silence...

i know, i've been avoiding the blogosphere for a while, but with good reason - reasons that i don't care to explain here. I apologize for the continued silence. I have a backlog of possible blog topics, so please excuse me if rehash something you've discussed weeks past.

few weeks ago, we all of the Nigerian diaspora within the United States shivered at the news of the cold-hearted Minnesota murder that silenced Mrs. Anthonia Iheme, 28, by her husband, Mr. Michael C. Iheme. Shortly after the murder, Mr. Iheme dialed 911 stating that he has "killed the woman that messed [his] life up." Bail has been sent at $1 million dollars and Mrs. Anthonia leaves behind and four-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.

unfortunately, the Iheme murder is part of a growing trend of spousal homicide, particularly of women, amongst Nigerian immigrants in the United States. First let me point out that Nigerians are not the only perpetrators of such acts - remember, the number one killer of pregnant women in the United States is homicide - usually by their husbands or significant others. However, incidents such as this, this, and this within recent memory should warrant some introspection amongst our people everywhere, particularly the United States.

earlier this week, I shared the details of this story with my hair dresser, a recent Nigerian immigrant. Of course, she like all others with a pulse, found this story to be horrifying. She wondered what the woman did to warrant such punishment.

problem....

why should the first concern be about what the woman did or did not do to warrant...what?...murder?

anyway, since she was much older than I, of course, I asked for her insight as to why such things happen and why they have been happening in the Nigerian community in the US. She gave the usual battery of complaints that life in the US to too stressful and increased expectations on men cause them to go mad and some murder their wives.

I proposed that the problem was not that life in America was unbearably hard (if so, I would gather that most Nigerians would have murdered their wives long before they reached the US....but that is a topic for another day). Rather, it starts with this notion that sometimes Nigerian culture (whatever that means...), does its people a disservice by placing undue power in the hands of one to control the fate of another in a lesser position of power. Such manifests itself in marriages, especially when there is quite the age gap between partners. (Not all of such unions are horrible, and some relationships I admire the most are those between couples of differing ages).

there exists this idea, that upon marriage, ownership of the woman is relinquished from the father and transferred to the spouse. With this ownership, comes the idea that one has the mandate to treat the newly acquired property as they please - particularly when it comes to issues of domestic abuse. America is a culture that openly threatens this ideal and pushes perpetrators and victims of wife battery into the dark until something more serious occurs. Yes in this case, Anthonia went to the police on a previous occasion, but I wonder how long it took for her to get to this point or how serious she was in maintaining the restraining order against Mr. Iheme.

i'm sure you're like "...not another domestic violence post...." But I've witnessed such themes repeat themselves in other relationships as well - master/househelp abuse and child abuse, such as this case where a man placed pepper in a child's eyes and genitals.

I noticed my hairdressers' chants of "you're right, my sister" started to die down into silence as I continued on my rant. I think in my excitement, I started to talk too much and challenge some long-held assumptions of who has which place in Nigerian society.

19 comments:

  1. Ugochuku said...:

    Good points in this blog, but there is one thing that came to mind when I read this. I thought of how religion could also play a factor in the mindset of a Nigerian husband towards his wife. Maybe some of these pre-conceived notions of authority from Nigerian husbands have religious roots. Take the Igbo community for example here in America where we have a large amount of Christians. Throughout the Bible there is a lot of text that supports the husband being a figure of dominance and authority in the household. Like, in Ephesians Chapter 5 where Paul discusses how husbands are the head of the household just as Christ is the head of the church.

  1. Jaycee said...:

    Your thoughts on this issue are very well stated. And u're definitely right, except that it is also true that life in the United States may not have been what these men expected (as is the case of the man who lost his job and mansion and began to sell icecream), and hence their frustrations were further exacerbated.

    Yes, there is the idea that most Nigerian men consider their wives as their property, and it is indeed sad.

