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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

UK-Rwanda relocation plan for asylum seekers is a hot potato by Charles Onyango-Obbo

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In 2019, Rwanda agreed to take in hundreds of African immigrants held in horrid conditions in detention centres in Libya under an agreement with the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the African Union.

There was applause.

In August 2021, as America’s 20-year-old military and state-building campaign in Afghanistan unravelled into chaos, in Africa —Rwanda and Uganda — agreed to take in Afghanistan refugees.

Among the Afghans who relocated to Rwanda, escaping the Taliban’s well-known hostility toward education for women, were all 250 students of the famed Afghanistan Leadership School (SOLA), Afghanistan’s only boarding school for girls.

There were cheers and extravagant praise for Rwanda and Uganda. Today, Rwanda hosts nearly 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Uganda, on the other hand, hosts 1.5 million refugees, making it the top refugee-hosting country in Africa.

In April this year, hell broke loose. The UK announced that it had a plan to send illegal asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they would either stay or move on to other countries.

The Boris Johnson government insists the programme is aimed at disrupting people-smuggling networks and deterring migrants from making the dangerous sea journey across the English Channel to England from France.

Critics have come out swinging with fury, calling the plan immoral, racist, and several arguing it is risky because several of the human rights found in liberal democracies are absent in Rwanda. This new “democracy test” for resettlement, has opened up a tricky window into the protection business.

The UK asylum affair, meanwhile, has muscled its way into the headlines about the Commonwealth Heads of Government (Chogm) meeting being held in Kigali.

The high emotions the UK-Rwanda asylum plan has kicked up, are a pointer to how complicated, immigration and refugee have come. There are several contradictory things that are both true at the same time.

If Donald Trump’s election victory in the US in 2016, and his turbulent racist-fuelled term tell us anything, it is that the western world has reached “peak” migration.

Uncomfortable to confront, but it is probably no longer sustainable for, especially, people from the south to continue emigrating and fleeing to the West in large numbers. Domestically, the fear of people of colour “replacing” white communities is reaching a fever pitch, and fuelling extreme right-wing politics.

We’ve to grant it. The demographic make-up of the West is changing, and by the end of this century, white people will be minorities in nearly all the major European countries. Not too many people will take their disappearance with great fortitude.

For the western left and progressives, migration and the diverse nations it makes possible is where they see the future of their play in politics. For businesses, migrants provide a new pool of cheap labour, ensuring their profit in a world where China is eating their lunch. Things like the UK-Rwandan plan, do have long-term political and economic consequences.

Yet, that doesn’t explain why the resettlements of immigrants from Libya and Afghanistan in Africa weren’t attacked. The difference could be because Libya’s and Afghanistan’s crises are partly outcomes of western — NATO and the US — interventions that went horribly wrong. The repatriations are a much-needed clean-up of the mess — and there is some consensus of the western left and right on that.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. Twitter@cobbo3

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Tanko Muhammad, Ekweremadu and health of Nigeria by Suyi Ayodele

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What happened to the Nigerian judiciary under the now retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, is a symptom of an ailing nation. We must all come to admit that Nigeria is a country that needs moral transplant. Who will be the donor is what we don’t know. That the aeroplane-driving CJN retired after his “brother justices” accused him of misconduct is never news to celebrate. The resignation itself is never a part of the diagnosis of what ails the country. And I sincerely do hope that the General Muhammadu Buhari administration will not because of the belated retirement  roll out the drums to celebrate his tough stance on the fight against corruption!  The judiciary is expected to be the healthiest of the three arms of government. Its chronic illness under Tanko is a pointer to the general well being of the government in power. The undertakers should not be far away as their services may be required soon.

In Africa’s worldview, a healthy man is a wealthy man. The saying, “health is wealth,” underscores the importance human beings attach to sound health. Without sound health, man becomes useless. This is why sane countries of the world don’t play with their healthcare delivery. But it is not so in Nigeria, a country which prides itself as the “Giant of Africa”. By that sobriquet, one would expect that Nigeria would tower above other African countries in all ramifications of life. If you are wondering why we are this low in all aspects of life as a nation, just take a look at our health care delivery system. If Nigeria’s health is failing, or has failed, the citizenry cannot be healthy. For those who care to know, Nigeria is not just ill, it is terminally ill.

Some two years ago or so, I had the misfortune of rushing an ailing church member to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH. At the close of service that fateful Sunday, a friend and I had planned to go out with our spouses. We drove out of the church premises and saw the ailing woman being aided to the road to get a taxi to the hospital. We picked her up in my friend’s car while I joined him and asked the women to use my own car. By Ehaekpen Road, the woman gave up the ghost in the car. But we continued the journey to the UBTH. At the Accident and Emergency section of the hospital, she was confirmed as BID (Brought In Dead). That was where our ordeal began. The relation in the car contacted other family members and agreed that the remains of the woman be deposited at the hospital’s morgue. To our utter embarrassment, UBTH had no BID form to take the woman’s profile and have her corpse deposited in the morgue. For over two hours, the corpse was left in our car. I had to ask one of the hospital attendants in charge to copy the information of a used BID form at the back of another used form and fill in for the dead woman. I knew then that we had bigger problems than anyone could imagine. If a teaching hospital, as big as the UBTH, had no ordinary BID form, one can imagine the state of the General Hospital at Afrikpo, or Balewa Village or at Itawure!

