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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

Air Peace, capitalism and national interest, By Dakuku Peterside

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Nigerian corporate influence and that of the West continue to collide. The rationale is straightforward: whereas corporate activity in Europe and America is part of their larger local and foreign policy engagement, privately owned enterprises in Nigeria or commercial interests are not part of Nigeria’s foreign policy ecosystem, neither is there a strong culture of government support for privately owned enterprises’ expansion locally and internationally.

The relationship between Nigerian businesses and foreign policy is important to the national interest. When backing domestic Nigerian companies to compete on a worldwide scale, the government should see it as a lever to drive foreign policy, and national strategic interest, promote trade, enhance national security considerations, and minimize distortion in the domestic market as the foreign airlines were doing, boost GDP, create employment opportunities, and optimize corporate returns for the firms.

Admitted nations do not always interfere directly in their companies’ business and commercial dealings, and there are always exceptions. I can cite two areas of exception: military sales by companies because of their strategic implications and are, therefore, part of foreign and diplomatic policy and processes. The second is where the products or routes of a company have implications for foreign policy. Air Peace falls into the second category in the Lagos – London route.

Two events demonstrate an emerging trend that, if not checked, will disincentivize Nigerian firms from competing in the global marketplace. There are other notable examples, but I am using these two examples because they are very recent and ongoing, and they are typological representations of the need for Nigerian government backing and support for local companies that are playing in a very competitive international market dominated by big foreign companies whose governments are using all forms of foreign policies and diplomacy to support and sustain.

The first is Air Peace. It is the only Nigerian-owned aviation company playing globally and checkmating the dominance of foreign airlines. The most recent advance is the commencement of flights on the Lagos – London route. In Nigeria, foreign airlines are well-established and accustomed to a lack of rivalry, yet a free-market economy depends on the existence of competition. Nigeria has significantly larger airline profits per passenger than other comparable African nations. Insufficient competition has resulted in high ticket costs and poor service quality. It is precisely this jinx that Air Peace is attempting to break.

On March 30, 2024, Air Peace reciprocated the lopsided Bilateral Air Service Agreement, BASA, between Nigeria and the United Kingdom when the local airline began direct flight operations from Lagos to Gatwick Airport in London. This elicited several reactions from foreign airlines backed by their various sovereigns because of their strategic interest. A critical response is the commencement of a price war. Before the Air Peace entry, the price of international flight tickets on the Lagos-London route had soared to as much as N3.5 million for the  economy ticket. However, after Air Peace introduced a return economy class ticket priced at N1.2 million, foreign carriers like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Qatar Airways reduced their fares significantly to remain competitive.

In a price war, there is little the government can do. In an open-market competitive situation such as this, our government must not act in a manner that suggests it is antagonistic to foreign players and competitors. There must be an appearance of a level playing field. However, government owes Air Peace protection against foreign competitors backed by their home governments. This is in the overall interest of the Nigerian consumer of goods and services. Competition history in the airspace works where the Consumer Protection Authority in the host country is active. This is almost absent in Nigeria and it is a reason why foreign airlines have been arbitrary in pricing their tickets. Nigerian consumers are often at the mercy of these foreign firms who lack any vista of patriotism and are more inclined to protect the national interest of their governments and countries.

It would not be too much to expect Nigerian companies playing globally to benefit from the protection of the Nigerian government to limit influence peddling by foreign-owned companies. The success of Air Peace should enable a more competitive and sustainable market, allowing domestic players to grow their network and propel Nigeria to the forefront of international aviation.

The second is Proforce, a Nigerian-owned military hardware manufacturing firm active in Rwanda, Chad, Mali, Ghana, Niger, Burkina Faso, and South Sudan. Despite the growing capacity of Proforce in military hardware manufacturing, Nigeria entered two lopsided arrangements with two UAE firms to supply military equipment worth billions of dollars , respectively. Both deals are backed by the UAE government but executed by UAE firms.

These deals on a more extensive web are not unconnected with UAE’s national strategic interest. In pursuit of its strategic national interest, India is pushing Indian firms to supply military equipment to Nigeria. The Nigerian defence equipment market has seen weaker indigenous competitors driven out due to the combination of local manufacturers’ lack of competitive capacity and government patronage of Asian, European, and US firms in the defence equipment manufacturing sector. This is a misnomer and needs to be corrected.

Not only should our government be the primary customer of this firm if its products meet international standards, but it should also support and protect it from the harsh competitive realities of a challenging but strategic market directly linked to our national military procurement ecosystem. The ability to produce military hardware locally is significant to our defence strategy.