  1. TheAfroBeat said...:

    Thanks for sharing this Nneoma. I actually hadn't heard of these incidents (I've now moved across the ocean so the only news i get is BBC/ SKY and the only US news is Obama and Obama ;))

    Indeed this is very horrifying and your attempts to explain some of the causes of these incidences and this general mindset are well appreciated. I just still think it boils down to the individual when it comes to matters of heinous crimes as this. No matter how much frustration life deals at some people, there is absolutely NO TIPPING POINT for them when it comes to murder, be they nigerian or otherwise. You are quite right that there is a mentality of "i own my woman, i paid for her" when it comes to a lot of African marriages and this is an issue that we need to address...before it gets too late for the next generation.

    THanks for sharing!! and hope you are doing well. School, life, et al.

  1. SOLOMONSYDELLE said...:

    I actually never heard of this incident, but if it is anything like the murder a couple christmases ago committed by a Nigerian man of his wife, then we all must bow our heads in shame.

    No one ever deserves to be brutally murdered. This attitude of "what did the victim do to deserve it?" is preponderant in our culture. You hear it with regards to everything. A close friend recently had her relative kidnapped. When some people found out, their first statement was, "they are rich, shebi?".

    Violence is not something reserved for special people. Regardless of their sex, orientation, religion, financial/social status or tribe. It is frustrating trying to make the point to people because a rational argument must contend against religious upbringing and certain social understandings.

    I wish this murder had not happened. I also wish that now that it has, the Nigerian community will use it as an opportunity to figure out the issues that caused it and educate itself on how to prevent a repetition. Will it happen? Only God knows.

    Thanks for he headsup on this matter.

  1. Afolabi said...:

    it's alarming how this very Nigerian culture of placing in the man, that false notion that they are intrinsically powerful and superior to their wives and children, affects him. Everytime I noticed some of my guy friends who were brought up like this, I was usually shocked to see how anyone could see themselves as being all-powerful for the mere reason of being a man. And I think that when this 'false confidence' is tainted with, do situations or similar ones like these occur.

  1. geishasong said...:

    i haven't heard about these tragedies at all actually.
    there's no tradition that permits murder- no cultural value that can excuse it! that people reflexively think 'what did she do' i think, is indicative of their individual inclination to murder for the 'right reasons'.
    it's sad cuz he could probably get off on an insanity plea. it truly is the land of the free

  1. Standtall said...:

    Welcome back sis.

    All violence against women is always followed by what did she do question. I cant stand this nonsense question.

    "ownership transfer". Hmm I am not even my father's property not to talk of being my husband's. What nonsense.

    Horrible, horrible.......

  1. nneoma said...:

    @ugochuku (ehemmm, baby brother) - i am not sure if religion is the cause but rather religion may serve to reinforce these roles. if that is so in the case of Iheme and others, I think they skipped the part in which Jesus died for the church - not murder it.

    @jaycee - yes, unrealised expectations could frustrate men especially in situations here in the US when black women (immigrant or not) women sometimes make more than their spouses. many things can lead one to becoming violent - frustration, your wife's attitude, your family's demands in Naija but the point I am trying to explain is the environment which fosters these types of behaviours towards the spouse. I would contend the that "Nigerian" cultural environment, through this idea of ownership, allows women to be treated and mistreated as property.

  1. anonymaus said...:

    Nneoma, "nno, ekaabo!"

    Jeremy commented on this and I posted a response there.

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8686769&postID=738523791657817231

    You have nailed the issue, the blatant disregard of women in Nigerian society. This
    is doubly reinforced by "culture" and "religion". So to try and undermine that notion leaves you open to the attack of "forgetting your culture" or "not being a true practioner of your religion".

    Question is why don't more women's organisations in Nigeria do something about it? This is also one notch along the spectrum of the value of human life and treating people with dignity and respect, which to be honest is wholly lacking in today's Nigeria. (but that is another issue that I will not going into here).

    Another question is, in a modern society like America where these acts are being perpetrated, think what happens in Nigeria, where law enforcement is relatively weak? Think of the suffering going on there, one just shudders.