This is why, at the slightest discomfort of headache, the locust masquerading as our leaders jet out of Nigeria to seek medical help abroad. From personnel to equipment, infrastructure to medications, hospitals in Nigeria are killing fields. In his 2017 article titled: ‘Africa’s presidents keep going abroad for medical treatment rather than fixing healthcare at home,’ published in Qartz Africa, an online publication, Yomi Kazeem has this to say: “The preference for an international doctor’s appointment is steeped in irony as these leaders often make promises about improving local healthcare a central part of their campaigns while seeking office. But by looking beyond the continent for medical solutions, African leaders maintain a vicious cycle which keeps faith in public healthcare low while channeling substantial state resources to hospitals abroad rather than plug local healthcare gaps. In many African countries, this reality is all too apparent. According to the World Health Organisation estimates, with a shortage of 4.2 million health workers, Africa is the region with the world’s second-worst health worker shortage”. Zeroing down on Nigeria, Kazeem  quoted WHO as saying that: “In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the shortage  will be less severe if the health system could call on the services of the up to 15,000 Nigerian doctors estimated to be working outside the country. But there’s little motivation for doctors practising abroad to return home with crumbling infrastructure, lack of drugs and poor compensation.” If in 2017, we had 15,000 Nigerian medical doctors working outside the shores of the country, your guess is as good as mine on what the figure will be now.

Nothing, in recent time speaks to the parlous state of our healthcare delivery system more than last Thursday’s arrest of Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice, by the Metropolitan Police in far away United Kingdom. According to the reports of the arrest, the former deputy senate president was accused of trafficking a child to the UK for organ harvest and slavery. A statement issued by the Met police says “Beatrice Nwanneka Ekweremadu, 55 (10.9.66) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. Ike Ekweremadu, 60 (12.05.62) of Nigeria is charged with conspiracy to arrange/facilitate travel of another person with a view to exploitation, namely organ harvesting. They have both been remanded in custody and will appear at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court later today. A child has been safeguarded and we are working closely with partners on continued support. As criminal proceedings are now under way we will not be providing further details”. Ever since, the senator’s team has responded to state that the alleged “organ harvest victim” is not a 15-year-old street lad, but a 22-year old adult who volunteered to donate one of his organs for Ekweremadu’s daughter, Sonia, who is having challenges with her kidney. My thrust here is not to probe into the veracity or otherwise of the claims that the supposed organ donor, David Nwamini Ukpo, was shipped to the UK legally. I would also not bother to interrogate whether Ukpo is on his own an opportunist, who, according to claims, when he realised that he would be shipped back to Nigeria after his organ failed to match that of Sonia,  decided to raise false alarms of abuse and what have you. No, my focus is why, in the first instance, Ekweremadu had to depend on a UK hospital for an organ transplant operation for his darling daughter.

The problem with the Enugu-born senator is the problem with all our political leaders in Nigeria. Like the saying goes: “all are thieves but he who is caught is the barawo”. For crying out loud, Ekweremadu has been in the corridors of power since the time lizards were few. He is a confirmed “omo ijoba” (government child). Two years before the advent of the current political disaster we call democratic governance, he was elected chairman of Aniri Local Government Area of Enugu State on the platform of the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP. He was elected into the Senate in 2003 and was deputy Senate president for 12 years, beginning with the era of David Mark, through to Bukola Saraki. In his 19-year stay in the Senate, like his other political leeches feeding fat on our patrimony without a whim of concern for the common good, Ekweremadu did not see any reason why Nigeria should have well -equipped hospitals where ailments like organ failure of any shade could be treated. Unfortunately, Ekweremadu is not the only culprit in the league of Nigerian leaders engaged in medical tourism. The league, as we all know, is led by General Muhammadu Buhari, who holds the life trophy of spending 104 days at a stretch on a London hospital bed at our expense, with the presidential jet parked at Heathrow Airport, accumulating demurrage! When we add the BTA of his personal aides who accompanied him to the UK, Buhari will go down in history as the man who spent what could have built for the nation a decent hospital for the use of the people on a single medical trip abroad. So, when news of the arrest of Ike and Beatrice Ekweremadu filtered in, what easily came to my mind is the saying that when the head is rotten, the tail will be home for maggots! Cumulatively, an August 5, 2021 report by the Premium Times of Nigeria, puts the number of days General Buhari had spent on medical tourism to the UK at 200. You may wish to ask: did Buhari not talk about the parlous state of the nation’s health institution while seeking our votes in 2014? Did he not assure us that he would not go abroad for medical attention? Kazeem, quoted earlier, answers the posers.

That done, as humans, we may also wish to look at the desperation of the father-figure Ekweremadu presents as he seeks a medical solution to his ailing daughter’s health. There is a deep prayer among my people which says: “ki Oluwa ma fi ina omo jo wa” (May God not allow us to be scorched by the death of our child). This is where I believe that our thoughts should be with Miss Ekweremadu as she battles for survival at this critical moment. It is even more important for us to spare a moment of prayer for Sonia, now that the most important caregivers of her life, the parents, are in detention. The thought that her parents are locked up in cells in the UK because of her is devastating enough for the poor girl. While we have the assurance that, unlike what we have in Nigeria, the UK Government would not allow Sonia to be left unattended to, we cannot overemphasise the importance of the presence of her parents at this crucial  time. Again, that the Ekweremadus were picked up on their way to Turkey is an indication of how desperate they were to bring their daughter back to sound health. We may frown at the method employed to achieve that. We may interrogate why the replacement for the failing organ was not sourced within the family circles. In all that, we must have it at the back of our minds that every mother hen uses her back to shield her chicks from the ravenous hawk. We therefore call on the Almighty God, our Healer, to stretch His healing hands on Sonia and make this storm to pass. We pray that she surmounts this mountain before her and becomes useful to Nigerian society and humanity in general. We also pray that after this, every Ekweremadu in leadership in Nigeria will see the need to build up our health institutions and other decayed infrastructure in the country as doing so is also in their own interest. May Sonia live!

 

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