This firm and similar companies playing in this strategic defence area must be considered strategic and have a considerable place in Nigeria’s foreign policy calculations. Protecting Nigeria’s interests is the primary reason for our engagement in global diplomacy. The government must deliberately balance national interest with capacity and competence in military hardware purchases. It will not be too much to ask these foreign firms to partner with local companies so we can embed the technology transfer advantages.

Our government must create an environment that enables our local companies to compete globally and ply their trades in various countries. It should be part of the government’s overall economic, strategic growth agenda to identify areas or sectors in which Nigerian companies have a competitive advantage, especially in the sub-region and across Africa and support the companies in these sectors to advance and grow to dominate in  the African region with a view to competing globally. Government support in the form of incentives such as competitive grants ,tax credit for consumers ,low-interest capital, patronage, G2G business, operational support, and diplomatic lobbying, amongst others, will alter the competitive landscape. Governments  and key government agencies in the west retain the services of lobbying firms in pursuit of its strategic interest.

Nigerian firms’ competitiveness on a global scale can only be enhanced by the support of the Nigerian government. Foreign policy interests should be a key driver of Nigerian trade agreements. How does the Nigerian government support private companies to grow and compete globally? Is it intentionally mapping out growth areas and creating opportunities for Nigerian firms to maximize their potential? Is the government at the domestic level removing bottlenecks and impediments to private company growth, allowing a level playing field for these companies to compete with international companies?

Why is the government patronising foreign firms against local firms if their products are of similar value? Why are Nigerian consumers left to the hands of international companies in some sectors without the government actively supporting the growth of local firms to compete in those sectors? These questions merit honest answers. Nigerian national interest must be the driving factor for our foreign policies, which must cover the private sector, just as is the case with most developed countries. The new global capitalism is not a product of accident or chance; the government has choreographed and shaped it by using foreign policies to support and protect local firms competing globally. Nigeria must learn to do the same to build a strong economy with more jobs.

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Strictly Personal

This is chaos, not governance, and we must stop it, By Tee Ngugi

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The following are stories that have dominated mainstream media in recent times. Fake fertiliser and attempts by powerful politicians to kill the story. A nation of bribes, government ministries and corporations where the vice is so routine that it has the semblance of policy. Irregular spending of billions in Nairobi County.

 

Billions are spent in all countries on domestic and foreign travel. Grabbing of land belonging to state corporations, was a scam reminiscent of the Kanu era when even public toilets would be grabbed. Crisis in the health and education sectors.

 

Tribalism in hiring for state jobs. Return of construction in riparian lands and natural waterways. Relocation of major businesses because of high cost of power and heavy taxation. A tax regime that is so punitive, it squeezes life out of small businesses. Etc, ad nauseam.

 

To be fair, these stories of thievery, mismanagement, negligence, incompetence and greed have been present in all administrations since independence.

 

However, instead of the cynically-named “mama mboga” government reversing this gradual slide towards state failure, it is fuelling it.

 

Alternately, it’s campaigning for 2027 or gallivanting all over the world, evoking the legend of Emperor Nero playing the violin as Rome burned.

 

A government is run based on strict adherence to policies and laws. It appoints the most competent personnel, irrespective of tribe, to run efficient departments which have clear-cut goals.

 

It aligns education to its national vision. Its strategies to achieve food security should be driven by the best brains and guided by innovative policies. It enacts policies that attract investment and incentivize building of businesses. It treats any kind of thievery or negligence as sabotage.

 

Government is not a political party. Government officials should have nothing to do with political party matters. They should be so engaged in their government duties that they literally would not have time for party issues. Government jobs should not be used to reward girlfriends and cronies.

 

Government is exhausting work undertaken because of a passion to transform lives, not for the trappings of power. Government is not endless campaigning to win the next election. To his credit, Mwai Kibaki left party matters alone until he had to run for re-election.

 

We have corrupted the meaning of government. We have parliamentarians beholden to their tribes, not to ideas.

 

We have incompetent and corrupt judges. We have a civil service where you bribe to be served. Police take bribes to allow death traps on our roads. We have urban planners who plan nothing except how to line their pockets. We have regulatory agencies that regulate nothing, including the intake of their fat stomachs.

 

We have advisers who advise on which tenders should go to whom. There is no central organising ethos at the heart of government. There is no sense of national purpose. We have flurries of national activities, policies, legislation, appointments which don’t lead to meaningful growth. We just run on the same spot.

 

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator

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