    What do parents teach their children when they are growing up? Do they turn a blind eye, or are too busy with their own lives, to pay attention raising their children with socially acceptable values? These are big questions that go to the heart of the family, that will require cold and harsh diagnosis before effective counter measures can emerge. More than likely it will not be dealt with properly as it will show the inadequacies of family life as practiced by Nigerians (whether in Nigeria itself or abroad).

  1. ...i had heard about this case...how awful indeed...i agree with many of your points...even though you are specifically addressing this issue within the nigerian community, it is still very much an issue around the world...i read somewhere that in england o, they are thinking about reducing the amount of compensation for rape victims who consumed alcohol...can you imagine?!...if men were the ones mostly being raped, i doubt that such an idea would cross anyone's mind...essentially its sending a message to women that if you happen to have been drinking when you were raped, you caused it on some level and we won't pay you as much...same as asking 'what she did to make him murder her'?...as if...the sooner women start to recognize themselves as fellow human beings and not less than, the sooner we can move and change men's viewpoints....

    ...tis very disappointing and alarming...thank you for highlighting the other cases which i was not aware of...

  1. Parakeet said...:

    Hmm this matter irks me beyond description. We've talked about it over and over again in the Nigerian forum I frequent and I must say most of the Igbos there were not happy because a lot of the murder cases we hear about involves Igbo couples. Some were of the opinion that it's because of the dowry they pay to marry their wives. Others said its because of jealousy that the wife makes more money since it mostly involved women who work as registered nurses.

    I say it is the breakdown of family life and values. If a man brings his wife from Nigeria to study in the States and becomes a RN who earns a lot more money than him and he does nothing to match it but to stay home and watch TV, then the role of husband and wife changes. Either party will not know how to cope with this distortion of order therefore leading to chaos in the home.

    I think people should really evaluate why they want to get married and ensure that they get married for good reasons rather than economic reasons. God help us all,

  1. naijalines said...:

    Afolabi and Anonymaus have said it all. Our culture and religion do reinforce those false notions in men that they own their women and can do whatever they like with them.

    Until we as a society stop using our culture and religion as excuses to perpetrate the most heinous crimes against women, we would remain as we are...Lets hope we can educate ourselves as a nation and move forward.

  1. Uzezi said...:

    somehow i lost ur blog, now i found u back.

    very sad news of the killings really. there is nothing someone would do that warrants murder. despite the fact that some would want to say the man as head of the home has her, nothing in our religion or culture support violence. nothing at all

  1. nneoma said...:

    @theafrobeat - i hear you on there not being a tipping point for murder and I think the more times than not murder in most communities, including our own, is an anomaly. However, the question remains what are we willing to allow before we get to that tipping point. I've mentioned on this blog time and time again that whether we like it or not, our society allows for the abuse of women physically and otherwise. Until we are able to nip such in the bud, we will continue to witness our people get dangerously close to that tipping point you mentioned. And my dear, everything is fine with me. Thanks for asking.

    @SSD - "Violence is not something reserved for special people. Regardless of their sex, orientation, religion, financial/social status or tribe." Good luck, my dear, trying to convince our people of such. As for learning from this horrific event...apparently this particular story was not as widespread amongst the Nigerian community as I thought it has been - neither are some of the other stories I linked to. Without many hearing about it, I doubt that many will actually learn from it. And let's face it, we do not enjoy airing out dirty laundry outside so even attempting to create dialogue about this topic will be difficult in the light of those who wish to pretend that domestic violence is not as big of an issue amongst the Nigerian community in the US as it may be.

    @afolabi - "And I think that when this 'false confidence' is tainted with, do situations or similar ones like these occur." I too suspect that this is what happened in this case. Apparently, she was the one pulling the financial weight in the family.

