Saturday Talking Point

July 29, 2017

That disgraceful parade in Ebonyi

That disgraceful parade in Ebonyi


By Rose Moses

The rusty community of Amauzu Nkpoghoro village in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State was in the news last week for the wrong reason.

In this 21st century Nigeria, a 70-year-old widow, one Mrs. Maria Okoh, was reportedly paraded round the village and fined three goats after she was allegedly ‘caught’ in bed with her 30-year-old lover.

The woman was said to have been ‘caught’ in the act by one of her grand-children, who had brought her food items, but instead met her naked in bed with the young man in her house.

The grand-daughter reportedly raised the alarm and immediately reported the matter to the elders, who in turn alerted the youths.

And boom, the villagers come after the lovers, parading them round the community and chanting disgraceful songs behind them as punishment for their ‘atrocious’ act.

What a way to humiliate a septuagenarian, with a source even adding that the punishment would have been greater if her husband was still alive.

What is atrocious about two consenting adults having sex, when one is a widow and the other a 30-year-old?

The antiquated explanation making the round, especially on social media following the public outrage generated by the dehumanizing act, is that: Oh! she brought her lover to her husband’s home and if the grandchild did not report her grandmother, she (granddaughter) would suffer severe consequences, which include death of her children, when she has them.

The other silly reason was that the children of the old woman will also be afflicted by some terrible consequences, if they fail to report the matter.

Now, we watch every day in our various communities, including Afikpo, as men of every age go on rampage with girls young enough to be their daughters, or even granddaughters. How many of their children are dying as a result? How many of these men has the society condemned, talk less of so disgracing?

Instead, all widowers, no matter their age, are encouraged to pick a new wife/partner.

It’s unfortunate that same people would want to stop the 70 year old widow from deciding to have a male companion of her choice like her male counterparts.

Women’s Organization for Gender Issues (WOGI), a non-government organization that promotes the rights of women, would rightly describe this action as discriminatory and offensive to the fundamental rights of the widow as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.

As Princess Stella Odife, chairwoman of the NGO, would say, what the widow did in her bedroom has nothing to do with anybody, so long as she was not committing any criminal act. And choosing her lover and their love life cannot be faulted or criminalized.

The constitution, which is supreme law of the land in Section 34, guarantees her right to dignity when it states clearly under Section 1(a) that”no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Mrs. Okoh, like every other Nigerian, is also guaranteed right to freedom from discrimination by the same constitution in section 42 (1), which comes down to the fact that as long as widowers can take wives of any age, widows can equally take their husbands or companions of their choice, so long they are not minors.

Good a thing an organization like WOGI, whose objectives include economic empowerment of women at the grassroots with emphasis on widows, is speaking out against such obnoxious tradition, and even threatening to file for damages and compensation for Mrs. Okoh, should the state government fail to punish the culprits and compel the community to pay compensation. A lot more groups ought to speak out against certain customs and traditions that breach the fundamental human rights of women.

If the state government has not already done so, the traditional ruler of Amauzu Nkpoghoro ought to be reprimanded and made to expunge all obnoxious customary laws in his community.

WOGI would actually want government to ensure that the commissioner in charge of chieftaincy matters calls the traditional rulers in the state together for some form of education on rule of law and for them to remove all obnoxious and discriminatory customary laws against women in their domain.

The infringement on the rights of the widow,Mrs Okoh, amongst other evil practices against widows in our society, must be condemned by all men and women of goodwill.

It is a shame that some Nigerian communities still hold on to such barbaric customs in the 21st century, which  portrays Nigeria in a disgraceful light in the comity of nations.

The wicked act against Mrs Okoh and her young lover should be a wake-up call for the state and perhaps other states with these obnoxious customary laws to come to terms with the civilized world, if at all they crave development.