Thursday 2 June 2011

Nigeria: An argument or a wife-battering controversy?

A tabloid frenzy

On Twitter and Facebook, my fellow Nigerians are getting excited over a case of apparently atrocious conduct which has left some taking sides and expressing interesting viewpoints.

The detail of the matter makes good tabloid fodder, all parties have now resorted to making the press a battle arena for their sides of the story but there are more general issues at play that allows for focus to be geared towards this episode.

This issue is very controversial and I do not expect many to agree with most of what I have written but it probably should set forth an interesting debate on what our societal values are.

The background is, a wife involves the authorities in a what was a domestic altercation, she has stated her case, her husband has defended himself and the son has offered a viewpoint too – the truth is somewhere between the morass of claim and counter-claim with certain pictures showing that the lady by some happenstance came to serious harm.

Degrees of severity

When one reviews all the claims and the commentary, it comes down to a matter of degrees; a simple argument, an almighty row, a domestic dispute, wife battery occasioning actual bodily harm; each of those levels appear to have their supporters but it is important to reflect on the self-evident issues.

Education and social standing does not preclude a marriage from having difficulties, the persons involved are human first and then they have roles that they play in society that accords them a modicum of status and respect.

In general, either by force of religious persuasion, custom or tradition, marriages are in certain societies not ones of partnership. There is a leader, usually the husband whose headship of the family unit is usually not predicated on love but control and authority through benevolent provision on which the ego of the man squarely depends.

Making do with the untenable

People endure failing, failed or bad marriages for longer than is necessary or healthy, differences that are almost irreconcilable are allowed to fester, each party trying their darndest to maintain a semblance of cohesiveness where there is none for all sorts of religious or societal reasons – the fault lines are revealed when there is a disagreement and the wrong things get said and the more that exchange continues, it gets violent and worse can happen.

The dynamics of wife-battering are difficult to analyse, fundamentally, it is reprehensible but it gets condoned when parties are characterised as difficult, impossible and in need of some control – the fact that the authorities are usually reticent to get involved could mean that it is usually more acceptable and possibly widespread but grossly underreported.

Victimising the victim

Sadly, there are instances where the obvious victim of violence gets cast as the instigator absolving the perpetrator of the violence from culpability by reason of some warped diminished responsibility – the default to animal behaviour to make up for the inability to control one’s temper, anger, emotions and reactions is inexcusable; no matter the aggravation, the smart and wise should be able to find ways, means and methods to diffuse the situation rather than resort to barbarity.

It is easier said than done but it is not beyond the limits of human ability to do right, act right and be morally justified rather than open oneself to the prospect of disgrace at a point where more are frowning on such atrocious conduct.

Myopic or hyperopic observation

The last issue in this matter is that of eye-witnesses, it involves referring to the particular to derive the seminal – what the son observed and narrated reveals a lot more beyond the construction of his viewpoint.

It all comes down to the issue of degrees – on the matter of separating the warring couple, the mother was taken away from the to be calmed down, the son contends he did not separate them from the ensuing fracas.

Apparently from the viewpoint of the son the mother only suffered a few cuts and nothing as extensive as was revealed in the pictures – in the heat of the moment, maybe a cut to one eye is a gash to another but the pictures do show actual bodily harm inflicted by some means which suggests battering did occur.

It is left to speculation whether this sort of family squabble is so familiar that all parties are inured to the gravity of damage caused when the evidence is reviewed.

Allegiances of childhood

There are ages of childhood and dependence – up to adolescence the child might well require a parental relationship based on care and love which usually has a maternal context; beyond adolescence but before gaining the means of independence the child evolves into on needing to understand the allegiances of responsibility that will facilitate provision for career decisions and a life of independence – this usually derives from a paternal context especially where the father is the chief bread-winner in the family.

The fear of loss of security despite the facts might sway allegiances as honesty gives way to pragmatism, the result being the preponderance of half-truths.

An older child of independent means would probably have provided a more objective assessment of the matter if their comfort was not so threatened by the actions of others who literally had nothing to lose.

From all the exchanges, society is not entirely repulsed by wife-battering, it seems to be condoned and accepted as part of married life, whilst opinions can be diametrically opposed, conservatives and liberals are rarely in agreement about the need to frown on this issue.

The needs for change

There might well be cause leading to effect, the legacy, history and context might help in conflict resolution but they should not offer the excuse and justification to violence even if seriously aggravated.

There should be greater acceptance of situations where if a marriage is not working, it is just not working and a kind of settlement for separation should be facilitated and expedited. A violent relationship is unhealthy for the parties, their community and society at large.

Authorities should be ready to investigate to the fullest extent possible allegations of domestic violence before it escalates into unimaginable and impossible situations.


Rather than reference my sources within the context of the blog, the links below capture the general controversy that can be read to get and develop an objective perspective on the matter.

Sahara Reporters - Kenya Police Writes Nigerian Government Over Wife-Batterer Ambassador

Transparency Nigeria - Nigeria recalls Wigwe over wife battering

The Daily Times Nigeria - Ambassador Chijoke Wigwe responds to allegations of abusing his wife

234Next - Ministry probes envoy over wife battery charge

The Report Report - The Real Tessy Wigwe, Written By Nelson Wigwe (Son)

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