government is supporting the efforts of Zambia Is Back campaign through the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA). Zambia Is Back campaign works to publicise the opportunities being unlocked by the New Dawn government and match up promising Zambian businesses with interested investors around the world.

We are excited to meet with growing businesses in Zambia, as well as investors looking to get involved in this exciting chapter in our nation’s history. In particular, we are looking forward to meeting with investors that want to make a positive impact in Zambia and support the country’s development by promoting education, entrepreneurship, and value-chain addition.

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