In 2011, I put my pen to paper and wrote an article which was published in The Punch of Wednesday, July 13, 2011. It was on domestic violence. I am today compelled by recent cases of domestic violence in Nigeria to revisit and publish on my blog this weekend. I read with broken heart the recent case of up and coming Yoruba actresses and pregnant Silifa Ladeji, who was beaten to death by her boyfriend for whom she was pregnant.
I believe cases like this are avoidable…I therefore invite every woman to read this piece and send it to every woman within their network. Ladies and gentlemen, with a sobering heart, I present to you my piece, Domestic Violence: Memo to a Slumbering Nation:
Cure is not my favourite philosophy of change. I believe in prevention. My philosophy for social work is that ‘enlightenment is superior to enforcement.’ While enlightenment focuses on prevention, enforcement focuses on cure. It is an age long wisdom that prevention is better than cure. The foundation of my philosophy is found in the fact that God has given man capacity to prevent any form of evil. It is my profound belief that any dimension of evil is preventable, where individual, family, organisation or nation are aware of and ready to take responsibility for the well-being of humanity.
Thus I always find as credible truth in the words of Claire Boothe that ‘there are no hopeless situations, but only hopeless people.’ I believe that our world, from creation is yet to witness and will never witness a hopeless situation, but has witnessed in torrential manner hopeless people, who have authored ‘world’s darkest hours,’ by initiating selfish agendas, standing aloof, passive and unconcerned or discharging half-hearted solutions.
Therefore doing a piece like this does not fascinate me, except as it becomes a template for prevention. Today, I write about the alleged murder of Titilayo Arowolo by her husband Akolade Arowolo on Friday, June 24, 2011. My interest here is not the facts of the case. I guess that is the duty the judicial system and officers, who must ensure that justice is not only done, but must be seen to be done. On the same page 5 of the Punch of Thursday, June 30, 2011, where the Arowolos’ case is reported is an interesting and related caption, ‘I beat up my husband because he is irresponsible, woman tell court.’
My major concern today is how to prevent one more spouse from being killed or maimed in domestic violence. I believe that the foregoing is best achieved by taking a holistic look at the issue of domestic violence in Nigeria. My fear is that this piece may not have enough space to sit in, in this paper if it chooses to go all the way. I strongly believe that domestic violence is first a personal problem, second a family problem and finally a societal problem. In solving the problem therefore, all stakeholders, individuals, family and society must be interested in addressing the key actors (and factors) and our responsibilities, with a view to extracting viable and pragmatic solutions from the thoroughness of the process. We must also be ready to insist on the extracted solutions through the instrumentality of enlightenment or worst case scenario by the force of law enforcement. Seeing and dealing with the full picture is always critical to preventing or curing any form of societal disequilibrium, irrespective of its magnitude.
Today, I am focusing on the individual, who are stakeholders in a home. It will also be difficult for me to focus on individuals as this is also a huge topic. I will therefore attempt to narrow myself to what should a spouse do when he or she becomes a victim of domestic violence? Let me begin by saying that there will never be any justifiable reason, why a spouse should lift his or her hand against his or her partner. The society, in its weak state, may find many excuses but it will never find a justifiable reason, which answers to the universal principles of wisdom in marriage.
It is therefore my pragmatic submission that when a spouse begins to show the slightest sign of violence, the partner must as a matter of supreme urgency look for safe external help. I deliberately use the phrase, ‘safe external help’ because I refer to taking matter of domestic violence first to those who have influence over your spouse or people, who you and your spouse have agreed as arbiter in your marital matters. People in this category range from trusted extended family members, religious leaders and relate category. I believe that where that fails, the victim of domestic abuse should seek help from Gender Rights focused Non-Governmental Organisations, who can involve the law enforcement agents in the process of calling an abusive spouse to order. You may want to ask why an abused spouse should go through a Non-Governmental Organisation to the police. It is clear from field experience that the Nigerian Police still erroneously see domestic violence, particularly against the woman as private family matter, in which the Police should not be involved.
Couples must have it as a prime provision of their family constitution or family code of conduct (I know many families do not have) that the issue of domestic violence is a matter beyond what the couple can handle without external intervention. The reason is clear, violence, by its character thrives on unleashing negative emotions, which answers to the animalistic instinct of human. Violence does not answer to reasoning and therefore cannot be pacified by a discussion between the parties involved. It is a universal law of discussion or negotiation that parties involved in negotiation must have mutual respect for one another. Once a partner begins to get violent with the other, it is an abuse of the partner’s dignity of human person and lack of respect. Discussion between spouses, who are involved in domestic violence aimed at resolving the issue already lack a major universal ingredient of purposeful and result-oriented discussion, mutual respect. Therefore such discussion has failed before it takes off. In most cases, it is interrupted or ends in more violence.
I further submit that the measures advocated above are for minimal and minor cases of domestic violence. Where the cases of domestic violence become escalated and the life of the spouse is threatened, I strongly believe that the victim of domestic violence, whose life is threatened, should seek a separation, while discussion continues. The truth of the matter is that the covenant of marriage is very sacred but not as sacred as the gift of life. It takes the living to be in a marriage. A sage once says, ‘a living dog is better than a dead lion.’ Many spouses remain in physically abusive homes because of their children. While this may be noble, it is not wise. There are provisions of the law, which protects the best interest of the child in the case of an inevitable separation based on domestic violence. Many spouses are today held down in a marriage by what is called, Stockholm Syndrome, the phenomenon in which victims display compassion for and even loyalty to their abuser or captor.’ I think this is demonic syndrome and a mental damage that makes a man loyal to the source of his or her debasement.
My advocacy today may not be popular, but I believe is one of the most credible ways to prevent more deaths through domestic violence. What I have found in most cases is that, our social interventions in the Third World, (due to the fact that most members of the society are in a survival mode as most of our states have failed or are failing) are not motivated by a genuine concern to solve a social problem. In most cases, the intervention is a stepping stone to further recognition and a template for personal or organisational gains. In some other cases, our social interventions are precipitated by raw and unorganised anger (of the few, who still have little conscience) which only feed on the heat of passion. The heat of passion is better referred as zeal without knowledge. The heat of passion makes us to think in stereotypes instead of being open to the dictates of the reality on ground and the pragmatic solutions thereof.
It is important to note that the heat of passion does not breed pragmatic and strategic thinking and solutions. Its best expression is noise, which does not help to pursue cases of injustices to a logical conclusion. Only a minute few in our society today have what it takes to pursue a social cause to the logical conclusion of salvation for the society. It takes compassion, conviction and a sense of mission to make a different in any social cause. The small noise generated by the heat of passion is often assuaged by the force of time, which has the capacity to pour the cold water of nature on the hottest of emotions. But the three-fold cord of compassion, conviction and a sense of mission are only placated by the smiling sight of justice.
I hereby call on all parties, interested in fighting domestic violence and other social causes in Nigeria to embrace the three-fold cord of compassion, conviction and commitment to a sense of mission as dispensable tool in their noble causes.