  1. nneoma said...:

    @geishasong - "there's no tradition that permits murder- no cultural value that can excuse it! that people reflexively think 'what did she do' i think, is indicative of their individual inclination to murder for the 'right reasons'."
    I would have to disagree. i have heard many people - both men and women respond to reports of abandonment and domestic abuse with the question of 'what did she do'.
    "it's sad cuz he could probably get off on an insanity plea." I agree and disagree in that yes, the man, to me, is insane. Though I doubt that he will get off that easily...I hope.

    @standtall - thanks for the welcome back...though it looks like I went for another hiatus. i know, it is an uncomfortable thought but for more than many of us, it is reality.

    @anonymaus - thanks for the greetings my dear. saw your comments on Weate's site. Though I disagree with some, for the most part your are correct in some of your assumptions...in my opinion. as for women's organizations in nigeria, well, I think that the US is out of their jurisdiction but if the latest female delegate excursion to the UN (where Nigeria came in still championing their nudity law rather than focusing on rape, domestic abuse and the like) then they have a long way to go before they even attempt to address what is going on in the US. As for Nigerian women's organizations here (like Igbo women's cultural groups that I have witnessed) they are only know for their flashy show-me-i-show-you gatherings and watery soups with no meat (seriously)....

  1. nneoma said...:

    @gnigeriana - i think what may be seen as "inconsequential" changes in penal codes towards violence against women in places such as england does not bode well for the future of human rights for all people. while i agree that women should do more for themselves in terms of championing their cause, i think its time for a paradigm shift in which men also start to see themselves as fellow human beings with women...

    @parakeet - "I think people should really evaluate why they want to get married and ensure that they get married for good reasons rather than economic reasons." I agree, but I think that reality demonstrates that society puts women in a position to marry for economic reasons. Just because a woman finds herself in this position - it does not mean that she signs up to become a lifetime punching bag.

    @naijalines - "Lets hope we can educate ourselves as a nation and move forward" yes, move forward in the right direction

    @uzezi - wow, long time. i think for many of us, our own perspective causes us to see nothing the justifies violence against women - but i dont think that holds true for a significant portion of our people....correct me if i am wrong.

  1. pamela said...:

    lol....u jus lost ur hairdresser!!!

  1. Theresa said...:

    nice blog
    this here is my first
    so i wanna say i enjoyed my time here.
    cheerio

  1. pinkyandbrain said...:

    **Oguhebe punished his children for things such as incomplete schoolwork and attempting to steal food in their own home during forced fasts***
    WHEN DID INCOMPLETE SCHOOLWORK AND TRYING TO STEAL FOOD COZ OF FORCED FAST...'FORCED'...EVERYONE HAS SPOKEN AND REALLY I JUST WANNA KEEP QUIET COZ I REALLY WOULD VENT BEYOND MY VELOCITY.SERIOUSLY I REALLY DONT UNDERSTAND SOME OF MY NIGERIAN MALE...CMON A PROFESSOR!IS IT TAKING THE CULTURE OF SPARING THE ROD A THRIFT TOO FAR.BEATING THE WIFE REALLY IS BEYOND ME...ALL THE SO CALLED SOCEITAL PRESSURES WONT SUBSIZE BY BEATING RATHER TAKE COMFORT AND SOLACE IN YOUR IMMEDAITE BOSSOM.I THINK THEY AINT MAN ENOUGH TO HANDLE SITUATIONS NO MATTER HOW ERRING.FOR WHAT ITS WORTH EVEN THOUGH HE DOESNT KNOW ABOUT THIS RANT ABOUT HIM.I HAIL MY HAT TO MY DAD,A MAN WHOSE CHARACTER IN GOOD AND BAD TIMES FOR THE FAMILY HAS LEFT AN INDEBILE INK IN THE CONTINUOUS LIFE OF MY 3 SIBLINGS AND I,MY MOM AN AVERAGE ANGEL NAGGED UNBELIEVABLY UNDER PRESSURE.SNIFF....PLS FOLKS THIS MEMORY IS KILLING ME WITH NOSTALGIA.OOH WE ARE STILL ALIVE BEFORE THIS SOUNDS LIKE EULOGY.